Ah, the good old pre-ratings days of the ‘80s and early ‘90s, when gaming was an eclectic free-for-all of content and there was no such thing as a kids’ game, an adult game, a family game or a casual game. There were just games, unrestricted and unquestioned.
Families shared post-Christmas dinner Bomberman and Mario Kart sessions. Kids dragon punched the crap out of their grandparents. Every person of every age from every walk of life was obsessed with Doom. And best of all, excessive gore reigned supreme and no-one seemed to care. All the controversial games that trouble today’s tabloids? There was an equivalent to every one of them back then, and they could be played by everyone. Think the old days were a more innocent time? Take a look through these and remind yourself of the true brutality of your childhood.
Mega Drive/Genesis | 1992 | Namco
Modern equivalent: Clive Barker’s Jericho
Much as animation gets away with violent excess more easily than live action film on account of the visuals not being ‘real’, games managed to slip past all kinds of eyeball-screaming filth back when the graphics were crap. Hence the very existence of the Splatterhouse arcade franchise, and the fact that the second game in the series made it completely uncut onto the Mega Drive/Genesis.
When a hulking great slab of death in a hockey mask is your hero, you know things are going to get extreme. Horrible, slavering, deformed monsters, including bobble-headed skinless babies dangling from nooses. A progressively brutal array of melee weaponry culminating in a chainsaw. A standard punch that can burst enemies in two. Detonated corpses sliding down walls. Splatterhouse 2 isn’t so much a game as it is an abattoir simulator for madmen.
SNES/Mega Drive/Genesis | 1990 | Williams
Modern equivalent: Gears of War
Has any action game ever had a bigger or bloodier bodycount? Every single screen stage in Smash TV saw hundreds upon hundreds of hapless grunts torn asunder like bloody naan bread. They were ugly, they were stupid, they were disposable, and they existed only to reduce your heaving stockpile of bullets, rockets and grenades. And if you were playing in co-op, that was a very, very big stockpile.
Oh, and all those screens of murder? They were part of a gameshow, meaning that all your gleeful killing was for naught but materialistic ends.
Various home computers | 1987 | Palace Software
Modern equivalent: Dragon Age
One of the earliest one-on-one beat ‘em ups playable on home machines, Palace’s Barbarian is a game steeped in other, more dubious accolades. Most relevant to this feature, it featured what we strongly believe to be only the second ever decapitation in video games (number one is on the third page of this feature), whereby one burly 8-bit warrior could launch his burly 8-bit opponent’s burly 8-bit cranium high into the sky, only for his leaking corpse to be unceremoniously removed by a goblin lackey.
On top of that, it was high in the boob factor, featuring gratuitous barbarian ladies in similarly gratuitous combat bikinis (they aid weapon dexterity in battle, we assume), and was notorious for box art featuring the ‘talents’ of page 3 model Maria Whittaker. The box also starred the guy who would eventually become Wolf on the UK version of Gladiators, but he didn’t sell quite so many copies.
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