"Mature" games that are actually mature

Real world definition of "mature": Showing the mental, emotional, or physical characteristics associated with a fully developed person; involving serious thought.

Videogame definition of "mature":
Shits, tits and gibs.

What is adult? According to ratings boards and hand-wringing politicians, the only qualifications necessary are a bucket of blood, a stream of foul profanity and a parade of naughty lady parts. Ironically, the very things that are included to win over immature teenage boys.

The following games, however, define adult in a different way. They tackle challenging themes, explore intellectual ideas and deal with complex characters in complicated relationships. They add shades of grey to an otherwise black-and-white form of entertainment.

Should little kids play Mass Effect? No, but not because they might catch a glimpse of alien ass or learn how to digitally stimulate their “se”xbox, as the media would have you believe. The sci-fi epic simply wasn’t designed for children and, as such, deals with many issues that children wouldn’t understand.

Racism is addressed, as Shepard navigates a minefield of prejudice, intolerance and segregation between the game’s diverse species. Foreign policy is debated, too, with humanity’s brash and aggressive military actions earning both admiration and resentment across the universe. Parallels can even be drawn between the current economic crisis and Mass Effect’s main twist, both of which result from our choosing the path of willful ignorance and least resistance.

Morality, diplomacy, obedience, deception, death, love, and yes, sex – the list continues. Like the best episodes of Star Trek, Mass Effect is about far, far more than spaceships and laser guns.

Rockstar’s sandbox sagas are famous for being big. The cities are big. The missions are big. The casts of characters are big. Until recently, however, the ideas were not.

GTA IV changed everything. While Tommy Vercetti and Carl Johnson showcased the “American dream,” working from hoodlums to kingpins, Niko Bellic discovered that life in the West is often no better, no easier and no more ethical than war in the East. While his predecessors reveled in money, drugs and prostitutes, he found that material gains often require moral sacrifices. And while Vice City and San Andreas boiled down to basic revenge tales, GTA IV exposed how the pursuit of payback was slowly eating away at Niko’s soul.

Who knew the immigrant, so fresh off the boat, would come to understand our culture more insightfully than any protagonist before?

Some of the most mature games aren't even rated “Mature." Braid is legally appropriate for anyone over the age of 10, as the fairytale visuals, soothing music and bouncing pint-sized hero give the impression of an old-school Nintendo platformer. The subtext of this seemingly innocent quest, on the other hand, requires a bit of life experience to appreciate.
Just ask Soulja Boy.

In a kids’ game, for instance, the ability to time travel might nab an extra life or bop an extra enemy. In Braid, reversing the clock solves a series of mind-melting puzzles and, at the same time, symbolizes the haunting power of regret. If the protagonist could try everything over again - correct his past mistakes - would the Princess return? Would she ever have left? If he could slow down the world, or lead two lives at once, would that somehow help reclaim her?

We all wish we could erase our errors, or go back and try a different path in life, with the simple press of a button. Braid capitalizes on this universal longing and, without spoiling the end, also preys on it.


  • slamansnikovski - February 3, 2009 12:11 p.m.

    Good article, too bad The Witcher wasn't mentioned.
  • Katana314 - February 5, 2009 10:26 p.m.

    YEEEEEEESSS!!! There are about 6 billion people who don't realize how mature Phoenix Wright is. The second game (Justice for All) has a case that presents a choice to the player that even the most mature of us can't handle; essentially deciding what you believe about justice entirely, and there IS no clear-cut answer. Everyone who likes "mature" games needs to play that series. (and on that note, Hotel Dusk is pretty good too)
  • Gamedude-9 - February 24, 2009 11:20 p.m.

    I think that Oblivion should have made the list because it has Assinations, Slavery, Cruel and unusal punishment
  • 044magnumx - March 22, 2009 5:43 a.m.

    A lot of people are going to hate me for this, but I think gears of war 2 should've been on the list. Its about self loss, what one does to live, bonding together in hard times. Maybe I'm just missing the point but its an idea.
  • GoConduit - June 5, 2009 1:57 a.m.

    Yeah I am going to say Assassins Creed and the Call of Duty games in general. First of all in Assassins Creed I was amazed at the fantastic story that had to do with the psychological impact of the assassinations. Guilt, betrayal, its all there. And as for Call of Duty, these people that are your Brothers in arms are dying next to you, their blood and guts flying through the air. And come on, how many CoD players dont have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
  • joebob286 - July 1, 2009 8:30 p.m.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this article, and it is my new favorite. I'm tired of games that are all blood and violence, I buy games not just for gameplay, but for storyline. The games that are actually mature seem to have the best storylines because they dig deeper into your mind and make you think.
  • Fearthylogic - July 7, 2009 6:56 a.m.

    Agreed with Bio shock and Cod4 and stuff, but Gears of war might actually deserve this list, and not just because of all the gore. There was a feature about this, the fact that humans are more evil than the locusts. Its not really in the game, but should me mentioned, especially if they use it somehow in the 3rd game.
  • r3ap3r - July 9, 2009 2:38 a.m.

    great article great ideas and completely agree with what your sayin.good work.
  • STR33TFiR3 - July 9, 2009 4:29 p.m.

    Should not Fallout 3 be on the list? At least the "almost made it" list? Great article! Love you Gamesradar!
  • winerooster - July 9, 2009 4:38 p.m.

    Where is Deus Ex?I remember having endless discussions about the plot and how politics work.Especially the endings where there is no real satisfying choice.We are humans after all...
  • TheWebSwinger - July 9, 2009 10:35 p.m.

    I just noticed, theres a mini reference to Gabriel Knight at the end. Charlie Barratt, you scoundrel!
  • JCannihilates - July 29, 2009 6:10 a.m.

    YES! The first article I've seen to acknowledge the importance and depth of the Shin Megami Tensei games, which will far and away always be my favorite series. As you mentioned every game pushes the limit in a new way that will really make you think, and Digital Devil Saga will always be my idea of the most underrated game of all time. So many kudos.
  • Wordup95 - February 3, 2009 3:22 a.m.

    You forgot Deus Ex
  • Nitemarish - February 3, 2009 7:12 p.m.

  • rezapoc - March 24, 2009 4:34 p.m.

    what about the resident evil titles with their corporate manipulation, puzzles and complex collective story lines.
  • UsernameAlreadyInUse - April 1, 2009 2:19 a.m.

    HF2 needs to be on this list. Its about capitalism gone horribly wrong. You are trying to help research aliens WHO ARE A THREAT!!! while getting attacked by them by your government. Also, you get tasered by getting within like 10 ft of a cop, which isn't a very good government.
  • 88Meters - April 20, 2009 11:13 p.m.

    Braid is fucking confusing. The darkness shoulda made it in, too. Because it was f'ing crazy.
  • LieutenantCipher - June 18, 2009 5:10 a.m.

    I agree with GoConduit, AC is actually pretty mature, and then Prototype is also mature even if you cut out the standard "gore policy", the conspiracy factor really plays into it as well as some other things portrayed as mature
  • okinaru666 - July 9, 2009 1:46 a.m.

    AMBER sounds epic
  • r3ap3r - July 9, 2009 2:49 a.m.

    id agree with all the games here and id probably also add fallout 3 and maybe far cry 2.

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