Science has yet to answer the question of whether violent games desensitize us to actual violence or not. One thing's for damn sure, though: it definitely densensitizes us to increasingly intense virtual violence. Just think how your parents - or your younger self - would react to some of the blood-soaked, guts-splattered gore you've seen in games, like ripping a demon's jaw off in (opens in new tab), or slicing someone's face clean off in Mortal Kombat X (opens in new tab). Both of which are gory moments you'll find on this list, mind you.
What started out as two chunky pixels colliding has slowly but surely evolved to the point where we can watch a photorealistic person get positively mutilated onscreen, or experience extreme torture from a first-person perspective like it's actually happening to us. And not lose our lunch. Whether they're purposely over-the-top or meant to be taken seriously, the goriest moments in gaming might make you queasy or cause you to wince in pain (if you can stand to look at all) but gruesome gore will continue to exist and evolve in games, just as it has in film. It's time we paid tribute to some of the most horrifying, stomach-churning moments of gratuitous gore in gaming. And if the sight of blood makes you squeamish, turn back now.
***Be prepared for some mild spoilers from here on out, as the context behind some gory moments may be tied to the plot!***
25. Spork-based eye surgery in Tales from the Borderlands
Sometimes you just need to make do with what you have. And when the situation calls for you to use a multi-purpose eating utensil to scoop out an eyeball for an iris scan, there's really no getting around it. The thing that's most unsettling about this Tales for the Borderlands scene - besides the scooping motions you're forced to simulate on the controller - is that a spork is the surgical tool in question. Just imagine the fork pokers cutting through the flesh around a dead dude's eye. Bleh.
24. Let It Die's Goretastic kills using a Red Hot Iron
As you can probably guess from the name, Goretastic kills in Let It Die (one of the (opens in new tab) around) exist to let you finish off dazed enemies in the (opens in new tab) that fit right into a grindhouse flick. Each of the game's many weapon types has it's own unique Goretastic execution, like using Claws to rip out a Hater's heart before crushing it right in front of their face, or quickly slicing off their head with a Machete before impaling it in mid-air like a shish kebab. But there's something extra gruesome about the Red Hot Iron, a familiar household item, being used to steam-press a person's face and melt their flesh until there's nothing left but a charred skull. Having your head be used as a makeshift ironing board can't be fun.
23. Adam the Clown's death in Dead Rising
A homicidal clown wielding a pair of chainsaws makes the zombie apocalypse seem relatively tame by comparison. Not only is Adam the Clown one of the most disturbingly memorable boss battles in Dead Rising - his death scene is one of the goriest gaming moments in history. When he's finally defeated, he falls on his own chainsaws and gyrates as the blades cut through his body. And of course he's laughing giddily all the while, just to ensure that his demise haunts your nightmares forever.
22. Beating down humans in The Last of Us
Even though the mushroom zombies are the biggest threat to the human race in The Last of Us, getting killed by one isn't as graphic as you might think. A bite to the neck and a cut to black isn't gory, all things considered. But when Joel rushes a human scavenger with a two-by-four, bashes him in the head, pummels him with his fists, then slams his head into a desk leaving a bloodstain on the tabletop, it just gets too real.
21. Bloodborne's Visceral attacks (when performed on pigs)
The Visceral attack in (opens in new tab) is a play on the Backstab, a staple of the Dark Souls series: charged-up critical attacks from behind (or following a successful parry) that cause serious damage and can make quick work of intimidating enemies. As your Hunter battles tooth-and-nail through Yharnam, you'll learn to set up Visceral attacks consistently to help ensure your survival - but nothing can prepare you for insta-killing a giant, disease-ridden pig that's the size of a car. If you dodge out of the way of their lumbering head swings, it's very easy to set up a Visceral attack... and because of the way their models are positioned when they're downed, (opens in new tab), as if you're jamming your weapon right up where the sun don't shine before ripping it out to spray gallons of blood (and lord knows what else). The poor pig's death squeals are a sure sign that you've just done something unspeakably terrible (and no doubt unsanitary).
20. The 'Bloody Mess' Perk in the Fallout series
Unlocking the Bloody Mess Perk is like opening a present at Christmas time - a present that leaves your living room covered in a thick coat of blood and guts. Without it, you might score a headshot that explodes your enemy's cranium, maybe even blow off a limb or two. But with Bloody Mess active, bloody, full-body explosions are practically guaranteed. The best part: playing a relaxing game of 'find the eyeball' after every battle.
19. Hotline Miami's many executions
If you think that pixelated violence can't turn your stomach, you've clearly never played Hotline Miami. The entire game is obsessed with brutality, but nothing comes close to the wide variety of executions you can use to finish off downed enemies. Slitting throats, putting power drills through faces, smashing heads with baseball bats until they look like crushed watermelons - it all happens in plain sight of your aerial view, complete with sickening sound effects. It begs the question: Do you like hurting other people?
18. Bulletstorm's 'Legless' Skillshot
Bulletstorm is all about creatively decapitating, disintegrating, and dismembering your enemies in overly complicated ways, but there's one Skillshot that's just about as horrifying as it is hilarious. If you manage to get a full shotgun blast at your enemy's lower extremities, the metal pellets will blow their legs clean off, earning you some extra points. Alternatively, if you happen to turn their torso into a red mist, leaving only their stumpy legs, you earn the same accolade. Ah, the freedom to mutilate your enemies is fantastic.
17. Getting Stroggified in Quake 4
Quake 4's Stroggification sequence will stay with you forever. Witness as you're strapped to a conveyor belt and subjected to torturous surgery, all while getting a nice preview of what's going to happen next with your view of the poor soul who's suffering just ahead of you. Sit and watch as you get probes shoved into your chest, have your legs cut off with a circular saw, and get your brain implanted with Strogg tech. On the bright side, you get some fancy mechanical legs to replace your old fleshy ones.
16. The river rapids death in Tomb Raider
In the Tomb Raider (opens in new tab) reboot, Lara can fall victim to plenty of grisly deaths, including (but not limited to): being crushed by rocks, mauled by wolves, and thrown off cliff faces. But the absolute worst is when you make a mistake during the river section. If you don't navigate around treacherous traps while tumbling downriver, Lara's head gets impaled on an unnecessarily long spike.
15. Internal body combustion in FEAR 3
Michael Becket's final encounter with Alma's sons is hard to watch. There's first-person vomiting, spiritual possession, and plenty of that fast-forwarded twitching that ghosts like to do so much. When Paxton Fettel possesses Becket to extract information from his brain, it doesn't end well for Becket. Fettel makes Becket explode from inside out, splattering his blood and innards in his cell as Fettel exits Becket's body.
14. Shooting off bits and pieces of enemies in Soldier of Fortune 2
Looking for more realistic bullet damage? Try shooting any one of an enemy's 36 'gore zones' in Soldier of Fortune 2. One bullet will make them squirm and writhe in pain, but if you hold down the trigger and keep the lead flying, you can literally shoot your foes to pieces. Heads evaporate into red mist, arms will detach and fly across the room, and stomach wounds will ooze out blood and guts. It's so over-the-top violent, it's downright disturbing - so just imagine how intense it must've been by 2002's standards.
13. Disemboweling thugs in The Darkness 2
The Darkness 2's demonic snake heads sure know how to disembowel human beings. Sure, you can dispatch your enemies from a distance with a variety of firearms, but why do that when you've got two monster arms that can rip bad guys apart? Really, though - you can dangle a guy by the foot and slice him in half vertically, or pull a dude's spine out through his butt. That's just nasty.
12. Dead Space 2's laser eye surgery
For reasons that are beyond me, Isaac decides to voluntarily strap himself into a robotic eye-poking machine. And once he's locked in, his life is in your twitchy hands, making this one minigame you definitely don't want to screw up. Completing the procedure correctly is cringe-worthy enough, showing Isaac getting stabbed in the eye with a needle before casually walking away. But if you mess up, the needle's mechanical arm plunges all the way into Isaac's eye socket. You'll never want to visit the optometrist again.
11. Ripping off Helios' head in God of War 3
Kratos certainly has his share of violent deity slayings, but the one that truly stands out is his encounter with - and decapitation of - the god Helios. Played out in a quick-time event, you watch in gruesome detail as Kratos beats the snot out of Helios, until he grabs his head from the back and begins ripping his cranium off with his bare hands. Watching the skin, muscles, and veins slowly rip apart is one of the most graphic and bloody moments you'll find in any game.
10. Paz's emergency surgery in Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes
It doesn't take much effort to rescue Paz from Camp Omega (in fact, the Ground Zeroes mission can be done in about 7 minutes (opens in new tab)). But once you get her safely airlifted, Snake and friends discover that Paz has had a bomb surgically inserted into her abdomen. What follows is a truly unsettling, impromptu surgery en route, one that involves a surgeon's hands reaching through Paz's guts to pull out the explosive. Paz soon reveals that a second bomb is held in her body just before she jumps out of the chopper and explodes. What a way to go.
9. Until Dawn's highly vulnerable cast
The Until Dawn (opens in new tab) teenagers die in some pretty spectacular ways, making it difficult to choose only one gory death - so we're going with all of them. Every character can (and very probably will) die, and the only thing keeping them from getting their jaw ripped off or eyes gouged out is your ability to make smart decisions. So, don't screw up.
8. Killing Floor 2's fully destructible Zeds
Killing Floor 2 is the current genre leader when it comes to vivisecting your opposition piece by piece with high-power firearms. Inspired by the area-specific gore and mutilation of Soldiers of Fortune, Killing Floor 2 lets you blast its fleshy zombies to literal bits with the MEAT (Massive Evisceration And Trauma) system, which endows every Zed with 19 individual body joints for you to tear through with blades and bullets. Because you're staving off hordes of enemies (like the Gorefasts, who have raw exposed muscle where their skin should be), you don't often get to appreciate just how severely you can sever your enemies - until a random instance of Zed Time kicks in, letting you appreciate the shower of blood, limbs, and innards in wonderfully violent slow-motion.
7. Outlast 2's crucifixion scene
As you'd expect from a first-person horror nightmare like (opens in new tab), there are a multitude of horrific ways main character Blake can die at the hands of deranged cultists. Chief among those hideous ‘game over’ scenarios is getting a first-person view of your own castration via pickaxe. But nothing can top the almost unbearable crucifixion scene, in which your hands are slowly nailed to a cross in a scene lasting almost a full two minutes, with each strike of the hammer causing ringing in your ears and distorted colors in your vision from the sheer pain of it all. The only thing worse is the following QTE, in which you mash buttons to laboriously wrench your hands free from the rusty nails and free yourself.
6. Dishonored 2's slice-'n'-dice executions
(opens in new tab) gives you the choice to be an undetected pacifist, a ruthless superpowered assassin, or anything in between - and if you choose to do things on the more murdery side of the spectrum, you'll be witnessing some pretty intense executions up close. Corvo and Emily can use their trusty folding blades to cut straight through the unprotected flesh of guards and thugs, lopping off their arms and head or slamming the sword straight through their mouths (youch). What really sells the gore, though, is the surprised, almost scared look in your victims' eyes as the life fades from their body (probably at the moment you've separated their noggin from their neck).
5. For Honor's "Choke on This" execution
Performing an Execution finisher on an incapacitated enemy in (opens in new tab) isn't just about establishing your medieval dominance - it also prevents other enemies from reviving the downed opponent, usually due to the fact that your quarry is now missing their arms and/or head. The Choke on This execution, purchasable by the Samurai faction's Orochi class, is one of the few finishers to not include any kind of dismemberment, yet it's somehow still the hardest to watch. With two quick slashes, the Orochi opens up their victim's face and chest, instantly drenching their body in blood, before stabbing the poor sod straight through the neck. You almost feel bad for your slain foe when their hand futilely claws at the blade lodged in their larynx before they finally embrace death.
4. Resident Evil 7's first-person amputation
(opens in new tab)'s lead Ethan sure has it rough. Even before he meets and is subsequently chased and tormented by the Baker family, he has a run-in with his missing wife Mia who seems... different than she once was. In her mutated, brutally aggressive state, Mia decides to teach Ethan a little lesson by pinning him to the wall with a screwdriver through the hand - rather resourceful, really - before going to town on his helpless body with a chainsaw. Ethan manages to free himself before losing his head, but the only thing he has to protect his cranium from the incoming power tool is his own left arm. (opens in new tab) before shambling off, forcing you to reclaim your severed hand while holding the blood-spurting stump where your limb once was. If you were able to make it through this scene in PS VR, you can probably handle anything.
3. All the Lancer carnage in the Gears of War series
Oh yeah, the Lancer: one of the greatest feats in video game weapon design. There's no better way to humiliate an online opponent than to cut them in half with the Lancer's iconic chainsaw bayonet. The resulting bloodspray and screams of your enemy brings an unparalleled satisfaction to the gory ownage of your foes that you just can't get in any other competitive shooter.
2. Dispatching demons in the new Doom
Not many games let you grab a demon squarely by his cranium, get a nice firm grip on his jaw bone, and then forcefully tear it from its sockets as you wrench their skull in the other direction. The recent Doom reboot does afford such wanton violence, along with dismemberment-by-shotgun, stomping heads like grapes beneath your boots, and even ripping off a corpse's severed arm to serve as a makeshift keycard. Doom fans wouldn't have it any other way.
1. The many Fatalities in Mortal Kombat X
Mortal Kombat has always been able to make us cringe. From Scorpion's toasty flame breath, to uppercuts that send your opponents into a spike pit, there's never been a shortage of bloody finales to these beatdowns. But Mortal Kombat X (opens in new tab) takes it a step further. Maybe it's the extra level of gruesome, fleshy detail we get from the new-gen visuals, but just about every Fatality in the latest title is sure to make you queasy. Their dark humor takes some of the edge off the more outlandish Fatalities, but those incredibly graphic close-ups they typically end with are almost too much.