The names of violent video games tend to travel fast among preteen and teen gamers. And the next thing you know, your kid wants to play them.
Common Sense Media’s list of the ten most violent video games is designed to arm you with enough information to help you make informed choices about what to allow your kids to play. And beyond that, we offer less-violent alternatives with the compelling gameplay that kids want. No parent wants to say “no” all the time.
Why care about violent video games? Prolonged exposure to violent media leads to aggressive behavior, anxiety, bullying, and desensitization. This cause-and-effect relationship is now part of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ official policy to help doctors and parents create a “safer” media environment for kids.
At Common Sense Media, we’re all about sanity, not censorship. So here’s our list of the ten most violent video games—and ten you can say yes to.
Players advance by stalking and killing victims, all for the delight of a “director” who urges you to make the killings bloodier, more cunning, and ever more horrific. Manhunt 2 is more of the same, but now you’ve been injected with a drug to bring out your “homicidal tendencies.”
Alternative: Mirror’s Edge
2. Resident Evil 5
Using guns, swords, or a chainsaw, you shoot, hack, and slash oncoming enemies, producing copious amounts of blood. And the game’s racial undertones are hard to ignore, as the white hero (accompanied by a light-skinned African-American) has to kill mostly black victims infected by the zombie-causing virus.
Alternative: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
3. Dead Rising
Based on the 1978 Dawn of the Dead zombie splatter flick, this game combines gory imagery—like shotgun blasts, chainsaw dismemberment, and hand-to-hand combat—with images of nude women on various objects.
Alternative: Prince of Persia
4. Resident Evil 4
Players must stab, shoot, and bomb their way through hundreds of realistic-looking humans and monsters. Cursing and sexual dialogue round out the mix.
Alternative: Ghostbusters: The Video Game
5. Grand Theft Auto
(Specifically Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) Players can kill other humans, including police officers, or drive into pedestrians on sidewalks and in parks. Gang warfare, beatings, drive-by shootings, and bloody deaths are all shown in gory detail.
6. God of War II
Players can do everything from ripping the eye out of a Cyclops to twisting the head off of Medusa to slicing off enemies’ arms with chains strapped to their wrists. There’s also a sex mini-game.
Alternative: Batman: Arkham Asylum
7. Mortal Kombat: Deception
The goal of this game is the same as other Mortal Kombats: Kill or be killed, and make it as horrific as you can.
Alternative: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe
With the Wii remote and Nunchuk in your hands, you simulate the motions used to split someone open with a chainsaw, punch opponents with your fists, or pick up and use assorted objects scattered throughout the levels to dismember, bludgeon, and impale your foes.
9. Gears of War
You can use a chainsaw to rip apart enemies or machine guns to spray them down. Characters and world are photorealistic, making bloody battles seem even gorier.
Alternative: Halo Wars
10. Saints Row 2
The protagonist never shows hesitation or remorse, often deliberately choosing the most violent means possible of carrying out missions—declaring such methods “more fun” at least once—and taking pleasure in homicide.
Alternative: Battlefield Heroes
Compiled by Common Sense Media’s expert game reviewers, who play thousands of video games a year and contribute reviews to USA Today, The Globe and Mail, and Boy’s Life, as well as Common Sense Media
Originally published on CommonSenseMedia