Gore-soaked video games have been with us for decades, and they’re not going anywhere soon.
Every gamer has doled out their fair share of destruction, aggression, and death over the years. This might be something as tame as jumping on Dr Robotnik’s little flying ship until it’s rocked by multiple explosions, or the gut-churning delights of slicing a fiery-eyed demon in twain with a fuel-guzzling chainsaw.
As gaming technology continues to become more advanced, the experiences it creates will be more visceral, more immersive, and more powerful. While violence is central to the likes of Gears of War, Doom, Resident Evil, and Dead Space, there is far more to playing them than simply letting the claret flow. Take away the gore, and you dilute the entire atmosphere – as well as the fun.
Some video games, though, appear to be packed with gore as a way to attract attention, or to cover just how hollow the core experience really is.
So, love them or hate them, gory games are an undeniable part of the medium. But which are the most delightfully, deliciously, and downright shamelessly bloody ever made?
You should. Manhunt was one of the most controversial video games ever. Developed by Rockstar North, no stranger to media-generated hysteria, Manhunt cast players as a death-row prisoner trapped in a nightmarish real-world game.
Cash, the ‘hero’, is forced to execute bad guy after bad guy for the amusement of The Director, with every death recorded on CCTV for his amusement. While some unsuccessfully tried to blame Manhunt for a real-life murder and accused it of being a training simulator for would-be killers (as usual, mostly those who had never actually been near a video game) the game was actually widely-praised.
Critics applauded the slick gameplay and the way in which Rockstar North had drawn attention to the inherent violence of much mass entertainment, forcing gamers to confront the bloodshed they take pleasure in through more direct means.
Unsurprisingly, Manhunt was removed from shelves by some major retailers in the UK (including Dixons), and was banned in New Zealand.
The Punisher is a character immersed in violence. Frank Castle lost his wife and children in a tragic gang-related incident, and took to punishing evildoers using a variety of bloody techniques.
The Punisher game, released in 2005, is a fantastic piece of work. Featuring a great plot, awesome level design, and exciting action, The Punisher is also chock-full of carnage.
The ‘interrogation’ mini-game gives players a selection of torture methods, such as punching and smashing faces against the ground. ‘Special’ techniques also include intimidation with drills, piranhas, and even sharks. To secure its release, certain execution scenes had to be rendered in black and white or obscured, but players can still explode heads and sever limbs to their heart’s content.
You might have heard of this.
Postal 2 is a notoriously bad-taste first-person killathon, with players cast as ‘the Dude’. Throughout the game, the Dude has daily tasks to complete (including seeking treatment for a nasty ‘personal health’ condition) and is free to ice civilians in a wide variety of ways.
Frankly, Postal 2 isn’t big or clever. The ability to maim animals is just one of the tasteless features tossed into the game, as is being able to urinate on victoms. Many critics identified the game as a shameless attempt to be as controversial as possible, and it was banned in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Germany, and other countries.
As with many sequels, Manhunt 2 ups the ante. Players’ range of executions escalate in severity throughout the game, and parts of the environment (toilets, manhole covers) can be used to kill bad guys. Glass shards, plastic bags, syringes, and even barbed wire are also available.
After the controversy surrounding the first game, the sequel attracted its own share of media frenzy – which began just two days after the title was released. Before a single image or second of footage was revealed, calls for a ban came from far and wide.
Despite this, Manhunt 2 was released to generally positive reviews, though it was regarded as inferior to the original. The scoring system based on executions’ brutality was pulled from console versions, but left intact for PC release.
Manhunt 3 has never surfaced, and there’s little reason to suspect it ever will.
Dead Space is a terrific game. While there were two sequels, the first is still the best, making the most effective use of gore for a truly nerve-jangling horror experience.
Blood and guts are part and parcel of the terror-inducing atmosphere. Unlike the headline-baiting likes of the Postal series, however, Dead Space’s violence never feels distasteful: after all, this is a game set in the deep dark of space, with all manner of nightmarish creatures lurking in the shadows.
Hero Isaac is prone to exploding into a bloody mess whenever a tentacled Hell-thing dishes out too much damage for all the world’s med-packs to heal, but this only encourages you to play better next time.
Isaac’s deaths can take the form of decapitation or dismemberment, and the blood-splattered bodies littering the environments keep the game feeling authentically creepy.
The Evil Within
Like Dead Space, The Evil Within features a strong fantasy element, so the gore feels more distanced from reality than in something like Manhunt.
From the opening chapter, in which players must evade a masked, chainsaw-wielding killer with a penchant for hanging mutilated corpses from his ceiling, The Evil Within’s gore levels help to create one of the most tense atmospheres in any game. This goes further than the Resident Evil series has so far (both stem from the same creator), but avoids being so gory as to be off-putting.
Players can be killed off by beheading, being impaled on spikes, crushed, or … well, smushed by whirling blade-coated death-wheels. As with Dead Space, these are so horrific you’re really pushed to work harder to avoid seeing them again.
Mortal Kombat X
What would a look at video-game gore be without Mortal Kombat?
Of course, we all know the franchise has been responsible for controversy now and then. Back in the early 90s, the media seemed convinced that MK’s release was likely to trigger Armageddon, yet by the time the latest instalment hit the market, nobody besides Germany batted an eyelid.
Without doubt, MKX is the goriest game in the series so far. For example, take a look at one of Kung Lao’s fatalities: he sends his enemy’s head into the air with his trusty razor-brimmed hat before slicing their body vertically, which promptly collapses in a bloody heap when the severed head lands on top of it.
Jax, on the other hand, likes to rip three of his enemy’s ribs out before shoving these through their skull, before breaking their neck. In another, he pushes their own arms into their body, rips their head open, and stubs his cigar out in it. Kitana, meanwhile, slices her opponent’s head into three with her deadly fans – one of the tamest executions in the game.
With the advanced graphics and realistic character-designs, the gore in Mortal Kombat is obviously much more disturbing than in the classic 16-bit versions. While there’s still a heavy dosage of black humour and absurdity, MKX is one of the most violent video games ever made. Where will NetherRealm go with the next one in the series?
What’s the goriest game you’ve ever played, and would you go back to it? Let us know!