5 most violent video games of 2014

Adults might enjoy these games, but keep them far away from your young children!

Published: December 10, 2014 08:00 AM

As much fun as some grownups may have playing violent and profane video games (and as you can probably tell from the reviews below, I’m one of them!), some games should never come anywhere near your kids. We picked five of the most grievous offenders. All are rated M for Mature by the ESRB.

Take a look at our story, “5 top video games for kids,” for more appropriate gifts. And visit our guide to video game consoles, tech toys, and kid tablets for plenty of advice and reviews.

—Matt Ferretti

Grand Theft Auto V, $60

Available for: Microsoft Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4
Why the Mature ESRB rating? Blood and gore, intense violence, mature humor, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs and alcohol

Grand Theft Auto is generally the first game series that comes to mind when people talk about violence and video games. There are three playable characters in the main story: Michael De Santa, a former bank robber; Trevor Philips, Michael’s former partner; and Franklin Clinton, a repo man for a gang. The plot revolves around the three of them pursuing wealth by planning several heists. GTA is an open-world game, which means that players are not forced to follow a linear path—rather, they can explore the entire world of the game as they choose.

The GTA games encourage players to steal vehicles by dragging the driver out of the car; and beating civilians to death on the street earns cash that players can use to pay for more expensive ways of causing destruction. The newest entry into the series, Grand Theft Auto V, takes the series’ violence to the next level. One controversial mission in the game, called "By the Book," has the player take control of a graphic torture scene. Obviously, none of this content is appropriate for children. 

Watch_Dogs, $60

Available for: Microsoft Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, Sony PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, PC
Why the Mature ESRB rating? Blood, intense violence, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs and alcohol

Like Grand Theft Auto, Watch_Dogs is an open-world game that players can explore as they choose. It’s set in a fictional version of Chicago, and the entire city is connected to one network, which lets you have plenty of fun as a hacker: You can change traffic lights, causing car crashes galore, for example, or steal money from people by accessing their cell phones.

The game really earns its Mature rating when you perform Privacy Invasions, in which you hack into in-home cameras and spy on unsuspecting citizens. Some of these scenes are very dark. One is about a person contemplating suicide. Another involves a man ignoring his crying child so he can… let’s just say, have some alone-time. There’s some nudity even in the main storyline of the game. Throw some graphic violence on top of all that, and you’ve got a great game that kids should never even look at.

For more kid-friendly info, visit our guide to video games, consoles, tech toys, and kid tablets.

The Evil Within, $60

Available for: Microsoft Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, PC
Why the Mature ESRB rating? Blood and gore, intense violence, strong language

In this intensely scary game, you play as Sebastian, a detective who is knocked unconscious at a crime scene. When you wake up, you’re hanging upside down, surrounded by bodies and a freakishly large, disfigured masked man, the Sadist, who is hacking the bodies apart. When you escape, the Sadist chases you with his chainsaw. If you’re caught, he decapitates you—vividly.

The game features a graphic-content filter which claims to eliminate the gore in some instances. It was effective during the aforementioned decapitation: The chainsaw hit Sebastian’s neck, and then the scene faded to black. While this does limit the gore, you still probably wouldn’t want this game in the hands—or mind—of a child.

Assassin’s Creed Unity, $60

Available for: Microsoft Xbox One, Sony PlayStation 4, PC
Why the Mature ESRB rating? Blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language, use of alcohol

This entry in the Assassin’s Creed series makes our violent video game list mainly because, well, it’s about an assassin. Each game in the series is set in a different time period. In Assassin’s Creed Unity, you’ll play as Arno Dorian, who joins the Assassin Brotherhood during the French Revolution.

While there is some profanity, this one is rated Mature mainly due to its violent content. Weapons that can be used to fight enemies include swords, spears, and guns. Close-range fights typically end with a brutal stabbing of some kind. Blood spills, and will appear on Arno’s clothing for a short time. One graphic scene in the storyline involves a man’s leg being sawed off.

On the plus side, the game has an option called Blood FX—so at least you have the option to turn that off and limit the gore. Also, amid all the violence, your kid might actually learn something about the French Revolution.

More appropriate gifts for children: The 8 best tech toys for 2014.

Sunset Overdrive, $60

Available for: Microsoft Xbox One
Why the Mature ESRB rating? Blood and gore, drug reference, sexual themes, strong language, violence

Sunset Overdrive is an exclusive Xbox One title set in an open world. The plot revolves around a tainted energy drink that transforms people into mutants. To play, you customize a hero to your liking, and then dash off into the city to beat, shoot, and curse your way to victory. Don’t be fooled by the cartoonish graphics. Sunset Overdrive features guns of ridiculous design, like the Flaming Compensator, which certainly appers to be compensating for something. But these guns are are used to kill mutants and humans alike.

The mutants are non-human creatures, so the violence against them may not be as disturbing to some. But when you’re battling another human, the blood flows. And to get a sense of the type of dialogue you can expect in this game, just check out its trailer. The tagline is, “Can you save Sunset City? Of course you can. It’s a *bleep*ing video game.”

Sunset Overdrive does include both a vulgarity filter and a gore filter that can render the game somewhat less offensive: The gore filter removes blood effects from the game, and the vulgarity filter simply bleeps out offensive words. But the game glorifies its violence and profanity in such a way that while it might be a lot of fun for grown-ups, it’s less than appropriate for children.

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