As with mainstream movies, it seems that the MMORPG industry has settled comfortably into the PG-13 zone for its approach and themes. Sure, there’s a bit of blood, skin, and the occasional foray into adult themes, but for the most part these games are playing it safe by not pushing too many boundaries. After all, why limit the potential size of your audience when you’re trying to draw in as large of a group of gamers as possible?
Of course, not every MMO out there deigns to appeal to the family market. Every once in a while we get a game that pushes well into the mature or even adult-only rating territory with edgier content. It’s an uphill battle to get these games out, sometime: World of Darkness and Revival both promised a super-gritty world yet were torpedoed well before launch.
Today we’re going to look at 10 games that don’t just accept mature content as a part of the gameplay experience, they embrace it fully and have earned an M or AO rating from the ESRB. Parental guidance from here on out is suggested.
There’s a video game term called “gibs” that basically means “flying bloody meat pieces.” You bump into this a lot in shooters, where it’s supposedly the mark of a truly awesome game if you can make your foe explode into thousands of gibs. It’s also pretty much what everyone seems to know Requiem for, since this horror MMO has turned up the combat gore dial to 11.
2. Mortal Online
Apart from the full-frontal nudity that briefly disappeared around the same time as the game’s Steam launch (coincidence?), Mortal Online allows players to reap, collect, and even trade the heads of defeated foes. When you’re bored with that, there’s always virtual cannibalism to while away the hours.
3. The Elder Scrolls Online
When ESO got slapped with an M rating back in 2014, you could tell that Bethesda wasn’t pleased:
— Bethesda (@bethesda) January 22, 2014
The company had to scramble to update the official site with an age gate for a game that it fully expected to be rated T. The ESRB defended its rating by saying that elements such as severed heads, rape references, and the ability to get drunk made the decision necessary.
Before doing this column, I never really gave much serious thought about what rating every game has (and let’s face it, the rating system is kind of a joke anyway). So it truly did surprise me that ArcheAge warranted an M rating from the ESRB for “violence, blood, sexual themes, partial nudity, and drug reference.” All that and no mention of the guy making obscene gestures at my corpse that he just ganked?
One of the issues with the rating system is finding that vague line between tiers. When does a skimpy outfit become too skimpy for T? Does one lopped-off body part automatically warrant a higher rating? Do you put just as much emphasis on what is said in quest text as what is portrayed on screen?
TERA’s M rating has baffled some players, who feel that the jiggle factor isn’t enough to be given this label. Other players have pointed out that there is more than just bare skin at work in this rating, with blood spray during combat, charred corpses, and some suggestive descriptions all adding up.
6. Age of Conan
Tell the truth: When you saw the topic of today’s column, this was the first game that came to mind, right? And rightfully so: Age of Conan truly embraced the blood-soaked, carnal, and cutthroat setting of Hyboria. For some, the nudity and barbarism was off-putting, while for others, it was the whole point.
7. The Secret World
Once again, Funcom showed players that it wasn’t afraid to invest into games with mature content and subject matter when it came to The Secret World. The game begins and dwells in some of the most horrific places on earth, with creepy vampires, half-naked demons, and hungry zombies lurking around every corner. More than the visuals, TSW showed that it could handle mature topics with its quest stories and complex NPCs.
8. Scarlet Blade
Normally on Massively OP, we writers try our very best to be even-handed with all MMOs, even when we find them silly or condescending. It was terrifically hard to do this with Scarlet Blade, just because you couldn’t help but mock the over-the-top sexuality (if you can call it that) of the visuals. Alas, we have no more excuse to tease it, as the game closed down earlier this year. Perhaps all of the characters caught their death of cold?
There’s something about a futuristic cyberpunk setting that brings out the nasty in game designers. Neocron might have high technology, but at its roots it wallowed in the dirt and grunge of bad language, prostitution, and drug use. Now just imagine if this game had become the smash MMORPG hit of the last decade!
Vindictus is another MMO that I don’t label as “mature” in my head, except when I stop to think about it. Then I realize that, yes, it really invests deep into gore-soaked combat, a point of differentiation from its older sibling Mabinogi. Although it’s always the goodie two-shoes games that are hiding the truly disturbing content…