ByRachelle Riddle, writer at
Writer by day, gamer by night. Everything's a story.
Rachelle Riddle

Video games often have minor changes across multiple publishers to fit in with each country they're released in. Sometimes these changes are cultural in nature (e.g. using common names will differ by country). Other times games will run into local laws. So instead of facing a straight up ban, as some governments are wont to do, many games developers will just edit out the offending parts.

Here are some interesting cases of game censorship that changed games:

'Resident Evil 7'

Resident Evil 7, known for its graphic horror both on and off screen, has received some changes in the Japanese version. A lot of the more disturbing parts have been changed, removing the amount of gore the game is known for. One such change, meant for the particularly squeamish, changes the location of a key, Rather than digging around inside a corpse for a key, the Japanese version simply places the key right next to the body. Watch the video for the full, gory details.

'Final Fight'

Japan is simultaneously progressive and squeamish apparently. While they censor gore and violence, sex and sexuality is often untouched. Final Fight released in 1989 with fairly progressive characters: diverse skin colors and transgender individuals. However, the North American release on SNES found a few changes differing from that in Japan. Health potions were changed from whiskey to a generic "vitamine." The darker skin colors were instead lightened. Two transgender female characters, Poison and Roxy, were changed to male characters, Billy and Sid.

"When a Capcom USA representative suggested that it was tasteless to have the game's hero beat up a woman, a Japanese designer responded that there were no women in the game. 'What about the blonde named Roxy?' the American asked. The designer responded, 'Oh, you mean the transvestite!' Roxy was given a haircut and new clothes." -Game Over

'Team Fortress 2'

Germany has quite a history of censoring games, and for good (or better) reason. They have a law banning anything Nazi related, which most often affects white supremacists...and video games. Nazis tend to make great generic villains, whether you're a soldier or Indiana Jones. Germany doesn't take its history lightly, so these elements are straight up nixed from German versions.

But a more interesting point of contention in German law has to do with their aversion to human violence. So games just started making everyone into robots instead. Team Fortress 2 is a hilarious example of that, turning a cartoonish game into something even more cartoony and ridiculous. Instead of blood and guts exploding, you get oil, springs, and the occasional rubber ducky?

'Prison Architect'

Medics in games are ubiquitously known by the red and white cross, and for good reason: this is the symbol of the Red Cross. But did you know impersonating them is a violation of the Geneva Convention? Yes, this even includes video games. Introversion Software was flabbergasted when they received the letter from the British Red Cross, at first thinking it was a prank. But no, it was very real, and very illegal.

The Red Cross disaster relief via
The Red Cross disaster relief via

Even though the use of a red cross to denote health packs and medics in war games is very common, it's still in violation of the Geneva Convention, particularly Article 44.

"[T]he emblem of the Red Cross on a white ground and the words "Red Cross", or "Geneva Cross" may not be employed, either in time of peace or in time of war, except to indicate or to protect the medical units and establishments, the personnel and material protected by the … Convention."

The difference for Prison Architect as opposed to the many other games with red crosses is that they're located in the United Kingdom, who incorporated the Geneva Conventions into law in 1957, which is why they hastened to change the little red crosses to green instead. In order to make sure that its symbol remains pure, and that people will always know it means help in an actual emergency, the Red Cross doesn't want it to be misused, no matter how benign.

'World of Warcraft'

Chinese version with bread and skin to replace the bones and flesh.
Chinese version with bread and skin to replace the bones and flesh.

China has a lot of regulations, one of which is no bones. World of Warcraft happens to use skeletons, both as an indicator of where dead bodies were after they resurrect, and also as an aesthetic choice for Forsaken. To launch in China, they had to make a few changes: flesh instead of bones on Forsaken, and gravestones instead of skeletons for the dead.

For Wrath of the Lich King expansion, ever so fond of the skull motif that marked the entirety of Icecrown Citadel, this proved to be more of a challenge. Which is why the expansion was just flat out banned for two years until changes were eventually put in. They were a little horrifying, perhaps even more horrifying that the original bones.

The first iteration of the skeleton boss Lord Marrowgar.
The first iteration of the skeleton boss Lord Marrowgar.

Additional expansions have added to this: better skeleton replacements, straw men instead of dead bodies, and bread instead of bones or flesh lying around. As one of the more tame examples of game censorship, it's a little funny to see random bread loaves scattered everywhere.

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