Video games are being made with increasing creative and artistic merit behind their conception. Whilst everyone marvels at how far graphics have come or how much better the storytelling has become, video games are also rapidly becoming a legitimate art form that can effectively tackle serious issues such as sexism, violence, and why chocolate is the true meaning of life.
But like most art forms, there are some instances where video games attempt to address certain issues and end up failing miserably. In this case, that issue is racism.
As racism becomes a more prevalent topic in everyday culture, video games have to be careful when addressing it. Unfortunately, outside of teenagers yelling racial slurs at you through an online chat room, racism has generally not been an issue that video games have focused on. That means some games can end up crossing that line between respectful and offensive. Some games may cause offense due to its gameplay compounds the racial issue, such as the ability to kill any character of any race in Grand Theft Auto. Other games may cause offence due to a lack of fact-checking, research, and a lack of tact when depicting characters from different cultures. And then there are those weird games that have no merit and exist purely to offend.
So here are 10 video games that are racist and offensive in ways that range from weird to blatantly obvious.
10. Resident Evil 5 – Killing Diseased Africans
The Resident Evil franchise is a series of survival horror games that basically involves killing endless hordes of zombies and other random monsters. Critics and gamers enjoyed this gory blend of zombie killing and horror and didn’t have many qualms about the games.
Until Resident Evil 5 was revealed.
Even before the game’s release, there was a heap of controversy over a sequence in which the white protagonist guns down an entire village of diseased African residents. What escalated the allegations was a real-life AIDS pandemic that occurred around the same time Resident Evil 5 was announced.
When the game was released, the racism claims were soon forgotten when everyone remembered that the game is set in a universe where zombies are the norm, the big bad is a corporation named Umbrella, and the fact that it’s just a game and nothing really ever makes sense anyway.
9. Call of Juarez: The Cartel – Achievement For Killing Black People?
Video games usually take a bit of artistic license when depicting real- life events. Call of Juarez: The Cartel decided to eschew any form of research or fact-checking and went straight to racist stereotyping.
The game is a generic and buggy first-person shooter that is set during the Mexican drug war. But instead of offering a respectful take or insight on the conflict, the bulk of the gameplay involves shooting down wave upon wave of Latino red shirts. There’s even a level where you can receive an achievement for killing black people and inciting a gang war.
Just to highlight how blatantly ignorant the developers were on the whole setting, the game addresses the issues of slavery and human trafficking by depicting American women being sold off to the Mexicans. Had the developers bothered to do any basic research, they would’ve found that in reality, the exact opposite is true.
8. Spanish For Everyone – Mexican And Drugs
Spanish for Everyone is an educational game that attempts to combine fun whilst teaching a new language and culture to all players. Unfortunately, not only is the game a terrible tool for learning Spanish, it also does an appalling job in teaching players about the Spanish culture.
The game begins at a low point when your horribly-stereotyped Mexican friend steals your Nintendo DS. Everything somehow manages to go further downhill from there. In order to retrieve your stolen DS from your ‘friend’ and his drug lord father, you have to cross the border and the only way to do that is by accepting a lift from some random horny Spanish woman who promises to teach you ‘many things.’
All in all, not only is the game horrendously offensive towards people who speak Spanish, but it does a terrible job at educating young kids about stranger danger.
7. Freaky Flyers – Japanese Kamikaze
Freaky Flyers is one of those wacky racing games where there are a variety of crazy vehicles and a host of wildly cartoonish characters. Whilst these type of games usually feature caricatures of animals or popular and established characters, Freaky Flyers decided to feature people. Incredibly racist depictions of people, that is.
There’s Sheik Abdul, who happens to be a billionaire oil mogul, likes to wear turbans, rides a flying carpet, and has a camel for a best friend. There’s also Cactus Rose, the sassy and loud Mexican woman who likes to rob people, and Island Jack, a ‘native’ who looks like a dreadlocked Jamaican. And finally, there’s Sammy Wasabi, a Japanese pilot who flies his plane, the subtly named ‘Kamikaze Express,’ and speaks ‘English’ by pronouncing every ‘L’ as an ‘R’.
It’s probably a good thing that the game was aimed at young children since they would’ve been spared from the game’s racist undertones.
6. Punch Out!! – Stereotyping Boxers
Punch-Out!! involves playing as a pasty white guy named Lil’ Mac who is trying to work his way up the boxing ranks. In order to do so, you have to beat up a roster of characters before taking on one of the most difficult video game bosses ever, Mike Tyson. All the attention on Mike Tyson as the final boss has managed to disguise the fact that almost all the characters that you have to beat up are blatantly offensive racial stereotypes.
There’s Soda Popinsky (also known as Vodka Popinsky before Nintendo censored the name) who was a drunk Russian, Piston Honda, a Japanese guy who speaks in random Japanese-related things like ‘sushi’ and ‘kamikaze’, and an Indian guy who wears a turban and is named Great Tiger.
This game is probably one of the few times in any form of entertainment where Mike Tyson is involved and he is somehow not the worst part in it.
5. Pokemon – Black Drag Queen
There have been hundreds upon hundreds of Pokemon that have been designed for the franchise. Pokemon designs have been influenced by a wide range of things such as dinosaurs, birds, turtles, plants, ghosts, balloons, and even an ice cream cone. So aside from being stupidly lazy, how could the designers for a cutesy kids game go wrong?
Well, there was the time when someone thought it was a good idea to design a Pokemon that resembled a drag queen, aka Jynx.
Resembling more human than creature, Jynx was considered incredibly offensive due to its resemblance to actors who dress up in blackface. The LGBT community weren’t too happy either since Jynx also resembled a fat drag queen who had an obsession with dark make-up.
In response to the criticism, some TV episodes of the show featuring Jynx were censored or cut out completely, and Jynx’s video game design was altered from having black skin to purple skin.
4. Kung Fu Chaos – Stereotypes At Its Worst
Kung Fu Chaos was a bright and colourful game that offered a fresh take on the fighting game genre by skipping past the usual good vs. evil premise and presenting the game as a film production of an Asian kung fu film. Unfortunately, the game’s film premise is more akin to those racist exploitation films of the 70s rather than the more open-minded and politically-correct films of today.
Most of the playable characters are presented as a stereotypical Asian martial artist, complete with slanted eyes, wispy facial hair, and a poor grasp on English. To balance out the over-representation of Asian stereotypes, the developers also decided to add in a stereotypical blaxploitation character, a blonde bimbo on roller skates, and a Mexican character who happens to be fat masked wrestler.
To the game’s credit, the demeaning presentation of culture stereotypes is softened somewhat due to the campy tongue-in-cheek tone and a tendency to never take itself too seriously.
3. GTA: Vice City – Fictitious Cubans V Haitians Gang War
Since its first foray into the gaming landscape, controversy and the Grand Theft Auto series go together like white on rice. When Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was released, the usual talking points about the series’ violence and sexual content was shifted towards how Haitian-Americans and Cuban-Americans were portrayed.
In the game, you are dropped in the middle of a gang war between the Haitians and Cubans. Resolution of this storyline involves the player being played by both sides before betraying everyone and killing numerous Haitians and Cubans. Needless to say, the Haitian and Cuban communities weren’t too happy about being the victims to a virtual genocide. In fact, Rockstar had to release a press statement in order to calm everyone down.
But despite all the controversy, Vice City flew right off the shelves and became the franchise’s biggest selling game (until San Andreas came out), showing that any press is good press for Grand Theft Auto.
2. Custer’s Revenge – On A Native Woman
In 1982, Mystique, a video game company in the 80s that specialized in making pixelated pornographic games, released Custer’s Revenge. Based on the lewd box art featuring a naked General Custer and a tied up Native American woman, it was almost certain that the game was going to be uncomfortably unsavoury at best or absolutely morbid at worst.
The entire premise of the game involves navigating a naked General Custer through a hail of arrows so he can have his way with a tied up Native American woman. Needless to say, the game received criticism and outrage on every front possible. In fact, the game’s developer tried to brush it all off by inexplicably saying that the woman was a ‘willing participant’. No amount of explaining or reasoning can defend the game’s existence nor hide the fact that the game is an embarrassment to the video game medium.
If there was a positive to be taken from this game, it’s that there’s a line that no one should cross when making a video game. Someone probably should’ve told the developers of the next game on this list about not crossing that line…
1. Ethnic Cleansing – The KKK
The title alone should give you an indication on how messed up this game is.
Developed by members from the National Alliance, an American white supremacist organisation, it is no surprise that Ethnic Cleansing is filled to the brim with outrageously racist and white supremacist material. Players are given the choice to play as either a neo-Nazi, a skinhead, or a Klansman, and the entire premise involves killing every Latino, African-American, and Jew in the game. On top of annoying racist rock music playing in the background, African-American characters make monkey noises whenever they’re shot. Yeah, that’s about as unsavoury as they come.
This game was made for literally no other purpose than to offend as many people as possible. Thankfully, every playable aspect of the game is as bad as the game’s premise and the game didn’t really generate much buzz outside of critics criticising how profoundly stupid the game was.