10 Banned PS2 Games Too Controversial For Their Time

The PlayStation 2 games that were too ahead of their time.

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Released back in 2000 and selling more than 150 million units, the PlayStation 2 is the best-selling console of all time. And with a staggering library of almost 4,000 games, the platform is home to some of the most influential titles to come out of the generation – Final Fantasy XI, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Devil May Cry being just a few examples.

Likewise, the new technology that the console’s revolutionary Emotion Engine offered allowed developers to get a lot more creative and experimental with their games, resulting in jaw-dropping titles like Shadow of the Colossus, Okami, and Silent Hill 2 as well as the all-out weird delights of Katamari Damacy and Mister Mosquito.

However, not all these titles were met with open arms. Controversy has never been too far from the world of gaming, with some classification boards voicing concerns regarding violent, sexual, or other sorts of mature content. Putting long-running debates on video games and violence aside, it’s not too hard to see why some titles were refused classification in certain territories.

Had these games been released today, though, their reception could have been different. Here are the banned PlayStation 2 games that were possibly too ahead of their time.

10. The Punisher

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Developed by Volition (who’d go on to make the Saints Row series), The Punisher saw players as titular antihero Frank Castle hunting down members of the Russian mob, mafia, and yakuza to enact some bloody justice. The game even featured cameos from other Marvel characters Black Widow, Iron Man, Matt Murdoch, and Nick Fury.

Despite selling over a million copies on release and being received positively by critics, it was the game’s interrogation sequences that sparked controversy. Giving players the ability to utilise an assortment of brutal means to torture enemies to gain information before killing them (with notable mentions including a power drill, rhino, and a shark), the game almost never saw the light of day in the US and UK.

Initially earning an Adults Only rating by the ESRB, meaning it couldn’t be released on Sony’s platform, these sequences were changed to black and white in order for its rating to be reduced. Similarly, the BBFC in the UK also required the camera to zoom out at these points for the game to pass with an 18 certificate. And in Germany the game was placed on a list which marked it harmful to young people.

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Glasgow-based cinephile who earned a Master's degree in film studies to spend their time writing about cinema, video games, and horror.