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Before controversial titles like Doom, Mortal Kombat, and Night Trap paved the way for the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) to enforce age restrictions in video games, kids could buy any digital diversion their little hearts desired, including (or I should say "especially") ones aimed at mature audiences.
Let's take a look at six unrated, grisly titles from the past that may be partially responsible for Senator Joseph Lieberman's erectile dysfunction.
Chiller (arcade, 1986)
I spent my parents' quarters on arcade games like Wonder Boy and Donkey Kong 3 during my childhood, but some kids from third-world countries had to settle for Chiller, a horrific light-gun shooter from Exidy. From who? Exactly.
Chiller takes players on a murderous spree inside a medieval castle's torture chamber. Shoot as many helpless victims before the timer runs out. Bats and rats net you extra points, but to earn a high score you have to rearrange a woman's face with a shotgun or sever a guy's dong off.
This is what the first level looks like…BEFORE the game starts….
Oh, for the love of…hey, I think I found Waldo.
The Mafat Conspiracy (NES, 1990)
Golgo 13, the ruthless hitman from the long-running Japanese manga, starred in a Vic Tokai-developed action game for the NES called The Mafat Conspiracy. During the final scene, Golgo 13 intercepts his target in an airport. By "intercept" I mean "drives a bullet through his brain."
The bad guy's face looks like a pixelated mess, plus he got shot.
Wolfenstein 3D (PC, 1992)
Before id Software sent marines to Mars in Doom, they developed Wolfenstein 3D. Both shooters share similar play mechanics, controls, visuals, and high levels of ultra violence. Nazis captured American soldier William "B.J." Blazkowicz inside Castle Wolfenstein, and to escape he'll kill every goddam fascist that gets in his way…even the Führer himself.
Nazis may leave B.J. looking like an imploded lasagna factory, but they'll never see him cry.
Nazi scientists taught German Shepherds to talk, read, and write. Luckily for Blazkowicz, dodging bullets wasn't on the curriculum.
Adolf Hitler puts up a serious fight, but eventually morphs into Heinz tomato sauce.
Bionic Commando (NES, 1988)
While Bionic Commando is not particularly violent, the ending sequence is incredibly brutal and uncharacteristic of an NES game.
Nintendo removed all mentions of the word "Nazi" and images of swastikas from the US version but left Herr Wolf's exploding noggin. Capcom included the blown-up head in the remake, Bionic Commando Rearmed. Nerds everywhere rejoiced.
Hmm…another game with Hitler. Maybe this time he won't expl…never mind.
Space Quest 1: Roger Wilco in The Sarien Encounter (PC, 1991)
Roger Wilco — janitor by choice, hero by fate — encounters many dangers during his adventures in space. I haven't played Space Quest, but I understand that Roger gets killed in many horrible ways during his quest on alien planets — just like fellow unlikely hero Lester Knight from Out of this World.
Roger Wilco recreates a scene from the movie Big Trouble in Little China.
The Immortal (PC, 1991)
I convinced my mom to buy The Immortal for me because the graphics on the back of the package looked awesome. A stupid decision, but it paid off. The game is challenging, nice to look at, and features some of the most badass executions I've ever seen. I never thought an old wizard could be such a savage killer.
The unnamed hero conjures a headache-relieving spell on a friendly goblin. Oops….
This troll regrets asking the wizard for directions.
Wait a minute…wasn't Shang Tsung an old sorcerer in the first Mortal Kombat?
Do you remember other disturbing pre-ESRB (before 1994) games you'd like to see featured in a follow-up article? Let me know in the comments section.