Do you want a list of banned games on Steam? Name every pornographic game in existence! But seriously, it’s hard to find games that were outright banned on Steam because we’ll never see them since Steam won’t put them in the catalogue in the first place. The only few instances the game has been banned--though, the words “banned” and “removed” are interchangeable--are when the developers were vocal, or a game that was in the catalogue suddenly vanished due to unverified reports, or games got removed due to expired licenses, or even games got banned in certain counties due to violations of their specific laws, or deemed too explicit according to their beliefs.
Honey’s Anime is going to list 10 games that were removed or banned from the Steam catalogue, and we’ll try to explain why certain games vanished without any official statements. And since we mentioned about indie gaming, we’ll take a glimpse at its dark side in one of our entries.
10. Paranautical Activity
- System: PC, Linux, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Vita, Wii U
- Publisher: CodeAvarice
- Developer: CodeAvarice
- Release Dates: September 5, 2013
Paranautical Activity is a roguelike first-person shooter where you’re dropped into a randomly-generated room and kill everything that moves while finding power ups to help you survive the next randomly-generated area. With Minecraft-like aesthetic with a you-die-go-back-at-the-start mechanic, Paranautical Activity is gonna test your skills, but you’ll end up raging anyways because of cheap deaths being thrown at you .
Remember what we said in the Indie Games article about indie gaming not being the saints we are led to believe? This game and its developer Code Avarice are an example of those with inflated egos, and with little respect for everyone because they’re high above the social ladder. What happened was when Paranautical Activity was published, Valve erroneously labeled the game as Early Access and one of the developers of Code Avarice claimed Valve wasn’t speedy on fixing the issue. What’s the next logical thing to do? Why, go and whine on Twitter, insult Steam, and threatens to kill the co-founder of Steam, Gabe Newell! Valve then later removed Paranautical Activity from Steam’s catalogue and ceased relations with Code Avarice.
Paranautical Activity resurfaced on Steam as Paranautical Activity: Deluxe Atonement Edition and the reason the game was accepted by Valve is because Code Avarice has sold the rights to the game to Digerati Distribution. Let’s make things clear here: Valve banned the game due to the developer’s immature outbursts and declaring threats to end the life of Gabe Newell on Twitter, but since Paranautical Activity is no longer owned by the said developer, it was allowed back onto Steam. And that’s for the better because the game would’ve never seen the light of day if it remained with Code Avarice. And seriously, was it really that hard to make one phone call or email to Valve to fix the issue, wait it out, and call it a day?
9. Ride to Hell: Retribution
- System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Developer: Eutechnyx
- Release Dates: June 25, 2013
Considered to be one of the worst, if not, the worst game ever made, Ride to Hell: Retribution is a third-person action brawler and shooter involving a badass biker dude seeking revenge. The game that went through development hell resulting in poor planning, bad writing, broken gameplay, ugly graphics, it’s offensive and is riddled with bugs. The series was planned to spawn 2 more sequels but they were cancelled due to negative reviews and poor sales.
The game stayed in Steam for around a year, and it enjoyed a few sales (maybe because one popular gaming critic encouraged everyone to try out this mess of a game) before it was mysteriously removed from Steam’s library. The exact reason for its removal is unknown but popular speculation pointed out that Ride to Hell was so bad, it didn’t meet the quality standards set out by Steam. Or maybe perhaps it was removed because of how the game treated women? But given Valve’s negligence to quality control and police awful “games” that uses reused assets, it’s safe to say Ride to Hell: Retribution wasn’t removed because of poor quality, and it was something else. This is perhaps a mystery that we’ll take to our graves, unfortunately.
8. Spec Ops: The Line
- System: PC, Linux, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Developer: Yager
- Release Dates: June 26, 2012
Spec Ops: The Line takes place in the once beautiful city of Dubai after it was consumed by massive sandstorms. Millions of citizens are trapped, riots break out frequently and resources like food and clean drinking water are dwindling, Dubai is descending into chaos. The US 33rd Infantry Battalion led by the highly decorated Colonel John Konrad, already stationed at the city, volunteered to help with the evacuation and relief efforts. As the battalion struggles to maintain order, John Konrad has declared martial law and committed atrocities on the populace. You play as Captain Walker of the 3-man delta force sent by the US military to conduct reconnaissance inside the ruined city, find survivors and get the hell out.
The United Arab Emirates is very strict in allowing games into their shores. If a game has violence, nudity, gore or anything relating to the UAE, it’s likely to get banned. A lot of high profile games were also banned like the Grand Theft Auto series, God of War series, and even Japanese games that are notorious for sexually suggestive content, but these games either got their ban lifted after minor alterations, or the ban didn’t extend to digital distribution platforms like Steam. The only high profile game that is permanently banned in the UAE in both physical and digital versions is Spec Ops: The Line. But why is that? A game portraying violence and gameplay involving killing US soldiers and Emirates in a ruined Dubai, thus implying the incompetence of the UAE government, didn’t bode well to the censorship board. The UAE even goes as far as to block the official website of the game, had the game banned in neighboring nations, and made it impossible to get a copy.
That is very quite unfortunate because Spec Ops: The Line is a decently-made game with a compelling story that makes you question our existence as human beings.
7. Art of Stealth
- System: PC
- Publisher: Matan Cohen
- Developer: Matan Cohen
- Release Dates: January 12, 2017
Art of Stealth is another game that is composed of Unity store assets all cobbled together in what appears to be a stealth game… where you instead shoot at enemies like Rambo… or something like that. The game itself got a few fans, a ton of negative reviews, and with Steam’s poor moderation, Art of Stealth wasn’t the target for removal or getting banned because it contains offensive content. Art of Stealth was removed because developer Matan Cohen was caught manipulating his game’s review rating by posting positive reviews using multiple Steam accounts. This desperate act is in violation of Steam’s review policy and Art of Stealth is no longer on Steam. Yeah… That happened. And twice apparently because…
6. Wild Buster: Heroes of Titan
- System: PC
- Publisher: Insel Games Ltd.
- Developer: Nuriworks
- Release Dates: December 14, 2017
Wild Busters: Heroes of Titan was also removed from Steam because game publisher Insel Games manipulated the Steam reviews by telling its staff and colleagues to buy the game and post positive reviews to encourage sales, and failure to do so may face possible unemployment. And since this is a ban on the publisher, other games published by Insel Games were also removed.
“In a war-torn galaxy, the Broken, an aggressive cyborg race, are hell-bent on dooming the remaining humans to the same desolate half-man-half-machine fate.
Collect and level more than a dozen varied characters to master PvE and PvP features, and prevent the complete annihilation of mankind!” --Wild Buster Website
Now, this is kind of sad because Wild Busters is an actual game and some care was put into it. If you’re into hack and slash games with MMO elements, this game might’ve been for you. But sadly the game’s publisher didn’t have any faith in the game and stooped low just to artificially raise the game’s popularity.
- System: PC, PS2, PS4, Xbox One
- Publisher: Rockstar Games, SCEA
- Developer: Rockstar North
- Release Dates: November 18, 2003
Manhunt is legendary and probably synonymous with anything relating to games ban and censorship due to its very graphic violence involving torture and killing your fellow man with an assortment of weapons from baseball bats to bladed objects. And to make it more clear that violence is a core gameplay mechanic, you are graded based on your performance like how brutal your takedowns were. The game is available on Steam, but it’s banned in certain countries, especially in Australia, notorious for very strict censorship rules. Manhunt was a prime target in Australia mainly because your score is based on violence whereas other games like, say, Grand Theft Auto doesn’t score you for murdering the police or civilians.
But Manhunt is literally and technically banned everywhere because the bloody game isn’t compatible in any modern operating system starting from Windows Vista.
4. Postal 2
- System: PC
- Publisher: MicroMouse, Whiptail Interactive, Drive, Inc., Running With Scissors
- Developer: Running With Scissors
- Release Dates: April 14, 2003
You are the Postal Dude, just a typical everyman doing chores given at you buying milk, paying fines, or to pick up something from a neighbor. With the freedom of choice, and if you’re creative enough, you can turn these boring menial tasks into fun romps of blood, fire, and destruction. Postal 2 is a sandbox game and like the game advertised, you’re just a guy doing basic tasks for money. And like any sandbox game, you make your own rules and play the game your way. If you want to steal milk? Go ahead and bludgeon the store owner while you’re at it. Wanna rain down the parade of a group marching band, literally speaking? Take out your junk and pee all over them. There are many ways to play Postal 2 and this freedom along with crude dark humor, gamers loved it.
The level of violence in Postal 2 is on par with Manhunt, but the difference is violence is, most of the time, optional. Like we said, Postal 2 gives player freedom to choose how they tackle situations, but of course, the game allows you to go full psychopath with the tools available. Kill gay rednecks, Arabs, black people, religious folks and anyone else. Everyone is fair game.
Unfortunately, Postal 2 was banned in New Zealand because of its offensive writing, disgusting imagery, brutal gameplay, and extreme political incorrectness. Even owning the game in New Zealand after buying a Steam code online will get you fined and jail time.
3. Grand Theft Auto IV
- System: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Publisher: Rockstar Games
- Developer: Rockstar North
- Release Dates: April 29, 2008
It is fact video games aren’t the main cause of violence among children. If that were the case, the tens of millions of gamers who played GTA games would have committed mass murder by now. The leading cause is the mental health of individuals and they can get inspirations from any form of media other than video games like violent movies, offensive lyrics from songs, or social media. Sadly for video gaming though, the murder in Thailand further embedded the stereotype of gamers are violent because of violent games.
A troubled youth killed a taxi driver, stabbing him to death because he needed the money to play more video games, specifically Grand Theft Auto IV. The youth claimed Grand Theft Auto-inspired him to commit murder, saying “Killing seemed easy in the game.” Due to this terrible incident, the Thailand police banned the distribution of Grand Theft Auto IV and there are strict penalties for anyone who sells the game through any means.
Grand Theft Auto games have been heavily criticized for its glorification of crime ranging from killing, robbery, hijacking, drugs, gang violence and sex, all wrapped up in a third-person gameplay. And while the game is a work of fiction and it’s strictly for older gamers, any smart kid can get a copy easily, or their parents blindly buy their children games without reading the ratings slapped on the cover.
2. A Kiss for the Petals -- Maidens of Michael
- System: PC, Linux, Mac
- Publisher: YurinYurin, MangaGamer
- Developer: St. Michael’s Girls School
- Release Dates: February 22, 2018
This is the most recent and highly-anticipated title that was removed from Steam soon after it went live on the platform. Users who have pre-ordered the visual novel or bought it as soon as it came out can still experience it, but it’s tough luck for everybody else. The title’s removal was caused after a Steam user filed a report to Steam Support that Maiden’s of Michael contains sexual content of young girls. The Steam user posted a screenshot of the report they have made and bragged about it on social media. Yes, Maidens of Michael was removed because of an internet troll seeking attention.
As for the title itself, the all-ages version of Maidens of Michael had all its sex scenes, imagery and dialogue removed prior to release, so there was no violation of Steam’s Terms of Service. As of this writing, there is no official statement from Valve as to why Maidens of Michael has been removed or any sign of the visual novel returning to Steam. However, fans of the series and fans of visual novels, in general, pointed their fingers at Steam’s incompetence at handling the situation. Was Maidens of Michael removed due to sexual content? Or is it something else? We will never know for sure, but let’s hope Maidens of Michael return to Steam because Maidens of Michael is a collection of touching stories of girls falling in love with each other.
1. The Slaughtering Grounds
- System: PC
- Publisher: Digital Homicide Studios under the pseudonym Imminent Uprising
- Developer: Digital Homicide Studios under the pseudonym Imminent Uprising
- Release Dates: October 31, 2014
You could say the Slaughtering Grounds is the poster boy for awful games that are recycled demo games found in the Unity Engine asset store getting past Steam’s poor moderated early access program called Steam Greenlight. The shenanigans started when YouTube critic Jim Sterling made a video harshly criticizing Slaughtering Grounds with its slapdash unaltered game assets the developer--Digital Homicide--taken from a store, broken gameplay because the devs crammed random things and didn't code them properly, and everything else you can think of. What is Slaughtering Grounds all about? It’s a first-person shooter and you’re in a large area, and uh… you shoot monsters, and uh… that’s it.
For any sane person, that was it---a critic calling an awful game awful, called it a day, and move on with your life. But nope, Digital Homicide was upset at Jim Sterling’s criticism and went on a meltdown. The meltdown and its coverage spread like wildfire for anyone who took notice, and the reviews section of the Slaughtering Grounds is flooded with negative reviews, gaming forums made posts showing evidence Digital Homicide took assets from other sources without crediting the creators. Digital Homicide then proceeded to ban players for negative comments because they’re hurting their sales and even sued Jim Sterling for millions of dollars for libel and slander. Oh, and it didn’t end there!
It was then soon discovered that the founder/owner of Digital Homicide managed several game publishing companies in order to sell more games on Steam. Gamers grew tired of the massive influx of “fake games” coming to Steam, so they vented their anger in their reviews, even going as far as threatening to kill the developers. If you think a simple submission to Steam Support to penalize abusive users was the logical choice, then you’re mistaken---Digital Homicide (or which one of their companies they manage) sued 100 of these Steam users for millions of dollars. And in that instant, Valve ceased relations with Digital Homicide and removed all of their games from Steam for being hostile of their user base.
And there you have it! Games are banned in certain regions because, let’s face it, this little blue planet called Earth is the home of diverse cultures and beliefs. Some nations view the world differently, so sometimes the views of one nation may conflict with another. It sucks, but sadly that’s how the world works. Some games, however, are banned or removed without any official statement, so all we can do is speculate. And some games were banned because the developers were dicks, thinking they can get away with insults and lawsuits.
Digital Homicide Studios is the prime example of developers who try to sell badly-made games and will censor, or even sue people, for talking negatively about them or their games. Heck, they’re not even game developers; they’re more like opportunists caring more about earning money rather than creating fun and engaging games.
If you’re an aspiring game developer, please do not follow these people who made one of the biggest mistakes of their lives. Focus on your goals, do not follow trends, respect the opinions of others, handle criticism like an adult, and just make a game you always wanted to make. If you do that, your game and your company will be successful, and gamers will support you.