10 Most Violent Video Games of 2015 (and What to Play Instead)

When you need to say no -- and these games prove that sometimes you have to -- it helps to have solid alternatives. By Jeff Haynes
10 Most Violent Video Games of 2015 (and What to Play Instead)

If you want to be engaged in your kid's hobbies, you try to understand as much as possible about them. But when the video games your kid wants feature ultra violent content, it's tough to keep an open mind.

Game companies don't exactly make it easy for parents to say yes. In 2015, we saw some of the most violent video games ever released. Plus, older violent games such as Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and Resident Evil: The Definitive Edition were re-released with visual upgrades that intensify the more violent moments, including blood and gore splattering. And let's not forget the classic ultra violent game franchises Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and Halo, which remain incredibly popular with young players.

But there is good news: Plenty of family-friendly games came out in 2015, and they're engaging, expansive, and imaginative.  

We've listed 10 of the most violent games released in 2015. For the most part, these are well-designed and technically flawless, but they should be reserved for mature audiences. Fortunately, we've also provided less violent alternatives you can feel good about saying yes to.

If you don't want any violence in your video games, check out our Nonviolent Video Games list, and always check out our reviews on the newest games. For more recommendations, check out the 10 Most Violent Video Games of 2016 (and What to Play Instead).

Battlefield: Hardline
The latest chapter in the Battlefield franchise steps away from armed conflict in a war zone into armed conflict between cops and drug dealers. Players take on the role of a police officer attempting to dismantle drug networks. Players can use pistols, shotguns, and rifles to blast criminals, and firefights are frequently intense, with lots of blood spilled and characters screaming in pain. Cut scenes show execution-style gunshots to the head, as well as a character fed to crocodiles. There's a wealth of profanity, and characters are shown consuming large amounts of alcohol and snorting drugs. On the bright side, Battlefield: Hardline lets players choose to take a nonviolent route, tasing and arresting criminals instead of killing them.

Alternate first-person shooters: Portal 2, age 10+; Metroid Prime: Hunters, age 13+

This extremely challenging third-person action-RPG was designed to test a player's skills -- and patience. You're tasked with hunting down and destroying creatures that were once human, using pistols, axes, scythes, and other devastating weaponry. There's loads of combat, and buckets of blood will pour from every strike against you and your targets, and it frequently stains the ground; in fact, blood acts as both currency as well as the basis for health potions, which is important because players will frequently get killed by beasts that defy description.

Alternate action-RPGs: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, age 11+Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, age 13+ 

Dying Light
This first-person survival horror game is notable for its action sequences and creative gameplay. The player is cast as a soldier who's airdropped into the large fictional city of Harran, Turkey, to investigate the cause of a zombie outbreak. Players can use parkour-inspired moves to evade and attack the undead, along with weapons that can electrocute or incinerate them. You'll be covered in blood and gore as you decapitate and dismember; in a sly twist, you can even become a zombie and hunt down other players in multiplayer matches.

Alternate open-world games: Lego City Undercover, age 9+; The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, age 10+ 

This is one of the most controversial releases in recent history, thanks to its content and plot. Notable as the first Adults Only-rated game to be released through Steam, the game was clearly designed to provoke a response. The premise makes Grand Theft Auto seem tame: Players play as a sociopath who attempts to kill innocent bystanders and police officers with guns, flamethrowers, and bombs to satisfy his hatred of humanity. Blood and gore is rampant, as are characters begging for mercy before they're executed, frequently during profanity-laced rants.

Alternate top-down action games: Halo: Spartan Assault, age 13+; Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, age 13+

Mad Max
Based on the postapocalyptic films, this game takes an open-world approach to Max's journey through the wasteland -- and he delivers loads of violence from start to finish. Players can drive over enemies in cars, snap necks, and impale other characters with harpoons thrown from moving vehicles. Cut scenes offer characters having their throats slit, along with piles of bodies, lots of profanity, and drugs being inhaled.

Alternative action/adventure games: Axiom Verge, age 11+; Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, age 14+

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The last chapter in the long-running stealth action franchise focuses on the hazards and effects of war. Though players have the option to use nonviolent methods to subdue opponents, they can use firearms, explosives, and knives. There's torture, scantily clad women, references to rape, and derogatory language toward women.

Alternate stealth-action games: The Swindle, age 10+; Republique, age 15+

Mortal Kombat X
The 10th installment of the popular and controversial fighting-game series offers more intricate gameplay mechanics and features than ever before. Though the title focuses on split-second timing, counters, and projectile attacks, it also has some of the most brutal violence, including executions, in series history. Spines are snapped, heads are crushed, players are diced into cubes -- and these are some of the tamer fatalities. Mortal Kombat X is a sophisticated and technically complex fighting game that requires a lot of skill, but it's definitely not for kids.

Alternate fighting gamesSuper Smash Bros. Wii U, age 11+Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, age 13+

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos
The latest installment in the long-running action hack-and-slash franchise pits players against hordes of zombies and other monsters. Players use swords, chain saws, and firearms to dismember and destroy creatures; limbs and corpses litter the ground. Blood frequently sprays into the air after successful hits, triggering special "Blood Frenzy" attacks. And, in addition to the gallons of blood and copious profanity, the game dresses its heroines in revealing bikinis.

Alternate hack-and-slash adventure games: Gauntlet: Slayer Edition, age 13+Castle Crashers Remastered, age 14+

The Order: 1886
This visually striking third-person shooter is set in an alternate London. Cast as knights of the Round Table, players fight to keep society safe from werewolves and rebellious humans. Knights use pistols, knives, and futuristic weapons to make blood erupt from enemy wounds. The game opens with a torture scene and features topless women in a brothel, a scene with sexual intercourse, and full-frontal male nudity.

Alternate third-person shooters: Splatoon, age 10+The Red Solstice, age 13+

Until Dawn
This is one of the most striking (and, needless to say, violent) adventure games to be released in years. Set in an isolated mountain lodge, it lets players control a set of teens who are being hunted and picked off one by one. Characters frequently die in brutal fashion; teens are shown beheaded, dismembered, sliced in half, and more. There's also loads of profanity and lots of sexual innuendo.

Alternate story-driven adventure games: Anna's Quest, age 10+; King's Quest, age 10+

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About Jeff Haynes

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As Common Sense's senior editor of video games and websites, Jeff Haynes spends his time doing things like blasting aliens, winning sports championships, and creating digital worlds to tell kids and parents about the... Read more

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Comments (12)

Teen, 13 years old written by danksun

I dont think common media really understands anything to do with online stuff or video games. It all just depends on the kid's ability to handle dark fantasies. I remember playing gta at a young age, and I really enjoyed it. I just mainly focused on the finer points of gameplay such as the storyline, the voice acting, and the realism
Kid, 11 years old

Well for starters i have nearly every game in this list except hatred and Onechanbara Z2: Chaos and they're just fine, Also i think Common Sense media does a top notch job on movies, books and apps but on video games they overexaggerate everything Thanks
Teen, 16 years old written by TheVoiceOfReason1

While not all games are made for children, an average teen could play these with no affects. So if this article is about children, I agree.As for teens, we have middle/high school to worry, so I wouldn't eorry if you see your teenage son playing these.
Kid, 11 years old

Wow, they missed quite a few, such as The Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, but really? These alternatives... Can somebody please explain to me how Ni No Kuni is anything like Bloodborne?
Adult written by isaaclee

Why not just go by the games ratings just like how movies are. If a kid gets a rated M for mature game, say no because they aren't mature yet. Let them choose games that are rated for them. if they complain, say that you are the boss and as they get older, they can start living their lives how they want to.
Parent of a 11 year old written by Kenny A.

I do not agree. If they can take blood, gore, violence, language, use of tobacco and alcohol, and nudity without telling everyone about how he got that game, I say he is mature enough
Teen, 16 years old written by TheVoiceOfReason1

You see, while I agree when it comes to younger children, you can't baby you kid. Kids eventually rebel, and that type of comment doesn't help. Honestly, if you dont see it, you shouldn't worry. Not all m games are equal (just cause 3 vs fallout 4). If you are willing to send your kid off to school, dont worry what he watches/plays. We get we can't go kill people, many find it calming.
Parent of a 11 and 15 year old written by orchidflame

My kids have been big on PlayStation type games since they were about 8 or 9. They played Nintendo games prior to that, during their little kid years. The fighting, RPG's, first person shooters, horror, and adventure games are their favorites. In my opinion, PS and XBox games are geared towards more mature mind sets. Some kids take better to mature content, easier than others. If you're concerned about some content, I'd say stick with the Nintendo's line, for less sexual, violence, and adult language restricted games.
Adult written by gamer75

(Sorry for the big block of text, can't figure out how to make paragraphs) Might I suggest sticking to the same platform for suggestions, at least on exclusive games? It doesn't seem like Splatoon would be too useful to someone who has a PlayStation 4 and wants to play The Order. Also, Dark Souls II would be a much better alternative to Bloodborne than Mad Max. While I know it is difficult to find games that have a minimal amount of violence, I think there are some better alternatives out there. Onechanbara doesn't seem like a game too many people would even know about but the style of play is quite similar to Dynasty Warriors. That series is rated T and although violent, DW does have characters based on historical figures so there is a bit of Chinese history that can be learned. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 is another T-rated game from the developers of Dynasty Warriors and it is a PS4 exclusive at retail just like Onechanbara. Transformers: Devastation might be okay too, though I think that might appeal more to adults due to the nostalgia factor. For an adventure alternative to Until Dawn, Minecraft: Story Mode could be a good choice. Kids seem to love Minecraft and Story Mode has a retail disc that will include the full season once it is complete. There might only be two or three episodes out before Christmas but then they won't be able to finish it right away. Brothers could be alright too, though it plays closer to a platform game with a lot of puzzles. It's also a bit sad and short but it did get a retail release for PS4 and Xbox One recently. You mentioned the "ultra violent" Halo in the introduction and although previous games in the series have been rated M, Halo 5 is actually rated T so it might not be a bad option to other first-person shooters. Of course, that one is exclusive to Xbox One. I don't really like fighting games so I don't have great Mortal Kombat options though there are some more cartoon-like games such as Dragon Ball Z and Naruto. I couldn't say which are the newest versions without some research but there always seems to be at least one new one every year. I'm not entirely sure you are looking for only new games though since Portal 2 is from 2011 and wouldn't be available on the newer consoles. However, the 360 version could work on Xbox One when backwards compatibility begins November 12th. I can't really think of a good non-violent, open world game for PS4 or Xbox One. I've not played the games with toys, and of course those can get expensive, but I believe Disney Infinity might play similar to an open world, at least in their Toy Box mode. Plus, the new one has Star Wars which is bound to be a little more popular this Christmas. LEGO Dimensions plays like other LEGO games from what I understand and it has a number of popular movie properties attached to it. Anyways, there are some more ideas that might help.
Adult written by Keeleon

So you list Bloodborne as one of the "too violent" games, and then list Dark Souls 2 as a "less violent alternative" to Mad Max? Those are like the same game...
Adult written by gamer75

Dark Souls II would make a good alternative to Bloodborne so it is odd they put it under Mad Max. Although very similar, I think Dark Souls II is acceptable to the author because it is rated T whereas Bloodborne is rated M.


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