10 Most Violent Video Games of 2016 (and What to Play Instead)

Follow up your "no" with a host of solid alternatives to violent video games. By Jeff Haynes
10 Most Violent Video Games of 2016 (and What to Play Instead)

Video games give kids the chance explore new worlds as heroes, sports stars, game designers -- or anyone, really. And thanks to today's consoles, it's easier than ever to leap into titles that are more realistic than ever. But as developers seek to provide super-immersive experiences with vibrant HD detail, lifelike sound, and virtual reality, the realism can come at a cost: namely, violent and disturbing content.

The video game promotion machine targets kids on TV, social media, and, of course, their favorite gaming sites. Marketers advertise the excitement, the depth of realism, and the cool gameplay -- but they often don't tell you just how violent the games are. The truth is, the majority of the hyper-realistic, hyper-popular games are really best left to mature players.

Below, we've listed 10 of the most violent games released in 2016. Many of these are well-designed gameplay experiences that adults can enjoy when kids aren't around. But, instead of saying "no" all the time, we think you'll be more successful if you say "wait" and offer kids alternatives in the same genre, that are a little less violent and more age-appropriate. Note that we offer two alternatives for each game, one for younger players and one for older players.  

If you don't want any violence in your games, be sure to check out our list of non-violent games, Nonviolent Games for Xbox One, Nonviolent Games for Wii U, and Nonviolent Games for PS4 -- and always check out our reviews on the latest games.

Alekhine's Gun
This third-person action game casts you in the role of a 1960s Cold War-era assassin working for the CIA. Players kill enemies using knives, poison, and a variety of guns and can strangle targets with garrotes (iron collars). Blood splatter is shown on walls and floors after head shots, and some cut scenes also show graphic moments of violence. The game grades players on stealth, willingness to openly fire weapons on enemies, and level of destruction (the more violent, the higher the grade).
Alternate third-person action games: Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (age 10+), The Deadly Tower of Monsters (age 13+)

Carmageddon: Max Damage
This arcade racing game doesn't have a story or a plot to follow. Players set specific goals -- such as destroying opponents -- in a series of races and car-combat events. You use weapons to damage or destroy rival cars and run over pedestrians -- including nuns, the disabled, and animals -- to earn points. Frequent use of profanity, references to a strip club, and sexual innuendo all make Carmageddon for adults only.
Alternate racing games: Trackmania Turbo (age 8+), Need For Speed (age 13+)

The Culling
Set on a tropical island, this first-person shooter has a twisted, Hunger Games-like premise: Players are contestants on a televised game show where the last man or woman standing wins. Players get 20 minutes to scavenge for resources, make weapons, and create traps and land mines to kill opponents -- who shed graphic amounts of blood and gore when attacked. As you successfully eliminate other players and survive for extended periods of time, you're rewarded with points that you can use to acquire additional items for the next brutal episode.
Alternate multiplayer gamesWondershot (age 10+), Battleborn (age 13+)

Dark Souls III
This action role-playing game is the latest title in a series that's known for challenging gameplay and brutal imagery. You play an adventurer trying to prevent the end of the world, fighting a path through a kingdom infested with evil human-like enemies and monsters. Wielding weapons including swords, spears, bows, and magic spells, you frequently walk past the remnants of the recently deceased (such as bodies hanging from trees) and step through pools of blood. Wounds spray blood through the air, and victims cry out in pain when struck.
Alternate action RPGs: Hyrule Warriors: Legends (age 10+), Xenoblade Chronicles X (age 13+)

Dead Rising
Like an interactive version of the 1970s zombie-apocalypse movie Dawn of the Dead, Dead Rising (which was rereleased in 2016) has you trying to destroy the undead. You play a photojournalist trapped in a shopping mall after the town's residents have become zombies. Using weapons including chain saws, shotguns, and other items -- and taking gruesome photos of the zombies and survivors -- you earn points to upgrade your character. Players encounter plenty of swearing, along with images of nude women and unclothed zombies.
Alternate action games: Necropolis: Brutal Edition (age 10+), God Eater 2: Rage Burst (age 15+)

Doom
This first-person shooter casts players in the role of an unnamed space marine on Mars who must fight demonic forces released by a corrupt corporation. A near-constant stream of blood and gore, as well as frequent swearing, accompany Doom's battle sequences. Plus, expect satanic imagery and voyages into hell. Gamers use chain saws, guns, and their fists to blow up or decapitate enemies or to rip them to pieces in the game's extreme, action-movie-style firefights.
Alternate shooters: Ratchet and Clank (age 10+), Destiny: Rise of Iron (15+)

Far Cry Primal
You play a prehistoric tribesman trying to reunite his scattered people while defending against a rival, cannibalistic clan in this unique, first-person action game. There's plenty of graphic violence -- including a scene where a character is burned alive. In addition to hunting and skinning animals, you raise companion animals such as bears and wolves, which you can command to attack people. Mature scenes include players drinking blood and hallucinating, as well as female nudity.
Alternate first-person action games: Mirror's Edge Catalyst (age 10+), Star Wars Battlefront (age 13+)

Hitman
Playing as a genetically enhanced assassin, you travel the world killing specific targets to fulfill assigned contracts. You can use guns, knives, explosives, and more to kill guards and others in your way. When people are shot or stabbed, they bleed graphically or are incapacitated, allowing you to wear the victims' outfits as a disguise. Frequent swearing, suggestive dialogue, and references to cocaine and drinking make Hitman one of the most mature violent games of the year.
Alternate stealth gamesHitman Go: Definitive Edition (age 10+), Republique (age 15+)

Homefront: The Revolution
This first-person shooter is set in an alternate reality where North Korea invades and takes over the United States. Players act as the leader of a resistance movement trying to overthrow its oppressors. You engage in guerilla warfare in the game's urban settings, using pistols, machine guns, grenades, and other weapons. Both enemies and the hero spray blood when they're shot, and cut scenes show torture throughout the game. The game includes swearing, drug references, and prostitutes who proposition players.
Alternate action games: Hard Reset Redux (age 10+), Adr1ft (age 13+)

Path of Exile: Ascendency
In this expansion to the original Path of Exile, players must fight their way through a monster-filled labyrinth sprinkled with deadly traps. The game spares no visual detail in showing gruesome deaths, such as impalement with spikes or shredding by saw blades. If you survive these hazards, you still have to fight your way through monsters to succeed -- which is a grisly endeavor.
Alternate role-playing games: Undertale (age 9+), Bravely Second: End Layer (13+)

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About Jeff Haynes

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 (15)

Educator written by Superman S.

Congratulations, Jeffrey Haynes, on a job well done. I'm taking the ball from here and believe me I know how far to kick it. Clearly, you've done your homework and the world is a better place for it. You have a firm grasp on where to draw the line when it comes to disseminating profoundly disturbing imagery that no doubt has lasting effects on our youth today. You have me on your side from now on. I won't let you down.
Adult written by Jenny S.

Looking for more information about "Sniper: 3D Assassin Shoot to kill" Can't find it on the common sense media. My almost 9 year old wants to purchase it and the t itle gives me serious pause to learn more about it first.
Teen, 16 years old written by Just1whale

I think that the culling should be played by more people, as it has a deep view into how entertainment can go too far.
Kid, 12 years old

I've seen that you have chosen alternatives by the genre, which is pretty bad. Choosing alternatives to things should be on what you liked about the original game, and picking an alternative on that. You can avoid a lot of issues if you ask the child what they liked about the game, and pick based on that, instead for looking for titles that share the same genre. Halo is NOT Overwatch, and Resident Evil is NOT Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey.
Teen, 16 years old written by roborvisci

When you decide on a replacement game for your kid, it is your job as parent to ask them WHAT they like about the inappropriate game. If they wanted Far Cry Primal just because its set in the first person, then Mirrors Edge and SW Battlefront would be great! But if they wanted it because you can tame the beasts or the fact that its set in primeval, then they are probably going to be sorely disappointed in either of those games. An example of this was my sister (12) wanted Sims 4 because she likes the thought of controlling a little family (similar to Barbie dolls). However my father did not like the game because of the implied sex whenever the sims want to have a child (the blankets move around in a suggestive way). So my dad decided to look for games similar to the Sims, but he just looked for a game which simulated looking upon people, instead of games where you actually influenced the actions of the characters. Many arguments ensued, and it took almost a month before the difficulties were resolved. Had my dad asked my sister WHY she wanted the game, all of this could have been avoided. Saying Hyrule Warriors would be a good substitute for Dark Souls 3 is not necessarily a good decision, because your child might want the game for the dark themes, or the lore and monsters, which Hyrule Warriors will not provide. Maybe their favorite Youtuber plays the game on their channel, and they want to be like the Tuber. There is a whole slew of decisions that could be influencing your child to want the game, and if you mess that up it can lead to a lot of fights and arguments. "The video game promotion machine targets kids on TV, social media, and, of course, their favorite gaming sites. Marketers advertise the excitement, the depth of realism, and the cool gameplay -- but they often don't tell you just how violent the games are. The truth is, the majority of the hyper-realistic, hyper-popular games are really best left to mature players." Are you serious? "The video game promotion targets kids on...social media..." If your kid is still young enough for you to look at somones rating and immediately say no, they probably can't legally be on a social media site. "but they often don't tell you just how violent the games are." You can literally look up almost 30,000 videos on YouTube, and make an educated guess about the violence of the game.
Parent written by CommonSenseDadof3

Lucas, what the author is providing are kid-friendly options to Mature-rated games (I believe only one on the list isn't rated M because it hasn't been assigned a rating at all yet). When the gaming industry rates a game as "Mature," they are saying it's not recommended for anyone under age 17. Like you, I don't always agree that the suggestions are a substitute that correlates as a "replacement" for the M game listed, but as a gamer and a parent, I appreciate other options being suggested so that I can steer my kids towards more age-appropriate games.
Teen, 16 years old written by roborvisci

Therein lies the problem with the ESRB, however. Games like Skyrim and Halo are known throughout the gaming community as being rated too high, despite hitting closer to Teen than Mature (especially with games like Halo, which was only recently rated Teen with Halo 5). And CSM does not help with that when providing descriptors such as "You can slice an enemy's throat, stab him from behind, or blow him to pieces by grenade" (with The Master Chief Collection), despite the act of slicing an enemy's throat and blowing enemies to pieces not even being available in the any of the games within the collection. Plain and simple, none of them deserved a Mature rating, and especially none of them deserved CSM's 18+ rating (Admittedly the first 3 Halo games were rated by CSM for 16+). Skyrim is another great example. Language is non-existent, the violence and blood is there, but is usually against dragons, trolls, wolves etc, and is thus comparable to Lord of the Rings, and the so-called "Sexual Content" is literally just 2 mentions of rape, and not even of a graphic nature! You can literally hear worse at an elementary school. The ESRB needs a descriptor of OT (Older Teen), rated in the 15+ category, for games such as these. Will they do it? Probably not. But until they do, we don't need CSM over here recommending that they're only acceptable for adults.
Teen, 16 years old written by LucasGodzilla

I mean yes I agree, they're not bad and aren't bad for children and teens and etc, but the fact that barely any of the suggested replacements have any correlations with the original game it's meant to replace. So when I look at these lists, I don't even think that it's a terrible list, but that it's just flat out lazy. Like I said before, fitting Doom replacement? Hard Reset Redux! Ratchet and Clank share the same (10+) mark with Hard Reset, yet he failed to see how they fit more if flip-flopped. Doom is a fast paced shooter much like Hard Reset since they both share the same gameplay style of old 90s FPS games, but instead, he slaps Ratchet and Clank, which is... well, not even an FPS. It could theoretically replace Dark Souls 3 but I can't really comment since I never played it myself. I also have to mention how this fails to even have more violent games on this list! For example, Shadow Warrior 2 is excessively violent and came out not long ago. It should have easily been placed on this list but of course, it's not even in this website's database for some reason! Also, the fact that my old comment was now removed it just flat out not cool. Whoever did that, I hope you realize that not everyone would just be repressed and sit passively by. There's a little something called FREEDOM OF SPEECH!

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