Parents' Guide to

Dead Space

By Marc Saltzman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 18+

Extreme blood and gore splatter mature horror game.

Game Xbox 360 2008
Dead Space Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this game.

Community Reviews

age 15+

Based on 16 parent reviews

age 14+

Incredible but not kid friendly.

In summary, Dead Space is over 10 years old now, I got into it when I was around 12-13. I didn't even play the game, just saw pictures at first. Couldn't sleep for days. After I got over that and played the game, I couldn't sleep again. Dead Space (1) is definitely the most horror oriented in the series, and while most young teens are desensitized to blood and gore, the enemies can be disturbing or outright terrifying for younger audiences. Amazing game, but 14+ I say.

This title has:

Easy to play/use
Too much violence
Too much swearing
age 18+

A disturbing horror game that does "horror" better than "game".

In Dead Space, you play as engineer Isaac Clarke, who is on a mission to check up on his girlfriend Nicole after a communication blackout aboard a giant mining spaceship named the Ishimura. Within the first few minutes of gameplay, it goes from 0 to 100 as your small crew is attacked and separated by the antagonists of the game; Necromorphs. Necromorphs are the corpses of the Ishimura's slaughtered crew that have been violently transformed into hideous undead killing machines by an alien parasite, in a very similar manner to the victims in the "The Thing" movies. They come in a wide array of shapes and sizes, but even the smallest, weakest forms of them are disturbing, since they're all created from mutated people or body parts, and this is still evident in their appearance. If you're going to buy this for your kids, make sure you google the Slasher, Leaper, and Guardian enemies in this game to get some perspective on how bad the Necromorphs can get, because this game WILL scare the daylights out of unprepared youngsters; it does it's job well, and it's a very unique, effective horror experience. This game is excessively graphic too; the primary way of killing the enemies is to dismember them with improvised mining tools that serve as firearms, but something I'm surprised hasn't been mentioned here are the player death scenes that the game became infamous for. Isaac can die a huge number of almost comically violent deaths at the hands of Necromorphs, environmental hazards, and even his own weaponry like the flamethrower. Almost all of these feature him screaming in pain, lots of blood, drawn-out violence, and usually decapitation; one infamous death scene even has a skull-like parasite strangle his head off and hijack his body into a Necromorph. Isaac can counteract these grapple sequences with his own gory finishers if you button-mash, but this is never told to first-time players, so many will find themselves dying to a grapple at least once. As for the gameplay, it is devoid of a traditional HUD, a very innovative format that adds a ton of immersion; everything you need to know is displayed in holograms or lights on Isaac's suit/displays, with no on-screen reminders that "it's just a game" to hold on to. The environments are dark, lonely, unsettling, and often littered with brutalized corpses and broken belongings hinting at the former crew. Enemies can and will attack from any direction possible, and the game has many jumpscares. The game also features puzzles that utilize Isaac's abilities of Stasis (shooting a projectile that slows time in the area) and Kinesis (which allows him to lift and throw objects remotely). Kinesis is very fun when you master it, since you can literally shoot off a Necromorph's claw, then use Kinesis to fire that claw at the Necromorph and kill it. Lastly, there are also segments in zero-gravity environments, which give some Necromorph variants a huge advantage over you, and which also force you to move quickly so that Isaac's oxygen doesn't run out, often requiring you to walk upside-down or leap between platforms. One of the boss fights even takes place in 0-G. NOW FOR THE CONS. The gameplay itself, for all it's visual refinement and scares, feels clunky and unfinished. Isaac moves and aims sluggishly, compared to his often-swift opponents, which is meant to invoke fear, but will quickly invoke annoyance. Saving is only available at "Save Stations" scattered across the game, and their placement is not very good in my opinion, especially when you consider that the aforementioned puzzles usually result in instant-death if you fail one. Simply put, I'd prefer that a Save Station be right near the puzzle, rather than 2 rooms of Necromorphs away from it. The game's difficulty is hard to pin down; at times you'll feel overpowered, and at other times, overwhelmed. The Necromorphs themselves are visually scary, but are fairly stupid in their behavior; on several occasions the bad AI took me right out of the horror when I realized that many Necromorphs only attack by walking up, hitting you once, slowly stepping back, then doing it again. It's strange how, amid everything else that feels modern, the behavior of the main enemies is the one thing that's outdated to the point of hilarity. I actually found myself laughing on one occasion as a hulking Necromorph simply walked after me in circles around a pillar, never thinking to stop and wait for me to run into it. Also, for those who are bothered by it, there IS a lot of profanity in the game, though none of it is from Isaac himself, since he's entirely silent throughout the game besides grunting and screaming during combat, and sighing in a couple of cutscenes. CONS END HERE. Although his perpetual silence and lack of immediate personality might make it hard for you to feel sorry when he's decapitated for the umpteenth time, I do think that Isaac is a good role model. He forgoes personal safety and risks joining the Necromorph horde on the faith that his girlfriend is somehow still alive amid all this carnage, and he puts finding her before all his other priorities, so if nothing else, Isaac is a devoted and loyal guy who's willing to fight through a living nightmare for the woman he loves. I just wish he was a bit more vocal, and a bit less sluggish. Overall, Dead Space is a horror classic that, while I don't think it's aged well, is still a must-play for horror game fans, as it's become very iconic. If you can overlook the slow pacing and awkward characters, you'll find a very immersive horror experience that does a great job of staying true to it's setting the whole way through. Just remember; do as one crew member wrote in their own blood, and you'll be fine. Cut Off Their Limbs.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (16):
Kids say (40):

Dead Space offers plenty of action (with the ability to target and dismember specific alien body parts); puzzle-solving challenges (such as getting machinery to work or opening locked doors); handy gadgets (like gravity boots and purchasable items using found credits); and boasts a Hollywood-worthy script, tense atmosphere, and a music soundtrack that begins with a haunting rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." Kudos to EA for creating an exhilarating and nail-biting mature adventure to play alone, at night, and with the lights off. Note: the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC versions of the game all play out the same.

Game Details

  • Platform: Xbox 360
  • Available online?: Not available online
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • Release date: October 14, 2008
  • Genre: Survival Horror
  • ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
  • Last updated: November 4, 2015

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate