Mass Effect

Game review by Brett Molina, Common Sense Media
Mass Effect Poster Image

Common Sense says

age 18+

Ambitious space journey with mature themes.

Xbox 360 2007

Parents say

age 13+

Based on 32 reviews

Kids say

age 13+

Based on 56 reviews

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.

A Lot or a Little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Great game for 16+

Mass Effect is a game that often explores complex and simple moral choices revolving around a cast of well acted characters that draw you into their personal dilemmas all the while you are trying to save the galaxy. While most of these quests can be fairly simple or straight forward several of these quests lead to disturbing situations that could make a parent of a younger child quickly turn off a real world news broadcast. First off there is no escaping sexual references or strong language. Your character is in the military there will be "strong" language. Enough said. As for the unavoidable sexual content the main character MUST visit a "gentleman's club" in order to progress the story and save Tali. There are "female" aliens (Asari) in skimpy clothing giving "dances" You are also lead to the club optionally (but with heavy narrative nudging) by: Captain Anderson (to track down Harkin a corrupt cop for the main quest but it is optional to visit him at all), The Consort (for a side quest but people won't shut up about the Consort so you will most likely go there if you don't know where it leads to), to Rescue Jenna (for a side quest), a News reporter (side quest to dig up info on crime rings) Additionally you can accidentally get the sex scene with Kaidan Alenko if you are spamming paragon options or are playing for the first time and trying to be nice as a female character. It is a known thing with original players and is one of the dialogue options that acts like fallout 4's in that what is said differs from what was written. With the Asari Liara there are discussions on the ship about some misleading information (in game) about how the Asare are perceived both in sexuality and spirituality (but not necessarily religion) by the other Species of the universe that I find interesting but parents might want to look into first. There are several instances of Specisiest behavior; this games stand in for racism. Ashley Williams is a known bigot in the beginning and has several lines confirming this. Most often she compares the Alien races to animals without giving any thought to their nature as sentient beings. One of the worst lines "I can't tell the Aliens from the animals" when talking to her while walking around the presidium. This can change with influence from the main character. Similar things happen with Presley and even Garrus when he talks to Tali and Wrex in the elevators. The Main character can also be a bigot this is a little more concerning as when the main character does this the behavior is often played as a joke. There are also some misleading dialogue wheel choices that sound like innocent curiosity that come off as a bit bigoted after they are selected. Garrus has a personal quest about a doctor that clones organs inside patients and then harvests them for money. These patients are often very poor and are only paid if the organs are "healthy" most patients also died. Terrorism is a major topic and your character is often called in to stop several major incidents, starting off in the first mission where you FAIL to stop it. Several charred civilian corpses litter the ground(also right in the beginning about 5 steps away in the first mission they are easy to spot near a fire as ash wafts off of the burnt body in a small cloud). This is also the main theme of DLC Bring down the sky where the choice of save the civilians or stop the terrorists once and for all is the last major choice with no option for both. Terrorism is also apart of Captain Anderson's backstory with Saren. Several reanimated cadavers called Husks and Thorian Creepers litter the game and mindlessly charge the player. (you can google the images, most kids over 13 shouldn't be affected unless they are more delicate) There are themes dealing with unethical experimentation on civilians by: The Government, CIA/MI6 equivalent organisations, Private Corporations, and Cthulhu-like entities. Topics of Genocide come up when talking to Wrex and on the planet Virmire and is unavoidable. Furthermore your character can commit genocide while on Novaria. The least concerning issue in the game is actually the physical violence. Gun violence is low detail outside of recruiting Garrus and even then it is very tame by even the standards of the time of its original release. There are a few scenes where people get impaled; once in the first mission and again on Noveria. Religion is briefly touched upon in a small side quest on the Citadel but is not very controversial and revolves around the preacher preaching in an area of the Citadel without the appropriate license. A cop is asking him to just obey the law and either leave the area or buy the correct permit. The cop has every right to make an arrest but is trying to resolve the issue peacefully. You come in as an arbiter of this situation. This game touches a little bit on whats War is like but is not a heavy focus in this game as it is in ME 3. There are some quests that deal with ptsd in soldiers. Despite these warnings this game is great. I would recommend this for any parent with more mature teens. Most quests have interesting issues or motivations behind the people involved or the conflicts presented. The most repeated question would be "whats more important to follow the law or justice" or Questions about "due process" and the game explores each of your answers through consequences in game. This game is often heavily philosophical. Even the paragon renegade game mechanic can be seen as a sort of test between game mechanics and actually paying attention to what's going on in the narrative like in "bring down the sky". For those with kids asking for the Mass Effect Legendary Edition that comes with ME 1, ME 2 and ME 3 and ALL the prior dlc these same themes only gets more graphic or detailed as the series progresses. Over all this is a great game to get your kids thinking about what's right and wrong without them being told right out. It lets them explore consequences of their actions and reactions of other characters to those actions and they will respond due to how engaging the supporting cast and characters are. This is best after initial moral value are instilled by you as it provides situations that encourage understanding of base teachings. I fully encourage parents to play this game as well and not just an hour or two as you won't get a real feel for it until after you get control of the Normandy and go on several missions with some of the most complex issues being side quests. This game is as much cinematic gaming narrative experience as it is a entry level philosophy book with the action used to break up conversations as your mind churns in the background.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
Easy to play/use
age 18+

Commonsense Media’s assessment is spot on.

The concepts in this game are definitely for a more mature audience, between the violence, language and sexual themes. As a parent, an actual one, I would not let my child play this game until they were older. Yes, I have played through the game from start to finish. The game is alright it’s nothing fantastic. In terms of game play it’s actually pretty broken. Your planet-side missions are under developed busy work and half finished environments and are amazingly boring. Controls are clunky and graphically, even at time of release, this game was never anything impressive. There is a lot of tedious grind to this game too. Ultimately the only thing this game has going for it is it’s story which you can watch on YouTube and you won’t missing out on anything. You legitimately cannot say this game has “Great Messages” or “Great Role Models” since the make up of the lead characters personality is entirely on you as a player. Honestly I feel like giving it 3 stars is a little much however when I first played the game it was “revolutionary” with its moral choices, however the gameplay tanks that and the game itself does not hold up well today.

Game Details

  • Platform: Xbox 360
  • Available online?: Not available online
  • Publisher: BioWare
  • Release date: November 19, 2007
  • Genre: Role-Playing
  • ESRB rating: M for Blood, Language, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence
  • Last updated: November 4, 2015

Our Editors Recommend

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