Parents' Guide to

Papers, Please

By John Sooja, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Mature immigration game forces tough ethical choices.

Game Mac, Windows 2013
Papers, Please Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 8 parent reviews

age 11+


There are some swear words but not that many, sometimes terrorists come to border its ok, just shoot them. There are some smugglers bringing weapons and drugs to Arstotzka, that is bad. There is nudity but you can turn it off.
age 13+

Moral and political, Papers, Please never refrains from making players recoil with remorse

Papers, Please follows you, a randomly selected, poor and average inspector placed on the border between two halves of a country. You yourself are plotted to decide who goes through and who doesn’t, this ranges from parents, lovers, terrorists and several others, and it leads to havy moral decision. Although the game is heavily pixelated, some of the violence can be a bit shocking, but never in a graphic/bloody way. These scenes include suicide bombers taking their own lives and lives around them, people being shot down, knocked out, hit by cars and poisoned. All are heavily pixelated, although some blood can be seen from these incidents, they are more shocking than graphic. Language includes sparing/infrequent and occasion use of “fuck” and “shit”, we see pixelated depictions of full nudity in the context of security scans, male and female genitalia along with breasts and buttocks can be made out, but this is in explicitly non-sexual scenarios. Some heavy themes relating to sex trafficking explained in little detail, “help us”, “I can find you good girl”, “I can make you happy any time”, etc. and some overall mature elements of death, loss, illness and trauma. The game has an overall depressing setting, and the game sets out to test your sympathy for others. For overall maturity level and content, I’d say 12-13+ is an optimal age to experience Papers, Please

This title has:

Educational value
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much swearing

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (8):
Kids say (26):

Before approving or denying a potential entrant, the player has to check an ever-increasing number of documents. Each day adds more things to be aware of, and they get harder to keep track of and manage. Players need to be efficient as things get more complicated and hectic, which encourages slower play. But getting more money for more people correctly approved or denied encourages faster play. It's a tightrope walk.

Papers, Please is a very simple but unique game: part simulation, part puzzle, part time-management, part commentary. Players encounter many ethical quandaries that force can't-do-good-by-everyone decisions, and upsetting people is unavoidable. Although the "easy" option makes the game more forgiving, it remains tough. Papers, Please is a particular breed of game that may require a particular breed of player. For some, obsessively fact checking and pouring over virtual documents will be particularly engaging, but, for others, the grind of each day may prove too hard.

Game Details

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: reading, text analysis, using supporting evidence, Social Studies: citizenship, cultural understanding, government, power structures
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, decision-making, investigation, Responsibility & Ethics: following codes of conduct, learning from consequences, making wise decisions, respect for others
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online?: Available online
  • Publisher: 3909
  • Release date: August 8, 2013
  • Genre: Simulation
  • ESRB rating: NR
  • Last updated: July 26, 2018

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