Papers, Please Game Poster Image

Papers, Please

Mature immigration game forces tough ethical choices.
Popular with kids

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids can learn textual investigation, how to analyze evidence, and how different actions and decisions can produce different consequences. Kids might learn how power structures can influence people to do certain things, make certain decisions, and behave in certain ways, but these deeper lessons could require some parental prompting. Papers, Please also will introduce kids to key ethical issues regarding immigration, citizenship, and legality.

Positive messages

Despite this game being set in a bleak environment, players learn the positive message that there are consequences to every action and decision they make.

Positive role models

Players won't find food models but will think critically about what it means to be a good person as they weigh the law, their job, and the needs of their families and other people. Also, many of the secondary characters are unpleasant for one reason or another, and some may reference or exhibit violent and/or illegal behavior.

Ease of play

High learning curve. Difficult to figure out some of the game's mechanics. No tutorial.


There are moments of violence, but the minimal 8-bit-graphics style greatly reduces the realism.


A significant portion of the game requires players to x-ray and scan people, showing their nude bodies front and back. Nudity can be turned off so scans will show people in their underwear. Also, some characters offer bribes in the form of comps to "gentlemen's clubs."


Swearing can be frequent. Characters can get angry, accusatory, and frustrated with the player. "F--k" and its variants are used more than once.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some references to drinking and smoking. Some characters appear intoxicated in some way.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Papers, Please simulates working as an immigration inspector on the border of a fictitious communist nation. Players analyze people's immigration documents, look for potential problems, interrogate applicants, and decide whether to let them in the country or keep them out of it. There are mature themes that force the player to make difficult ethical decisions that can have drastic consequences on the player's character or the people he/she is investigating, including arrest, poverty, violence, and death. Parents need to know that Papers, Please depicts communism in a particularly bleak and brutal manner.

What's it about?

PAPERS, PLEASE is a simulation game that puts the player in the role of an immigration officer for the fictional communist nation of Arstotska. The player decides who gets in and who stays out. The plot evolves around developing political events, terrorist activity (including attacks), an antigovernment radical group, and mini stories involving potential immigrants or visitors. Whereas one player might deny a particular potential immigrant, another player (or the first player on a second run through the game) might approve the same potential immigrant. With 20 potential endings, the player's decisions and ability to work fast and correctly will greatly impact the story's outcome.

Is it any good?


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.

Families can talk about...

  • How did this game and the decisions you made make you feel?

  • How do you think this game depicts multitasking, and why?

  • Why purposely make a game difficult?

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
Release date:August 8, 2013
ESRB rating:NR

This review of Papers, Please was written by

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

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Ratings

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate.

Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

For kids who love sims and games about politics

External sites

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written byns123 April 16, 2014

Brilliant game - almost a masterpiece...

This is a brilliant game, there's no other games quite like it. You have the role of an immigration officer in a fictional communist country in the early '80s. You must make decisions whether to let someone with a sad story in or not or to co-operate with a terrorist group. The games gets harder as you advance, with more documents required. Although this games can be a bit repetitive after a few play throughs, there are about 20 possible endings depending on your decisions/actions. In terms of content: Violence: Later in the game your have access to guns and can shoot terrorists trying to enter the country. This game is 16-bit, so the violence is not realistic although there is blood. Sex: 16-bit nudity is visible if an entrant is scanned. This can be turned off. Swearing: Some mild swear words; d***n, s***t etc. Drinking/drugs/smoking: None This game, content wise is suitable for children younger than 12, but children under 12 may not have the patience for this game.
What other families should know
Easy to play/use
Teen, 13 years old Written bybagelboy1337 July 19, 2014


This game being a masterpiece is brutal and intense. you take the roll of an immigration officer. you must only let the people with correct papers through, but there is swearing, but not much, nudity but you can turn that off in settings. they use a lot of terrorism and can get quite violent. also there is a gang aspect to it, id suggest that if your child is well educated on immigration, that it would be great. just be warned, it can be scary to some people.
Teen, 16 years old Written byVioletRaven975 January 12, 2015

Papers, Please: More Than Just a Shoot em Up!

Parents: When I say know your child, I do mean it. There is a fair bit of language throughout the game, and while nudity is an optional setting in the menu it can be easily turned back on. All disclaimers aside though, this is a wonderful game by all rights, one that I can proudly call a piece of art. There is a treasure trove of AMAZING conversations to have with your kid about issues like morality, poverty, and even politics/history. This is a game that greatly teaches kids about how everything is not necessary black and white in nature in a fun and engaging manner. Again, know your child, this is the kind of game that can really punch you in the face with the reality of the situation. This game time and time again confronts you with choices that will usually make you regret something or other no matter what choice you make. This is probably the game's greatest strength and also what makes it such a tough call for what age you should allow your kid to play. I think by fourteen you can probably let your kid play it without worry. Eleven is the very earliest (still another year couldn't hurt.)
What other families should know
Great messages
Easy to play/use