Papers, Please

Game review by
JK Sooja, Common Sense Media
Papers, Please Game Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Mature immigration game forces tough ethical choices.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 21 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGreyshank July 15, 2019

Papers Please - 13+ Immigration Game

Papers Please is a great game, but there is a newspaper. There are certain characters, like Vince Lestrade (a man who killed his wife and escaped jail) and Dari... Continue reading
Adult Written byzachs1 July 22, 2016

Corrupt immigration explained.

Papers, Please is set in a fictional parallel Berlin. You play as a checkpoint guard checking citizen paperwork, letting them inside, denying them, or arresting... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old July 3, 2019

Great game, but is scary and political

This game forces the user to make strong choices, and threatens their moral compass. It takes place in the world of Arstotzka, which is a fictional place based... Continue reading
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 c... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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
  • Price: $9.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: 3909
  • Release date: August 8, 2013
  • Genre: Simulation
  • ESRB rating: NR
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sims and games about politics

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