Video games give kids the chance explore new worlds as heroes, sports stars, game designers -- or anyone, really. And thanks to today's consoles, it's easier than ever to leap into titles that are more realistic than ever. But as developers seek to provide super-immersive experiences with vibrant HD detail, lifelike sound, and virtual reality, the realism can come at a cost: namely, violent and disturbing content.
The video game promotion machine targets kids on TV, social media, and, of course, their favorite gaming sites. Marketers advertise the excitement, the depth of realism, and the cool gameplay -- but they often don't tell you just how violent the games are. The truth is, the majority of the hyper-realistic, hyper-popular games are really best left to mature players.
Below, we've listed 10 of the most violent games released in 2016. Many of these are well-designed gameplay experiences that adults can enjoy when kids aren't around. But, instead of saying "no" all the time, we think you'll be more successful if you say "wait" and offer kids alternatives in the same genre, that are a little less violent and more age-appropriate. Note that we offer two alternatives for each game, one for younger players and one for older players.
If you don't want any violence in your games, be sure to check out our list of non-violent games, Nonviolent Games for Xbox One, Nonviolent Games for Wii U, and Nonviolent Games for PS4 -- and always check out our reviews on the latest games.
This third-person action game casts you in the role of a 1960s Cold War-era assassin working for the CIA. Players kill enemies using knives, poison, and a variety of guns and can strangle targets with garrotes (iron collars). Blood splatter is shown on walls and floors after head shots, and some cut scenes also show graphic moments of violence. The game grades players on stealth, willingness to openly fire weapons on enemies, and level of destruction (the more violent, the higher the grade).
Alternate third-person action games: Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (age 10+), The Deadly Tower of Monsters (age 13+)
Carmageddon: Max Damage
This arcade racing game doesn't have a story or a plot to follow. Players set specific goals -- such as destroying opponents -- in a series of races and car-combat events. You use weapons to damage or destroy rival cars and run over pedestrians -- including nuns, the disabled, and animals -- to earn points. Frequent use of profanity, references to a strip club, and sexual innuendo all make Carmageddon for adults only.
Alternate racing games: Trackmania Turbo (age 8+), Need For Speed (age 13+)
Set on a tropical island, this first-person shooter has a twisted, Hunger Games-like premise: Players are contestants on a televised game show where the last man or woman standing wins. Players get 20 minutes to scavenge for resources, make weapons, and create traps and land mines to kill opponents -- who shed graphic amounts of blood and gore when attacked. As you successfully eliminate other players and survive for extended periods of time, you're rewarded with points that you can use to acquire additional items for the next brutal episode.
Alternate multiplayer games: Wondershot (age 10+), Battleborn (age 13+)
Dark Souls III
This action role-playing game is the latest title in a series that's known for challenging gameplay and brutal imagery. You play an adventurer trying to prevent the end of the world, fighting a path through a kingdom infested with evil human-like enemies and monsters. Wielding weapons including swords, spears, bows, and magic spells, you frequently walk past the remnants of the recently deceased (such as bodies hanging from trees) and step through pools of blood. Wounds spray blood through the air, and victims cry out in pain when struck.
Alternate action RPGs: Hyrule Warriors: Legends (age 10+), Xenoblade Chronicles X (age 13+)
Like an interactive version of the 1970s zombie-apocalypse movie Dawn of the Dead, Dead Rising (which was rereleased in 2016) has you trying to destroy the undead. You play a photojournalist trapped in a shopping mall after the town's residents have become zombies. Using weapons including chain saws, shotguns, and other items -- and taking gruesome photos of the zombies and survivors -- you earn points to upgrade your character. Players encounter plenty of swearing, along with images of nude women and unclothed zombies.
Alternate action games: Necropolis: Brutal Edition (age 10+), God Eater 2: Rage Burst (age 15+)
This first-person shooter casts players in the role of an unnamed space marine on Mars who must fight demonic forces released by a corrupt corporation. A near-constant stream of blood and gore, as well as frequent swearing, accompany Doom's battle sequences. Plus, expect satanic imagery and voyages into hell. Gamers use chain saws, guns, and their fists to blow up or decapitate enemies or to rip them to pieces in the game's extreme, action-movie-style firefights.
Alternate shooters: Ratchet and Clank (age 10+), Destiny: Rise of Iron (15+)
Far Cry Primal
You play a prehistoric tribesman trying to reunite his scattered people while defending against a rival, cannibalistic clan in this unique, first-person action game. There's plenty of graphic violence -- including a scene where a character is burned alive. In addition to hunting and skinning animals, you raise companion animals such as bears and wolves, which you can command to attack people. Mature scenes include players drinking blood and hallucinating, as well as female nudity.
Alternate first-person action games: Mirror's Edge Catalyst (age 10+), Star Wars Battlefront (age 13+)
Playing as a genetically enhanced assassin, you travel the world killing specific targets to fulfill assigned contracts. You can use guns, knives, explosives, and more to kill guards and others in your way. When people are shot or stabbed, they bleed graphically or are incapacitated, allowing you to wear the victims' outfits as a disguise. Frequent swearing, suggestive dialogue, and references to cocaine and drinking make Hitman one of the most mature violent games of the year.
Alternate stealth games: Hitman Go: Definitive Edition (age 10+), Republique (age 15+)
Homefront: The Revolution
This first-person shooter is set in an alternate reality where North Korea invades and takes over the United States. Players act as the leader of a resistance movement trying to overthrow its oppressors. You engage in guerilla warfare in the game's urban settings, using pistols, machine guns, grenades, and other weapons. Both enemies and the hero spray blood when they're shot, and cut scenes show torture throughout the game. The game includes swearing, drug references, and prostitutes who proposition players.
Alternate action games: Hard Reset Redux (age 10+), Adr1ft (age 13+)
Path of Exile: Ascendency
In this expansion to the original Path of Exile, players must fight their way through a monster-filled labyrinth sprinkled with deadly traps. The game spares no visual detail in showing gruesome deaths, such as impalement with spikes or shredding by saw blades. If you survive these hazards, you still have to fight your way through monsters to succeed -- which is a grisly endeavor.
Alternate role-playing games: Undertale (age 9+), Bravely Second: End Layer (13+)