Video Games That Got The Rare Adults Only Rating

We often see video games with a Mature rating, but some go a notch above that and are restricted to Adults Only.

Controversy has always blighted the gaming industry. Doom, with its roster of ghastly demons, has been criticized for its violence since the franchise began. Then there’s Mortal Kombat and its grisly Fatalities, which didn’t go down particularly well with some parties either.

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Needless to say, these sorts of titles and their violent content tend to be locked behind age ratings, determined by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board similarly to movies. Interestingly, there’s a ranking above Mature (17+), dubbed Adults Only (18+). This highest ranking is given out only in rare, extreme cases; Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo do not allow AO games on their platforms and their sale is heavily restricted. From Hatred to GTA, let’s take a look at some of the few games that earned this most dubious of ratings.

Updated September 18, 2023 by Mark Sammut: Adults Only games are almost unheard of as the rating is a death sentence on consoles. Simply put, if an ESRB tags a project as AO, it will not be allowed to come out on PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo systems; consequently, most developers will tweak their titles to try and score an M. Meanwhile, Steam does not require games to have an ESRB rating, so most PC releases that would be Adult Only are never put through the system to officially receive one. The only exceptions are games that wear the AO rating as a badge of honor.

7 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Now, this one was all but inevitable. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas made the list for a certain piece of content by the name of Hot Coffee. This dialed up the already adult content of the game to the limit, and so San Andreas was slapped with the AO rating.

RELATED: The Best Ways To Earn Money In Grand Theft Auto V

Curiously, though, said rating was actually rescinded later. Rockstar responded by deleting all traces of Hot Coffee from the title, and, in turn, the game’s rating was revised to Mature. Of all the awful things someone can see and do in a GTA title, it’s interesting to think that it was Hot Coffee in particular that pushed a series entry over the edge.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Platform(s)PS2 , PS3 , Xbox (Original) , Xbox 360 , PC , macOS , iOS , AndroidReleased October 26, 2004 Developer(s)Rockstar GamesGenre(s)Action , Adventure ESRB M for Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs

6 The Punisher

Hard as it is to believe, a Marvel game once was stamped with the AO rating; that said, anyone remotely familiar with Frank Castle would probably not be too surprised to learn that he stared in an unapologetically violent game. Now, to be clear, 2004’s The Punisher was later toned down to an M rating, so the version on the market is not the one that was considered too much for consoles.

The developers did not change a great deal to get the game over the line, largely opting to present the death and torture scenes in black and white rather than color. Most of the brutality is still on display for the whole world to see, it just looks like an old Hollywood film now. Although far from a masterpiece, The Punisher is a pretty decent game, and one of the more accurate adaptations of the Marvel character.

The Punisher

Platform(s)PC , PS2 , Xbox (Original)Released April 12, 2004 Developer(s)VolitionGenre(s) Third-Person Shooter ESRB M For Mature 17+ Due To Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language

5 Manhunt 2 (PC Edition)

As many people know, Manhunt 2 is one of the most controversial video games in history. It was created by Rockstar (no strangers to this sort of notoriety, as the creators of Grand Theft Auto), a stealth game that reveled in its astonishingly gory and brutal content.

RELATED: Grand Theft Auto: Hilariously Weird Things That Only This Franchise Can Get Away With

The game is an unusual case, as it was actually rejigged by the team to meet the standards of a Mature rating (executions were changed to be less graphic and the system that glorified more theatrical assassinations was removed). It was the uncut PC release that pulled no punches and was condemned. While the console iteration earned an M rating, the PC iteration went the extra mile and received an AO score, although the content descriptors of all versions are the same.

Manhunt 2

Platform(s)PC , PS2 , PSP , WiiReleased October 29, 2007 Developer(s) Rockstar London Genre(s) Stealth ESRB M For Mature 17+ Due To Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs

4 Hatred

Most typical games try to avoid getting the AO rating, but Hatred looks like it was specifically designed with that goal in mind. This release is basically Postal without anything really resembling a story or much in the way of nuance; it is a murder simulator, a game that unleashes players onto society and tells them to kill everyone.

RELATED: Games That Were Removed From Steam (& Why)

Unsurprisingly, Hatred garnered a pretty terrible reception upon release, but ultimately that hardly seemed to be the point of the game. This is a title that appeared to want people to be outraged and to react as loudly as possible. More often than not, the AO rating is given out to games that are obviously targeting adults, especially in the form of sexual content; amidst projects like Seduce Me and Wet: The Sexy Empire, Hatred stands out since it shares far more similarities with traditional games that one might find on most store shelves.

Hatred

Platform(s)PCDeveloper Destructive Creations Released June 1, 2015 Genre(s) Shoot ’em Up ESRB AO For Adult Only 18+ Due To Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Strong Language

3 Agony

Born out of a Kickstarter campaign, Agony drops players in hell and challenges them to make their way to the Queen in pursuit of salvation. Along the way, they will see plenty of horrifying visuals, all the while engaging in first-person gameplay revolving around stealth and possessing other inhabitants of hell.

Agony has a bit of a unique history in relation to the ESRB rating. Initially, the game earned itself an AO score, prompting Madmind Studio to tweak the project so that it could receive an M rating. The latter version is the one found on PC and consoles. However, towards the end of 2018, the studio released Agony Unrated on Steam, a version presumably closer to the one that garnered the infamous AO. Currently, this iteration is not available to purchase.

Agony is not generally considered to be that great, but its spin-off Succubus is vastly better. Although it does not have a profile on ESRB, this side game could probably earn an AO, or at least an M rating.

Agony

Platform(s)PC , PS4 , Switch , Xbox OneReleased May 29, 2018 Developer(s) Madmind Studio Genre(s) Survival Horror ESRB M For Mature 17+ Due To Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content

2 Thrill Kill

One of the earliest games to be given an AO rating for violent content, Thrill Kill, ultimately never saw release at all as a result of its notoriety.

Paradox Development’s fighter revolved around the idea of a group of damned individuals, who had been vicious killers, battling for a chance to be reincarnated by the Goddess Marukka. Thrill Kill promised four players could hop in simultaneously, but bad press ultimately led to the title being canceled. For an idea of how the experience may have been, imagine Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style with demonic characters and some of the most hideously brutal execution moves imaginable, and that’s basically Thrill Kill.

Thrill Kill

Platform(s)PS1Developer(s)Paradox Development StudioGenre(s) Fighting ESRB AO For Adults Only 18+ Due To Animated Blood and Gore, Animated Violence

1 Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Director’s Cut

Now, this is a special case since this rendition of Quantic Dream’s game seems impossible to find in the wild, at least not with this specific subtitle. Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Director’s Cut does, however, have a dedicated ESRB page, so it was clearly submitted at one point or another. It seems like the Director’s Cut is basically the original game’s European iteration, which included scenes that were cut from the North American version to allow for a Mature rating. It should be noted that ESRB only lists PC as a platform, so if this cut was made public, it was not on consoles.

RELATED: The Best Games On PS Plus Premium & Extra

Therefore, is it impossible to play the uncensored version of Indigo Prophecy? Thankfully, the answer is “no.” In 2015, the game was remastered by Aspyr, and this version of Fahrenheit is based on the international release. Consequently, it is uncut. Funnily enough, the remaster only received an M17+ rating from the ESRB board, despite having nearly the same content descriptors as the Director’s Cut.

Fahrenheit Indigo Prophecy

Platform(s)Android , iOS , PC , PS2 , PS4 , Xbox (Original) , Xbox 360Released September 20, 2005 Developer(s)Quantic DreamGenre(s) Action-Adventure ESRB M For Mature 17+ Due To Blood, Language, Nudity, Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol, Violence

Special Mention: Outlast 2

Red Barrels’ Outlast 2 is an intense and uncomfortable horror game that threads into some rather deranged places. As far as ESRB’s site is concerned, the title did not register an AO rating; however, the developer did preemptively remove some content to ensure Outlast 2 landed a Mature score. These scenes were eventually added back to the Steam version, as Valve’s platform is generally more lenient in what projects it accepts. While an Adult Only tag would stop a game from showing up on the PlayStation, Nintendo, or Xbox stores, that is not an issue with Steam.

Even if technically censored, Outlast 2‘s console versions are still horrifying and designed with an older audience in mind. Still, if someone wishes to experience this release without restrictions or omissions, they will need to boot up Steam.

We often see video games with a Mature rating, but some go a notch above that and are restricted to Adults Only.

Controversy has always blighted the gaming industry. Doom, with its roster of ghastly demons, has been criticized for its violence since the franchise began. Then there’s Mortal Kombat and its grisly Fatalities, which didn’t go down particularly well with some parties either.

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Needless to say, these sorts of titles and their violent content tend to be locked behind age ratings, determined by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board similarly to movies. Interestingly, there’s a ranking above Mature (17+), dubbed Adults Only (18+). This highest ranking is given out only in rare, extreme cases; Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo do not allow AO games on their platforms and their sale is heavily restricted. From Hatred to GTA, let’s take a look at some of the few games that earned this most dubious of ratings.

Updated September 18, 2023 by Mark Sammut: Adults Only games are almost unheard of as the rating is a death sentence on consoles. Simply put, if an ESRB tags a project as AO, it will not be allowed to come out on PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo systems; consequently, most developers will tweak their titles to try and score an M. Meanwhile, Steam does not require games to have an ESRB rating, so most PC releases that would be Adult Only are never put through the system to officially receive one. The only exceptions are games that wear the AO rating as a badge of honor.

7 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Now, this one was all but inevitable. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas made the list for a certain piece of content by the name of Hot Coffee. This dialed up the already adult content of the game to the limit, and so San Andreas was slapped with the AO rating.

RELATED: The Best Ways To Earn Money In Grand Theft Auto V

Curiously, though, said rating was actually rescinded later. Rockstar responded by deleting all traces of Hot Coffee from the title, and, in turn, the game’s rating was revised to Mature. Of all the awful things someone can see and do in a GTA title, it’s interesting to think that it was Hot Coffee in particular that pushed a series entry over the edge.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Platform(s)PS2 , PS3 , Xbox (Original) , Xbox 360 , PC , macOS , iOS , AndroidReleased October 26, 2004 Developer(s)Rockstar GamesGenre(s)Action , Adventure ESRB M for Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs

6 The Punisher

Hard as it is to believe, a Marvel game once was stamped with the AO rating; that said, anyone remotely familiar with Frank Castle would probably not be too surprised to learn that he stared in an unapologetically violent game. Now, to be clear, 2004’s The Punisher was later toned down to an M rating, so the version on the market is not the one that was considered too much for consoles.

The developers did not change a great deal to get the game over the line, largely opting to present the death and torture scenes in black and white rather than color. Most of the brutality is still on display for the whole world to see, it just looks like an old Hollywood film now. Although far from a masterpiece, The Punisher is a pretty decent game, and one of the more accurate adaptations of the Marvel character.

The Punisher

Platform(s)PC , PS2 , Xbox (Original)Released April 12, 2004 Developer(s)VolitionGenre(s) Third-Person Shooter ESRB M For Mature 17+ Due To Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language

5 Manhunt 2 (PC Edition)

As many people know, Manhunt 2 is one of the most controversial video games in history. It was created by Rockstar (no strangers to this sort of notoriety, as the creators of Grand Theft Auto), a stealth game that reveled in its astonishingly gory and brutal content.

RELATED: Grand Theft Auto: Hilariously Weird Things That Only This Franchise Can Get Away With

The game is an unusual case, as it was actually rejigged by the team to meet the standards of a Mature rating (executions were changed to be less graphic and the system that glorified more theatrical assassinations was removed). It was the uncut PC release that pulled no punches and was condemned. While the console iteration earned an M rating, the PC iteration went the extra mile and received an AO score, although the content descriptors of all versions are the same.

Manhunt 2

Platform(s)PC , PS2 , PSP , WiiReleased October 29, 2007 Developer(s) Rockstar London Genre(s) Stealth ESRB M For Mature 17+ Due To Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs

4 Hatred

Most typical games try to avoid getting the AO rating, but Hatred looks like it was specifically designed with that goal in mind. This release is basically Postal without anything really resembling a story or much in the way of nuance; it is a murder simulator, a game that unleashes players onto society and tells them to kill everyone.

RELATED: Games That Were Removed From Steam (& Why)

Unsurprisingly, Hatred garnered a pretty terrible reception upon release, but ultimately that hardly seemed to be the point of the game. This is a title that appeared to want people to be outraged and to react as loudly as possible. More often than not, the AO rating is given out to games that are obviously targeting adults, especially in the form of sexual content; amidst projects like Seduce Me and Wet: The Sexy Empire, Hatred stands out since it shares far more similarities with traditional games that one might find on most store shelves.

Hatred

Platform(s)PCDeveloper Destructive Creations Released June 1, 2015 Genre(s) Shoot ’em Up ESRB AO For Adult Only 18+ Due To Intense Violence, Blood and Gore, Strong Language

3 Agony

Born out of a Kickstarter campaign, Agony drops players in hell and challenges them to make their way to the Queen in pursuit of salvation. Along the way, they will see plenty of horrifying visuals, all the while engaging in first-person gameplay revolving around stealth and possessing other inhabitants of hell.

Agony has a bit of a unique history in relation to the ESRB rating. Initially, the game earned itself an AO score, prompting Madmind Studio to tweak the project so that it could receive an M rating. The latter version is the one found on PC and consoles. However, towards the end of 2018, the studio released Agony Unrated on Steam, a version presumably closer to the one that garnered the infamous AO. Currently, this iteration is not available to purchase.

Agony is not generally considered to be that great, but its spin-off Succubus is vastly better. Although it does not have a profile on ESRB, this side game could probably earn an AO, or at least an M rating.

Agony

Platform(s)PC , PS4 , Switch , Xbox OneReleased May 29, 2018 Developer(s) Madmind Studio Genre(s) Survival Horror ESRB M For Mature 17+ Due To Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content

2 Thrill Kill

One of the earliest games to be given an AO rating for violent content, Thrill Kill, ultimately never saw release at all as a result of its notoriety.

Paradox Development’s fighter revolved around the idea of a group of damned individuals, who had been vicious killers, battling for a chance to be reincarnated by the Goddess Marukka. Thrill Kill promised four players could hop in simultaneously, but bad press ultimately led to the title being canceled. For an idea of how the experience may have been, imagine Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style with demonic characters and some of the most hideously brutal execution moves imaginable, and that’s basically Thrill Kill.

Thrill Kill

Platform(s)PS1Developer(s)Paradox Development StudioGenre(s) Fighting ESRB AO For Adults Only 18+ Due To Animated Blood and Gore, Animated Violence

1 Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Director’s Cut

Now, this is a special case since this rendition of Quantic Dream’s game seems impossible to find in the wild, at least not with this specific subtitle. Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Director’s Cut does, however, have a dedicated ESRB page, so it was clearly submitted at one point or another. It seems like the Director’s Cut is basically the original game’s European iteration, which included scenes that were cut from the North American version to allow for a Mature rating. It should be noted that ESRB only lists PC as a platform, so if this cut was made public, it was not on consoles.

RELATED: The Best Games On PS Plus Premium & Extra

Therefore, is it impossible to play the uncensored version of Indigo Prophecy? Thankfully, the answer is “no.” In 2015, the game was remastered by Aspyr, and this version of Fahrenheit is based on the international release. Consequently, it is uncut. Funnily enough, the remaster only received an M17+ rating from the ESRB board, despite having nearly the same content descriptors as the Director’s Cut.

Fahrenheit Indigo Prophecy

Platform(s)Android , iOS , PC , PS2 , PS4 , Xbox (Original) , Xbox 360Released September 20, 2005 Developer(s)Quantic DreamGenre(s) Action-Adventure ESRB M For Mature 17+ Due To Blood, Language, Nudity, Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol, Violence

Special Mention: Outlast 2

Red Barrels’ Outlast 2 is an intense and uncomfortable horror game that threads into some rather deranged places. As far as ESRB’s site is concerned, the title did not register an AO rating; however, the developer did preemptively remove some content to ensure Outlast 2 landed a Mature score. These scenes were eventually added back to the Steam version, as Valve’s platform is generally more lenient in what projects it accepts. While an Adult Only tag would stop a game from showing up on the PlayStation, Nintendo, or Xbox stores, that is not an issue with Steam.

Even if technically censored, Outlast 2‘s console versions are still horrifying and designed with an older audience in mind. Still, if someone wishes to experience this release without restrictions or omissions, they will need to boot up Steam.

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