It's a stigma that has existed since the days of the Super Nintendo and the Sega genesis: Nintendo is the kid's gaming brand. If you want your mature, violent, grotesque, or adult content you best look elsewhere. That was even part of Sega’s old marketing campaign, that Genesis was for the cool kids while Nintendo was for the little ones. Even today Nintendo gets called the 'casual' brand sometimes, and it's not entirely unfounded. From censoring the blood entirely from Mortal Kombat to outright not allowing certain titles on their systems, they've certainly been known to cut back on the stuff that is not so kid-friendly, especially when releases make their way to America. However, one look into their history will reveal that Nintendo has never been entirely on the straight and narrow. They've had disturbing content, gory content, and content that clearly is not targeted toward younger audiences for years.

The main rule is that the game had to be published exclusively for Nintendo at some point. Regardless of how long that exclusivity lasted, the main point is that Nintendo scored sole publishing rights with the title or series at some point in time. That said, here are ten examples throughout the years that Nintendo was not just for kids.

This might seem like your typical kid's game with a little spookiness thrown in. Oh look, a kid is going to another world where he'll fight the evil monsters and help banish evil. Nothing too bad, until you get halfway through stage 1 and the background turns into something that makes Nightmare on Elm Street look like Sesame Street. There's also some of the more original and weird enemy designs, such as legs squirming up from the ground. What truly pushes this out of kiddy territory, however, is the ending. Let's just say it is a messed-up conclusion that would fit right into any classic slasher or horror flick. Talk about inducing nightmares with some horrific 8-bit imagery.

While Final Fantasy 6 (Or 3, depending on where you played it) did suffer from some censorship in translation, this is not your typical child-friendly title regardless of what region you played it in. It was easily the most mature Final Fantasy game at the time. If you look even into a little bit into the narrative, there's a quite a few dark themes going on. FF6 features one incredibly psychopathic villain who pulls off some rather realistically evil deeds, killing people left and right rather nonchalantly even when other villains are hesitant. There is quite a bit of death in this title, most of which ties into the main plot or somebody's personal narrative. Depending on how the game plays out at one point there is even an attempt at suicide by a playable character. Then there are the personal themes that include identity crisis and lingering guilt from past events. It may not be the most bloody or gory, but FF6 was a pretty heavy game thematically.

When Twilight Princess came out, some people applauded the Zelda series for finally “going dark.” My response is “Did you ever play Majora's Mask?” While perhaps not as heavy or 'mature' by comparison, Majora's Mask is not your typical Zelda tone in terms of its tone. The game is basically all about death, trying to stop it, and accepting its inevitability. The moon is going to crash into the world and your supposed mission is trying to prevent it over and over again. If you worried about forgetting the urgency at hand, just look up… and see this rather horrifying moon just getting closer and closer to the surface with each passing day. Then there are the not-so-innocent moments that gamers have poked fun at, such as Link getting a hug from Cremia in certain position. The game even suggests Link could get used to such a thing, feeling all warm and fuzzy and… yeah. Plus, all those masks are just nightmare-inducing. Zelda was touching into the more mature content long before Twilight Princess.

Ah, now here is a rather interesting one. Someone who's never heard of Conker would think "Aw, look at the cute little squirrel." It’s just another 3D platformer with an animal protagonist in a silly cartoon world. This is exactly the kind of game for kids that Nintendo is known for… until you start playing and realize that 'cute' squirrel is a foul-mouthed drunk that resembles your obnoxious uncle at family gatherings. Conker is the anti-thesis to games like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. Not only could the language make a sailor blush, but there's references to substance abuse, dirty humor, and some pretty graphic violence that includes on-screen death. All of this in a game that looks like your typical colorful platformer. People actually thought this game was a joke when first advertised, but I don’t think the mature rating on the box was just a marketing ploy.

While it might be a solid FPS game on its mechanics and gameplay (Not counting Duke Nukem Forever, mind you), Duke Nukem is iconic for one reason and one reason only: It’s more testosterone-packed than an 80's action flick starring Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris. The scantily clad women, the cheesy action one-liners, the constant swearing and sexual innuendos, and a bunch of violence. Surely something like that wouldn’t make it to a Nintendo system unless it was severely neutered, and in all fairness the N64 port of Duke Nukem 3D cut out 98% of the vulgar content. Then the N64 scored an exclusive title in the series, Zero Hour, and it shipped with everything that makes Duke… Duke. You've got pictures of girls in scant bikinis, you're rescuing 'babes', you've got a fair share of profanity, etc. Man, the N64 scored a lot of mature content when you think about it.

Okay, how about a completely original horror game just for the Nintendo Gamecube? Playstation got Resident Evil and Silent Hill, Nintendo had Eternal Darkness. This might be the most messed up psychological game of all time, because it targets every gamer's worst fear: a game crash. I jest, but the game certainly has its moments. The enemies themselves may be mundane, but it's the sanity meter that does you in. Things like bleeding walls to children screaming are just the beginning; the game really messes with you when it decides to directly affect your game. It will alter the game volume, have your character shoot themselves before proceeding like nothing happened, and even give a fake disc-read error. The sanity meter is rather appropriate, because you’ll need one when playing this game. Nintendo… just for kids, am I right?

Doom is still known quite infamously for the controversy it stirred up in 1993 when it hit the scene with its graphical violence and satanic imagery. Parents were horrified at the grotesque nature, news journalists were having a field day, and various groups were even trying to get the entire game banned. In 1997, Nintendo scored its own title in the Doom franchise; not just a port, but a completely original game. Not only did Doom 64 retain the series' iconic bloodiness and violence, but it managed to be one of the creepier titles in the series. Ignoring the classic high-octane music in favor of a more chilling soundtrack of ambient sounds and featuring a lot of darkened areas, this game took on a much more haunting atmosphere than the older games. There was some concern that this game would be tame by Doom standards, but Midway even clarified that the game was targeted for a more mature audience and so would not be censored. True to their word, they delivered a rather dark title for the supposed family-friendly Nintendo.

Okay, one has to ask why the first Mortal Kombat got censored when Nintendo is scoring exclusives like MadWorld. True, this game came over ten years later, but the point still stands. The entire game has an art style that is directly influenced from Sin City, with it's black and white scheme making sure the blood stands out. There is a lot of blood, by the way, as you gruesomely kill enemies with the chainsaw attached to your arm. Or maybe you want to impale them on a wall of spikes? Even the plot is gruesome, involving terrorists who infect an entire city and force the populace to kill each other for the cure. Is this a Nintendo game, or a Jason Statham movie? And it was on the Wii of all systems, which was directly advertised as a family console. Hey Grandma, want to spend some quality time ripping people apart?

If a game about terrorists taking control of a city on the family-friendly Wii wasn't enough, how about a game where assassins try to kill each other so that a governing body will officially rank them as the top assassin? In No More Heroes, you play as Travis Touchdown and go around killing enemies with a beam katana that's basically a royalty-free lightsaber. While not quite as bloody as MadWorld, there's plenty of violence and mature content to be had. We've got violent murders, nonchalant swearing, implied adultery and abuse throughout the story, you name it. Hey, children have to grow up eventually, right? Maybe Nintendo knows that more adults than children play games. After all, as of January 2019 a 3rd game came exclusively to the Switch.

Bayonetta is all about sexiness and violence. She's a tall witch who dresses provocatively, constantly poses in suggestive fashions, speaks in a flirtatious tone all the time, and sort of kills everything in her path in bloody fashion without hesitation. Also, her hair serves as her clothing which comes undone when she summons demons... and Nintendo scored exclusive rights to both the 2nd and 3rd titles in the franchise. Clearly Nintendo wasn't thinking about their Mario fans when they took on publishing duty for a game like this. Even they know that sometimes gamers like a blend of naughty violence, because these games are equal parts fan-service and brutal violence. It may not have started out on Nintendo, but the fact that Nintendo was willing to get exclusive publishing rights to Bayonetta says something.

And there we go- ten titles that proved Nintendo was not not just a brand for kids. Even back in the NES days you could find something a bit more mature or grotesque. The N64 in particular had a lot of not-so-kid-friendly titles, as there are a couple more titles from that system that could've made it here. That said, I aimed to give at least one from Nintendo's various home consoles as proof that they don't always stray from the dark, violent, or adult content. Even the Wii, which was directly advertised as a console for families, had some brutal games on it. The point is, anyone who says Nintendo doesn't have mature games clearly isn't looking hard enough. Nintendo caters to everyone, and they have since the NES.


List by TKDBoy1889 (04/03/2019)

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