4Death Race for the Arcade and the NES
Here's another title that takes a gory grindhouse classic and cuts to the good parts without pesky things like plot, exposition and dialog getting in the way.
This game, developed by Exidy in the '70s and loosely based on the Paul Bartel film Death Race 2000, appeared on two different systems, but had the same fundamental idea: Run over people with your car and score points.
The arcade version was a simple black and white screen that awarded players a single point for every gremlin they ran over and assigned them a rating at the end of the game of "skeleton chaser," "bone cracker," "gremlin hunter" or "expert driver." We're assuming skeleton chaser was the lowest ranking because in real life it's totally easy to catch a skeleton.
The NES version had a little more advanced graphics than its predecessor, which is like comparing New Coke to a lukewarm puddle of whale vomit. American Game Cartridges resurrected (ripped off) the original game with 8-bit color and the option to pimp your death mobile with weapons like guns, missiles and flesh mulching tires called "cutters," "slashers," "slicers" and "dicers" which we're guessing also gave much better traction in the winter.
So How Bad Was It?
By comparison, the NES version was more violent, but the arcade version became one of the first titles to cause public controversy. According to The Dot Eaters' website, the game's cabinet featured some gruesome artwork, plus the victims would scream when you ran over them and, in a classy touch, would turn into little crosses to mark the spot where they became one with the road. Presumably, somewhere a young, starry-eyed Jack Thompson was getting an idea.
The game got skewered in the press and eventually was pulled off the market leaving gamers to take on more wholesome, less controversial titles for kids like Combat, Rampage and Pete Rose Baseball.
3Harvester for the PC
Live-action video started to turn up in games around the early '90s, introducing gamers to countless actors who weren't good enough to perform at their local renaissance fair. Harvester was one of the first to use those live-action graphics to depict ultra gory scenes in what seemed like almost every frame.
You play Steve Mason, a man with amnesia who wakes up in a small town called Harvest who has to figure out what he's doing there and what's behind the town's mysterious Order of the Harvest Moon. In order to get to those two truths, he'll have to wade up to his balls in a river of blood, sinue and baby guts.
The game got slapped with an M rating before it even hit the shelves and caused quite a stir among game activists when a trailer appeared at the 1994 Consumer Electronics Show. Bans quickly followed across much of the video game-playing world.
So How Bad Was It?
The game promotes equality by giving every character an equal chance of being tortured, stabbed, shot, disemboweled and chopped up into little bite-sized pieces, which isn't an abstract description since the game also featured cannibalism.
There was violence against men, women, children, old people, young people, fat people, thin people, authority figures, teachers, children--even babies.
Here's what happened when you got shot ...
Here's what happened when you got stabbed ...
And here's what happened when you got your head bitten off at the neck by a man-eating plant ...