Nowadays, video games are seen as mainstream entertainment that can be enjoyed by everyone. However, that wasn’t always the case, and in the early days of gaming, the hobby was commonly thought of as a children's activity. While this was fine for the most part, the misconception did push some rowdy developers to occasionally create secretly demented video games that kids should not play.
Many of the best titles of all time are almost certainly video games that messed you up as a kid. Some might have exposed you to extreme violence or sexual innuendo, whereas others could have shocked you with their surprisingly dark tone. Whether it's the factory farming simulator that is Viva Piñata, or the numerous torture methods players can subject their Sims characters to, there are plenty of terrible video games for kids out there that you definitely shouldn’t have played when you were younger.
Although most of Rare’s games contain some degree of adult content, the vast majority are still intended to be played by children. While titles such as Donkey Kong Country and Banjo-Kazooie are definitely games that kids could play, the same cannot be said for Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
The game features an endless series of filthy jokes and references to things that kids shouldn’t know about. There's a hyper-sexualized sunflower who engages in a series of flings with morally reprehensible bees, as well as a giant boss who is literally made out of poop. Then there are the scenes of extreme violence, such as the one that shows squirrels being dissected while still alive.
The Zelda franchise has never been as cheerful as many of Nintendo’s other properties, but the games usually stay away from anything too bizarre or disturbing. Most entries include standard fantasy tropes and plot lines as Link battles Ganon to save Hyrule.
Majora’s Mask is markedly different, as it tells a story that is undeniably tragic. The game begins with Link getting beaten to a pulp, just before the moon comes crashing into Termina. After the hero recovers, there are plenty of sad moments, such as when a monkey is ruthlessly tortured by the Deku King, and the game frequently examines the idea of depression by highlighting characters who seemingly have no purpose or desires.
In an effort to prevent the deaths of everyone in Termina, Link repeats the three-day period that precedes the moon's fall several times, and tries his best to help the people in crisis who he encounters along the way. However, whenever the clock runs out, the player is transported back to the beginning of the three-day period, and it's utterly impossible to help everyone in a single cycle. The emotional guilt of this game can easily mess with a child's mind.
At first glance, Psychonauts looks a lot like any other children’s platformer. The vibrant levels and goofy looking characters give the impression that it is going to be a good time for the whole family. However, a more careful look at the game's content reveals things that younger players probably shouldn't be exposed to.
In the game, the protagonist can enter the minds of his peers and teachers using special psychic powers. This allows the player to examine the horrific psychological traumas that all the characters are repressing. The happy-go-lucky Milla's head is a massive dance party, up until the player discovers a back room that houses her darkest secret. Milla once ran an orphanage, but all that changed when the building caught fire. Deep inside her brain, the player encounters the screaming souls of Milla's children smoldering inside a flaming cage.
The final battle of Earthbound is blood-chilling. The game has plenty of adult-orientated content, but most of it takes the form of harmless remarks or jokes that go over the heads of children. However, the end fight is something entirely different.
Based on a murder scene that the designer accidentally witnessed as a child, the atmosphere of the final area is understandably unsettling, especially when combined with disturbing music. Although the graphics now come off as a little simplistic, even modern-day children should probably steer clear of this one.