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When we think of video game censorship, we generally think of politicians or cable news pundits complaining about violence or sexual content. However, there have been a lot of cases where games were changed or banned outright for more unusual reasons.
Here are some of the strangest examples of censorship from throughout the world.
Final FightNintendo had a tendency in the eighties and nineties to over-edit their games before releasing them overseas to maintain their family-friendly image. Final Fight is one of the best examples of how this strategy often resulted in nonsensical changes. For the game's SNES release here in the West, black enemies were given lighter skin. Trans criminals Roxy and Poison were changed into male thugs "Billy" and "Sid." Instead of grabbing whiskey to regain health, players could grab "vitamine." My personal favorite change, though, was to the boss Belger. Instead of fighting you in a wheel chair, he now fights you while riding a chair with...slightly smaller wheels. I'm still not sure why they thought these changes would make the game more palatable to a Western release. If Japanese gamers could handle the original version, why couldn't we?
EarthboundSNES role-playing game Earthbound had its fair share of "family-friendly" changes from Nintendo. What's more interesting, though, is the collection of edits Nintendo made to avoid being sued. The side of a truck was changed to less closely resemble Coca-Cola's logo. The Tonzura Brothers were renamed The Runaway Five and the two signers' outfits were changed so they wouldn't resemble the Blues Brothers. The subtitle for the game, "Giygas Strikes Back" became "The War Against Giygas" to presumably appease Lucasfilm's lawyers. The red cross symbol, meanwhile, was removed from the front of hospitals because it's copyrighted by the American Red Cross.
EA Sports MMAEA Sports MMA launched in many countries throughout the world in 2010 but not in Denmark. The energy drink logos on the rings and fighter's shorts violated the country's restrictions against advertising those kinds of products. Rather than simply removing the logos from the game for its Danish release, EA decided not to release it all in that country. To recap: kicking a guy in the crotch until he taps out is okay in Denmark but hawking Rockstar Energy is a no-no.
PokemonSaudi Arabia's religious authority banned the entire Pokemon franchise back in 2001 because the games feature six-pointed stars, "a symbol of international Zionism and the state of Israel." Yes, they thought that a game developed in Japan, a country with an estimated Jewish population of one thousand, was just an elaborate Trojan Horse for promoting Judaism. It's no surprise that Nintendo made no move to edit their games and that many Saudi stores ignored the ban.
Mass EffectThe only country to ban Mass Effect was Singapore, due to an alleged lesbian sex scene. The scene was technically between a human female and a feminine-yet-genderless alien but you can't really expect censors to be well-versed in the finer points of asari biology. Fortunately, the game returned to store shelves without BioWare needing to change Liara into a bearded lumberjack. The outrage from gamers throughout Singapore convinced the government to allow the game to be sold in stores with an M18 rating.