Video games and gore have enjoyed a fruitful, albeit controversial partnership over the years. Sure, there’s always been those murmurings that the gratuitous displays of claret are corrupting poor defenseless Jimmy (not our editor), but people seemed to have wised up recently. Mostly. Kind of.
Either way, with gaming technology improving exponentially over the past few decades, depictions of violence and gore have gotten more impressive. Or disturbing, if you’re more squeamish. Here, we’re ranking 20 of the goriest games ever made, for your enjoyment or eternal avoidance. Just remember: these games aren’t in any particular order.
1. Mortal Kombat 11
Developer: NetherRealm Studios Publisher: Warner Bros.
A more refined kind of gore, but no less sadistic, the violence in Sniper Elite 4 is presented like a reward; the exclamation mark on a particularly impressive sniper kill. Watching the way high precision ballistics affect the human skeleton and organs is fascinating to watch, especially when said human skeleton belongs to Adolf Hilter.
A franchise that isn’t ever afraid of being knee deep in the blood and guts, The Punisher game from Volition saw Frank Castle continue his one man crusade to put down criminals and thugs in as brutal a way as possible. Though the core gameplay is violent enough as it is, it’s Frank’s approach to interrogations that really gets the blood flowing. Or, at least pouring into a puddle on the ground.
4. Manhunt 2
Developer: Rockstar Publisher: Rockstar
It wouldn’t be a list about gory or violent games without mentioning Manhunt 2, the game that briefly got banned in the UK for its “unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone”. Though the first game shocked with its depiction of violence, the premise was that of a snuff film, which made sense. Manhunt 2, meanwhile, is more of a revenge story, making the violence more senseless as a result. Gory? Yes. Necessary? Eh.
Zombies are usually the unlucky recipients of gore, present only to get mulched by some well-armed survivors. Left 4 Dead 2 is certainly no exception, as hordes of zombies get gunned down, beaten up, slashed, chainsaw’d, blown up and every other horrible thing you could imagine happening to a former human turned savage undead. If you prefer more modern picks, just replace this with World War Z, they’re practically the same.
6. Doom (2016)
Developer: id Software Publisher: Bethesda
The Doomslayer takes a sort of hands-on approach to gore and violence. Sure, you can simply use the plethora of ranged weapons to slaughter the demonic hordes, but id Software and Bethesda gave you Glory Kills and a chainsaw for a good reason. You may as well start ripping those demons in two with your bare hands. It’d be almost rude not to.
It wouldn’t be a worthwhile game about the Roman Coliseum without some liberal splatterings of the red stuff, and Shadow of Rome brings the claret in spades. Playing mostly as former Centurion warrior Agrippa, you murder your way through the gladitorial arenas of the Roman empire, cutting a bloody swathe through history. Some might ask why Ryse: Son of Rome didn’t get the nod, as it’s much more realistic about its gore, but we just wanted to highlight Shadow of Rome in the vain hopes that Capcom will remaster it.
8. Soldier of Fortune
Developer: Raven Software Publisher: Activision
A lot of people consider Call of Duty to be the go-to for gory military shooters, but Soldier of Fortune offered ridiculous levels of gratuitous excess way before the Call of Duty series even thought about putting the words “Modern” and “Warfare” together. With the original game using the then-revolutionary GHOUL Engine, Soldier of Fortune delivered mutilation with surgical precision.
9. Fallout 4
Developer: Bethesda Publisher: Bethesda
Speaking of surgical precision, it arguably doesn’t get more precise than using the in-game V.A.T.S. system to target a would-be bandits specific limbs before blowing them to smithereens. Yes, the Fallout series is quite familiar with the old ultra violence, and the Wild Wasteland perk present in those games just adds to that effect. It doesn’t take long before the whole world is covered in red mist and viscera.
10. Hotline Miami
Developer: Dennaton Games Publisher: Devolver Digital
Blood and guts don’t need to be hyper realistic to be shocking or considered gory, which is why Hotline Miami does it’s violence so well. The over-the-top aesthetic that the top down shooter has managed to cultivate is only amplified by the liberal splashes of blood that soak each level upon completion. Plus, you’ll never forget the brutality of those first execution kills. Somehow, the pixellation makes it more disturbing.
11. The Gears of War Series
Developer: Epic Games, The Coalition Publisher: Microsoft Studios
There’s an argument to be made that in the first two instalments of Gears of War, the ludicrous gibs and insane gore was necessary. Quite frankly, the lashing of red strewn around the landscape brought colour to an otherwise grey/brown cover shooter. Now, the series is filled more vibrant colours than just red, but the gore never left. We’re thankful for that.
12. Postal 2
Developer: Running With Scissors Publisher: Running With Scissors
There isn’t really much to say about Postal 2 that hasn’t been said already. It’s basically Hatred but with at least a modicum of self-awareness (edgy is cool, right?), and it brings the gore and shock value in equal measure. It’s not to everyone’s taste, or indeed most people’s I imagine, but it’s retained a cult following despite being available for nigh-on 20 years, so it must be doing something right.
13. Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition
Developer: People Can Fly, Epic Games Publisher: Gearbox (EA published the original)
There’s plenty of games that reward gory kills. Sniper Elite play back your kills in realistic detail, Mortal Kombat 11 rewards currency for fatalities that you can spend in The Krypt, but Bulletstorm takes the cake. Actively delighting in the hyper violence, Bulletstorm rewards you with points for how creatively and extensively you fuck somebody’s day up, and we absolutely love it.
14. The Darkness 2
Developer: Digital Extremes Publisher: 2K Games
You had to expect that a game where you gain more power by devouring the hearts of your enemies would be loaded with gore, and The Darkness 2 fits that bracket. While the first was arguably gorier, The Darkness 2 felt better to play, with its quad-wielding gameplay adding something new to the FPS genre.
Developer: Stainless Games Publisher: Sales Curve Interactive
Another game that briefly got banned in the UK, the original Carmageddon was a hotbed for controversy, and rightly so. Mowing down pedestrians to get extra time in your race is clearly a gameplay mechanic that’ll cause headlines, with one particularly memorable headline misleadingly suggesting that the Pope wanted the game banned.
16. The Last of Us
Developer: Naughty Dog Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
We’re going back to the zombie apocalypse again, because of course, but while Left 4 Dead is more gung-ho with its gore, The Last of Us is much more barbaric. There’s a desperation to The Last of Us, as Joel frantically tries to batter bandits and zombies with whatever melee weapon he can find. On top of that, watching the infected rip Joel’s throat out suddenly for the first time is a haunting experience.
17. God of War 3
Developer: Santa Monica Studio Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Before taking his trip to Norse mythology and saying the word “boy” every 10 seconds, Kratos was a bloodthirsty little bastard, and Greece was his massacring grounds. While God of War 1 & 2 had their own extreme moments of violence, God of War 3 takes the cake. Yes, we’re pretty much referring to the deaths of Hermes and Helios particularly.
18. Splatterhouse (2010)
Developer: Bandai Namco Publisher: Bandai Namco
A game with a name like Splatterhouse could only be about one of two things: a messy artist treating their home like their own personal canvas, or a bloodsoaked trip into the depths of hell. Fortunately, at least in terms of this list, Splatterhouse falls into the latter. While the original beat ‘em up had their fair share of gore, the 2010 reboot ramped things up exponentially.
Developer: Platinum Games Publisher: SEGA
It’s always a bit of a surprise to an ultra-violent beat ‘em up making its way onto a Nintendo console, though considering MK 11 is on the Switch now, that perception has changed. Still, MadWorld from Platinum Games certainly made waves as one of the goriest games around when it first launched on the Nintendo Wii, with its unique art style and constant stream of crimson ichor. Now, where’s the Switch remaster?
Developer: Free Lives Publisher: Devolver Digital
First person gore is often the most visceral, as there’s no escape from it: it has to be confronted, but VR takes that feeling to the next level and Gorn is the prime example. Essentially an arena brawler, you’re tasked with killing waves of goons using whatever you can find. With enemies that can be sliced, diced and battered in hundreds of ways, the gore in Gorn never begins to feel worn. Plus, you can chop someone’s leg off and smack them with it.