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Mature Work, Child Protagonists

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"The image of an adult world through a child's eyes."

So there's a new series out, starring a Kid Hero going on an adventure, and— wait, what do you mean, "it's rated M"?

Works with children as protagonists are usually targeted toward an audience of around the same age as them. However, there are some cases where child protagonists are found in a work for mature audiences. The kid characters may engage in Troubling Unchildlike Behavior or be Creepy Children. This trope could be used for horror or shock value as seeing children harmed or put through other intense situations can elicit fear from the audience, especially if the children themselves are perpetrating such behaviors. However, if it's Played for Laughs, it might just be funny to watch kids saying swear words and other things they shouldn't know about.

In more downplayed cases, adult-oriented works with children as the protagonists may not necessarily contain content that's outright inappropriate for kids, but children still aren't the intended audience. This is usually because the work contains some thematic elements that would most likely go over children's heads, or other complicated subject matter that children would likely not understand or be interested in.

To count for this trope, the work must be aimed at adults or teenagers (likely containing content that's unsuitable for children, though this is not a requirement, as mentioned above); works that are supposed to be aimed at children but contain mature themes do not qualify.note  Additionally, the main characters in the work must be notably younger than the intended demographic. For example, an R-rated movie that has a 14-year-old as the protagonist, or a PG-13 movie that has a 6-year-old as the protagonist. Generally, a work that prominently features characters who are older teenagers (ages 16+) cannot be an example of this trope, since teenagers of that age are usually considered old enough to be viewing most mature works.

This trope is sometimes seen in a Dark Fic of what was originally a kids' show, or a Dark Parody of children's shows.

An inversion of Older Than the Demographic, for works that are meant for children but have adults or teenagers as the protagonists. Also contrast What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?, when the work is for children, but audience members find the content matter to be child-unfriendly. Can overlap with Subverted Kids' Show. Often results in What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?. Compare Mature Animal Story for another trope about mature works featuring characters generally considered to be limited to children's fiction.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • ERASED is a seinen psychological crime thriller in which the adult protagonist gets sent back in time to live as his child self again. As such, much of the story focuses on the elementary-school aged protagonist reliving a crucial part of his childhood trying to protect his classmates and hunt down a murderer.
  • Gantz, which prominently features gore, nihilistic themes and sexuality has a fair share of these.
    • The protagonist, Kurono, who is 16 years old at the beginning of the series.
    • The deuteragonists, Kato and Reika, who are likewise only 17.
    • Taken to its logical conclusion with the 4-year old Takeshi, who is thrown into the story by being beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend and adopted by the hunters.
  • Ghost Stories is an unusual example. The series has ghost-hunting preteens as the main protagonists and the original Japanese dub is aimed at children, with no particularly inappropriate content for young audiences. The ADV English-language dub, on the other hand, is clearly adult-oriented; it frequently references and satirizes early-to-mid-2000s pop culture and politics, and features a lot of crass and dark humor, which is either highly inappropriate for kids or would just go over their heads.
  • Grave of the Fireflies is about two young siblings (aged fourteen and four, respectively) trying to survive in war-torn Japan during the final days of World War II. The beginning scene makes it clear the protagonists are doomed and while the violence isn't hugely graphic, the movie doesn't shy away from depicting the terrible effects of war on civilians and especially children. It's got a reputation as one of the saddest movies ever made for a good reason.
  • Kino's Journey: The titular Kino is a Vague Age, but still clearly young compared to the adult characters who appear in the series. In the course of her travels, she encounters a group of slave traders who, when snowed in, ate their "goods", a country where a brutal form of democracy saw the losing end of a vote subjected to the death penalty, a nation where travelers were forced to compete in gladiatorial games to the death, and a land where warfare between two nations had been turned into a competition to see who could slaughter the most members of a nearby native tribe.
  • The Lyrical Nanoha franchise (apart from the meandering first season) is strongly targeted towards the 20+ male demographic, despite the protagonists of most of its installments being 10 to 14 years young.
  • Made in Abyss features a very cute Puni Plush art style and initially presents itself as a light-hearted adventure story about a young girl named Riko and a robot boy named Reg exploring into the unknown titular abyss. It doesn't take very long before the series stops pulling its punches by having the main characters thrown into literal life-or-death situations; trying to survive against barely-known creatures who are absolutely ruthless in their own existence; having to deal with all manner of sickness, vomiting, nausea, involuntary loss of bladder control; Body Horror caused by a literal curse created by the depths of the abyss; a completely deranged Mad Scientist who performs all manner or horrific experiments For Science!, and many more mysteries and horrors all Played for Drama the deeper they go down.
  • Now and Then, Here and There follows a boy who is transported to a post-apocalyptic world where, under the rule of a dictator, children are forced to be Child Soldiers and women and girls are captured to be used as Breeding Slaves.
  • Serial Experiments Lain. Lain Iwakura is a girl in middle school who still wears teddy bear pajamas. During the course of the series, she visits a night club where a man on a mind accelerating cyber drug shoots someone else and then himself, inadvertently causes her older sister to suffer a brutal Mind Rape that leaves her a blank slate, sees a young man playing a VR game mistake a young girl for a monster in his game and shoot her, and has her become involved with a couple of Men In Black who murder all the members of a rival faction. She catches a friend of hers masturbating while fantasizing about a teacher, and then witnesses the same friend have a complete breakdown when they're confronted with a self-styled "God of the Wired".
  • Shadow Star has a 12-year-old protagonist, but it's clearly aimed towards adults, and has disturbing violence and sexuality to show for it.
  • Bokurano is an incredibly dark seinen manga starring 12-year-olds who are just starting middle school. They end up having to fight in a Humongous Mecha battle for the fate of the universe in which the winning pilot dies from having their life drained and the losing pilot's universe is destroyed. To illustrate just how dark it is, one of the girls is pregnant in a subplot that had to be toned down for the anime.

    Comic Books 
  • Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl: The protagonist Lenore is an undead ten-year-old girl (technically over 100), with creepy childlike innocence towards blood, horror and death. It's a horror series with adult jokes about sex and a high level of violence, so not aimed at ten-year-olds.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bastard out of Carolina and the semi-autobiographical book it was based on are centered around Ruth Anne "Bone" Boatwright, a young girl growing up in 1950s South Carolina; she's no older than 12 when the story ends (her actress Jena Malone was around 12 during filming). As the title suggests, a big part of the story is the stigma Bone and her mother face due to her being born out of wedlock, which young children may not fully understand. The part that really cements that this story isn't for children is Bone's Wicked Stepfather Glen, who physically and sexually abuses her (which is depicted graphically enough to earn the film an R-rating) while her mother zigzags between trying to protect her and being a Useless Bystander Parent.
  • Butterfly is a coming-of-age story about a young boy learning about love and other matters during the waning days of Spain's Second Republic, with an ending that is not terribly kid-friendly at all.
  • Come and See revolves around a boy of about fourteen who joins a group of partisans opposing the Nazis. It's widely considered one of the most disturbing and unflinching portrayals of war and its negative effects ever put to film.
  • Cuties is about an 11-year-old Muslim girl who joins the titular dance group, which specializes in suggestive dancing including twerking. It deals with and intends to criticize the hypersexualization of young girls, and in addition to the sexualized dancing and skimpy clothes, the girls are depicted doing other age-inappropriate things such as flirting with grown men and posting pictures of their genitals (which is intended to be alarming and repulsive to the adult audience). The film's subject matter is considered both inappropriate for kids and would probably go over their heads.
  • Fanny and Alexander: The protagonists are the titular children (Alexander more so). They largely serve an observational role as the story deals with their family's dramas, ranging from infidelity to dealing with a truly Wicked Stepfather who may or may not have killed his previous wife and daughters. The film is pretty frank with its sexual content and violence and there are many discussions on weighty topics that would fly over the heads of most younger audiences.
  • The R-rated film Good Boys is about three preteen boys attempting to get invited to a kissing party held by a popular student in middle school.
  • The Good Son centers around 12-year-old Mark (Elijah Wood) visiting his cousin Henry (Macaulay Culkin) for the winter break. While at first seemingly nice and well-mannered, Henry soon reveals himself to be a Troubling Unchildlike Enfante Terrible who goes around murdering people just to get what he wants or for fun, and sees absolutely no problem with doing them! Yikes.
  • Hounddog revolves around a preteen girl named Lewellen (played by then-12-years-old Dakota Fanning) who has an extremely troubled life involving abusive and/or neglectful parents and an overly-stern grandmother, and engages in Troubling Unchildlike Behavior (including smoking, drinking and sexualized behavior) due to her trauma. The film also became infamous for a plotline where Lewellen is raped by an older boy. Needless to say, this one isn't for 12-year-olds.
  • The protagonists of IT are children, and it is a very mature horror flick, fully earning its R-rating (and this is even after much of its content was toned down compared to the novel).
  • Jojo Rabbit is about a ten-year-old boy growing up in Nazi Germany- it is written from an adult perspective, and deliberately contrasts our protagonists innocent acceptance of his world and his child-like view of Hitler with the harsh reality.
  • The 1995 film Kids is the fundamental example of this trope in film. Despite having teenage protagonists, the movie deals with the characters smoking drugs, performing juvenile delinquency, and even trying out sex for the first time. Ironically, the movie was intended to be viewed by preteens, but its mature content was serious enough to earn it a rating of NC-17.
  • Let the Right One In and its remake Let Me In are horror films about a neglected and bullied 12-year-old boy who befriends a vampire, who appears to be a girl his age. While the vampire is kind to the protagonist and a few other people, she's not exactly a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire and kills quite a few people. The boy's bullies are also extremely sadistic, with their bullying going beyond usual schoolyard taunts into life-threatening physical and psychological torture (especially in the remake). There's strong violence in both versions, although Let Me In is even more graphic.
  • Pan's Labyrinth is a dark fantasy about a little Spanish girl searching for magical medicines for her ailing, pregnant mother in the brutal years of Franco's regime, where the Falangists were still hunting down the Spanish Maquis.
  • Pretty Baby is about a 12-year-old girl living in a brothel during the early 20th century. Her virginity is auctioned off at one point.
  • The Professional: One of the main leads is a 12-year-old girl who becomes the apprentice to a hitman after her family is murdered by a corrupt DEA agent. Her very first scene is her sitting near the stairs and smoking a cigarette. And throughout the movie's runtime, she swears and expresses sexual interest towards her mentor.
  • Thirteen (2003) revolves around 13-year-old Tracy, who comes from an extremely troubled home life as she befriends a popular girl around her age at school. The friend herself becomes a negative influence on Tracy as she leads her down a dangerous path far from what would be considered typical teenage antics.
  • Vampires vs. the Bronx is a Horror Comedy about a bunch of kids trying to save the Bronx from becoming the feeding grounds of a bunch of vampires. There's plenty of gore and death in it.

  • Works by V. C. Andrews often feature children being involved in tough situations such as incest or abuse ala Southern Gothic:
    • The Dollanganger Series sees the two main protagonists, Chris and Cathy, engaging in Brother–Sister Incest after being locked up in the attic by their mother, who physically and emotionally abuses them.
    • The Casteel Series sees the heroine, Heaven, sold by her father to an abusive foster family whose father commits statutory rape on her.
  • The Bloody Chamber is an anthology book of dark, adult-oriented fairytale retellings (although author Angela Carter pointed out that many of the original tales were already pretty dark to begin with) and the protagonists of some stories are quite young: "The Werewolf" features a young girl travelling through a forest alone to visit her grandmother, the protagonist of "The Company of Wolves" is another girl visiting her grandmother and is barely in her teens, and "Wolf-Alice" follows the titular character's life from childhood to young adulthood. None of the stories, including the ones starring children, are kid-friendly, featuring graphic violence, explicit sexual references and disturbing situations.
  • The Butcher Boy: The book's protagonist, a young Irish boy named Francis Brady, who goes into madness.
  • The Chrysalids: The main characters are all young children at the start of the story, and still only teenagers by the end- however, the novel involves a lot of extended philosophical ruminations regarding the true nature of humanity.
  • Inverted with Neil Gaiman's novel, Coraline, which was written for children, but evokes a vastly different reaction between the intended audience and the grown-ups who read it. Kids, Gaiman found out, see it as a child protagonist cleverly using their wits to escape danger. Grown-ups see a child left on her own in mortal peril.
  • The children's book parody Do You Want to Play with My Balls? is about two boys of about five playing with toy balls and trying to reach a truce with their mean classmate Sally. The humour comes from their phrasing making it seem like they're talking about the other meaning of "balls".
  • Paul Atreides is the main protagonist of Dune and he's only fifteen for a large part of the book, reaching his late teens/early 20s after the Time Skip about two-thirds of the way through. The book is aimed more at adults than kids around Paul's age; although some teens probably wouldn't find it too difficult to read, it's quite a dense novel with lots of complex world-building and philosophical elements, which might not be as appealing or understandable to younger readers.
  • The main protagonist of the Earth's Children series is Ayla, who is five years old at the beginning of the series and is in her teens for most of the books. The books are firmly aimed at an adult audience, featuring an unflinching portrayal of life in Ice Age Europe and all its difficulties. The first book in particular has young Ayla facing a lot of dangerous and distressing situations, and features a plotline where she is repeatedly raped from the age of ten and gives birth when she’s only eleven. From the second book onwards there are also many explicit sex scenes that wouldn't be out of place in a Mills and Boon novel, although by this point Ayla is in her late teens and the sex is consensual.
  • Ender's Game and its spin-off, Ender's Shadow both take place at a military school for children- Ender is 7 at the beginning of his story and Bean is 4. Although they grow up a bit during the story, they are still young teens at the end of the book- but it is clearly written for adults, featuring adult themes and a reading level far too difficult for most elementary schoolers to read at all.
  • Many of Stephen King's works have children at the center of the story, but a children's author, he ain't. His juvenile characters are at no less risk than his adult ones for having all sorts of nasty things to happen to them; while they do stand a better chance at living to the end than the adults, that doesn't always save them.
    • Hearts in Atlantis: The opening novella "Low Men In Yellow Coats" explores a 10-year-old boy named Bobby spending the summer of 1960 with his best friend, falling for a girl, and being mentored by a mysterious elderly man who moves into the room above his home. It could almost be a YA novel until rape, heartbreak, and a clan of sinister humanoid creatures enter the story.
    • Apt Pupil: The title character is a teen boy who makes friends with his elderly neighbor. The man, a German national, turns out to have been a Nazi officer. They bond over torture methods.
    • IT: The first half follows the main characters at the age of twelve when they first battle the titular monster. The second half has them as adults returning to their hometown to do it all over again. As well as graphic violence and other nightmarish situations involving the monster, some of the non-supernatural content is just as disturbing, such as a sociopathic gang of bullies who torture other kids and animals (one of them smothered his baby brother) and young Beverly's father having an extremely creepy obsession with her.
    • The Body: This short story, which became the classic film Stand by Me, is about four twelve-year-old boys going to find a dead body.
    • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon: The titular girl is a nine-year-old who gets lost in the woods and suffers a whole host of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane terrors.
  • The Little Red Riding Hood version written by Charles Perrault targets an adult audience. The short story ends with Little Red Riding Hood taking off her clothes before going to bed with the wolf dressed as her grandmother, who eventually devours her. The Hood here represents Little Red Riding Hood's virginity, while The Big Bad Wolf is a symbol for... rapists. Perrault even explains in a note at the end of the story that it's a cautionary tale about sexual predators.
  • Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation: A seinen series with an anime adaptation that depicts its protagonist as a reincarnated adult NEET who retains his adult memories from birth into early childhood where much of the story takes place. His companions throughout the story include other children his own age. The story frequently includes off-putting tropes due to the dichotomy such as Dirty Kid, Their First Time, The Jailbait Wait, Older Than They Look, and Wife Husbandry.
  • Lord of the Flies. A group of British schoolboys crashes on a Deserted Island where, instead of engaging in a traditional Robinsonade, they devolve into brutality and turn against one another. And yes, nowadays it is a set book at many schoolsnote  but originally it has not been aimed at kids.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane: most of the short novel is the narrator flashing back to a time in his childhood when he encountered a family of magical women. Although he tells it from a younger perspective the events become darker and more horrific as it continues.
  • The Other Boleyn Girl: Mary Boleyn, the main protagonist and narrator, is thirteen years old at the beginning of the novel (she's twelve during the prologue) and it's made clear right from the first page that it's not a kids' book when Mary witnesses the beheading of her uncle Stafford. Mary is already married, becomes the king's mistress on her family's orders and later has children by him. The book features graphic sexual references and some disturbing scenes such as executions, Anne Boleyn's multiple miscarriages and stillbirths, possible incest, Mary's husband commanding her to sleep with him (he stops when he sees her discomfort, but still) and Mary suffering from post-partum depression.
  • Quite Contrary: the protagonist, Mary, is twelve years old, and after getting lost in the forest, accidentally stumbles into the world of fairy tales- only this isn't a kids book, and it's not the kid-friendly version of the fairy tales. In addition to a generally adult level of violence and death, the main villain of the book is the Big Bad Wolf, who is intent on either eating or raping Mary (or both).
  • Room is about a five-year-old boy named Jack who lives in a single room with his "Ma," though they're visited at night by a man Ma calls "Old Nick." It's eventually revealed that Ma is Nick's kidnapping victim and Jack is a Child by Rape, but Jack is the viewpoint character, and he never fully grasps the seriousness of the situation.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Many of the viewpoint characters are teenagers or younger, with Bran Stark beginning the series at age 7. As a Medieval European Fantasy in a Crapsack World, their age doesn't spare them from mortal danger and death, political marriages, dangerous leadership positions, assassin training, or other perils of the setting's dynastic war.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns: Although they're both adults for much of the second half of the story, protagonists Mariam and Laila are preteens and/or teenagers in the first half: Mariam is almost fifteen at the start of Part One and is a teenager for most of it, while Laila is nine at the beginning of Part Two and fourteen by the end. The book is about the wars in Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban, and starkly depicts all the associated suffering and trauma the characters go through. It also highlights the sexism present in Afghanistan's society, which only worsens under the Taliban; notably, Laila and Mariam are both forced to marry an abusive older man when they're under the age of sixteen, and get pregnant in their teens.
  • The Tin Drum is a German novel which was also adapted as a movie. It features as the protagonist a young boy who decides to stop himself from growing any older than seven. He observes the violent events of World War II from a child's perspective, beating his toy drum.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird is a story about a black man accused of raping a white woman in the 1930's, written from the perspective of his lawyer's young daughter. Though it is narrated by her adult self (framed as her telling the story of how her brother broke his arm), it doesn't go far beyond the child's perspective.
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a psychological novel for adults that features two Creepy Children and their governess. Many events in the book (adapted many times as a motion picture or television drama) focus on strange things the children say or do. The theme questions how can we be certain what we experience is real.
  • Let the Right One In is primarily about the relationship between 12-year-old Oskar and Eli, who is much older than 12 but still has the body and mind of a child. It is also not at all appropriate for children, what with its bleakness, explicit sexuality, violence, and even the inclusion of a pedophile character whose disturbing desires are explored in detail.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cold Case: Depending on the episode and how old a character involved in the case was when the murder happened, huge chunks of the murder investigation flashbacks may be told from a child's perspective.
    • "Fireflies" centers around two eight-year-old girls in 1975 who are torn apart by racial discrimination, with one going missing. She was accidentally kidnapped, shot in the head, and presumed dead, but in reality survived with amnesia.
    • "One Small Step" centered around the 1969 murder of 12-year-old Danny Finch, with the flashbacks focused on him and his friends at the time.
    • "The Sleepover" focused on the 1990 murder of 12-year-old Rita Baxter after a sleepover, with flashbacks focused on her and the middle school girls who bullied her and invited her to sleep over. The episode discusses child abuse and alcoholism.
  • Game of Thrones is based upon A Song of Ice and Fire, which definitely counts as this. Some core members of the Ensemble Cast are children or teenagers; although many characters have been aged up from the books, the show still includes plotlines such as 10-year-old Bran getting paralyzed after being shoved out of a window (to cover up Brother–Sister Incest), 11-year-old Arya being forced to go on the run, witnessing the grisly effects of war on civilians and training as an assassin, 13-year-old Sansa witnessing her father's beheading, being held hostage and regularly physically and psychologically abused, and 16-year-old Daenerys being forced into an Arranged Marriage with a much older man by her abusive brother and suffering a Tragic Stillbirth when she's about 17. And that's without mentioning all the graphic violence (including child murder) and explicit sex scenes.
  • House of the Dragon starts with teen Rhaenyra Targaryen (who's desired by her own uncle and brought to a brothel by him, no less) and Alicent Hightower. There's also one episode where the Targaryen children of the two forming sides of the Dance of the Dragons Civil War are rather centerstage, most prominently Aemond, who successfully claims the gigantic dragon Vhagar.
  • Stranger Things is partially influenced by the works of Stephen King, so this is to be expected. The first season centers around a group of preteen boys (along with a couple of their older siblings, a parent, and the town sheriff) who attempt to locate their missing friend, and from then on it quickly spirals into a supernatural horror series that deals with the kids having to face Eldritch Abominations, as well as more mundane horrors, such as some of their peers being nearly as dangerous as the monsters. The later seasons ramp up the mature content; season 2 features Will clearly traumatized while routinely being possessed by the Mind Flayer, and season 3 gets quite a bit Bloodier and Gorier.

  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: The protagonists are meant to be anywhere between 8-14 years old, but the show is written for general audiences, with the kids generally played by teens or adults. As such, along with quite a bit of innuendo and Getting Crap Past the Radar, one boy gets an erection mid-bee and laments it in song. Some performances are even billed as R-rated "Parent-Teacher Conferences", turning the mature elements up a notch.
  • Romeo and Juliet: Juliet Capulet is written to be only 14 years old (though is rarely cast as such, and in some productions is age lifted), but gets married, loses her virginity, and dies by stabbing herself throughout the course of the play.
  • Spring Awakening: The characters are just on the cusp of this, as they are meant to be 14- and 15-year-olds (though played by late-teens and 20-somethings), but deal with losing their virginity, teen pregnancy, and suicide, among other things.
  • A Very Potter Musical: The first two entries in the series have the main characters as 11- and 12-year-olds, while often acting like high school students (complete with dick jokes and making out) and played by college students. This Dawson Casting is often lampshaded. Averted in the third entry, A Very Potter Senior Year, in which the characters are 17 years olds.

    Video Games 
  • Among the Sleep: The player character is a toddler trying to find their missing mother while avoiding monsters. In addition to being too scary for young children and capitalizing on an adult's fears for a nigh-helpless child being placed in such a situation, the revelation that the monsters are metaphors for the child's troubled mother abusing them would probably not be well understood by a small child.
  • Bramble: The Mountain King: The player character is nine-year-old Olle, while the secondary protagonist, his sister Lillemore, is eleven. The game delves into the darker side of Nordic folklore, with Olle being threatened by horrifying creatures and entities. There's also quite a bit of blood, gore, and other disturbing content, and Olle can die in some nasty ways.
  • Fuga: Melodies of Steel involves the peaceful lands of Gasco getting suddenly invaded by the malevolent Berman Empire in a setting blatantly inspired by World War I and II, yet the main characters are a ragtag group of children no older than 12 with the youngest being 4. By circumstances, they end up as unofficial Child Soldiers Forced to Kill radicals and fanatics who truly believe their causes to be just, and all of them are forced to take refuge in a mobile ancient superweapon battle tank equipped with a cannon that must be loaded with the bio-energy of any of the 12 children in order to fire, leading to situations where Anyone Can Die.
  • The titular character of Ib is stated to be only nine years old but due to the game's horror themes and some mature references (such as the funny scene where Garry frantically stops Ib reading an erotic story even though she can't understand some of the words), it's not really appropriate for players who are the same age.
  • INSIDE (2016): The follow up to Limbo, this game featured a child protagonist menaced by other humans and machines instead of the supernatural woods.
  • Kindergarten: The protagonist is a kindergartener who attends a school where he, his fellow classmates, and the school staff can get brutally murdered in various ways.
  • Kindergarten 2: Sequel to the former with the same child protagonist along with more students, school staff, and ways to die.
  • Lily's Well: Player character Lily says she's 9 years old and she's technically even younger considering she keeps dying and waking up in new bodies, and the game is definitely not for kids; it heavily involves The Many Deaths of You (most of which are quite gruesome), Body Horror and disturbing imagery, and a rather dark plotline about parental abuse.
  • The Last of Us: While the protagonist is the middle-aged Joel, he's accompanied by the 14-year-old Ellie, who's just as important to the story as Joel is and is a constant presence past the prologue. She's actually playable for one of the four main segments of the game, in which she has to face adult cannibals, zombies, and the cannibal leader who wants to keep her as his pet.
  • Limbo (2010) has an unnamed boy searching the woods for his sister and everything is out to kill him. Horribly.
  • Mad Father sees the player controlling 11-year-old Aya, who gets chased by the undead and uncovers some extremely dark secrets her father has been keeping. There's blood and mild gore, and Aya herself isn't exactly a normal child.
  • Monster Bash is a good example of this. Child main character Johnny Dash's pet dog Tex was kidnapped by the vampire Count Chuck, but the game is themed around horror, gore, necrotic and demon creatures, with levels including bloody pikes, skeletons, cemeteries, and catacombs.
  • The Persona series stars teenagers that can summon manifestations of Jungian constructs to save the world from evil using The Power of Friendship. This is also a series where the main entries are given the M rating, and for good reason.
  • The Walking Dead:
    • The Walking Dead: Season Two: The protagonist is an 11-year-old girl named Clementine, whom the player has to help with navigating life in the post-apocalyptic world, handling tensions within her group of survivors (in which she's one of only two kids, and the only one who doesn't have a parent looking out for her) and growing up.
    • The Walking Dead: Season Four continues Clem's story, in which she is now 16 and taking care of AJ, a 6-year-old boy. Almost the entirety of the cast are other children and teens, who live by themselves in an abandoned boarding school with no adults, and have to routinely kill zombies and bandits.
  • The Witch's House: Player character Viola is stated to be 13 years old but the game is defintely aimed at older players. The game has a lot of creepy moments, jump scares and bloody violence, and the true ending is highly disturbing given its revealed "Viola" is actually the witch in Viola's body, who tricks Viola's father into killing his own daughter.

    Web Animation 
  • Camp Camp is about children at a summer camp, but it's loaded with swearing, dark humor, and other mature content.
  • Garbage Island features a preadolescent boy but has cursing and mature themes.
  • Spooky Month: Downplayed. The shorts are rated "Teen" on Newgrounds and contain dark humor and horror, while the protagonists are a pair of young children.

    Western Animation 
  • Big Mouth stars middle school children undergoing puberty, but is aimed at adults so it can explore the more explicit, taboo side of puberty.
  • The Boondocks has two of its main protagonists as mischievous young black boys. One's a radical left-wing activist who's far more sophisticated and smart than you'd expect from someone his age, and seldom ever smiles, and the other's a loud, foul-mouthed juvenile delinquent who's commit more than his share of crimes, and misdeeds.
  • Fudêncio e Seus Amigos is about a group of 9 year old children at school. It's also intended for adults, and is an Animated Shock Comedy.
  • Moral Orel follows the titular Orel Puppington, a naïve 12-year-old who struggles with growing up in a Christian Fundamentalist neighborhood. Orel's young age and unworldliness often leads to him doing unintentionally terrible things and the show also explores some dark subjects like alcoholism, infidelity, domestic abuse, mental illness and sexual violence (and it's not always played for Black Comedy either).
  • The Prince is a satire of the British Royal Family told from the point of view of Prince George, who was eight years old at the time of its debut. It includes a lot of profanity, sexual references and crass jokes, among other child-unfriendly content.
  • Downplayed with The Simpsons, where 10-year-old Bart is one of the main characters and, in the show's really early days, the main character. Back then, the show wasn't afraid to show over-the-top violence like Homer strangling Bart, or have the characters say minor swear words like "hell", "damn", and "bitchin'", which was shocking for its time, but with the competition they have now, it's almost tame by comparison. Even when the show got more mature as time progressed, it's still not quite as mature as the likes of Family Guy or South Park.
  • South Park has children who are around the ages of 8-10 as its main protagonists. However, it contains a lot of social satire, obscene language, violence, and sexual content (often from the children themselves) and is aimed at mature audiences.
  • Velma is intended to be an adult-oriented take on Scooby-Doo. The main characters are high school students, around 15 or 16 years old, but due to its graphic violence, nudity, sexual content, drug references and crass humor, it's clear as to why it's rated TV-MA and it's definitely not appropriate for Scooby's usual demographic.