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Rated M for Money

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"Babble babble, bitch bitch, rebel rebel, party party
Sex sex sex, and don't forget the violence."
Marilyn Manson, "This Is the New Shit"

When video gaming first started, almost all of the games created were playable by children. Not to say that early games weren't enjoyable by many adults (they were), they just lacked the mature themes that would be unsuitable for younger audiences — because, let's be honest, it could be pretty hard to get graphic on some of these older systems (though not impossible...). Some of this was due to the Censorship Bureau imposed by Nintendo in the early 1990s; when Nintendo dropped this and backed an industry-supported ratings system, developers became free to develop whatever they desired, and thus began making games that were more realistic in their depiction of violence, and along the way, containing Darker and Edgier themes than previous titles.


But thanks to the success of a few specific M-rated titles, the clones and copycat titles that followed them, and the media attention that followed both, today there is a public perception that developers focus solely on extremely violent titles targeted at "hardcore" gamers (that is, those who believe "G" rated movies and "E" rated games are "for kids only" and consider those who do watch "G" rated movies and/or play "E" rated games to be a mark of No True Scotsman), because hardcore gamers are supposed to be the most profitable demographic. This results in even more attention from Media Watchdogs and Moral Guardians alike, and if those titles are successful, ultimately reinforces the notion of M-rated titles being the best way to make a top-selling title, if not a license to print money outright — in other words, they're just Rated M For Money.


"M" rated games are not, in fact, guaranteed hits — only an average percentage of titles sell enough copies to be commercially successful, not at all much different from any other rating or genre in the market. Furthermore, general industry wisdom actually claims "T" for Teen is the most profitable rating, for the same reason that many movies target the PG-13 ratings bracket — these are the highest unrestricted rating of their respective scales, combining the most creative freedom with the broadest possible (if not potential) audience; some developers or publishers have actively restricted levels of violence and/or sexual content in their games order to achieve this rating. Indeed, in 2010 only 5% of video games released had an M rating. However, this small minority was the focus of more hype than the rest, largely because many of them are AAA games, thus receiving the most attention of any video game. Indeed, according to the same survey, 7 of the top 20 best-selling video games of 2010 are M-rated.


The larger amount of hype M-rated games tend to get than E, E10+ or T rated games can probably be attributed to the ongoing public perception that Video Games are for kids. Granted, this perception has significantly diminished since the mid to late 90's, but it's still prevalent enough (mostly among Moral Guardians and Media Watchdogs) to cause quite a stir with the gaming community. Thus, it makes sense that many would perceive M-rated games as the key to breaking video games free of this stereotype and, thus, gaining them more respect as an entertainment medium. However, many of these games still contain vulgar and/or over-the-top humor that brings them down to a "drunk" level of maturity.

Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000 and Murder Simulators are what you get when this is the issue of a Very Special Episode.

Complicating the issue is the rise of games with sex scenes (sometimes plot-related, often not) and other mature non-violent content such as language that superficially appear to be put in for "M for Money" reasons, but are actually there because of the game-makers' desire to reflect the current state of popular films and TV shows, many with large teen fanbases, which have become more sexually explicit. Defenders of games such as Witcher III which contain nudity and love scenes have said that people expect to see such scenes in TV shows and films so they expect to see them in games, too. Defenders also point out the perceived hypocrisy of people having no problem with scenes of extreme violence, yet having issues with sexual content and language.

It's worth mentioning, however, that this attitude has declined within the gaming sphere since about 2007. Thanks to a number of factors:

1. The enormous success of relatively family-friendly gaming consoles like the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo Switch.

2. The success of non-violent indie titles like Stardew Valley and Candy Crush Saga, as well as genuinely mature (ie. not overtly vulgar or violent) games like Journey and Gone Home.

3. People becoming fatigued with the Capcom Sequel Stagnation of a lot of M-rated AAA franchises (most notably Call of Duty).

4. The number of gamers who are now parents and want something they can play with their children.

5. Controversies like gamergate bringing to light concerns about problems such as sexism in video games.

And so on.

Compare Avoid the Dreaded G Rating and American Kirby Is Hardcore. While there are no direct ties between this and Rated M for Manly, it's not uncommon to see both tropes employed at the same time (since manly men will swear, shoot people in the face, and bankroll big sales figures as a result). Also see Animated Shock Comedy and Exploitation Film, which pile on shock value to increase age ratings. For comics, this frequently happened in The Dark Age of Comic Books.


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    Anime and Manga 
While it can be disputed, this trope has more or less been the state of anime and manga since the 70's. We would list the Japanese franchises which reek of this trope and have huge fanbases (e.g. Death Note, Attack on Titan), but we should probably stop before we go overboard

    Films — Animation 
  • The "Uncle Fucka" song from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was originally going to be called "Motherfucker", but when the MPAA told creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone that the film was going to get the NC-17 rating, they decided to change it to from "Mother" to "Uncle" (because having sex with your uncle is apparently less obscene than having sex with your mother), in order to secure the R rating.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song was "Rated X by an all-white jury." The X rating in this case was a default judgment by the MPAA since Van Peebles couldn't afford to submit the film for a proper rating. (That the MPAA allowed the "X" to appear on films it never reviewed explains why it became essentially synonymous with pornography, since once the MPAA realized they could not claim it as a trademark they stopped using it as an official rating and now like to pretend that it never was one. note )
  • Eddie Murphy's comedy Coming to America is a rather quaint tale of an African prince wanting to experience life in America before being wed off, and meeting a nice girl while there. The topless scenes (which are only at the start, during the bath sequence, and never seen again after) and swearing only seem to be there to bump up the rating to R, as the plot itself is rather tame.
  • Deadpool (2016) is a curious case in that director Tim Miller and actor Ryan Reynolds both wanted the R-rating to really draw from the source material—which is a franchise aimed at adults. 20th Century Fox actually didn't think an R-rating would be profitable, based on the performance of previous R-rated comic book adaptations on top of the box office successes of the PG-13 counterparts. They gave Miller a relatively small budget as a countermeasure, expecting a box office bomb—or at least the film underperforming in terms of profit. The total opposite happened, and Deadpool became one of the highest-grossing R-rated movies of all time.
    • The following year, Logan made sure to be R-rated to fully exploit the violence usually caused by title character Wolverine, as well as a plot with more dark themes than just the racism\prejudice prevalent in the X-Men series. It worked not only box office wise (only X-Men: Days of Future Past and the Deadpool movies made more money) but earned the most positive reviews of the franchise, with its script even nominated for the Academy Award.
  • From Marvel to DC, Birds of Prey could be considered a Distaff Counterpart to Deadpool, following an insane protagonist while not dialing down regarding its violence and profanity. However, the box office intakes were nowhere as impressive - some analysts felt that higher content ratings actually hurt the film, given a very large segment of the fanbase for main character Harley Quinn is young girls. It opened atop the rankings, only to fall to third the following weekend behind two family-friendly productions.
  • The creators of the film adaptation of Doom said that they were aiming for a "hard" R, and as a result, included all sorts of adult content that was never in the game, including nudity and F-bombs.
  • This is the selling point of every "Unrated Edition" DVD or Blu-Ray ever, even if the unrated content is actually pretty tame and was cut for reasons that had nothing to do with rating.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This is especially odd with period-set series, such as Boardwalk Empire. Sure, prohibition-era America had its fair share of mob influence and shadiness, but Boardwalk Empire litters every other scene with a Cluster F-Bomb and to call the sex and nudity "gratuitous" would be putting it lightly. Case in point: a corpse is laid out on the morgue, a corpse belonging to a beautiful young woman. The corpse is not covered in a sheet, and not only can the audience see everything, they can also see the Y-shaped stitches running down her torso and abdomen.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand, as with most Starz series, is full of sex, nudity, violence, and language.
  • HBO's Game of Thrones. Anyone who has read the source material knows what to expect, yet HBO somehow managed to add in more sex and nudity than what was in the book. (That said, the sexual content of the series actually decreases as it progresses, and in fact the show's most controversial sexual scene— the rape of Sansa Stark in Season 5—takes place completely off screen.)
  • TV in general is more sexually explicit than in the old days, particularly any show made for broadcast after what certain broadcasters refer to as "the Watershed". Even productions such as the 2016 BBC version of War and Peace have had sex scenes added because, per Word of God, this is what viewers want.
    • Averted, however, by the 12-rated note  Doctor Who which has zero sexual content (despite featuring romance), rather minor violence, nothing stronger than "damn" and "hell" in the language, and is consistently BBC Worldwide's biggest money-making series; however, at the same time, it is not a series produced for airing post-watershed and spinoffs that were (Torchwood and Class (2016)) were more explicit and violent. A better example might be the historical drama, Victoria which, despite being produced for broadcast in a post-watershed timeslot in the UK, is (some kissing and minor dialogue aside) considered a family-friendly series.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • FMW's two founders and top star were quintessential garbage wrestlers, but the same could not be said of its number two star, Megumi Kudo, its number three star Masato Tanaka, or its number four star Hayabusa, or... you get the idea. FMW showcased a wide variety of wrestlers and styles. Furthermore, the name "Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling" come from the fact that it started as a showcase of martial artists against pro wrestlers before the garbage became more and more central. Yet even during Kodo Fuyuki's Lighter and Softer "World Entertainment Wrestling" era, FMW never really lost it's garbage wrestling reputation, largely because of how hard it promoted it's no rope barbwire, double hell thumbtacks exploding ring death matches.
  • This trope is largely behind Big Japan Pro Wrestling's roster split. With the "Strong BJ" half rejecting the idea they are a bunch of scarred up delinquents swinging buzz saws at one another and "Hardcore BJ" openly embracing it, not caring about those who doubt their athleticism or technical prowess. Both halves like to think themselves Rated M for Manly.
  • The core stars of ECW were technical wrestlers like Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko, with guys like Lance Storm, Perry Saturn, Jerry Lynn and Super Crazy up and down the card. But when people think of ECW the first things that come to mind tend to be New Jack diving off of tall things, The Sandman downing a beer before beating himself bloody with the bottle, Terry Funk wrapped in barbed wire, Sabu's triple jump moonsault, Rob Van Dam kicking folding chairs, The Dudley Boyz putting someone through tables or maybe some woman stripping in front of a crowd chanting "Show Your Tits". The loss of technical wrestlers to WCW played a major role in ECW's decline, yet they are criminally under remembered compared to the "extreme" elements of the show.
  • Whenever CZW secures dates for talented technical wrestlers like Yoshihiro Tajiri, Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Adam Cole, Drew Gulak, even if they are rookies who merely have a strong amateur background like Lio Rush, CZW tends to quickly make them the focus of angles and give them title belts to defend. Despite this, there are no dedicated technical events the way there are garbage events like Tournament Of Death and Cage Of Death. Even accounting for their athleticism based "Best Of The Best" annual event, it still isn't promoted as heavily as the use of light tubes and lighter fluid.

    Tabletop Games 
  • White Wolf's Black Dog imprint, for Old World of Darkness RPG sourcebooks deemed "For Mature Audiences Only." It most likely caused gamers to buy titles they might have overlooked but saw the Black Dog logo on the back and said "I have to get this!" The line was canceled during the 3rd Edition, when White Wolf's general titles started getting darker than the Black Dog stuff. In fact, the only book that truly deserved its Mature rating was Charnel Houses of Europe: The Shoah, which dealt with the Holocaust.note 

    Video Games 
  • During the 8-bit era, the British software house CRL released a number of horror Text Adventure games for different platforms which seemed specifically written as excuses to put in lots of still gore images that would get restrictively rated, for publicity. Their Jack the Ripper game actually managed to get an "18" rating.
  • Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto's publishing stable, mostly publishes this class of games, with titles ranging from the relatively-tame Bully (which still attracted controversy, due to the Media Watchdogs not doing the research) to the not-at-all-tame Manhunt getting Media Watchdog and Moral Guardians alike all riled up:
    • Grand Theft Auto has been at the center of the controversy, especially after the discovery of the "Hot Coffee" data in San Andreas, which, if unlocked by a modification, allows one to see two characters having sex. This data was Dummied Out, however, requiring a cheat device or a software patch that the games maker did not release to be seen in gameplay. Copies that had said data in them were bumped up to the rarely seen "AO" rating. Ironically, later games Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto V contain graphic sex scenes (including full frontal male and female nudity) and sexual language, yet were released with M as, by the time they came out, sexual content in games had become more commonplace; the "Hot Coffee" mini-game in San Andreas is tame by comparison.
    • The original GTA was advertised in UK gaming magazines using its 18 certificate, a rarity at the time, as a unique selling point. Now that 18-rated games are as common as 18-rated films and the BBFC theoretically uses the same guidelines to rate the two media, a game being rated 18 draws little or no comment.
    • State of Emergency, a Rockstar-published (but not developed) title, is a game that attempts to simulate what it's like to be caught in the middle of a riot, started off with the premise of trying to strategically incite a riot among a disgruntled crowd but eventually shifted to an action game (that takes place in an ongoing riot) with lots of gore, partly due to this trope and, ironically, partly due to placating Moral Guardians who might find the original idea repellent (the side effect of this is a half-assed, Fridge Logic-heavy plot that has you heroically protesting an evil Mega-Corp by destroying property and murdering panicked citizens).
  • Before GTA, there was id Software's Doom, which possibly entertains the dubious title of Most Scapegoated Game in the History of All Time. Until the advent of GTA, Duke Nukem, Quake, and other more "realistic" First Person Shooters, it was constantly blamed as the drive behind all manner of anti-social and violent behavior. Notably, it was directly implicated as one of the major contributing factors behind the Columbine High School massacre.
    • This was in part because the Doom level editor was extremely simple to use, allowing news anchors to suggest with a straight face that Doom players — including Eric Harris, one of the Columbine gunmen — were making levels of their schools, homes, local gathering spots, etc. to practice for possible massacres. Harris's levels, by the way, were not virtual versions of his high school to shoot up, but that didn't stop "journalists" from claiming that they were (the morbidly curious can still find them online to see for themselves).
    • Also, its title is ominous and scary, so that even after gamers had moved on to Quake etc, people were talking about the dangers of "games like Doom".
  • Midway's Mortal Kombat, especially in its original arcade form, was infamous for being the first worthwhile fighting game to prominently feature blood (and lots of it) in addition to all manner of death, dismemberment, and general gruesomeness. Parent's groups complained, puritan advocates wagged fingers disapprovingly, many angry letters were written to various editors, and the game was banned from many arcades and shopping malls and was at length significantly altered (blood changed to "sweat", fatality moves removed or altered) in its first home releases for various consoles — notably, the Super Nintendo version, which flopped due to Nintendo's censorship.
    • In the Sega Genesis and Game Gear versions, however, there are codes to reactivate the blood effects. In fact, the Genesis version is what prompted Nintendo to help create the ESRB in the first place. That, and their rather transparent plan to kill off Sega by making their products unreleasable a la EC Comics when the Comics Code Authority was instituted. Thank goodness it backfired in Nintendo's face, because more people bought the Genesis version than the Super Nintendo version, which led to Nintendo allowing Mortal Kombat 2 to be ported unaltered.
    • Using live action footage for fighting also ratcheted up its gruesomeness level. Prior to Mortal Kombat, most games that even featured live action footage confined it to cut scenes or a sort of playable movie format. Mortal Kombat was one of the first games where a sprite directly under the player's control was retouched Chroma Key footage played by a real actor rather than animated.
  • Super Smash Bros. features Nintendo characters engaging in cartoon-like fights. Yet Brawl and Melee both received the T for Teen rating. Brawl is a little more surprising given that it was created after the E10+ rating was created specifically for games that may push the boundaries of the E rating (though the fourth and fifth games were rated E10+).
  • There was no good reason to rate God Hand higher than T for teen, considering what is gotten away with in PG-13 movies and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Paradoxically, one of the game's opening screens warns against the game's high content of violence and gore (a la Resident Evil), the former of which is overdone and cartoonish, and the latter of which is completely nonexistent. The main reason for this is because of a specific God Reel change. In Japan, one God Reel move has a steel washtub fall on Gene's head (a staple of manzai comedy). As Capcom felt this wouldn't make sense to American audiences, they replaced the move with "Head Slicer", a (bloodless) "Off with His Head!" attack. The ESRB reacted accordingly.
    • In Japan, the game received a B-rating (12+), which is the equivalent of the T-rating back in North America. The Devil May Cry series is rated C (15+) in Japannote , where the equivalent would be between T and M rating, and had a similar warning of gory violence, despite being tame compared to many other M-rated games from the United States. Since God Hand, Resident Evil, and Devil May Cry were all developed by Capcom, the Content Warning may be a leftover from the Japanese release, where there is less tolerance for extreme levels of violence towards humans. note 
  • The Halo franchise, barring some occasional swearing, is a little too tame for an M rating. There's very little gore, and most of its violence is actually pretty cartoon-like - though the first games had the horrifying "space zombies" known as the Flood, which made the ESRB give the M-rating for the original based on just one image; in fact, Halo 5: Guardians and Halo Infinite both ended up getting T ratings.
  • The Witcher game series has gotten a reputation for this, thanks to its mature, recurring sexual themes, but most, if not all, of the blame for those can be laid on the source material.
  • MadWorld got some attention, too, being a game completely based on various ways to kill people and having amazing amounts of blood. Most of the violence was in good humor (Shove fizzy soda down a guy's throat, throw them, soda explodes, launch them onto spiked-targets covering the naughty-bits of women). Regardless, there was much consternation in the media about how Wii was no longer a family friendly console, despite the fact that No More Heroes had been released long before Mad World, and Red Steel and Manhunt 2 were launch titles.
  • God of War: Everything bleeds. A lot. There's also nudity, which is mostly irrelevant and mostly seems like a ploy to boost the rating. However, give Greek mythology a read sometime and you might be surprised at how accurate (or even tamer) God of War can be.
  • Exidy's 1976 Arcade Game Death Race was one of the first games to rouse the ire of Moral Guardians, due to its gameplay that has you driving a car and running down pedestrians for points. And did we mention this was in the '70s, and the pedestrians were represented as blocky, monochrome stick figures with no blood whatsoever? Amazing how standards change...
  • "Lust, violence, betrayal. Dragon Age: rated M for mature." That was the entirety of an ad on this site for Dragon Age: Origins. You'd think they'd at least say what genre the game is. They also call this a "Dark fantasy epic". While it actually is dark in that it's Darker and Edgier than some other games (in that not everyone gets a happy ending), dark also seems to mean sexual themes (including some rather... deviant ones at that), several characters spewing innuendos, blood spattering everywhere, and sometimes strict laws forbidding primary colors in Ferelden. One could easily have given the game a "T" rating if they even made everyone not become an utter blood magnet. One of the ads actually used the Marilyn Manson song "This is the New Shit" ("sex, sex, sex, and don't forget the violence") while displaying all the bloodiest scenes, implying this is what the entire game is about.
  • An article promoting The Lord of the Rings: War in the North in PlayStation Magazine had the fact that the developers were aiming for an M rating plastered all over the article like it was all that mattered.
  • Despite the fact that it did create a rather nice atmosphere, American McGee's Alice has some of this trope. Alice goes insane from a tragedy, and "insane" in this case means "Incredible cynicism, nightmarishly scary, gore, skeletal cats, and Darker and Edgier" - Again, it is quite atmospheric, and genuinely dark in many ways, but some of the ads seemed to emphasize that this is not the Lighter and Softer version of Alice we had grown up with, more than what kind of game this was.
  • Averted with Sands of Destruction, where in Japan there isn't a stigma around their "E"-equivalent games as being "Just for kids and kids only!". The original script of the game actually had the Beastmen eat humans instead of lording over them, and was much "darker". So what's the aversion? The writers actually toned down some parts specifically to avoid an "M"-equivalent rating, that way it would be available to a wider audience. They didn't tone it down entirely, it's still rated "T", which is the "PG-13" equivalent for video games.
  • Downplayed with Shadow Hearts... at least the first game, which was a bit more serious than the second and third games. Sort of being like Koudelka still, the game did have a rather dark atmosphere, but it did seem a little like the introduction was "Let's go for an 'M' rating!", as there's nothing like Yuri reattaching severed arms or Roger Bacon reaching through people's chests beyond that scene. The rest of the game could still get away with an 'M' rating, though, as there are plenty of innuendos.
  • The Prince of Persia franchise made a triumphant comeback in 2003 with The Sands of Time, which introduced a witty but naive new Prince that players loved. The game had a few disturbing bits but was mostly child-friendly. Then came the sequel, Warrior Within, which ramped up the rating to M — by adding gushers of blood, foul language, sadomasochistic enemies, and a Prince embittered and hardened by running for his life for seven years. One of the most blatant cases of this trope on record. (Series creator Jordan Mechner, who had a hand in Sands of Time, has been vocal about his disapproval of Ubisoft's sequels.)
    • Strangely, The Two Thrones was also rated M, even though it was more on the level of Sands of Time. Rumor was that it was based on content that was changed before release, which seems to be the case as the Wii/PSP port, Rival Swords, is rated T despite being almost the exact same game, which makes it rather odd that the PS3-exclusive HD remaster retained its M rating.
  • Averted with Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Hideo Kojima actually toned the game down to achieve a T rating, so the game would be more accessible to younger gamers. He was particularly upset about losing a scene of Electric Torture which the Japanese rating board refused to allow on their equivalent of a T. It received a T in the US with the torture scene; however, the game still received a 15 in the UK and a PEGI 18 rating in the rest of Europe.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is a strange invocation of this trope, however. Due to the sequence in which the player listens to a person being raped, the game, by all accounts, SHOULD'VE gotten an "AO" rating by the ESRB.
  • Soldier of Fortune. What's wrong with a game where you can blow people's limbs off and splatter their guts and brains?
  • Tomb Raider:
    • The 2013 Tomb Raider game is the first in the series to be rated "M", shifting the focus to a Resident Evil-type survival-horror, as opposed to the puzzle-based platforming action-adventure formula which was a big part of the earlier Tomb Raider games' success. The 2013 game, however, does feature graphic and gruesome death sequences (for Lara!), and a greater emphasis on killing human enemies than (most of) the older games, providing additional justification of the M rating. ** There were some complaints that certain deaths in the Crystal Dynamics-created trilogy (Legends, Anniversary and Underworld) are sanitized compared to their earlier equivalents; according to the Anniversary developer commentary, this is because of changing standards in the ratings board compared to when the original games were made. The higher rating for the 2013 game resulted in a degree of fans being pleased.
  • Many of Atlus's titles are M rated, but surprisingly very mature in topic matter. Even the sex-laden Catherine is quite serious in its themes about infidelity, crossroads of life, and sexuality. They score very well with critics to this day.
    • This aspect is only true in the United States. Quite a few of Atlus's games received a lower age rating in other countries, such as the Persona 3 games getting a 12+ rating and Nocturne getting a 7+ rating. Both of these games are rated M in the United States, most likely for the rather dark themes throughout the games ("These games do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Atlus USA employees" is even shown around the opening screen or upon beginning a new game). Some of their games deserve the M rating, but for some it doesn't make much sense. Atlus states that the M rating is also because of religious themes. Understandable as religion is a very volatile subject in America. Contrary to popular belief, the recurring demon Mara is not why some of their games receive the M rating.
      • Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth and its sequel both received M ratings, making them the only non-mainline Persona games to do so until Strikers. This is despite having a chibi art style and being far tamer than any other game in the franchise. It's especially egregious considering that the rhythm games have extremely sexualized outfits for the female characters, while the Arena titles are more violent in nature due to being fighting games, all with an art style similar to the main games to boot, yet all are rated T. The fact that they are two of only around 20 or so M-rated games on the Nintendo 3DS doesn't help.
      • Persona 5 Strikers has very little reason to have an M rating. The mature subjects of the main game are heavily downplayed, no characters die on screen, the combat consists of Bloodless Carnage, and the tone is far lighter than the title it spawned from. Aside from some sexual references and swearing (including one Precision F-Strike), it would've undoubtedly received a T rating. The fact that it received a B rating in Japan, equal to T or E10+, doesn't help its case.
  • Shadow the Hedgehog probably would've gotten an E rating (or at least a lower-end E10+) were it not for the half-dozen mild swears punctuating every other remark throughout the script and insertion of realistic-looking guns (there's still only Alien Blood, however, and you can't kill any of the human enemies, only incapacitate them), apparently just to secure a higher rating. Ironically, the game was originally aiming for a T rating, but when the ESRB decided to implement E10+, the game was toned down to meet that rating. To this day, however, there are still quite a few people who are surprised that it didn't get a T rating.
  • Rabbids Go Home: Originally rated a PEGI 7 rating, within a few weeks, copies of the game wore a PEGI 12 rating. Most likely for the same reason Shadow the Hedgehog was bumped up to a 12: casual cursing.
  • Saints Row, especially the third game: You know you have a hell of a game when a giant dildo as a weapon is one of the tamer things about it.
  • Saints Row IV used "The Game That Australia Didn't Want You to Play" in some of its advertising, referring to it being refused classification in Australia.
  • During standard gameplay, Vanquish is not very violent at all. A couple of Red Shirts take a bullet through the campaign but otherwise, your prime targets are all Mecha-Mooks. The game is rated 'M', however, because of a fair amount of swearing and some gruesome deaths for humans during the cinematics (particularly in the opening).
  • Tales of Phantasia is more or less "T" rated at worst; however, the Fan Translation group DeJap thought it would have been more interesting if they had made it a bit more "M" rated, so they peppered the translation with unnecessary sex jokes and swears. People actually cried that the Game Boy Advance version was bowdlerized, when there weren't any sex jokes or swears to bowdlerize in the first place. Some of the sex jokes (most infamously the scene where Arche has a sex dream about Cress) existed in the original. The Fan Translation just made them a hell of a lot less subtle.
  • There were a slew of terrible Atari 2600 games which featured outright sex acts with completely nude characters. Presumably the selling point was juvenile humor and licentiousness. The most infamous and offensive of these, Custer's Revenge, showed General George Custer walking up to a Native American woman and raping her while under arrow fire. Points are awarded for doing the deed. It caused a storm of outrage when it was released.
  • The Full Motion Video boom of the early 1990s produced the "mature" and overtly voyeuristic games Night Trap (which bore the pre-ESRB MA-17 rating) and Voyeur (which opened with a content lock-out screen). The M-rated Phantasmagoria, with its well-publicized rape scene, produced record sales for Sierra. The 11th Hour, a sequel to The 7th Guest, had its script published as a book, revealing the plan to include a sex scene, but the final game as released didn't include the scene (though it still featured some suggestive FMV material).
  • Banner ads for Wartune had the tagline "Adult Gamers Only" (which one could tell meant "Male Gamers Only" judging from the images alone, though other ads said exactly that), and falsely carried the ESRB AO rating.
  • Splatterhouse for the TurboGrafx-16 carried this unattributed quote on the cover (though the suggested age restriction was only "10 years and up"):
    "The horrifying theme of this game may be inappropriate for young children... and cowards."
    • Splatterhouse 3 was advertised as "the kind of game rating systems were invented for." (It received an MA-13 rating.)
    • The 2010 game goes out of its way to crank up the gore throws in some nude pictures of Jennifer. In-Universe, the Terror Mask lampshades this trope:
    See? This is the type of shit that got us an M-Rating.
  • Duke Nukem Forever has an ESRB rating that reads more like an ad than a warning. Oddly enough, the marketing for Duke Nukem 3D didn't exploit content ratings to advertise the game's gratuitous sex and violence, though a beta version did display the RSAC advisory warning upon startup.
  • The "Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2" ad campaign was made under this exact mindset. The ad garnered both criticism and praise when it first aired but is now seen retrospectively as a misfire due to its blatant sexism and Misaimed Marketing.
  • Averted with Batman: Arkham Knight. Word of God says that, despite this being the first game in the series to receive a rating higher than Teen, they weren't actively trying for it and were shocked when the ESRB gave it an M rating.
    • The series' next (and so far last) title, Batman: Arkham VR, also received an M rating, though considering that it's a virtual reality game that involves Batman solving a murder, it seems that the rating was inevitable this time.
    • The Batman: Arkham Collection compilation, whether intentionally or not, plays this trope completely straight. Despite containing the previously T-rated Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, the bundle carries a straight M rating rather than the multi-rating (e.g. T-M, E-E10+) that most game compilations with different rated titles in them carry. It's possible that the inclusion of Knight, which in and of itself is barely more violent than the others due to Asylum and City being pretty hard Ts, was enough to bump the rating up, or that the ESRB didn't bother due to the collection's abrupt release.
  • If a game gets a lot of attention and money for being rated M, then surely getting it even higher to AO (adults only) will make it sell even better, right? Wrong. Like the "No Cash" NC-17 rating for movies, getting an AO is a death sentence because most retailers refuse to put an AO rated game on their shelves in order to avoid problems with minors and most major publishers will also refuse to publish a game that has an AO rating in order to protect their own reputation. For a game to get an AO rating, there has to be pornographic material in the game or extremely graphic violence. Since most businesses don't deal with porn, a game that gets an AO rating will sell very poorly, if at all. M is the magic threshold that lets game studios be able to sell to the general masses without getting into any complications and some studios try to see how far they can stretch that M rating. This applies to physical distribution of games whereas digital only games have far less hoops to jump through.
  • Thoroughly averted by Overwatch, which is one of the biggest and most successful new gaming IPs in years, made by a Triple A company, and has gone out of its way to maintain the clean, colorful, and comparatively optimistic tone you might expect from its Pixaresque aesthetic. The fan art, on the other hand...
  • The Orion Conspiracy has "CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE" in big letters right next to the rest of the game's selling points on the front of the box. While played straight in the UK with the 18+ rating, it only got a T rating from the ESRB.
  • Averted with Roundabout, in which the developers were baffled by the M-rating the game got. The rating was for its blood (which is nothing more than splashes of red and no gore, though in admittedly high quantity) and for use of drugs (No Goblin assured that what the protagonist eats are candy, although drug-related jokes and lampshading are made).
  • Subverted with Jazzpunk Directors Cut, which has an ESRB rating of T but contains inappropriate content descriptors so overly long you'd swear it's supposed to be attached to an M rated game or that the developers also wanted the rating to be an anti-joke that would stick out compared to the other games out that week to gain purchases.
  • The indie game Electronic Super Joy practically marketed itself on being one of the very few M-rated platformers. However, once you actually look into the game, it's quite obvious that the rating was earned solely based on language and mature humor, as blood and gore is completely absent and violence is virtually nonexistent. Just to give you an idea of how easy it would have been to avoid the rating, when the game was released on the Wii U, the game was toned down due to concerns over whether it would sell on the eShop due to its rating, and all that was changed was censoring the dirty phrases, and its rating skipped T and plummeted all the way down to E10+.
  • There really isn't a good reason at all for Furi to have an M rating; while the game is pretty violent, bloodshed is almost completely nonexistent, the art style is extremely colorful, and there really aren't any mature themes to found whatsoever. The fact that far more violent indie games have gotten lower ratings makes its rating even more baffling. Bar the occasional F-bomb, it probably would have gotten a T rating at most. It doesn't help at all that initial trailers for the game actually did list it as being rated T, making it seem like the F-word was added in solely to boost the rating.
  • Inverted with BloodRayne: Betrayal; considering how violent and gory the game is, it's genuinely mind-blowing that the game got away with a T rating. It's actually even more violent than its predecessors, which both received M ratings.
  • The Onechanbara series prides itself on containing as many stereotypical "M-rated" tropes as humanly possible. Scantily clad attractive women with extremely sexualized outfits (including DLC outfits that make the characters practically nude), gratuitous violence, blood and gore bordering on fetishistic at times, swearing... the only thing it's really missing is drugs and sex.
  • BMX XXX shows how this trope can backfire. Originally the third installment in the Dave Mirra's Freestyle BMX series, Acclaim mandated that the game ramp up its sexual content in a desperate attempt to bring interest in the game and save the company from its deep financial woes. This backfired hard in two ways. First, Dave Mirra was understandably not happy to discover that his name was suddenly attached to a game that was being promoted as softcore porn and sued Acclaim to have his name removed, which meant the game lost its endorsement and association with a successful franchise. Second, making the game Rated M for Money not only made retailers wary of stocking the game, but it also did a great job of locking out kids and teenagers who may have otherwise bought the game, while the Fratbro demographic Acclaim was seemingly chasing didn't really exist in any capacity worth sacrificing your younger fans for. The end result was a game that earned mixed critical reviews, was largely shunned by players, and did absolutely nothing to save Acclaim, who went out of business shortly afterwards.
  • Undertale, true to form, parodied it when the game was ported to the Xbox One (generally positioned as a console for mature players). The port is mostly identical to the original, but features an interactive casino in an optional area quite far off the beaten path just so the game would be pushed over to a 13+ rating—which Toby Fox was sure to highlight on his Twitter account. Averted in that the port still received the same E10+ rating as before.
  • Falling Fred was advertised being "RATED 'S' for SICK people ONLY!" and featuring "Gore Galore". Ironically, the game never got past 12+ rating on the App Store and Google Play despite its pretty gratious use of blood and body dismemberment, though it didn't go much further than that. The sequels featured similar level of violence, but had the ability to turn it off and were rated even lower (9+).

    Visual Novels 
  • When mature-rated stories first appeared in Choices: Stories You Play, this is the perception of most fans, as the game is targeted towards straight female romance fans, and these stories include considerably more sexual content than other stories, which garnered criticism from some fans, especially non-romance fans.

    Web Animation 
  • Lobo (Webseries) is the very first DC adult cartoon and uses the advantages of the TV-MA rating such as strong language, sex and graphic violence.