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Useful Notes / Entertainment Software Ratings Board

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The ESRB: Rating and censoring video games since the first Mortal Kombat game came out.

The Entertainment Software Rating(s) Board (or ESRB) is a prominent and well-known ratings system for Video Games. Headquartered in New York City, the ESRB is a volunteer organization that was created in the mid-1990s after Mortal Kombat and Night Trap raised concerns about the content of violent or "mature" video games. Just like the MPAA, the ESRB must review everything — they see a full script, review all art assets, and even play through the game — before they give a final rating, and they'll sometimes revise that rating post-launch if circumstances warrant.

Before adding examples to under the age ratings, there are some points to consider:

  1. ESRB only covers Canada, The United States and Mexico.note  See Media Classifications for systems used in other countries.
  2. ESRB was formed in 1994. Games that were released before that time will not be listed under them. However, there is a chance that they will be listed under them due to Digital Distribution, Compilation Re-release and/or Updated Re-release.
  3. The games they have listed will sometimes not match the titles that TV Tropes has assigned to them. It's a good idea to make sure the game to be added is the same one, and that it's just titled differently.
  4. It is possible to have the same game be given different age ratings. This is because some video games are released across the personal computer, consoles and hand-held devices. Sometimes features have to be removed from differing versions, which decreases the age rating.
  5. ESRB has the word "software" as part of its name. This means that they will check video games, screensavers, visual novels, messenger services and so on.
  6. You can access the ESRB website itself here.

The age ratings that ESRB uses:

    open/close all folders 
    3+ — e C (Early Childhood) 
This rating is aimed at people who are at least three years old. This is why it is termed "Early Childhood".

The eC rating is now unused (since 2018), with only 268 titles having that mark, and most publishers go for an E rating to avoid losing financial viability. Almost every game that has this rating is educational in nature and specifically aimed at children.

    Ages 6+ — E (Everyone) 
Originally known as KA (Kids-Adults) until 1998.

One of the age ratings of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. This rating is aimed at people who are at least 6 years old. This is why it is termed "Everyone".

E used to be K-A (Kids to Adults) until early 1998. It was most likely changed due to the belief that it would be interpreted as being similar to the MPAA's G rating. Regardless, some of the games in this list may have been rated K-A, but still are worth mentioning here.

Note that the Everyone 10+ Rating has only existed from 2005 onward, so some games from before that year that received a straight E back then may have received an E10 under the contemporary system.

Also note that many Sports Games receive this rating, to the point that listing any would take up way too much space to be necessary.

    Ages 10+ — E10+ (Everyone 10+) 

This rating is aimed at people who are at least ten years old. This is why it is termed "Everyone 10+" or "Everyone Ten and Up".

E10+ was introduced in 2005 as an in-between rating similar to the PG rating (in concept, anyway) thanks to Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, which contained a heavy amount of brutal fisticuffs and yet was still harmless in comparison to T-rated games...and yet, Shadow the Hedgehog, a game with gun use and (relatively) heavy cursing that is generally considered to be the least kid-friendly Sonic game, got this rating.

    Ages 13+ — T (Teen) 

Similar to a "PG-13" rating, this rating is aimed at people who are at least 13 years old. This is why it is termed "Teen".

According to the ESRB, T-rated titles "may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language."

Because to the introduction of the E10+ rating in 2005, some older titles on this list (particularly those tied into children's franchises) would not get a T rating if released today, and some have indeed been rerated for updated releases. However, since the ESRB is self-regulated, this is optional, and the T rating is still used on games that could easily get by just to appeal to a wider audience.

Due to the encouragement of all apps being rated by the ESRB through an automated process on Google Play, social networks and non-game apps like Facebook and Netflix officially carry T ratings.

     Ages 17+ — M (Mature) 

    Ages 18+ — AO (Adults Only) 

  • RP (Rating Pending); this is only used in advertising when a game has been submitted but hasn't yet received its final rating. Adding examples is not recommended, because that would cover potentially every game in existence.

Alternative Title(s): ESRB, Early Childhood Rating, Everyone Rating, Everyone Ten And Up Rating, Teen Rating


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