Banned Games of 2023-2024

Three games were banned in Australia between 2023 and 2024.

POSTAL 4: NO REGERTS (2019) and MUGEN SOULS (2012) were first classified under the automated International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system. Manual reviews confirmed both as Refused Classification.

These were followed in March 2024 by SYMPATHY KISS (2024).


Postal 4: No Regerts

Developed by Running With Scissors / 2019 / MobyGames

POSTAL 4: NO REGERTS was banned in Australia under the automated International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system.

Running With Scissors attempted to explain its disappearance from online platforms.

March 7, 2023
#POSTAL4 is coming to PlayStation® on March 21st!
Experience the long awaited sequel to the “Worst Game Ever™” on the PS4™ and PS5™ for the first time ever!
Get ready to experience the new chapter of the POSTAL Dude’s adventures from the comfort of your couch!

March 20
We had to remove it [from PS5/PSN store in Australia] because the ACB refused classification.

March 22
Steam doesnt use IARC…so they only pull games that get banned and the gov of those countries lets them know to pull it (Germany, NZ). Playstation uses IARC, and the IARC refused classification for us, so we will try directly with the ACB but it wont be fast or cheap.

March 24
…it’s an automated refusal via the IARC application. We’re trying to work directly with ACB. So we’ll see.

– Twitter @RWSstudios

Despite putting the idea forward, they did not go on to submit it directly to the Classification Board.

Postal 4: No Regerts (2019) - Game Cover 1
PlayStation 5 Cover

An enquiry revealed the reasons for the IARC decision.

September 2023
On 16 August 2022, the International Age Rating Coalition’s Global Rating Tool (IARC Tool) refused classification to POSTAL 4: NO REGERTS based on the developer disclosing ‘illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards’.

The IARC Tool is an approved classification tool under the ‘Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games)’ Act 1995 (the Act).

When making decisions, the IARC Tool must apply the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012 (the Guidelines). The Guidelines state that ‘illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards’ must be refused classification in Australia.

This means that the computer game cannot be sold, hired, advertised, or imported into Australia.

– Classification Board

The National Classification Database lists the RC decision as 21 March 2023, not 16 August 2022.

Manual review

The Classification Board confirmed the refusal after receiving a number of complaints.

September 28, 2023
There were multiple complaints and enquiries received about the RC rating for POSTAL 4: NO REGRETS. The Board checked this computer game in May 2023 and confirmed the RC rating due to ‘interactive drug use related to incentives and rewards’.

– Classification Board, Annual Report, 2022-2023

The Classification Board’s manual review of POSTAL 4: NO REGERTS warrants its inclusion in the Game Censorship Database.


Mugen Souls

Developed by Idea Factory – Compile Heart / 2012/2023 / MobyGames

In March 2012, NIS America announced a forthcoming PlayStation 3 release of MUGEN SOULS.

Their press release warned, ‘Due to the sensitive nature of some content, NIS America has decided to edit certain aspects of this title for its North American and European releases’.

The problem content was a bathhouse mini-game and over 100 CGs that it unlocks.

In July 2012, the same censored version received an M (Sexualised imagery and sexual references) from the Classification Board.

Mugen Souls (2012) - Game Cover 1
PlayStation 3 Cover

The applicant was Namco Bandai Partners Australia.

Uncut release

In April 2023, the Hong Kong-based Eastasiasoft released the uncut version on Nintendo Switch.

It was banned in Australia under the automated International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system on 26 June. The National Classification Database listed it as ‘Modified’, indicating the original, now removed, IARC rating was lower.

June 28, 2023
Nintendo Switch players, please note that while MUGEN SOULS has recently been delisted in Australia, you can rest assured that it will remain available on the eShop in North America and Europe without content changes.

– Twitter @eastasiasoft

They confirmed the Classification Board had manually checked the original IARC rating and upgraded it to RC. This may be the first instance of a review of an IARC decision resulting in a ban.

July 2, 2023
It was properly reviewed, so it won’t come back. MUGEN SOULS will remain available in other regions and as physical copy.
IARC rated but manually reviewed by ACB which caused the rating update/delisting. Our version is based on the original Japanese release, which differs from previous English releases and is higher rated. (ESRB Mature / PEGI 18).

– Twitter @eastasiasoft

A second IARC RC, on 15 March 2024, replaced the 26 June 2023 decision.

The Classification Board’s manual review of MUGEN SOULS warrants its inclusion in the Game Censorship Database.

Censored sequel

In October 2013, NIS America revealed the sequel, MUGEN SOULS Z (2013), would be coming to PlayStation 3.

Their press release again warned, ‘Due to the sensitive nature of some content, NIS America has decided to edit certain aspects of this title for its North American and European releases’.

Once more, the problem content was the bathhouse mini-game and associated CG images.

In March 2014, the same censored version received an M (Sexualised innuendo and nudity) from the Classification Board.

Mugen Souls Z (2013) - Game Cover 1
PlayStation 3 Cover

The applicant was Bandai Namco Games Australia.

In 2023, Eastasiasoft issued the uncut version on Nintendo Switch. The automated International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system awarded it an RC rating on 14 September.

A second IARC RC, on 10 April 2024, replaced the 14 September decision.

It is unknown if there was a manual review by the Classification Board.


Sympathy Kiss

Developed by Idea Factory – Design Factory / 2024 / MobyGames

In September 2023, SYMPATHY KISS was banned due to implied sexual violence that was visually depicted.

It took until late February 2024 for the decision to appear in the National Classification Database. That coincided with the 27 February Nintendo Switch release.

Sympathy Kiss (2024) - Game Cover 1
Nintendo Switch Cover

The applicant was Reef Entertainment.

The original Japanese version was launched in November 2022.

RC reasons

September 11, 2023
Decision Report

Production Details:
Title: Sympathy Kiss
Alternate Titles:
Publisher: Reef Entertainment
Programmer: Idea Factory
Year of Production: 2023
Version: Original
Country of origin: JAPAN
Language: English
Application Type: Level 2 Gameplay
Applicant: Reef Entertainment

Dates:
Date application received by the Classification Board: 10/08/2023
Date of decision: 11/09/2023

Decision:
Classification: RC
Consumer Advice: The computer game is classified RC in accordance with the National Classification Code, Computer Games Table, 1. (a) as computer games that “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.”

Synopsis:
SYMPATHY KISS is a Japanese first-person, otome romance visual novel game in which the player makes decisions from the perspective of a female character about developing relationships with various male love interests, set in a modern-day office. The game has no online interactivity or in-game purchases.

Reasons for Decision:

In making this decision, the Classification Board has applied the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Classification Act), the National Classification Code (the Code) and the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012 (the Guidelines).

In the Board’s view this game warrants a Refused Classification (RC) classification in accordance with item 1(a) of the computer games table of the Code:

“1. Computer games that:

(a) depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified;” will be Refused Classification.

Further, the Guidelines state that computer games that exceed the R18+ classification category will be RC. In the R18+ classification category “Actual sexual violence is not permitted. Implied sexual violence that is visually depicted, interactive, not justified by context or related to incentives or rewards is not permitted.”

Sexual violence is defined in the list of terms in the Guidelines as “Sexual assault or aggression, in which the victim does not consent.”

The examples described below do not represent an exhaustive list of the content that caused the computer game to be RC for implied sexual violence that is visually depicted.

In one sequence of the game, a depiction of implied sexual violence occurs when a male love interest, YOFY, imposes a non-consensual kiss on the playable female character. This scene features in Episode 03 in the carousel of available YOFY storylines with the interaction taking place in a darkened alley at night. The spoken conversation between the characters is in Japanese while the translation appears in English text in dialogue boxes at the bottom of the screen. The dialogue boxes also contain the female character’s inner monologue, or narration, of her experience.

The interaction commences, when YOFY blames the female playable character for hurting him saying, “Well I’m hurting a lot right now and it’s all your fault”. After which the female playable character describes in her narration, “YOFY locked his hand behind my head and pulled my face closer to his, our eyes level”. YOFY says, “So take responsibility and console me.”

The narration is accompanied by a still image, tightly framed, of YOFY standing over the female playable character, grasping the back of her neck, before the frame tilts upwards to focus on his face in close proximity to hers, implicitly pulling her lips towards his own open mouth, his tongue and teeth both visible. His mouth and tongue are shining which gives the appearance of saliva, or that he is salivating, as a single tear drop is depicted on the female character’s face. Soft piano music accompanies the camera slowly panning along the still image to imply movement. YOFY emits an amorous sigh as the female playable character’s narration says, “I was angry, afraid, and still…Still, the feel of his tongue tracing my lips made my body heat, made me melt…”

The still image suddenly shudders with an audible rustling sound, and the framing of the image widens to reveal YOFY is grasping the female playable character’s wrist, holding her arm away from her body, implying that he is restraining her physically. While there is some ambivalence in the female character’s own feelings towards YOFY, the non-consensual nature of the kiss is further emphasised as she narrates, “When I gasped for air, I came back to my senses and began hitting YOFY’s back”. She continues to describe the interaction saying “His restraining hold never relaxed. In an attempt to resist him, I bit down hard on his lips. I ripped my face away and saw that his lips were smeared with red crimson blood”. She apologises for biting his lip, however YOFY responds darkly, “No. I’m not done”.

The still image abruptly transitions to a tightly framed image of the pair kissing again, implying that YOFY has forced another kiss onto the female playable character, and he emits a quiet, but satisfied grunt. The image shifts, bring focus to a distinct outline of blood visible on YOFY’s open lips and tongue, which drips from the corners of his mouth. The narration notes YOFY has bitten her lip in revenge, and the female payable character further narrates, “The taste of iron spread through my mouth”, implying she could taste the blood drawn from his bite. She describes her fear, saying, “He bit my lip as revenge, and my cry came out as little more than a squeak”. The frame then widens showing the pair in which YOFY is restraining the female playable character’s wrist again. YOFY lets out a soft, unsettling giggle and says, “Hehe … Does it hurt? Poor thing…” The female playable character narrates that YOFY licks the blood on her lips, and he says, “Ahh, I can’t tell which blood is mine and which blood is yours anymore”. YOFY is described at this point as sticking out his, “Blood-soaked tongue” at her with a nefarious smile. The frame shudders again and transitions to a still image of the darkened street with nobody present including YOFY and the female playable character. The female character narration notes that she, “pushed him away with all my strength”.

The sequence concludes with the same still image of the empty, dark alleyway and the sound of running footsteps, implied to be those of the female playable character, accompanied by her narration, noting she is, “Confused, mortified, and terror-stricken” and, “I sprinted home”.

The still image of YOFY while holding the female playable character with blood on his mouth is also shown in the gallery of images. The image can be clicked on, which allows the player to select and revisit through interactivity functionality. When the image is selected, its size increases and the still frame moves to focus on YOFY’s blood-lined mouth, which contributes to the impact of the depiction of implied sexual violence described above.

In the Board’s opinion, the above example constitutes a visual depiction of implied sexual violence and cannot be accommodated within the R18+ classification category and the game is therefore Refused Classification.

Decision:

This game is classified RC with consumer advice of The computer game is classified RC in accordance with the National Classification Code, Computer Games Table, 1. (a) as computer games that “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.”.

– Classification Board report

IARC RC

A second Refused Classification appeared in the National Classification Database on 4 March.

It was an automated International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) tool decision.