Surprising Swear Words in Game Translations

66 Comments

Swearing and profanity in video games is nothing new, but sometimes it pops up when you least expect it. And when it pops up in games translated from Japanese, the result can be unintentionally confusing and/or funny.

The topic comes up a lot, so I’ve started gathering examples of unexpected, surprising, or out-of-character swearing from official game translations.

Of course, what’s considered a swear word greatly varies from region to region and person to person. In general, this swear word list seems on par with what game publishers consider swearing. (ESRB example, PEGI example)

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber

The Nintendo 64 was often derided as being a “kiddie system”, but this game was anything but kiddie. Swearing supposedly happened so often in Ogre Battle 64 that I dismissed it as an online rumor for years. But after just half an hour of playing, I encountered so many swears that I stopped counting. I’d love to see what other colorful phrases this translation includes!

Download (PC Engine)

Download was only released in Japan, but it featured a lot of English text anyway. The multiple game over screens are unintentionally funny for native English speakers! You can see the full list of bad English from Download here.

EarthBound (Super NES)

EarthBound uses the word “crap” a few times in the game, which was a little surprising for some players at the time. There’s long been argument over whether or not “crap” is actually a bad word, so a few years ago I asked Twitter followers for their opinions. As I expected, the poll results were divided, but I personally recall that it was considered the tamest of bad words at the time but there was still a lot of pushback from certain groups.

At the very least, these “craps” in EarthBound seemed very out of character for Nintendo of America to include, given the company’s strict content policies in the 1990s. Nowadays, it seems almost quaint to bring it up!

Mega Man series

I don’t know how common it is, but the Mega Man series has had at least two examples of unexpected swearing:

Other Surprise Swearing

Some games only have rare instances of unexpected swearing, so I’ve bundled them into the gallery below.

Know Any More?

I’d like to continue to add to this gallery over time, so let me know if you can think of anything else that belongs here. It especially helps if you can provide a nice-quality screenshot too, but not necessary. Thanks for your help, dammit!

If you enjoyed this, check out Legends of Localization Book 1: The Legend of Zelda, my book dedicated to the very first Zelda translation and how it has affected every Zelda game since! (free preview PDF )
66 Comments
  1. Gynoug (Genesis)
    http://www.vgmuseum.com/end/genesis/a/gynoug.htm

    Check the “Hyper, Second Run” image.

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    1. Haha that’s so great, if I post it here out of context it won’t be nearly as funny so I’ll definitely link to your page 😛

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      1. By the way, this game is the predecessor to Cho Aniki. Nice little bit of trivia.

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  2. I actually emailed you about this in 2014. I’ve found a lot of Japanese games with swear words in English (usually in the ending), unfortunately I don’t remember them all anymore.

    Here’s another one, for the MSX
    https://tcrf.net/D%27_%28MSX2%29

    CTRL+L and search for the F word. This one is not featured in-game though, but in a hidden document found inside the actual physical disc.

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  3. Where the heck was that Zelda one? I put over 200 hours into that game and i definitely don’t remember that.

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    1. Same here. Never noticed it.

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    2. I believe you can see it if you talk to him after landing on the bird temple but before completing it. I only played it in Japanese myself so I don’t recall the details of the conversation.

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  4. Breath of Fire II – When you go to Highfort and talk to the guard, Sten says “The hero of Goonheim is Trubo…….. He fought to the end at that battle field of hell.” I’m not sure if hell is a swear in this context, but it’s still not something most people would expect to get past Nintendo censorship.

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  5. Bionic Commando on the NES, of course – http://elitecoder.com/bionic/damnfool.gif

    Given how super-conservative NES censors were, this is one of the most surprising.

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    1. Oh my god I can’t believe I forgot that one

      Thanks for the reminder, I’ll add it in the next round of pic updates!

      Reply
  6. I recall that in Phantasy Star Online Episodes 1 & 2 for the Gamecube, the game had a very restrictive profanity filter, but there was an online quest in which a random NPC would tell you to “Eat shit and die”.

    Unfortunately, I can’t find any screenshots of it, and I don’t know if it’s even possible to see that any more since it was in an online quest…

    Reply
    1. Oh man, that would be so good to get a pic of 🙁 Dang these cra*py online server games that go down for good!

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      1. There’s lots of good private servers which you can play PSO1Ep1&2 Gamecube.

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        1. That’s a good point, it may be possible to still find this. I think the name of the quest was “Towards the Future” and it was just one of the random NPCs standing around on the ship who says it, but I don’t have access to my DC w/ PSOv2 or GC w/ Ep1&2 at the moment, and I’m not sure if that quest existed in later versions of the game… (and if it did, they may have censored it by that point)

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  7. there’s a lot of instances of “damn” here! actually, I’ve never known damn to be a swear word and maybe that’s why it shows up so many times? maybe back when these came out it would have felt more serious, haha

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    1. I dunno if there’s like some agreed on comparison chart or anything, but in my mind “damn” is like one of the core words that sort of acts as the foundation/keystone for all the other ones we know, probably because of the idea that swearing and religion are so connected.

      Or, like if you did that 9 grid chart of chaotic good, neutral good, etc., then “damn” would probably be right in the middle I feel. But as we’ve seen with “crap”, everyone has different tiers for different phrases it seems.

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      1. true enough, I am not religious in the slightest so for the majority of my life I actually had no idea it was a religious thing in the first place!

        I don’t know if this page is only talking about *licensed* game translations, but who could forget all the swearing in “Pokémon Diamond” (the Telefang bootleg). that sure was quite the shock to play as a kid!

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        1. Shit! Remember it!

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  8. There is, of course, the infamous D.K. Rap, which kicked up a world of controversy with the line “this Kong’s one hell of a guy:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npuuTBlEb1U

    It was translated from the British. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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    1. And of course, when they did that lame cover for Smash Bros. Melee, it was changed to “one heck of a guy”. Showing that they damn well gave a crap about mild cursing at some point.

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      1. Sorry, but ‘Kongo Jungle’ isn’t as good as the ‘DK Rap’ or the ‘CG Rap’ says SilvaGunner. There isn’t even a clear acapella of it anywhere. Fuck ‘Kongo Jungle’. – SiivaGunner

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        1. What in the world is a SiivaGunner?

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          1. A Youtube artist group.

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  9. “Swearing happens so often in Ogre Battle 64 that I dismissed it as an online rumor for years.”

    What did you dismiss as an online rumor?

    Reply
    1. “Ogre Battle 64 is a rumor!!! It’s not real!!!”

      Actually good catch, I was hoping nobody would pick on my poor grammar there 😛

      Reply
  10. You’re right about BotW, Teba has the honor of being the first character to swear in a Zelda game. Pretty interesting for a 30 year old series, eh?

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  11. Ah, there is of course the infamous Metal Gear password “FUCKM E1111 11111 11111 11111” that brings you to the final boss with no gear. I’m given to understand this password was the reason why subsequent NES games never featured vowels in the password screens — I guess Nintendo got a complaint or two about it!

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  12. Its minor stuff, but you can find usage of curse words like “damn” and “hell” in the Mega Man Battle Network games, as well as some alcohol usage. Although those kind of curse words are rather tame, it was still somewhat surprising to me at the time given the games are rated E. Maybe Nintendo’s censorship had loosened up a bit by the early 2000’s.

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  13. It’s mentioned already but I want to second the unusual swearing in Battle Network. I specifically remember the second game in the series having several instances of crap and damn.

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  14. There’s Kefka of course but I’m pretty sure you’re already familiar with that one 😀

    https://legendsoflocalization.com/son-of-a-submariner-kefkas-famous-line-in-detail/

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  15. The one I loved the most, combined with broken English, is Cell’s “Holly shit!” in DragonBall Z 2.

    http://www.vgmuseum.com/end/arcade/d/dbz2goh.htm

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    1. Cell says “oh shit” in the German dub of Z. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v55t5jnhz5s

      Also, at one point in the FUNimation dub of Kai, Goku calls the population of earth “dumbasses”. Not a surprise in itself since the dub had a lot of mild swearing like that, but it’s still kinda hilarious coming from Goku.

      Reply
      1. Really? This I need to hear. XD

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      2. To be fair, Goku said “Baka yarou!” in Japanese, so it’s a fair enough way to go, especially because the Earthlings were being major idiots.

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  16. There’s a few in Fire Emblem Heroes. I don’t know what it’s like in the regular games but I wasn’t expecting it in a phone game.

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    1. I don’t remember the specifics of every games, but in Blazing Sword, Hector says “damn” a lot.

      Reply
  17. I’m trying to post several images links, but my post doesn’t appear once I hit send?

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      1. For some reason I can’t post more than one link or else the post will not appear.
        https://lparchive.org/Persona-2-Eternal-Punishment/Update%2021/21-Persona2-20-40.jpg

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          1. How is EP surprising? It takes place in modern times, so it fits with the setting.

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  18. The prologue of Simon’s Quest begins with “Step into the shadows of the hell house”.

    http://www.vgmuseum.com/mrp/intro-cv2.htm

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    1. It’s not cursing, but I always found it odd that Nintendo let Konami write that.

      Reply
  19. There was this Corpse Party article you made a while ago that showed some amonuts of swearing.

    Otherwise, are examples for other languages OK ? Because FFX ‘s French translation have a fair amount of swearing. Maybe more than the English one. I don’t have any clear example right now, but it stuck out to me.

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  20. https://imgur.com/ZQZ1Nk8
    Magical Drop 3 for PS One. Strength’s Dad has a strange line in baby talk.

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  21. Damn isn’t a swear word lol

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    1. It is to Ned Flanders Christians, sadly lol.

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  22. There’s a beta of Final Fight 3 that contains the word “bastards” in the intro. In the released version, “bastards” was replaced with “maniacs”.

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  23. I don’t know if this counts or not because on the one hand, it’s a T-rated game, but on the other hand, it’s a first-party Nintendo title, but Xenoblade Chronicles 2 had swear words, like “bitch,” “arse,” and “shit.”

    I’ve also read that the Fire Emblem games had used the word “damn” a couple times.

    Reply
  24. Riveting stuff! Also, I must say that Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil on PS2 had one particular scene during the late part of the game after defeating Leorina. During the cutscene, she actually says “Damn it, damn it all!”, which really caught me off guard first time when I played it, because I wasn’t expecting a swear word in a E+ rated game! Other than that, the English localization in that game was pretty good.

    Here’s a screenshot (sorry for crappy quality: I had to grab this from a longplay): https://i.imgur.com/09SxSlj.jpg

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  25. I can definitely say Lufia: The Legend Returns has one of the most awful alphabet soup messes for a translation ever. Natsume’s loser staff have clearly never attended a single English class in their lives.

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  26. When you mentioned the Mega Man series, I remembered that X drops a “damn” during the ending when he encounters that dead end when fleeing from the Sigma Virus. Right before the Zero/Doppler branching ending.

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  27. It’s a T rated game, but Atelier Totori has a character named Cordelia who at one point in the game says: ”Don’t give me that crap! I keep telling you to stop acting like a frightened squirrel at work!” Sure, like most games in the Atelier series, Atelier Totori is a T rated game, but it’s a colorful T rated game, I mean…it’s an Atelier game, the graphics are colorful and the soundtrack is catchy and kiddy at times, that’s not all, Atelier Totori: Adventurer of Arland doesn’t even have a content descriptor that says ”Language” or ”Mild Language”, only the ”Plus” version on the PS Vita has ”Language” as one of its content descriptors. The ESRB says that there are more swear words in other Atelier games, supposedly the word ”shit” appears both in Atelier Rorona and Atelier Firis, and in Atelier Sophie the word ”bastard” appears in the dialogue.
    It should be mentioned that because of the fact that most Atelier games have an english dub, one should be able to clearly listen to some swear words in the game (if you play with english voices).

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  28. Tactics Ogre, a spin off on PS1 (also translated by Atlus, just like Ogre Battle 64), also have some swearing if you’re interested. Cant remember how many time Kachua’s called a bitch in this game since it happens quite often…

    https://youtu.be/63MpsYO0JWo?t=8m9s
    There’s also that berserker character who calls her a bitch and tells her he’s gonna bang her right off the bat. Pretty messed up for a a Teen ERSB game !

    Reply

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