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.
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!
Check the “Hyper, Second Run” image.
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 😛
By the way, this game is the predecessor to Cho Aniki. Nice little bit of trivia.
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
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.
Where the heck was that Zelda one? I put over 200 hours into that game and i definitely don’t remember that.
Same here. Never noticed it.
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.
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.
Hell used in that context has nothing to do with profanity, but refer to an unpleasant place. But since “hell” other than a profane word often have religious connotations, Nintendo of America until 1994 (when its censorship policy ended) would have not allowed it.
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.
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!
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…
Oh man, that would be so good to get a pic of 🙁 Dang these cra*py online server games that go down for good!
There’s lots of good private servers which you can play PSO1Ep1&2 Gamecube.
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)
It’s part of the online quest Gallon’s/Garon’s Treachery. The full line is:
“Hmm. You hunters have it easy! Gadding around everywhere! Why do think I gave
you that gate usage permit for anyway? If you’ve got time to loaf around in a
place like this then… Get on back to Ragol and eat shit and die!”
Here’s an ancient screenshot I found. http://i43.photobucket.com/albums/e358/VanGarrett/PSO-Cussing-Soldier.jpg
The quest should still be on servers like sylverant and ephinea.
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
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.
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!
Shit! Remember it!
Maybe I can give some context coming from a religious household.
As an exclamation, eg. “Damn!” or “Damnation!”, it is fairly mild, though frowned upon.
As a command, eg. “Damn you!”, it is deadly serious and near the top of the chart.
If this seems strange to you, keep in mind you are effectively saying, “May the LORD God condemn you to burn in Hell for all eternity.” This is not only a very mean thing to say to someone, but also presuming to tell God what to do.
I apologize for using such harsh language, but feel it was needed to be clear.
You should an article on how Japanese characters swear.
In English I can think of 5 basic categories of swearing (though mixing and matching is common):
I. Blasphemy / other religious
II. Bodily functions / anatomy / gross (“shit” etc)
III. Family Honor (“Your mother/sister…” )
IV. Illness (“Blind”, “Lame”, “Dumb”, etc)
V. Diminutive words for foreigners (You can think of plenty without my help)
I am almost sure the Japanese don’t have categories I. or V. and they may have others we don’t.
Maybe a good benchmark would be how the famous line from ‘The Exorcist’ was translated there?
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.
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.
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
What in the world is a SiivaGunner?
A Youtube artist group.
“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?
“Ogre Battle 64 is a rumor!!! It’s not real!!!”
Actually good catch, I was hoping nobody would pick on my poor grammar there 😛
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?
If a series that appeals to older gamers like The Legend of Zelda contain blood and suggestive themes (e.g. large breasted or scantly-clad females), then it should not be surprised that Breath of the Wind will have a character use mild profanity. Did the more recent Zelda games starring adult Link are rated “T” by the ESRB?
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!
Since I’m on a deep dive into SNK’s 90s translations, I’ll throw in some Fatal Fury screenshots.
Fatal Fury, arcade. Terry (and Andy, they share lines) drop a “damn it” when meeting Geese: https://i.imgur.com/6YFSlq1.png
Since I don’t consider “damn” to be a major swear it doesn’t feel that surprising to me, but considering the line right before it is this: https://i.imgur.com/HaAtrs2.png
…it stands out a bit more.
The first two Fatal Fury games have noticeably straighter translations than the later ones, so the “holy cow” is weird for the game but not the franchise. I can’t think of many swears after FF1; SNK punched up their scripts a lot but usually went for bizarre insults (melonhead, eunuch, weenie, dweebenheimer) over cursing.
There is something interesting in Fatal Fury Special. Axel has this line, which is a fairly reasonable translation: https://i.imgur.com/M1djpzJ.png
Then Geese has this one: https://i.imgur.com/4yO5NhE.png
“I’ll throw you down to hell” or similar is such a cliche anime villain line it’s kind of weird to see them working around it, especially when Axel gets to talk about hell without any problems. Fatal Fury Special is one of the first games where SNK really started with their…distinctive localization style, which just adds more questions to the pile.
Then I forget which Neo Geo Pocket Color game this one is from (I really want to say Match of the Millennium but don’t quote me), but I think it’s definitely some surprising swearing: https://78.media.tumblr.com/0fe793d3c52a1864a508338dc6ddf0fb/tumblr_ope1mxyzO51qd9g7oo1_400.png
Haha, when I wrote this article I didn’t anticipate comments getting flagged left and right.
And oh man yeah, that GOD EXCREMENT one is one I’ve been wanting to get my own pic of for years, I just need to figure out how to get Neo Geo Pocket emulation working.
Easy, download NeoPocott or NeoPop. Or, download Bizhawk which is a multi-system emulators with many great options to make it easier to capture screenshots.
Yeah, I was pretty amused to find my comment censored for profanity in a thread about censorship and profanity. 😀
So many people swearing it up in the comments!
Someday I’ll get to NGPC investigation. All of them seem to be in a very different translation style from the regular Neo Geo, which is interesting in its own right. I really wish SNK credited its translators…
Oh, but thinking about it…Terry does swear in Japanese side materials, and pretty harshly too! See this FF2 comic: https://78.media.tumblr.com/934aa82abb3b153d949a588d7cd93520/tumblr_os0ra0XjmG1ulp8mfo9_540.jpg
Courtesy of videogamedensetsu, from this post: http://videogamesdensetsu.tumblr.com/post/162175148300/fatal-rury-2-aka-garou-densetsu-2
And this site has an official backstory for Mai with Terry also saying “shit”: http://you.lolipop.jp/s/ff/2/mai.html
I dunno where that guy got the story from, but it seems legit…
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.
Were the Battle Network games released before the ESRB introduced the E10+ rating? Mild language would fit in with the E10+ rating. As for Nintendo’s censorship, it was loosened up when the ESRB rating system debuted in 1994.
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.
There’s Kefka of course but I’m pretty sure you’re already familiar with that one 😀
The one I loved the most, combined with broken English, is Cell’s “Holly shit!” in DragonBall Z 2.
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.
Really? This I need to hear. XD
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.
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.
I don’t remember the specifics of every games, but in Blazing Sword, Hector says “damn” a lot.
Since the recent Fire Emblem games (such as Fire Emblem Heroes) contain content that are not appropriate for young children (blood, large breasted women, and homosexual and bisexual relationships between some characters), it should not be surprised that some characters will use profanity.
Don’t know if these count:
I’m trying to post several images links, but my post doesn’t appear once I hit send?
Don’t know if these count:
Don’t know if these count:
For some reason I can’t post more than one link or else the post will not appear.
How is EP surprising? It takes place in modern times, so it fits with the setting.
The prologue of Simon’s Quest begins with “Step into the shadows of the hell house”.
It’s not cursing, but I always found it odd that Nintendo let Konami write that.
It is not cursing and it not a religious reference, but it is surprising that Nintendo of America would allow “hell” be shown in the text knowing its censorship policy.
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.
Magical Drop 3 for PS One. Strength’s Dad has a strange line in baby talk.
Damn isn’t a swear word lol
It is to Ned Flanders Christians, sadly lol.
Actually it is regardless of whether one is religious or not. The word is used to curse people and that makes it a swear word.
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”.
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.
Well, I remember a few:
* One of the Guild-01 games by Level-5 on the 3DS that were released piecemeal digitally in the West. Specifically the one where you manage a shop and can view an in-universe chat app by adventurers commenting about various things. One of them appends to the end of one message in the English version “#FML”
* The French versions of Ace Attorney 3 and 4 had a line, that apparently the translator liked so much he reused it, that was shocking to see in a PEGI 12 game (in fact Capcom/Nintendo delayed the third game so much it was out AFTER the fourth because the game was rated higher than expected…) that says, and I quote, this lawyer disrapaging gem that could have been easily M-rated material: “avocat de mes deux!” I’ll leave you to guess what those “two” mean… it’s not your average damn-to-darn swap either since it’s just as strong in real life.
* The German translation of Link’s Awakening. The original version, not DX (which was rewritten). Vic Ireland would not dare what this guy pulled out. “NIE OHNE KONDOM” among other things.
* Mega Man Battle Network 2… the entirety of it. One such highlight is the whiskey sidequest with some explicit rap for an E rated game. For the later games in the series they went the other way hard, even words like death was off limits.
* The Silver Case recently doesn’t mince words, even what would be considered taboo for recent times in America.
From replaying a bit of 32 bit RPGs in their original version, I think swearing words in official localizations were motivated by wanting to cast aside NoA censorship policies (and it was also Sega of America’s policies too, but to a lesser known degree) and publishing a “raw” “uncensored” translation, even if that meant making up what would be normally censored. The anime fansubber swear syndrome but in a “professional” context. Even attitudes like “edgy” Squall in FF8 are only in the English version alone as well, to make it appeal to teens more.
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
You mean “E10+” rated? In E10+ rated games, mild profanity can found in games. However, the profanity will be less common. The more restrictive the rating (E10+, T, M), the more profanity will be found.
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.
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.
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).
Do not assume that the ESRB content descriptor will provide everything objective about a game, as I have seen games that contain objective content that their content descriptor fails to mention. The descriptor only lists the objective content that are commonly found in a game, and leave out ones that are not. For example, in the M-rated game Dante’s Inferno, while the content descriptor mentions it contains violence and nudity, it fails to mention that the game did contain scenes where characters used mild curse words. Because the use of mild curse words were rarely used in Dante’s Inferno, “Mild Language” did not appear in the content descriptor.
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…
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 !
In Luigi’s Mansion, Professor E. Gadd uses the word bugger as does Toadsworth in Mario Party 7. I’m guessing the word isn’t as big a deal in America but in the UK, it seems unusually strong, especially for Toadsworth who is essentially as British a Toad as you can get. I wonder if bugger is still used in Luigi’s Mansion 3DS?
Another one which isn’t swearing but was seen as hugely offensive was the word spastic in Mario Party 8 which is absolutely not accepted in the UK. I wondered at first why the game got delayed by 2 weeks before finding out the reason. Oops.
“Bugger” is a super weird case in the North America, though younger people who are more exposed to British media tend to understand the problem with it.
Despite “bugger” being an explicitly sexual word for quite a long time, it’s like it got dropped in most of NA and reconstituted: For instance, I grew up in Canada with my mom calling some things or people “buggers” as like, a very mild insult, particularly suggesting that the thing was bothersome, or “bugged” her, and I believe I’ve seen this sort of usage in other instances by U.S. Americans and Canadians.
I wondered as an American why the word “spastic” used in Mario Party 8 is offensive in the United Kingdom until I learned this month that it has to do being a slur for people suffering from cerebral palsy. Slurs and prejorative language like “spastic” have no place anywhere in the world.
•Marine uses “bugger” in Sonic Rush Adventure, leading to the game being rated 12+ (basically T) in PAL regions
•Hades says something along the lines of “How much hell are they planning on raising?” in Kid Icarus Uprising
•One of the food item drops in Miitopia is a hot dog named the “Hell Dog”
When Nintendo Treehouse were working on the localisation of the fifth Legendary Starfy game (known in Japanese as Densetsu no Stafy: Taiketsu! Daiiru Kaizokudan) there was a form of profanity inappropriate for the game that was quickly removed, and gave the team a shock.
Unfortunately the details are vague but I have a suspicion (just a rumour). I covered EN/JP minigame text for the Dumpling Master minigame a long time ago (see https://www.starfywiki.org/wiki/Dumpling_Master ), and noticed if you score 0-9 dumplings in Dumpling Master you get ペッタンコ (Pettanko) in the Japanese version and “Dumpling Chumpling” in the English version. I only know elementary level Japanese, but I wonder if pettanko was the offending word. It could of course have been anything else, considering the series has a good amount of text in it.
According to the article:
“Starfy is a very, very benign sort of chubby little starfish thing that makes his way through relatively easy platforming levels,” Bihldorff said. “And we were playing through it and I remember all of a sudden one of the ancillary characters is like ‘Shit!’ That does not belong in this game!”
ペッタンコ isn’t profanity, but it is the kind of juvenile sexual humor that JP media has a lot of and approximately nobody else on Earth thinks is funny, so localizers do like dropping it. (it means “flat-chested”)
On out of place swearing: The Star Wars Expanded Universe books (several of which are quite good), and games avoid real swear words all the time EXCEPT for “hell” and “damn”, which are thrown around relatively frequently. Mild, but they stand out amongst the fakes (kirffing) and ones given by narration (“Sakhisakh bit out a Noghri curse.”). Why do these two get thrown around when even comparable ones are avoided? Han Solo used both in the original trilogy.
Blue Reflection has at least two instances of ”bitch”, the game also contains one instance of ”crap” (used by the main characher Hinako Shirai, no less), one instance of ”damn”, and two or three instances of ”hell”.
I’ll always be fond of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (GBA) having antagonist Axel promise “a hell of a show!”. It might not be the strongest swear, but it’s quite surprising to hear in a Disney game rated E for Everyone.
It was tragically removed in the PS2 remake, Re:Chain of Memories.