Report: Nintendo rejects indie game on religious grounds

Nintendo rejected a 3DS port of indie gaming hit The Binding of Isaac due to its "questionable religious content", reports developer Edmund McMillen. Age-restricted in Germany for 'blasphemy,' according to Wikipedia, the action RPG is available on Steam for PC and Mac. A few minutes with Newsgrounds' in-browser demo may explain what all the fuss is about.


  1. I love The Binding of Isaac, but I can totally understand why Nintendo declined to publish it. It’s a seriously wierd game that pushes just about all the buttons that major publishers don’t want push.

    1. Agreed. I love weird and experimental games but The Binding of Isaac is a seriously dark and disturbing game, so much so that playing it makes me really uncomfortable. I think this is mostly because of the theme of child abuse, not the religious references — I’m a practicing Catholic but I can appreciate art that borrows from and/or turns itself on religion. (Which, as an aside, I’m always kind of shocked how anti-religion BB commenters are, this story being yet another sad example.)

      However I 100% understand why Nintendo wouldn’t want to distribute this game. It’s not because they’re afraid to offend people of faith, it’s because this is a game where your character tries to fight its way out of a locked basement, amid piles of shit, using its tears to battle horrifying monsters of the imagination. Doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of Nintendo’s image. And FWIW there are plenty of other distribution platforms available for this game.

    2.  I’m-a side with Nintendo here. The Binding of Issac is weird, weird, weird, and I understand how it might turn off some people. When I read up about it while I was thinking of purchasing it as part of the Humble Voxatron Bundle, it certainly turned off me. I’m not particularly religious.

  2. Wow, I didn’t know the German ratings agency had a rule about “blasphemy”. There’s no law against it anyway. There is a law that forbids hatespeech against a religion “to create public unrest”, and the catholic church just recently lost a case where they interpreted a blogger calling them a “child-fucker cult” (Kinderfickersekte) as anti-religous hatespeech.

    The ratings agency’s justification (from ): From the genre typical game mechanics a “12+” rating would have been considered, but the biblical theme stood against this: the message has a blasphemous tendency and could affect religious children under 16. The basic idea could be perceived as hurtful or disorienting. Therefore the council’s unanimous decision is a “16+” rating which was reinforced by the constant fighting, blood splatter and general dark atmosphere dominating the game.

      1.  Just a little nitpick: “Sekte” and “Sect” are false friends, kinda, in that the word “Sekte” has extremely negative connotations. The better translation would be “cult”.

        1. Damn. If only you’d said that to me 40 minutes ago. I’ve since been thoroughly chastened by a child-fucking sect member who takes real umbrage at the term “cult”.


    1. the message has a blasphemous tendency and could affect religious children under 16

      How can it be considered blasphemous, when the central thrust of the story is based on the Bible story of Abraham being asked by God to kill his son, Isaac?

      Does that make the Bible blasphemous? Or is it only blasphemy when someone creates a story where the child escapes before the impending murder and defies and fights against God’s (stated) plan for him?

    2. I’m glad they lost that case, because even though they aren’t all child fuckers and molesters, until the church takes responsibility for those who are, and has them prosecuted like any pedophiles should be, they all may as well be fuckers and molesters.  Denying or pretending this behaviour doesn’t exist or that it’s not of utmost importance, makes them all guilty.  Instead of being thrown in jail, where they could get a taste of their own medicine, they get relocated to a different parish.  Nothing good comes out of religion, and anything that is positive, can be attained without it.  You can gather with your neighbours once a week to chat and build friendships, you can meditate and do yoga, but there is no need for brainwashing and worship of some higher being, who is apparently perfect.  If something is perfect it doesn’t need to be worshiped.  It’s all a bunch of contradictions and more violence than this silly game.

      1. The decision was quite interesting, too, because the judges didn’t go the usual route of shooting down the church’s argument that criticising their institution was equal to criticising their religion. Instead they actually argued that the church could be called “child fuckers” because that was a factual statement, and the blogger’s outrage (which prevented him from using more subdued language) was understandable considering the scale of the child fuckery.

  3. Publishers should ban the bible then.  Therein is told a story about a guy named Isaac who just barely avoids being killed by his father, in similar circumstances.

    Looked at the demo. It’s a pretty clever game, too.

    1. Let’s be clear here: Nintendo didn’t ‘ban’ anything.  They declined to sell a version of an established indie game on their download service.  That’s a very different animal.  Nintendo chose (rightfully, I think) to not sell a game that would have probably been problematic for them while and additionally have generated only mild sales, at best.  Nintendo has a brand, and The Binding of Isaac is a poor fit for that brand.  By choosing to publish it on the eShop, Nintendo would have been courting controversy in a way they never have before; if anything, this is a step forward for Nintendo that they even considered and debated it.

      1.  No it is a ban because you have no other option to sell the game. Nintendo controls the platform, they control the hardware, the OS, the software, the channel of distribution and the licensing. If they stop you at any point you are banned from distributing their content because they exhibit full control.

        Stop playing a silly semantics game when you know full well the result of Nintendo’s choice and the power they wield over a console. This isn’t like amazon chosing to not stock a video game, this is like amazon chosing not to stock a videogame and then preventing you from ever purchasing the game for your device.

        There’s a reason we pick on the walled garden of the App store, because it CENSORS and BANS software.

  4. It’s not bad. For the next level of development, though,  I’d recommend a 2-player mode where you could play Isaac or Ismael.

  5. Seriously, it’s astonishing this game hasn’t been ringing alarm bells from coast to coast and working its way into campaign speeches.  Fifteen years ago Valve and Newgrounds would have been plastered all over the news for even considering to keep it around.

    Also, it’s hella fun and I do not doubt that this is excellent publicity for the upcoming expansion.  Whee!

  6. I’ve played (and loved) this game, and in my opinion it takes some very serious issues (religious fanaticism, child abuse, feelings of helplessness and vulnerability) and examines them creatively in a mature fashion. The cartoonish style and humor is actually a way to approach the subject matter that doesn’t make it seem as harsh as it really is… but I think the juxtaposition works in its favor. Deep down, I feel that the game does treat the subject matter seriously.

    There are still too many people who don’t understand that video games – especially indie games like this – can be valid works of art. They still look at video games as nothing more than childish toys… so of course if a game has the courage to touch upon such a hot-button subject as religion, certain people are going to think it is absurd (since they still see it as nothing more than a toy – and what business does a toy have meddling in religious ideas?)

  7. Bring The Binding of Isaac to the Nintendo 3DS 

    The Binding of Isaac has received numerous awards and has hundreds of hours of replayability.This game pays tribute one of Nintendo’s most famous titles Zelda and it coming out would make it possible for more indie games such as Spelunky to hit a wider market. 

    If you think about it’s themes it no different than any other child wandering alone in their own fantasy liken to Link and the Legend of Zelda. As for the religious aspects it’s absurdly or disturbingly over the top tongue in cheekiness makes you forget that it may be poking fun at a religion or a crazy person who hears voices that just happens to be religious 

    1.  Really, I don’t see why this game should come to the 3DS.  The PC version is already not without its technical problems; for some baffling reason it remains mired in Flash 10 and consequently lacks hardware acceleration and other niceties.  A port to a more limited, lower-resolution system would probably only have more problems.

    1.  1. There’s no ban.

      2. This is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone trolling for “likes” on Boing Boing.

      1. I wasn’t trolling for likes, I really couldn’t give a stuff – you miss the point, the game has become popular because of the press it’s getting thanks to Nintendo. I’ve corrected the word ‘ban’ when I clearly meant something else. 

        The worst troll corrects grammar and spelling.

        1. The worst troll corrects grammar and spelling.

          Now you’re just saying mean things to be mean.

          1. Well, I did choose my own Disqus name…so it would appear that the phone call from the serial killer is coming from inside my own head, do to speak.

  8. Nintendo needs to cut this distasteful family-friendly bullshit.  If they’d do ratings or parental locks, that’s fine — but this sort of thing doesn’t exactly make me want to buy another Nintendo product.

  9. Why does Christianity, especially the Evangelicals, lately put so much emphasis on the Old Testament and on Revelations? After they answer that they can explain why they have a problem with The Binding of Isaac.

  10. This is a fantastic game, but I can absolutely see why Nintendo doesn’t want this on their kiddie handheld console which says NINTENDO when you boot the game up.

  11. Are we all forgetting the post on BB about how Nintendo started as a company selling cards for illegal gambling? Their most popular game features an Italian plumber who eats mushrooms to get big, leaves to turn into a tanuki and flowers to shoot flaming balls – all so he can save a princess from a dragon in a castle.

    …You’ve come a long way, Nintendo.

  12. With all due respect to the work of indie game developers and their willingness to take on challenging issues I had a go of this thing and found it heavy handed, in the way it laid out the ideas (religious zealoutry, child abuse), in its visual design, and just as a game. What I’d love to see is a game that can take on all this stuff in a cleverer, more nuanced way, and can actually deliver this message with some power. 

    And who gives a crap if Nintendo likes it???

  13. I haven’t played the game. Maybe it’s brilliant. The biblical reference gives this bonus points, I suppose. In general I think the crazed christian caricature is becoming kind of old, though, and it’s a bit weird that prejudice/slander/etc against christians is supposed to be okay, while other religions are off limits. Try doing the same thing with a jewish theme. I’m not for banning it or anything, but I’m not sure it’s always such a good idea to reinforce prejudice.

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