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Binding Of Isaac Denied 3DS Release Thanks To Archaic Rules At Nintendo

The Binding Of Isaac

It looks like this week is going to be “controversial game can’t get published” week. Earlier we wrote about how Microsoft refused to publish Heavy Rain due to its theme of kidnapped children. Next we have a story about Imagination Is The Only Escape which was unable to get published in 2008 and is now making a comeback through crowdfunding. Now comes news that The Binding Of Isaac won’t see a 3DS release because of its religious themes.

That’s right. The popular game about a boy whose mother believes she hears the voice of God telling her to kill her son was refused a 3DS release by Nintendo. For those who don’t know, The Binding Of Isaac is a parody of the Biblical story of Abraham and his son Isaac. In the story, Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. At the last moment, right before Abraham was about to kill his son, God stops him and declares that Abraham passed the test of loyalty to God.

In Binding, that story is parodied in such a way as to depict the mother of Isaac as crazy. Isaac, not wishing to die escapes through the basement and sewers and fights many monsters representing the seven deadly sins and more. It is because of that parody of a religious story that Nintendo refused to allow it on the 3DS. 

After a long internal debate Nintendo has decided NOT to allow the Binding of Isaac on the 3ds. 🙁

As many assumed the reasons were due to the games “questionable religious content”. Thank GOD Steam exists!

As many may or may not know, Nintendo has a long history of censorship not just of games based on religious themes, but for a variety of other reasons. For example, the NES release of Maniac Mansion had to change a number of artistic elements in its game to appease Nintendo. Other games faced similar bouts of censorship.

As Nintendo entered its current generation of consoles, the 3DS and Wii U, it has made huge strides to attract indies to the consoles. While most of their efforts have been well received, it is this attitude of censorship that will hold many indies at bay. Even though Dan Adelman, Nintendo’s indie PR guy, laments the policies that kept Binding from the eShop, it is a problem he seems unable to address.

We carve out some categories of content we don’t allow. Religious themes is one of those topics. And so it was deemed to be in violation of that.

Maybe we should revisit the entire concept guideline on religious themes. Maybe we should just get rid of that altogether. But given that, that’s right now one of our stances.

It is this “these are the rules no matter how I personally feel about them” attitude that needs to change. While it is refreshing to see that Adelman is aware of how archaic this particular rule is and that he recognized that the rules probably should change, it would have been better for him to have fought the higher ups on this point.

Why is it okay to have games that feature nudity, BMX XXX, or games that feature extreme violence, Mad World and Manhunt 2, but not okay to have a game that parodies a religious theme? It is this attitude that leads developers to believe that Nintendo is backward and unwelcoming.

Additionally, Nintendo has allowed numerous games on its consoles that have had strong religious elements in them. Castlevania featured numerous Christian and Catholic references and yet was still allowed. Breath of Fire 2 for the SNES had a strong religious undertone featuring an evil church and its god as the main bad guys. So we know that religion itself is not the problem. Perhaps it is just the parodying of a modern religion that is the problem.

We really hope that Nintendo does evaluate its content guidelines for areas that need severe improvements and modernization. In an age where consoles are not the only way to get games, it hurts Nintendo more than anyone to censor or block content that would sell well on its systems.

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