Everything You Need To Know About ESRB Ratings of Video Games

New games are released almost every other day, and some, like Fortnite and Among Us, become instant hits. Children are quick to pick up new games, but not all video games, including those from Nintendo, are appropriate for children. There are numerous ways to determine whether a game is appropriate. Checking ESRB ratings, reading online reviews to see what other parents think, and playing the game yourself can help with this. However, not all parents are into gaming, and the ESRB rating is the most authentic and trustworthy source.

In this article, we will discuss ESRB ratings, how they rate games, and which manufacturers use them. Let’s get started!

What Is ESRB Rating?

Games also have a rating system similar to those for movies and TV shows, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). It is an industry organization that is separate from the gaming industry and helps in rating games and apps to provide information to parents and consumers about the game and whether or not it is appropriate for children.

Their reviewing council enforces industry-adopted advertising guidelines and stays up-to-date with web and mobile privacy practices.

Their ratings are divided into three parts;

  • Rating Categories: This refers to the rating provided to each game based on age appropriateness. It is divided into seven types: everyone (E), everyone 10+ (E 10+), Teen (T), Mature 17+ (M), Adults only 18+ (AO), and lastly, Rating Pending (RP), Rating Pending likely mature 17+.
  • Content Descriptor: This indicates content that may have triggered a specific age rating, like violence, drug/alcohol reference, etc.
  • Interactive Elements: These refer to the online features of games like in-app purchases, location sharing, interacting with other players, etc., that don’t affect the game’s rating but provide you with more information about the features.

Games it Applies To

If we talk about why each game got the rating it did, it’s because the three parts mentioned above collectively form a rating for a game. The ESRB uses two rating processes, depending on whether the game is physical or digital. If we focus on digital games, before the press release, the games are rated by the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC). Later the ESRB tests the product monitors rating assignments and makes changes if they think the rating is wrong.

Moreover, the most critical factor in rating games is the content descriptors. ESRB rating uses a total of 30 content descriptors that are divided into eight categories: substances, violence, blood/gore, nudity, humor, language, sexuality, and gambling.

You can view the content descriptors at the back of a game or by clicking on the “I” icon beside the ESRB rating on Google Play, Windows, etc.

Which Manufacturers Use ESRB Rating?


The ESRB rating was officially launched in 1994 with a five age-based rating system. With the growth of smartphones, ESRB announced the co-development of a voluntary free rating process for mobile apps. Microsoft’s Phone Marketplace has already supported ESRB since it was introduced. They are now also supporting IARC for its digital storefront.


Sony is also a significant console manufacturer that supports IARC for its digital storefront and ESRB ratings for its North American market.


In 1992, hearings on video game violence led to the banning and altering of multiple games, which led game publishers like Nintendo and Sega to create their rating system, but they were not deemed sufficient. Thus, game developers and publishers decided to co-develop a rating system. The ESRB rating was developed to provide a vendor-neutral rating system, and since then, Nintendo has used the ESRB rating and supports IARC as well.

Google Play Store also displays ESRB ratings on its app. Although, Apple Store uses its rating system and doesn’t support ESRB and IARC.

Examples From the ESRB Adult 18+ Rating Games

The largest demographic for Nintendo games are adults aged 20-40, and Nintendo has a good selection of popular games rated 18+ by the ESRB Rating.

Adult 18+ Gambling

Both actual and simulated gambling games are rated 18+. Why? Because players can gamble and bet with real money online, this is why they have become an adult favorite game genre. The Japanese video company Nintendo made a clear choice to target an adult audience when they released their 18+ games. Casino and gambling titles have become some of their most popular mature games. Casinosnavi, a Japanese gambling site, has had its experts test all seven Nintendo Swift gambling games, including The Casino, Vegas Party, Four Kings (real gambling), and the Poker Club. Click here to read Casinosnavi’s full game review, concluding that all of the games are of high quality and provide a realistic gambling experience comparable to that of a real casino.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Another popular game rated 18+ by ESRB is GTA: San Andreas. It is a role-playing and adventure game. The game involves gangs, violence, and drugs, making it inappropriate for children. According to ESRB content descriptors, the game includes blood/gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content, nudity, and the use of drugs.


Hatred is a shooter game type developed by Destructive Creations. The game has highly violent content and is thus rated 18+ by ESRB. The game features a misanthropic mass-killer who started a genocide crusade to kill as many humans as possible using his wide range of weapons.

According to ESRB, the content descriptors include strong language, intense violence, blood, and gore.

Now that you know everything about ESRB ratings, you can trust their process and look for their trademark icon to identify if a game is appropriate for your kids. It is also essential to discuss with your kids why you are not in favor of them playing certain games and why exposure to them could affect their mental health.

There is a reason that a rating system for age-appropriateness was created, so take advantage of it, and also do your research online and play the game yourself to get an idea of the restrictions.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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