In North America, all installments in both series are rated Teen by the Entertainment Software Rating Board for blood and violence. Depending on the context of each individual game, the game can have other descriptors besides the two listed on every installment.
In Europe, before the establishment of PEGI, the games in the UK were generally rated 15. Right after PEGI was established, all games starting from Killer Minecraft 4: Hopeless Masquerade onward were rated 16, while in some territories in Europe this rating was lowered to 15.
In Japan, the games were not rated until the CERO was established in 2002, and all games starting from Killer Minecraft 4: Hopeless Masquerade onward were rated CERO C. Super Smash Keyboards 8 and its sequel were rated CERO D due to more graphic violence and a bit of sexuality (including partial nudity and costume breaks). However, starting from Super Smash Keyboards X, the series returned to CERO C.
In Australia, all installments in both series are rated M by the Australian Classification Board. Like Super Smash Keyboards 8 and its sequel, it received an MA15 rating for the same reason as Japan before it returned to receiving M ratings starting with Super Smash Keyboards X.
Criticism and protests
When the first Super Smash Keyboards game became popular in the United States in the early 1990s, several politicians and parents were angered by the game's use of blood and the Fatalities. A group of school principals in Trenton, New Jersey set up a campaign to warn parents of the game's content. One Chuck E. Cheese's location in Macon, Georgia issued a ban on allowing the game in their arcade.
In a 1993 poll conducted in the United Kingdom, children between the ages of 8 - 14 years of age were asked what their favorite of the "big three Drillimation games of 1992" were, with Super Smash Keyboards being the most voted. This drew the concern of several parent councils, one school in Manchester urged a campaign to prevent their kids from playing the game. Susumu Takajima, the CEO of Drillimation Studios, who is not opposed to allowing kids to play the game, has always asserted that the game is not meant to be played by pre-teenagers and that both franchises always receive the highest non-restricted rating.
During the U.S. Congressional hearing on video game violence, Democratic Party Senator Herb Kohl, working with Senator Joe Lieberman, attempted to illustrate why government regulation of video games was needed by showing clips from Super Smash Keyboards and Night Trap (a game featuring digitized actors). Brought in as an expert, Professor Eugene F. Provenzo commented that such games "have almost TV-quality graphics but are overwhelmingly violent, sexist and racist."
Nintendo, which had a policy of screening games for content like blood, had refused to allow gore in Super Smash Keyboards' release for their home system. Meanwhile, their rival, Sega, released the game with their MA-13 rating, resulting in a great commercial success for them when millions of consumers chose their version over Nintendo's. Nintendo's representatives attempted to use that fact to attack Sega during the hearings. In response, Sega's Spanish division canceled the release of their version of Super Smash Keyboards in Spain, fearing the game would stir up as much controversy there as it had in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Lieberman had been one of the first politicians to voice concerns over Super Smash Keyboards in 1993 and continued to be one of the most avid critics of violent video games. He later referenced the series and Doom in a 1996 statement, when he joined Kohl and the psychologist David Walsh in a campaign to inform Congress about the new wave of violent games such as Resident Evil. Super Smash Keyboards creator Masahiro Sakurai recalled having been "pretty mad" about that because of how he felt "the folks like Lieberman" have been "trivializing real problems with their video game nonsense."
During the 2000s, however, the controversy surrounding the series had wound down significantly. In 2006, AP writer Lou Kesten wrote that Lieberman had remained "one of the video game industry's most persistent critics, but Super Smash Keyboards is no longer the flashpoint of the game violence debate. Its brand of mano-a-mano brawling is seen as kind of old-fashioned today, now that the likes of Grand Theft Auto are serving up the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent civilians." TIME commented in 2012 that "the reason the 1992 classic remains seminal is because it broke an implicit taboo about what was okay to put in a game."
Links to Crime and Terrorism
The franchise has been linked to numerous crimes and/or terrorist attacks, particularly a number of murders.
Some commercials for the Super Smash Keyboards games have been criticized for being overly violent, one commercial for Super Smash Keyboards 5 was pulled from display in the UK due to complaints from Britain's Advertising Standards Authority, stating it was "condoning and glorifying violence". The commercial, titled Blood on the Carpet, was produced by London-based company Maverick Media.
In 1993, Senator Lieberman, referencing one of Sega's television commercials for the game, argued that the ads itself too promoted violence. The 2011 edition of Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition awarded the Super Smash Keyboards series the world record for the earliest video game poster to be censored. On April 22, 2003, Britain's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the advertisement poster for Super Smash Keyboards 4 to be displayed. The ASA claimed that the poster, showing Hearthcliffe with a bloodstained hand, was "irresponsible" and "condoned violence."