The Parent’s Guide to the ESRB

Greetings Parents

So your kid wants a new video game. You’re a busy parent working long hours and you don’t spend any time playing games yourself, but you want to make sure the game you buy your child is appropriate. Thankfully, there’s a way to get a reasonable grasp on a games appropriateness without having to spend hours researching the specific game’s content, story, warnings, etc. The ESRB is here to help!

What is the ESRB?

The ESRB is an acronym for Entertainment Software Ratings Board and they make sure that every game that reaches the market in North America has an appropriate content rating.

You’ve seen this type of thing before in the world of cinema, where the Motion Picture Association provides appropriate ratings for films. And in the same manner that you wouldn’t allow your six-year-old to watch an R rated film, it’s not advised to purchase M rated games for minors either.

Where to find the ratings

Ratings on various game cases

The next time you’re browsing about the game store with your child, take a look at some of the game cases. The ratings are usually on the back of the game case, but occasionally they’ll also be on the front.

One of the key things to look for here, is the little white text box NEXT TO the rating. Some games get a T rating for violence, while others will get it for partial nudity, suggestive themes, or drug use. The box next to the rating will tell you WHY that particular title got the rating it did, and that should help you make your judgement calls.

What are the ratings?

We’re going to walk you through a quick guide to game ratings and what they mean so you can be better prepared next time you’re faced with a game buying decision.

Rated EC for Early Childhood

The ESRB Early Childhood symbol

Games with an eC rating are intended for younger gamers. These games are often educational or mentally stimulating for younger minds. Think games based on kids programming, like Paw Patrol, Blues Clues, or Spongebob Squarepants. It’s not terribly often that you’ll encounter games of this rating in your local game shop, but it does happen.

Rated E for Everyone

The ESRB E for Everyone symbol

This rating is relatively self-explanatory. Games that carry an E for Everyone rating are games appropriate for all ages, from young children to adults.

Rated E10+ for Everyone Ten and Up

The ESRB E10+ symbol

There are some games that are appropriate for MOST audiences, and many of these fit into the E10+ category. These games are generally appropriate for anyone over the age of 10.

Rated T for Teen

The ESRB T for Teen symbol

Games that carry the T for Teen rating are, as you would expect, appropriate for teenagers (we’ll say anyone between 12 and 17 as a good range for this one). These games can have more aggressive overtones and touch on content not appropriate for younger gamers. A lot of fighting games have a T rating for violence, even cartoon violence.

Rated M for Mature

The ESRB M for Mature symbol

This is the gaming equivalent to a Rated R movie. Games with an M rating can have any range of sexually suggestive content, partial nudity, and violence. A lot of war games, like the Call of Duty and Battlefield series get an M rating for their violent and traumatic nature. The campaigns do bring you through the hardships of war, after all.

Rated AO for Adults Only

The ESRB AO for Adults Only symbol

If we’re being honest, the chances of you finding a game with this rating at your local GameStop is pretty much impossible. These games are like those X Rated flicks that some video stores used to keep in the back of the store behind a curtain where it always smelled funky. That’s not to say that there aren’t great games that carry this rating, but know that these are rated ADULT ONLY for a reason.

Rated RP for Rating Pending

The ESRB Rating Pending symbol

Games that carry this marking are letting you know that they haven’t been given an official rating from the ESRB yet. You’ll see this on a lot of early access games where the final product isn’t complete yet. This rating can be a bit confusing, since the final product could end up with a rating anywhere on our scale. In these instances, be sure to think about what type of game it is, and don’t be afraid to ask a store employee, they’re there to help.

Closing Thoughts

There are plenty of parents out there that are perfectly fine buying M rated games for their 10 year old. Maybe you and your child have a good relationship and you’re there to go through the game with him or her to help answer any troubling questions about topics that may be brought up. We hope this article helps you make more informed decisions the next time you’re with your child, grand child, or niece/nephew.

The media is always quick to jump on video games whenever violence occurs in schools or among children. We can help prevent a lot of that stigma of games by simply being informed about our purchases and the minds that are consuming the content. And remember, you don’t have to feel pressured to buy something just because every other parent is letting their kids get it.

If you have other topics you’d like us to write a Parent’s Guide to, let us know in the comments or at Until next time, happy gaming!