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ESRB Ratings Explained

by Retired: Senior Social Media Specialist on ‎08-09-2013 01:56 PM - edited on ‎08-27-2020 11:16 AM by Senior Social Media Specialist Senior Social Media Specialist (2,928 Views)

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) ratings are designed to provide information about video and computer game content, so you can make informed purchase decisions. ESRB ratings have two parts: rating symbols suggest age appropriateness for the game, and content descriptors indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern. To take full advantage of the ESRB rating system, it's important to check both the rating symbol (on the front of the game box) and the content descriptors (on the back of the game box). 




ESRB Rating Symbols


ESRB Everyone



Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.




ESRB Everyone 10+


Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language, and/or minimal suggestive themes.







Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.




ESRB Mature 17+


Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons 17 years and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.



ESRB Adults Only 18+


Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.




ESRB Rating Pending


Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game's release.)




ESRB Content Descriptors


  • Alcohol Reference — Reference to and/or images of alcoholic beverages

  • Animated Blood — Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood

  • Blood — Depictions of blood

  • Blood and Gore — Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts

  • Cartoon Violence — Violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters. May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted

  • Comic Mischief — Depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor

  • Crude Humor — Depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including "bathroom" humor

  • Drug Reference — Reference to and/or images of illegal drugs

  • Fantasy Violence — Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life

  • Intense Violence — Graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons, and depictions of human injury and death

  • Language — Mild to moderate use of profanity

  • Lyrics — Mild references to profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol, or drug use in music

  • Mature Humor — Depictions or dialogue involving "adult" humor, including sexual references

  • Nudity — Graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity

  • Partial Nudity — Brief and/or mild depictions of nudity

  • Real Gambling — Player can gamble, including betting or wagering real cash or currency

  • Sexual Content — Non-explicit depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including partial nudity

  • Sexual Themes — MReferences to sex or sexuality

  • Sexual Violence — Depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts

  • Simulated Gambling — Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency

  • Strong Language — Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity

  • Strong Lyrics — Explicit and/or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol, or drug use in music

  • Strong Sexual Content — Explicit and/or frequent depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including nudity

  • Suggestive Themes — Mild provocative references or materials

  • Tobacco Reference — Reference to and/or images of tobacco products

  • Use of Drugs — The consumption or use of illegal drugs

  • Use of Alcohol — The consumption of alcoholic beverages

  • Use of Tobacco — The consumption of tobacco products

  • Violence — Scenes involving aggressive conflict. May contain bloodless dismemberment

  • Violent References — References to violent acts

**Content Descriptors are applied relative to the Rating Category assigned and are not intended to be a complete listing of content. When a Content Descriptor is preceded by the term “Mild” it is intended to convey low frequency, intensity or severity..**


Rating Summaries


Rating summaries are a supplementary source of information which explain in objective terms the context and relevant content that factored into a game's ESRB rating assignment. Although rating summaries don't appear on game packages, they are available via the rating search on ESRB's website, the rating search widget, ESRB's ParenTools e-newsletter, and ESRB's mobile website at


Online Rating Notice


Online-enabled games carry the notice Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB. This notice warns those who intend to play the game online about possible exposure to chat (text, audio, video) or other types of content created by other players (e.g., maps, skins) that have not been considered in the ESRB rating assignment. For the most up to date list of content descriptors and definitions, go to


About Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) The ESRB is a non-profit, self-regulatory body that independently assigns ratings, enforces advertising guidelines, and helps ensure responsible online privacy practices for the interactive entertainment software industry. 



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