Skullgirls faces backlash after removal of controversial imagery

Skullgirls developer Hidden Variable has made tweaks to adjust the appearances of several characters.
skullgirls game controversy backlash

Hidden Variable’s racy fighting game Skullgirls has always skirted the edges of mainstream taste, with its roster of scantily-clad women and risqué narrative. It’s become popular in certain circles for its ‘sexy’ depiction of women, and its ‘edgy’ attitude – which extended to including depictions of Nazis in the game.

In the ten years since Skullgirls was originally launched, societal values have changed on multiple fronts. The sexual exploitation of women and girls has become more of a talked-about concern, as has depictions of Nazism. To better align with modern values and ensure Skullgirls isn’t undermined by its dated content, developer Hidden Variable recently chose to update the game with some much-needed tweaks.

This included the removal of a ‘panty shot’ of an underage character, and removal of red armbands on the game’s Nazi-like army force.

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‘As many of you know, Skullgirls has had a long and colourful history shaped by a variety of contributors over the years,’ Charley Price, the creative director on the game said in a forum post. ‘As we look ahead towards the future of Skullgirls, we have reflected upon past decisions regarding certain content that has undermined the many things that make Skullgirls truly unique and special.’

‘As such, as part of our most recent round of updates across all platforms (console and mobile), we have decided to make some changes to certain legacy content in the spirit of better reflecting our values and our broad vision for Skullgirls moving forward.’

Specifically, Price identified three key areas Hidden Variable aimed to rework in the game:

  • Allusions to real-world hate groups
  • Character sexualisation and agency
  • Racial sensitivity

Despite these changes being innocuous to gameplay, players have taken issue with the changes, review-bombing the game on Steam and claiming Hidden Variable is taking part in serious ‘censorship’. To be clear, these allegations relate to the removal of panty shots and Nazis in a 10-year-old fighting game starring women in sexy clothing.

Since the update launched, Skullgirls has received more than 2,000 new reviews, with its Steam rating noting ‘Mostly Negative’ in recent assessments. Accusations of Hidden Variable going ‘woke’ are rife in these reviews, with some claiming the game’s initial crowdfunders were ‘backstabbed’ by the recent update.

Despite this uncanny and overblown backlash, Hidden Variable appears to be staying firm in its decision to update the game. In its forum update, the company predicted some would ‘disagree’ with the changes, and stated it did ‘not intend to discuss the particulars of these changes further’.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.