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The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a North American rating system for video games that is used within the United States, Canada, and Mexico (digital only). It was established in September 1st, 1994 after the senate hearing about violence in video games (see #History).

The ESRB rating system consists of 5 ratings. E, E10+, T, M, and AO (for more information about the ratings, see #Ratings). There used to be a sixth rating named EC, but that was discontinued in March 1st, 2018. There also used to be a seventh rating named K-A, but that was discontinued in January 1st, 1998 (see #History and #Ratings sections).

Since May 27th, 2021, rating systems have changed in Mexico. It has been crossed rated with the General Directorate of Radio, Television and Cinematography.

History[]

Founding[]

The Entertainment Software Rating Board was established in September 1st, 1994 in response to Senate hearings about violence in video games. It also succeeded the Videogame Rating Council that was used for Sega's video games and the 3DO age ratings for 3DO video games. The original ratings were RP, EC, K-A, T, M, and AO. K-A was replaced by E in January 1st, 1998.

Later era[]

Originally, the letter icons were pixelated rating icons. However, in the late 1999, the pixel letter icons for the ratings were changed to just black. They added an E10+ rating in March 2nd, 2005 (see #Ratings for more info).

The Interactive Elements were introduced since April 2011 to provide online interactions when gaming online (such as digital gaming).

In August 4th, 2013, the rating icons were redesigned, and in March 1st, 2018, the EC rating was removed from the system because of the low usage and was replaced by the E rating, another rating suitable for children (but also for adults) (also see #Ratings for more info).

The Likely Mature label used on the Rating Pending rating was added in August 2021.

Mexican cross system[]

On November 27, 2020, the General Directorate of Radio, Television and Cinematography announced that they were replacing the the ESRB in Mexico. This happened in approximately six months later, on May 27, 2021. However, this only means that the new rating system is used for physical releases, as the ESRB ratings are still used in digital storefronts. The ESRB remains supported in Mexico, using a cross-rating system below:

  • E rated video games are rated A in Mexico.
  • E10+ rated video games are rated B in Mexico.
  • T rated video games are rated B15 in Mexico.
  • M rated video games are rated C in Mexico.
  • AO rated video games are rated D in Mexico.
  • RP/RP Likely M rated video games are rated P in Mexico.

Ratings[]

Rating What it means From Until Image
eC (Early Childhood) Video Games with this rating are suitable for preschool players (ages 2-6). This was originally suitable for ages 3 and up, but that age was changed to preschool players (ages 2-6) until it was retired in March 1st, 2018. September 1st, 1994 March 1st, 2018 ESRB EC
E (Everyone) Video Games with this rating are suitable for all ages. This was originally suitable for ages 6 and up, but that age was changed to all ages. Formerly known as Kids to Adults (K-A) until January 1st, 1998. These video games are rated A in Mexico. January 1st, 1998 Present ESRB E
E10+ (Everyone 10+) Video Games with this rating are suitable for ages 10 and up. This was the newest rating in the Entertainment Software Rating Board, introduced in March 2nd, 2005. These video games are rated B in Mexico. March 2nd, 2005 ESRB E10+
T (Teen) Video Games with this rating are suitable for ages 13 and up. This is the highest advisory rating in Canada. These video games are rated B15 in Mexico. September 1st, 1994 ESRB T
M (Mature) Video Games with this rating are suitable for ages 17 and up. In the United States, no laws are enforced (although some businesses have policies to prohibit sales to a person under the age of 17). In Canada, under provincial laws, it is illegal to supply M-rated video games to people under 17 years of age. These video games are rated C in Mexico. ESRB M
AO (Adults Only) Video Games with this rating are suitable only for ages 18 and up. In stores, anyone buying an AO-rated video game must be 18 years or older, and must not be supplied to children under 18. These video games are rated D in Mexico. ESRB AO
RP (Rating Pending) Video Games with this rating have not yet been rated by the ESRB. (Some Video Games may show the label Likely Mature which are expected to receive an M rating). These Unrated video games are rated P in Mexico. January 1st, 1993

August 2021 (Likely Mature)

ESRB RP

Equivalents[]

  • EC: TV-Y (US TV) and C (Canadian TV)
  • E: TV-Y7 and TV-G (US TV), G (Canadian/Quebec TV and movies and US movies)
  • E10+: TV-Y7-FV and TV-PG (US TV), PG (Canadian TV and movies and US movies), G (with warning: Quebec), C8 (Canadian TV), 8+ (Quebec TV)
  • T: PG-13 (US movies), 14A (Canadian movies), TV-14 (US TV), 14+ (Canadian TV), 13+ (Quebec)
  • M: R (US movies), 18A (Canadian movies), TV-MA (US TV), 16+ (Quebec)
  • AO: NC-17 (US movies), R (Canadian movies), 18+ (Canadian TV and Quebec)

Content descriptors[]

The ESRB uses 30 current content descriptors for all current ratings (E.G. violence, blood, language, sexual content, nudity, and substances). ESRB has executive descriptors that very few (if any) rating systems used.

Category Subcategories
Violence Fantasy Violence
Mild Violence
Intense Violence
Violent References
Animated Violence (former)
Cartoon Violence (former)
Realistic Violence (former)
Language Mild Language
Strong Language
Mild Lyrics
Lyrics
Strong Lyrics
Suggestive Themes Mild Suggestive Themes
Mild Sexual Themes
Sexual Themes
Mature Sexual Themes (former)
Blood Animated Blood
Mild Blood
Blood and Gore

Animated Blood and Gore (former)
Realistic Blood (former) Realistic Blood and Gore (former)

Sexual Content Strong Sexual Content
Sexual Violence
Nudity Partial Nudity
Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco Alcohol/Drug/Tobacco Reference
Use of Alcohol/Drugs/Tobacco
Gambling Gambling Themes
Simulated Gambling
Real Gambling

Gambling (former)
Gaming (former)

Crude Humor Comic Mischief
Mature Humor
Edutainment (former) Informational (former)
Others Some Adult Assistance May Be Needed (former)
Reading Skills (former)
Fine Motor Skills (former)
Higher-Level Thinking Skills (former)

Interactive elements[]

The In-Game Purchases element was added on February 28th, 2018 in response to the increasingly predatory landscape of microtransactions in the console video game industry (Includes Random items was introduced in April 13th, 2020 in case that there's random items in the video game). The ESRB uses six current Interactive Elements.

  • In-Game Purchases (this includes random items)
  • Users Interact
  • Shares Location
  • Unrestricted Internet (e.g., embedded browser)
  • Online Music not rated by the ESRB (If Music hasn't been rated)

Cultural differences[]

  • Some games that were rated T by the ESRB are rated Z by CERO, especially GoldenEye 007 and Jet Force Gemini on the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack 18+.
  • Some games that were rated E by the ESRB are rated 12 by PEGI, especially due to PEGI being strict with gambling, including Super Mario 64 DS and New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii U, Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow Version (2016), and 51 Worldwide Games.
  • Some games that were rated E by the ESRB are rated 18 by GRAC, for example, 51 Worldwide Games.
  • Some games that were rated T by the ESRB are rated 18 by PEGI, for example, 80 Days & Overboard!
  • Some games that were rated T by the ESRB are rated 16 by PEGI, which is not common. An example of this is Destroy All Humans!
Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)
Current ratings
ESRB RP ESRB E ESRB E10+ ESRB T ESRB M ESRB AO


Discontinued rating
ESRB EC

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