To be absolutely clear, The Punisher is a pretty poor game! Released in 2004, and developed by a pre-Saints Row Volition, it should have been brilliant. Using the Marvel license for the least Marvel-like character, this was coming from a studio that was riding high on its splendid Red Faction games.
Apparently visiting the set for the awful 2004 John Travolta-starring movie, the developers were certainly inspired to create something of equal quality, even pinching the film’s lead—Thomas Jane—to voice their Punisher too. The result was a mostly dull game, interspersed with the most astonishing violence. And it’s this violence that scores a slot on our list.
With his entire family murdered by the Mafia, Frank Castle is out for his skull-laden revenge, and to get it he’s going to lamely try to copy Max Payne right down to its bullet time, but get everything just a bit wrong.
But where the game shines is the feature that caused the original version to be labeled by the ESRB as a “torture simulator.” Various enemies would have a skull above their heads, which meant you could torture them, and then on special occasions, there were “Special Interrogation” options, where a scripted sequence would allow you to, say, feed someone feet-first into a woodchipper. Or drill into their heads. This was one of a handful of games to ever be censored by the UK’s classification board, the BBFC, for just how grim these sequences were.
As a revenge shooter, it ended up feeling like a flattened out Max Payne, but those moments of ultra-gruesome murder certainly saw it spike to the heights of this list.