PEGI, ESRB, and ZERO: What Video Game Age and Content Labels Mean

It has happened to all of us: we want to get it right when buying or giving away a video game, which is already difficult, and when reviewing its characteristics we come across a series of labels with numbers, images and notes in the margin that can be used to behind. what do those icons mean?

In Europe, as well as in the United States or Japan, there are different systems that are used to detail the type of content of each video game beyond the official description and trailers. In Spain, as well as most of the old continent, the system is used Pan-European Game Information (PEGI). Something that, as you can see, is even used in trailers for upcoming releases.

Accepting or adapting to the standards of each system is voluntary. However, for many physical and digital sellers, having a certification from their respective referents is not optional, since they ensure that their customers will not have unpleasant surprises when buying games or giving them away.

From here it is time to answer the most essential: what does each of the age and content labels that are shown in video games in each region mean. In Extra Life We explain it to you and, once we’re done, we’ll talk about the other two most widespread systems.

Europe’s PEGI system

Used in most of Europe, the PEGI system it replaced and unified in 2003 the majority of national classification systems and was standardized in those members of the community that lacked their own, with exceptions such as Germany.

Its operation comes from ISFE, which in English means the Interactive Software Federation of Europe. PEGI is currently valid in more than 35 countries, including France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom and, of course, Spain.

From here, the PEGI establishes two types of labels.

PEGI Age Labels

The first establish the PEGI age. Each figure is equivalent to the recommended minimum age to enjoy each game. And although, unlike the other systems, it is not rated for general audiences, the PEGI 3 label guarantees that the game does not contain sounds or images that could scare young children.

special mention to adult classification labels, known as PEGI 18 or for those over 18 years of age. A seal that specifies that among the contents it is possible to find brutal violence, murder for no apparent reason, illegal drug use and explicit sexual activity. This does not imply that it is the central theme of the game, but that some of these activities can happen during the course of it. And that is where the second type of label appears.

PEGI content descriptors

Violence Black Is


  • The game contains depictions of violence.
  • In games rated PEGI 7, it can only be non-realistic or non-detailed violence.
  • Games rated PEGI 12 may include violence in a fantasy setting or unrealistic violence towards human-like characters,
  • In games rated PEGI 16 or 18 they have increasingly realistic violence.
Bad Language Black Es

Obscene language

  • The game contains foul language.
  • Appears in games starting at the PEGI 12 age tag when mild swearing appears
  • Examples of sexual slurs or profanity may appear from the PEGI 16 age label
  • When this seal accompanies the PEGI 18 rating, the level of insults can be raised and, as in the previous case, they can also contain sexual insults or profanity.
Fear Black Is

Fear or Terror

  • This tag appears as Fear in games with a PEGI 7 if it contains images or sounds that may frighten small children
  • This tag appears as Terror in games with a PEGI 12 rating that contain moderate horror sequences.
  • If Horror appears in games rated PEGI 16 it can be intense and constant horror sequences, disturbing images, although they do not necessarily include violent content.

Gambling Black Is


  • All games with this type of content are rated PEGI 12, PEGI 16, or PEGI 18.
  • The game contains items that encourage or teach gambling, including gatchas or loot boxes, even if acquired solely through gameplay.
  • It is also possible that these gambling simulations take place in gaming environments similar to casinos or arcades.
Sexual Content Black Es


  • This descriptor would not be necessary for depictions of nudity in non-sexual content.
  • If the tag appears in games rated PEGI 12, there may be sexual innuendos or posturing.
  • Starting from the PEGI 16 rating there may be erotic nudity or intercourse without visible genitalia.
  • As of PEGI 18 there may be explicit sexual activity in the game.
Drugs Black Es

Illegal drugs

  • This content descriptor implies that the game is rated PEGI 16 or PEGI 18.
  • In terms of content, the game refers to or describes the use of alcohol or tobacco.
  • In addition, the use of illegal drugs may be shown or hinted at throughout the game.
Discrimination Black Is


  • This content is always restricted to a PEGI 18 rating.
  • The game contains representations of ethnic, religious, nationalistic or other stereotypes that may encourage hatred.
  • On the other hand, it is possible that this type of representation violates the national criminal laws of some of the countries covered by the PEGI system.
In Game Purchase Black En

includes purchases

  • The game offers the player the option to purchase digital content or services with real-world currency. From expansions and additional levels to perks, or character skins, through music or random items.
  • The Includes Purchases label also appears in updates that are used, for example, to disable ads.
  • Lastly, Includes Purchases also refers to games that enable subscriptions, virtual currencies, and other forms of in-game currency.

The North American ESBR system

Although the PEGI is something like the standard for most of Europe, its equivalent in the United States and much of the new continent is the ESBR system.

The peculiarity of this is that is more open when it comes to interpreting the degree of maturity of the playerwithout taking so much into account an age except for three specific sections (10 years old, 17 years old and 18 years old), and on the other hand it is much more concise and specific in the type of content that is offered during the game establishing three differentiated sections:

screenshot 67

  • Classification Categoryor the target audience and the simplified parental guide in a single image.
  • The content descriptionor a brief description of the details and experiences that are included in the game and that may be of interest to the consumer.
  • interactive elements, where it is specified what type of additions or items are included or not included with the copy of the game itself, such as additional purchases.

From here, there are no less than seven self-explanatory classification categories:

screenshot 66

  • Everyone (E) it means that it is a game suitable for all audiences and does not need direct parental supervision.
  • Everyone 10+ (E10+) implies that it is a game recommended for players over 10 years of age unless direct parental approval.
  • Teen (T) It is content developed and intended for a teenage audience.
  • Mature 17+ (M) offers content that requires the player to have a certain maturity and is generally recommended for ages 17+ or under direct supervision.
  • Adults Only 18+ (AO) offers explicit content intended solely for an adult audience aged 18 or 21, depending on the state.

In addition to these five classification categories, there are Rate Pending (RP) Y Rate Pendig Likely Mature (RP +17) which is normally used in promotional material such as trailers, commercials or announcements and states that the ESBR has not yet finished cataloging the game in question. In any case, titles with the RP +17 label are usually aimed at an adult audience.

The Japanese ZERO system

The classification system ZERO used in Japan is very similar to the European PEGI, although there are nuances and distinctions that make it unique.

First of all, a classification is used by age groups in which what is most appropriate for the consumer is specified, being the classification A suitable for all audiences and from there raising it to B-rated (from 12 years), C-rated (From 15 years old onwards), D-rated (for those over 17 years old) or z-rating (over 18).

In addition, and as a rule, the z-rating specifies that this type of game should not be sold to minors.

screenshot 68

Beyond this, and as in PEGI, it is possible to see labels that visually represent the type of content included in the game. Most coincide in design and symbology with the European system, although it is possible to see two additional distinctions:

screenshot 69

  • Sees it: implies that it is possible that in the game romances or some type of love relationship manifest.
  • Drinking / Smoking: makes a distinction between the consumption of alcohol and tobacco from the rest of illegal substances or drugs.

In addition to the systems PEGI, ESBR and ZERO there are several regulated alternatives, many of which can be found attached to the IARC (the International Age Rating Coalition), serving as a reference when estimating what type of content is most appropriate for each country or region.

We would like to say thanks to the author of this article for this outstanding material

PEGI, ESRB, and ZERO: What Video Game Age and Content Labels Mean