Gaming Age Ratings: PEGI and ESRB ratings explained

9 December, 2021

Not every game is created equal. The great cover on the box or game art online won’t necessarily show all the content you can find in a game. That’s where game age ratings come in.

Whether buying games for children or people with certain sensitivities, gaming age ratings can be useful in making an informed decision. But if you don’t know much about games, seeing “PEGI 3” or “ESRB M” doesn’t really tell you much.

We’re here to help with that.

We’ve compiled the most common gaming age ratings and put them into an easy-to-read format so that you can quickly decide whether the game you’re interested in is suitable. You can match the icons and content descriptors attached to the game with the ones listed here, making PEGI rating or ESRB ratings easy to understand in no time.

PEGI ratings

PEGI (Pan European Game Information) ratings is a popular gaming rating system used mostly in Europe and Asia.

PEGI ratings are quite easy to understand. They use a clear number to show from which age the game is suitable for. They also use color coding according to a “traffic light system” (green, yellow, and up to red) to demonstrate how much caution should be taken before buying a game for minors. In audible advertising, you’ll often hear the name of the gaming age rating system followed by the number (e.g. “rated PEGI 12”).

Here are all the PEGI ratings from 3-18 with a short description of what ages the content is suitable for.

PEGI 3 – suitable for all age groups

PEGI 7 – suitable for young children 7 and older
PEGI 12 – suitable for children aged 12 and older
PEGI 16 – suitable for teenagers aged 16 or older
PEGI 18 – suitable only for adults aged 18 or older

PEGI ratings will often come with additional information in the form of icons called content descriptors. These content descriptors go into more detail about why a game has the rating it has. 

Content descriptors are connected to the age rating. For example, “fear” may suggest some sounds that little kids might find frightening in PEGI 7 games, but it could suggest horror scenes in PEGI 16 or PEGI 18 games. 

Some content descriptors automatically raise the PEGI age rating due to the offensive nature of the content (e.g. games that depict any kind of discrimination and have the “discrimination” label will always be PEGI 18).

One slightly different PEGI content descriptor is “in-game purchases”. This appears if there’s a possibility of buying any digital goods or services within the game for real money. This is a good descriptor for parents to keep an eye out for when buying games for their children, especially if these are older children who know how to purchase things online.

PEGI ratings content descriptors

pegi age rating violence
pegi content descriptor bad language
pegi content descriptor fear
pegi content descriptor gambling
pegi content descriptor sex
pegi content descriptor drugs
pegi content descriptor discrimination
pegi content descriptor in game purchases

Below is an example of a PEGI gaming rating along with content descriptors for the game Chernobylite:

Chernobylite PEGI rating 18
Looking for games suitable for small children? Check out some great kid-friendly games here:
The Best Family Co-Op Games That Are Kid-Friendly.

All ESRB ratings

ESRB means Entertainment Software Ratings Board and it’s another gaming rating system which is used primarily in the United States.

Unlike PEGI ratings, ESRB ratings for video games are based on letters that signify a certain age group.

ESRB E for Everyone – suitable for all ages
esrb age rating 10+
ESRB E 10+ – suitable for children aged 10 and older
esrb age rating teen
ESRB T for Teen – suitable for children aged 13 or older
esrb age rating mature
ESRB M – suitable for teenagers aged 17 and older
esrb age rating adult
ESRB A – suitable only for adults aged 18 or older.
esrb age rating rating pending
ESRB RP for Rating Pending – this game hasn’t yet received a final ESRB rating.

As with PEGI game ratings, ESRB ratings for video games also contain content descriptors about the game in the form of short text. 

Alcohol Reference
Animated Blood
Blood and Gore
Cartoon Violence
Comic Mischief
Crude Humor
Drug Reference
Fantasy Violence
Intense Violence
Mature Humor
Partial Nudity
Real Gambling
Sexual Content
Sexual Themes
Sexual Violence
Simulated Gambling
Strong Language
Strong Lyrics
Strong Sexual Content
Suggestive Themes
Tobacco Reference
Use of Alcohol
Use of Drugs
Use of Tobacco
Violent References

Below is an example of a full ESRB game rating taken off the back of the PlayStation version of Chernobylite.

Remember that these gaming age ratings are universal for all gamers so sometimes something that is labelled as “fear” or “language” might not necessarily be offensive in the same way to everyone, especially concerning older players. That said, both PEGI and ESRB game ratings give a good idea of what kind of content can be found in a game and can help you make a mature decision when buying a game for a minor.

We hope you found this game ratings guide useful. Do you still find any game age rating confusing? Have you seen a different set of game age ratings and don’t know what to make of them? Let us know on our Discord, we’ll be happy to help!

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