Since Valve opened the floodgates in 2018 for sexual content on Steam, it’s not an unknown fact that adult games are now all over the store. No matter where you turn, there they are. The market is now inundated with cheap, low-quality, and low-effort software. Not only this, but it has created somewhat of a space for difficult subject matters. These topics sometimes make an appearance within the sexual content, but why? Why are there so many Steam adult games all of a sudden? Why are many of them so cheap? To be fair, you can find decently made adult games on Steam, but from stolen assets to triggering topics, some of the adult games on Steam are a little bit shady.
Content warning: This post mentions sexual assault, rape, and torture. Additionally, many of the links on this page are not safe for work.
An Abundance of Steam Adult GAmes
In the past, Valve had pretty strict rules on sexual content on Steam, where the content could only ever be suggestive, but now games are able to be openly sexual, with full-frontal nudity and more. Not only this, but Valve stated that everything was allowed on Steam as long as it wasn’t “illegal” or “trolling.” Additionally, in early 2021, Valve announced that Steam adult games could not depict real people, as part of its justification for removing Super Seducer 3.
Because of the relaxing of the rules, this has allowed a lot of hentai games to make their way onto the store, especially those that are cheap and nearly always on sale. This is because a majority of these games are shovelware. Shovelware is defined as low-quality and low-effort content, which is exactly what the vast majority of these hentai games are.
Valve’s policy on games these days is something that isn’t exactly clear. Erik Johnson, a Valve executive, made a blog post talking about the policy and how it will be enforced.
“We’re going to push developers to disclose potentially problematic content in their games during their submission process, and cease doing business with any of them that refuse to do so honestly,” the blog reads.
There are currently at least 2,700 Steam adult-only games. The list of games banned by Valve is currently over 3,800. Looking through the list, most of these games seem to be shovelware content, with a lot of them also being those cheap, low-effort hentai games.
Stolen Assets in Steam Adult Games
Just because there are so many Steam adult games to choose from, it doesn’t mean that all of them will be fantastic. A lot of these games are simply just shovelware, with little effort and low quality put into them. Expect bugs, glitches, poor grammar, you name it. Many of these adult games are a form of puzzle game, such as slider jigsaws, as they are very straightforward to make, as it’s a chopped up image that you slide around the page to put it back together. The vast majority of these weak games will also be very cheap, ranging from $0.25 to $5 maximum. These cheap games don’t have the most stellar quality either. For example, Daenarys doesn’t want Hentai features a video on the store page of a woman dancing, with objects very clearly clipping through her body.
One of the games that players have reviewed for poor decision making and translating is Hentai Milf Quiz, a game where you answer school curriculum questions to undress the teacher. It’s the first in the series and has a few issues that players have come across, such as a missing translation for the last level. The last level is still in Russian and hasn’t been translated to the other languages as promised; furthermore, the overall translation doesn’t make much sense.
Whilst a seemingly large quantity of these Steam adult games have been banned for abusing Steamworks tools and the audience in some way, there is still a significant amount of these substandard games on Steam, despite the lengths Valve has gone to for quality control.
A lot of these adult games seem like they fall in line with Valve’s policy on the surface, but truthfully there are quite a few that don’t. Not on the basis of their content per se, but a lot of these shovelware games include stolen assets. People have cried out and reported these games, but unfortunately, if the DMCA report is not filed directly by the content creator themselves, nothing can be done.
Stealing assets is of course illegal, and if the report is filed correctly by the content creator, Steam will take action. However, many of these games go unreported because the work is stolen from Japanese content creators, who are unlikely to know that their work has been stolen as the games are so small and mediocre. For example, the game Ecchi Girls was removed from Steam, along with all of the other games by the dev Streamworks. They are notoriously known for stealing assets.
The Discovery Queue and Steam Adult Games
One important thing that exists that affects what you are seeing on your Steam page are the filters. There are plenty of people out there who have absolutely no interest in seeing sexual content on their gaming client, adults and teenagers alike. Valve came up with the solution to add adult content filters, which gets rid of any adult content that you don’t want to see. One aspect where the filters really shine is through the Discovery Queue. Although not a filter in and of itself, it’s a list of recommendations based on your interests, or what Steam assumes to be your interests. Filters that you use within Steam are then layered on top of the discovery queue. Steam assesses what you would want to see based on a number of factors, one of them being whether the game is popular.
Out of curiosity, game developer Erik Johnson — different from the one at Valve — hosted an experiment with the discovery queue and posted his findings on Gamasutra. One finding in his research was that Johnson made sure to explicitly filter out adult games from his queue and still saw a whopping 59 adult-targeted anime games in his discovery queue.
A large majority of the filters for the discovery queue rely on other filters. However, it does take note of your preferences in the Steam database as a whole. Some of those filters include positive user reviews, popularity, a high Metacritic score, and whether it is on sale.
Because of how these filters work, it makes Steam adult games a lot more discoverable. This is because if you have played anything remotely similar to adult content, it’s going to pop up everywhere. For example, Em Cross, a writer and colleague at The Helpful Gamer, played The Witcher 3 and went on to find hentai games popping up in their discovery queue frequently. In the past, people have complained that filters for adult content aren’t exactly great at doing their job, with many hentai games slipping past the filters and vice versa.
Valve’s Rules and Leniency in Steam Adult Games
An important thing to keep in mind are the rules that Valve have put in place and the leniency they provide. Valve has expressed leniency by allowing games with certain disturbing imagery on a “case-by-case basis.” For example, a game that has been pulled from Steam is Active Shooter, a simulation game where you get to pretend to be a school shooter. Despite being pulled from Steam, Valve issued a statement where they said that it wasn’t due to the content within the game, but rather because the developer was “a troll, with a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material and user review manipulation.”
Because it’s a case-by-case basis, it has somewhat opened the door to triggering content, should developers want to put it in their game.
After Valve imposed this vague policy, some devs have found it challenging to get their games on Steam. For example, LiLith's Taimanin Asagi, a game featuring "a colossal amount of rape scenes," made its way to Steam in late 2019. Shortly after, Valve removed it, though without a formally announced reason. At the time of writing, a "trial" version of the game is back on Steam, and this new version presumably doesn't break whatever rules Valve is imposing.
In many of these hentai games, you can expect a lot of triggering topics, often without warning. These can include torture, rape, incest… you name it, they’ve got it. However, whilst these games aren’t inherently illegal and just cover illegal or triggering content, they are allowed a place to stay on Steam. As Johnson from Valve said earlier in his blog post, “If you’re a developer of offensive games, this isn’t us siding with you against all the people you’re offending… However, offending someone shouldn’t take away your game’s voice.”
Because of this distinction, Valve is allowing all of those games that have triggering topics to remain on Steam. One example of this type of game is a match-3 hentai game called Mirror. This game contains topics of rape, drugging, and torture, which I unfortunately experienced when playing it, yet not a single warning of them is on their game page or in the game itself. Instead, it has a vague warning on the page for “general mature content.” This goes for many hentai games on Steam, which could prove to be dangerous for people who want to enjoy sexual content without triggering topics. Gachi Heroes has nazi imagery without warning, despite being a game where you jokingly slap men’s butts. Monster Girl Club Bifrost is a seemingly normal hentai game, but does feature themes of rape and drugging, which goes unmentioned in the game description and is only found in the user reviews.
Valve has opened the floodgates on shovelware content, allowing all sorts of games to exist on Steam. There are hentai games with stolen assets, games with triggering content but no warnings, and filters that don’t actually keep these games out of your feed. Should Valve be looking to rework their policies for the type of content they have on there? Is it really up to scratch and good enough for the consumer? Without a doubt, Steam will continue to be rampant with shovelware and shady adult games. However, the least they could do is allow consumers to report the content as stolen and ask the developers to include trigger warnings. There are still many low-effort and low-quality shovelware games that need to be looked at by Valve, and the filters they have in place for sexual content needs to be looked at too.
What do you think? Should there be trigger warnings on these games? Leave a comment down below!