Death Race was developed and published by Exidy and released in 1976 in arcades. It may not have been the first violent video game ever but it was one of the first video game to ever experience mainstream controversy (preceded only by the 1973 arcade game Gotcha).
In the game, the player controls an car with a steering wheel and acceleration pedal. The player then has to run down stick figures called "gremlins". Once the player ran down the gremlins, they would change into tombstones. This increases the challenge because the player now has to avoid the tombstones as well.
The game was met with a huge amount of controversy with the National Safety Council calling the it "sick" and "morbid". Death Race also prompted 60 Minutes to do an entire show on the psychological effects of video games. The game was also featured in the NBC news show Weekend, the National Enquirer and Midnight magazine. The controversy only fueled the sales of the game until the game was finally banned after the first ever protest against a video game.
In 1990, Death Race was released on the NES by American Game Cartridges Inc. The game is greatly enhanced from the original title that was released 14 years before. The game now features a better looking city along with the tombstone obstacles being replaced by a shooting helicopter.