Sega experimented with content for older audiences beyond the teen market in the 1990s, from allowing Mortal Kombat's blood code on the Genesis version of the arcade smash to creating the Deep Water series rating for games with mature themes. The company was ready to go beyond those markers though through a subsidiary with the development of its erotic thriller title The Sacred Pools. Planned for release on the Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation, PC, and Mac back in 1997, Sacred Pools was one of those underwhelming full motion video games from that era. Dylan Mansfield at Gaming Alexandria has the story of the multimillion dollar game that was never released until now, and you can download and try the unfinished version of the game if you want to be, y'know, erotically thrilled.
“If you crave mystery, power, and seduction, step into the world of Sacred Pools,” read SegaSoft’s original press release. “The once secure, safe, and beautiful island of Amazonia is now a land of temptation and danger. […] Sacred Pools exploits today’s technology creating a new level of gameplay so unreal you have to feel it to believe it.”
The game’s story revolves around the mystical sacred crystals on the far-off island of Amazonia. The island was once a safe area but has now become a dangerous spot littered with lust and desire. On your way to the titular sacred pools, you’ll encounter a plethora of far-out sci-fi enemies, who you’ll need to navigate past to get to the crystals.
Although the game featured many scantily clad women, none of the footage contained any fully naked bodies (and certainly no “hardcore sex scenes,” as some websites claim). Sega of Japan actually announced in August of 1996 that no future Saturn games would feature nudity of any kind.
The United States Congress already didn't like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap. Can you imagine their reaction if this game had actually made it out? Just the hint of a "sex video game" produced for mainstream consoles where children play would have sent the politicians running for both their committees and 60 Minutes. It doesn't matter how titillating Sacred Pools was or whether or not there was any nudity in the game. Just look at how everyone reacted to the Hot Coffee mini-game in Grand Theft Auto: Andreas in 2005, and that was supposed to be deleted content. I think overall the industry was better off without it. That said, I'm also glad that pieces of it survive for curious players to examine today as part of the historical record.