"Grand Theft Auto III," produced by U.S.-based Rockstar Games, was introduced in Japan in September 2003 and has sold about 350,000 copies. It depicts random killing sprees in public places, cars being blown up and other acts of violence that officials fear teens might try to mimic, said Takahito Hayashi, a child welfare official.
The game will receive a "harmful" product label in Kanagawa prefecture, or state, where retailers will be barred from selling or renting the game to anyone under age 18. The game also will have to be displayed separately from other titles, he said.
While other products have faced similar restrictions due to explicit sexual content, it is the first time Japan has placed such measures on game software because of violence, Hayashi said.
Osaka-based Capcom, which distributes the game in Japan, refused to comment.
Kanagawa prefecture, just south of Tokyo, includes major cities like Yokohama and Kawasaki.