I am looking forward to your answers to the question in the title above.
In my case, it was Prince of Persia in the early 90s. Even though I was young back then, the combats were not a huge ethic problem for me. After all, I was actually rescuing the princess. Moreover, there was no other way out of the castle, was it?
I think, if you don’t see any people but space/battle ships, you cannot call a game a murder simulator. Well, in the reality, battle ships are always manned, but we are talking about simulations making use of pixels. And, in those cases, there is no evidence of any life forms - unlike Rescue on Fractalus.
@David always cites this game as an unsuccessul attempt to make a pacifist game without a fire button. He said he was talked into adding one by George Lucas. Though I kinda agree with David because I think the shooting of other spaceships is the least interesting part of that game.
As for getting rid of the hostile aliens, maybe they could have used a windshield wiper.
I played Barbarian very early. Which funnily enough was only the case because it was in one of the boxes of copied disquettes we had. Back then I didn´t even know it was on the index and couldn´t be bought in most stores in order to protect impressionable young minds like me.
In my case the very first might have been Bards Tale I (what coincidence, as I’m presently playing that again). For something a bit more literal, the prize goes to Syndicate, or possibly Dune II. (For Syndicate, I had bought the censored German version, and then copied and played the uncensored English one).
I was about to list Sid Meier’s Pirates!, but as I recall it, the enemy captain would always surrender. Sure, you could still have everyone walk the plank afterwards, but that happened in the abstract.
Disqualifying Pac Man because those ghosts were technically dead already, the first murder simulation I played must have been Frogger. I tried so hard not getting that poor froggy ran over by a car or drowned (I know…), but alas, my reflexes caused countless frogs to go straight to frog-heaven. (Wasn’t there an animation of a little angel rising up in one if the frogger remakes?)
If you’re talking about other humans in a video game, Barbarian (head chop roll…), Commando, Rambo II stuff like that. I don’t remember which may have been the first.