The decision comes a day after Target Australia announced similar plans. In that case the decision was in response to complaints from customers about the game's depictions of violence against women.
"Following a significant review of all content in Grand Theft Auto games, Kmart has taken the decision to remove this product immediately," Kmart told Kotaku Australia. "Kmart apologises for not being closer to the content of this game."
Reached for comment today, officials with the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (similar to the U.S.' ESA) decried the decision.
"Over the past few decades videogames have taken their place alongside film, literature and television as a medium capable of entertaining all ages, including the ability to sustain complex and mature themes for an adult audience that rival similar works in other media," an official told Polygon. "As a result, IGEA are surprised by the recent removal of a popular R18 game from retail shelves given the average age of a gamer in this country is 32. Games should not be treated any differently than books, music, television, or movies rated R18. IGEA's members are proud of their compliance with the National Classification Scheme and believe that consumers, which includes parents and caregivers, should be allowed to make informed decisions for themselves."
Target Australia's decision came in the wake of an online petition started by survivors of violence, including sex industry workers, who are calling for the removal of the game from Target. The petition, which started on Nov. 29, had reached more than 44,000 signatures this evening.
In the Change.Org petition, creators Nicole, Claire and Kat write that the game "encourages players to murder women for entertainment."
"The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get 'health' points - and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking.
"Please Target - we appeal to you as women survivors of violence, including women who experienced violence in the sex industry, to immediately withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale."
In announcing its decision to pull the game from shelves, Target General Manager Corporate Affairs Jim Cooper said the decision was made following "extensive community and customer concern about the game."
Reached for comment this morning, a spokesperson for Target in the U.S. told Polygon that Target Australia is not connected to the U.S. chain in anyway. Target Australia is owned by Wesfarmers Ltd. which also owns Kmart Australia.
Strauss Zelnick, chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software, publisher of GTA 5, told Polygon in a prepared statement this afternoon that the company was disappointed about Target's decision.
Grand Theft Auto V explores mature themes and content similar to those found in many other popular and groundbreaking entertainment properties," he said. "Interactive entertainment is today's most compelling art form and shares the same creative freedom as books, television, and movies. I stand behind our products, the people who create them, and the consumers who play them."
Update: This story has been updated to clarify the relationship between Target and Target Australia.