It’s Halloween, and the only thing better than scary movies are awesome video games. Since we were kids, we’ve been playing games with spooky atmospheres and supernatural goings on. There is no better time of year to visit these games. Some are obvious, like Resident Evil or Silent Hill. They’re a little too obvious, though.
Here’s our not-so-obvious top ten list of classic Halloween games.
10: Ghouls 'n Ghosts
“Don’t die.” To this day that’s the phrase that I repeat to myself when firing up any version of Ghouls 'n Ghosts. Sir Arthur faces all sorts of horrendous horrors as he battles his way perilously to save souls from the devil, including that of his true love.
So, you fight a lot of Satan’s spawn; ghosts, daemons, and all kinds of baddies. But that’s not the scary part. No. The scary part is that you will die. It’s not a matter of if, but when. I was six years old when I first played this game. Now, at age 31, I can still feel the anxiety in my chest as Arthur is down to his boxers and I accidentally picked up the wrong weapon, and I am oh so close to the end of the stage. Noooooooooo!
Ghouls 'n Ghosts has been released on a dozen or so platforms, and is easy to find.
9: Haunted House
Platform: Atari 2600
This is my earliest memory of a “spooky” game. It’s as old as I am. Of course, I was never spooked out by it. To me, Haunted House was always a cool alternative version of Adventure, which Haunted House almost exactly like; colored mazes, search for items, can only carry one item at a time, find your way out, but avoid the bad guys.
Looking back, the game is quite brilliantly pulled off on a 2600. The house so dark that the character only appears as a set of floating eyes. A match can be used to illuminate the immediate surroundings. I sometimes wonder if Meatwad is based on this effect, because the resemblance is uncanny.
8: Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Platforms: Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo
Konami created a cult classic with this one. Go figure, it’s a game with zombies in it. Back in the 90s there were lots of good games for both major systems, Genesis and SNES. It was easy to overlook this game, but with a name like Zombies Ate My Neighbors, and heavy advertising, it was hard to do so.
Back then multiplayer gaming wasn’t really a “thing” yet. Most games had to be excellent on their own to be a success. This game is one of the few from the era that’s just okay as a one player game, but it seriously kicks when played with a friend.
Two players can romp through the neighborhood, through grocery stores, hedge mazes, and swimming pools, saving innocent cheerleaders and backyard barbequers by destroying zombies with chainsaws, squirt guns, six packs of soda, and more.
The game has something like 99 levels, and they get progressively more difficult, but not at all boring. According to Wikipedia, someone is actually working on a screenplay to turn this game into a movie. That’s a real head scratcher.
7: Haunting Starring Polterguy
Platform: Sega Genesis
Once upon a time, in a mythical era known today only as “the nineties,” Electronic Arts (EA) developed and published awesome games that were totally unique. Haunting is one of the strangest of them all.
The plot involves a dude who bought a cheap skateboard, which broke and led to his death. Now he’s back, as a cool 90s ghost named Polterguy, and he’s going to haunt the hell out of the family who sold him the bogus board. He just can't stop. He came back haunted.
As the player, you float around, unseen, and possess inanimate objects in the house. The carpet bleeds. The couch comes to life and tries to eat people. The fun of the game is seeing what all of the crazy possession animations are, and then watching the family members scream and run for their lives. That’s really the whole point of the game.
There’s an energy bar called “ecto” and you have to collect it from scared people and by going to the underworld… but that’s just auxiliary, and you’ll want to get back to making fright. The game was later released on PSP in 2006.
Not everyone knows this, but there was a 16-bit console released just before Genesis and Super Nintendo. NEC’s TurboGrafix-16 had a lot of great games, and Splatterhouse is one of the ones that would’ve made Joe Lieberman blush.
There’s a story, but it’s not important, in involved the main character, Rick Taylor and his girl Jennifer Willis (no relation to Bruce), who stuck in a rainstorm, and ever so foolishly duck into a house called “splatterhouse.” Why is called that? Because evil bloody experiments were performed there. Of course demons and shit immediately fuck Rick up and carry off Jennifer. Close to death, Rick survives thanks to an evil artifact, the Terror Mask. Ohhh… spooky!
The gameplay is standard left to right beat ‘em up side scrolling action. What made it so cool was the level of ultra-violence which, at that point, our parents didn’t even know existed. (Thanks, Congress.) Rick smacks the crap out of creatures from Hell with a 2x4 and encounters pretty gruesome scenes, like having to murder his girlfriend, and performing abortions on the house itself.
Sequels exist on Sega Genesis and Xbox 360.
5: Mortal Kombat Trilogy
Platforms: Saturn, PlayStation, Nintendo 64
What do you mean, ‘what does Mortal Kombat have to do with Halloween’? Okay, we all know that Mortal Kombat takes place in the Outworld, which annexes realm after realm with dark magic. In Mortal Kombat 3, the portals to Earth have opened, the battle has come here. Millions are dead. Doing battle on the streets against monsters is eerie.
So, why Trilogy? Quite simply it’s the best of the 2D era of the franchise. It has every character from all four previous installments, multiple versions of each character, the bosses are playable from the start, and there’s a new hidden character, new gameplay elements, and a new brutal type of finishing move. The game is awesome. Deal with it.
There’s no such thing as a night of occult-esque gaming without DOOM. It’s the quintessential game from Hell. Not just any Hell, Hell released on the moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. It’s up to “Doomguy,” a pissed off space marine, to kill imps and cacodemons and flying flaming skulls, with chainsaws, shotguns, plasma rifles, and something called a BFG, which stands for big fucking gun (duh).
It wasn’t the world’s first first person shooter, but it remains one of the most memorable, and even though it followed Wolfenstein 3D, it expanded the popularity of the genre and set the stage for Duke Nukem 3D and Quake. It has seen numerous sequels and spawned ports on SNES, Jaguar, 32X, and more.
3: The Typing of the Dead
“Don’t come. Don’t come,” says a woman on the ground, in a monotone, unstressed voice as she attempts to crawl slowly away from a zombie in the hopes that you’ll kill her pursuer before it makes a meal of her brains.
To kill zombies in this retrofitted version of House of the Dead 2, instead of using the standard light-gun-on-a-rail model, you use a keyboard to type phrases, like “geisha waltz,” and each keystroke blasts away a part of the zombie’s body.
Doesn’t that sound awesome? That’s because it is. Believe me, it’s even more awesome in two player mode. Fortunately, Sega released a sequel in arcades and for PC based on House of the Dead 3, unfortunately, the game was only release in Japan. We’ve written a lot more about this game in our article, Ten Great Dreamcast Games That Most People Never Played.
Platforms: 3DO, Saturn, PlayStation
This is the most creeped out I’ve ever been by a video game that I’ve ever been. For its day, the rendered in 3D scenes were completely top of the line. The game’s mastermind was an Albert Einstein of music, atmosphere, and suspense. That Albert Einstein’s name? Kenji Eno.
Eno, the genus behind developer WARP, created Laura Harris, the heroine star of D, who enters the twisted mind of her psychotic murdering father, which is represented as a mansion. You must guide Laura through the perils of the maze under the gun of a time limit, while solving puzzles in this horror-adventure game.
Read more about D, WARP, and the late Kenji Eno in our article, Kenji Eno’s WARP- Where are they now?
1: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
Am I the only one around here to loves Simon’s Quest? That’s rhetorical. Of course I am not. Everyone loves this game except for one famously angry nerd who will not be named.
The great thing about Simon’s Quest is that, unlike the original Castlevania game, and subsequent sequels, this game isn’t a straight side scrolling action game. It combines the whip-toting, vampire-killing enemy action of the first game with side scrolling RPG elements. Simon Belmont collects hearts as currency, he can level up, explore towns, buy items, and travel from castle to castle in search of Dracula.
The best part about this game is that it has an early version of a night and day system. While in town, Simon is safe. While traveling in the forest, there are dangers at all times. But when night falls all bets are off. The townspeople go indoors as ghouls infest their streets. Monsters in the wilderness become twice as strong. And the music gets bad ass.
The chief complaint people have is that sometimes the puzzles are not obvious. Cool story. Back in 1988 you needed either Nintendo Power or simple word of mouth to know some of the secrets. Nowadays we have Google, folks. Make use of it.
Turn off the lights, and enjoy Halloween with this any of these games, or better yet, all of them.