There was a time when horror ruled the world. Lucky for us, it never really stopped, at least not for the hardcore fans like myself and the thousands of others who have refused to let it. Even when we can’t find something new that we like, we force it to live on by purchasing all seventeen versions (per format) of our personal favorites from other decades. That’s passion, that’s devotion, that’s…. okay, we’re essentially getting milked but we can’t get enough! That’s why when we’re taking a break from watching extended, never-before-seen director’s cuts that have been mastered in 4k and is only the fifth special edition ever released, we look for other ways to enjoy our favorite genre; comics, books and video games.
No matter your age, if you’re into horror, you’ve probably found a game that went along with it that tickled your fancy. If you’re really into horror, you’ve probably waded through more shit than one person should ever have to just to get your video game fix. There have been some real winners throughout the years and there have been some bombs. We cherish the winners, curse the day we spent all of our allowance on the bombs and wonder, “what’s next”? I keep up to date about what’s next pretty well but I’d rather talk about some that I played as a kid and still deem worthy of playing now, specifically the original NES titles. I’m not going to go through the entire catalog, just a few that I frequent. While ‘good’ is subjective, just like ‘bad’, there are a few horror themed games that I still can sit and play for hours.
I’ve separated the good from the bad with screenshots.
CASTLEVANIA: Some of the best games I’ve ever played are in the Castlevania series (forget Simon’s Quest though). In typical side-scroller tradition, it looks like about 95% of all titles that came out in the Nintendo era, even plays like them, but has a really creepy feel and some unique things going for it. I recall coming from the Friday the 13th game and The Addams Family to the first Castlevania and being blown away. It felt like it was a project of passion, much like Mega Man 2. It’s actually a pretty difficult game to beat. I don’t remember ever getting all the way through it by myself, friends and I took turns and stayed up all night playing until we finally made it through. It mostly takes a lot of patience. If you’re looking for a great theme, a good challenge and good graphics (for the time), Castlevania is really hard to beat. The series went on and tried some new things but was always good when it used the original formula. Simon’s Quest, the second one, has too many annoyances in it for me to enjoy. The Angry Video Game Nerd tackles them well, check out his video to see what I’m referring to. One of my personal favorites is Super Castlevania on the SNES, but let us not veer away from the original Nintendo.
MONSTER IN MY POCKET: I actually picked this one up again as recently as yesterday. As soon as you hit start past the main menu screen, which is nifty enough to show that you’re a little pocket monster, you get to do what kids like me always did with their friends; decide whether you want to be Dracula or Frankenstein’s monster. Something that I think is really awesome is that they even refer to him as ‘the monster’, showing that there were probably some horror fans involved in the making of the game. The enemies are pretty easy but I chalk it up to our character being a badass. The bigger fights are a ton of fun, they have that good balance of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel while also challenging you a bit as well. I also really like that we get to be the bad guy, I’ve longed for more games where I can play as these icons of horror. This game isn’t nearly as indepth as the Castlevania series because… well…. it didn’t become a series. But to be honest, you won’t feel like it ever needed to.
SPLATTERHOUSE: Ohhh, here’s a series worth checking into current fans and old fans alike! I’m not telling you that the story is terribly compelling, but the gameplay and the visuals are absolutely a horror fan’s nightmare (that’s a good thing). As the series progresses, the main character gets buffed out really nicely, but it’s the hockey mask that makes it work so well and things stay pretty much the same aside from definite graphics-updates and effects. But let’s focus back to the original, which is a Japan release, the very first Splatterhouse to make it to the console. The game itself is littered with blood, guts, monsters, poltergeists and tons of fun. It’s a good mix between the visuals (and even some depth) of Castlevania and the balls-out fun of Monster In My Pocket. It starts out, which should sell you on it, with a girl crying at the grave of her love. The grave, for whatever reason, looks freshly dug. The lightning begins to strike and much to her surprise, her hockey-masked love-machine rises from the dead! While losing her shit (‘!?’) seeing it happen, the grave to the far left releases a pumpkinheaded thing that whisks her away. There’s pretty much your story, the rest is just hack n slash goodness. If you haven’t played it, grab it on one of the more current consoles and enjoy!
GHOSTS N GOBLINS: Of all the games I’ve mentioned so far, I’m willing to say that this one is the most Castlevania like in tone and difficulty. The difference is that it is much less forgiving therefore a hell of a lot more difficult to get through. I can’t begin to tell you how hard it can be at times. I struggled with it as a child but I loved every last minute of it. This is another title that the AVGN takes on, there’s a lot of reasons that this game will keep you playing, one being that you’ll probably die so much. But alas, the game is really well made all things considered and there’s a lot of good things going for it. It’s my least recommended, though, out of this list. That certainly doesn’t make it bad, it did make my good games list, but it’s sort of a pain in the ass more often than not.
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A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: I think it’s the least bad of this part of the list but it lacks a lot of what’s charming about the film series. You start off with what’s perhaps the best screen I’ve ever seen on any film horror adaptation for the NES but it’s a spiral downward from there. You start off punching snakes…… I can only assume you’re playing as Johnny Depp or Nancy although I can’t fathom why, or even who it is exactly from simply looking at the generic player model. I wouldn’t expect the graphics of Crysis, but I’d at least like to know right out of the gate who I even am. That aside, I have to wonder why on earth we’re punching snakes. The game gets a bit better as you go, but you’re not missing anything just skipping it all together to be honest with you. It’s one of those forgettable titles that could’ve easily been a classic.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: Where does one even begin to break-down the Friday the 13th game? I’m sad that it’s the only official one we have, that was always one of my favorite series. Up until I was a teenager, it was THE favorite as a matter of fact. Still love Jason, but I’ve given up on getting a game worth playing for the series. You start out picking a camper then walking around throwing rocks at these hairy-looking mud-zombies or whatever they are (they look like shit and in NO way relate to the film series) until you can manage to find Jason in a cabin, which happens to be the absolute only tie aside from the licensed logo and it being at a camp. Everything feels completely irrelevant. When he does pop-up, it’ll let you know to check your map because he’s in a cabin after a camper. You then travel roads, and sometimes canoes, until you get to where he is (if you make it in time! dun dun DUNNN). The scenery is nothing but a repeating series of muddy roads and cabins that all look alike until you get in a canoe or go into the ‘back woods’. Does that even make any sense? It doesn’t to me, but I digress. Once you get in the cabin where he is, you go left and up and right and up and back and left and on and on and on until you’re finally confronted with him. When you do… it’s a joke. Blue-masked Voorhees acts nothing like you’d want him to, he pretty much tap-dances with you until you either die or send him packing. You then light the fireplace and do it all again while waiting for him to reappear. Fun, fun…
GHOSTBUSTERS: Hell yes bustin’ makes me feel good! You can call it what you want, but I never once felt like a Ghostbuster while playing this game. This has to be one of the absolute worst games I’ve ever played. That’s still an understatement, it’s horrible in every sense of the word. You spend the entire time ‘playing’ this game just trying to navigate the horrendous main screen so much so that you won’t even care when you do get to the action. The action, speaking of it, is just as bad as the rest. It’s monotonous, it’s unmotivated, it’s a real mess. I don’t have anything positive to say about it aside from the Ghostbusters logo being present. And here’s what you get if you hang in there and throw your life away beating this pile of ass:
DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE: Ghostbusters is bad but this is where we finally cross the line into video game suicide. While it may start out looking like your typical game, leaving you to expect a fun side-scroller based on a fun novel, you’ll quickly change your mind. The story here is that you’re trying to make it to the church on your wedding day. Now, as with all games, as soon as you’re in control you want to figure out what A and B do. You’re given a weapon but here’s the kicker; it’s 100%, completely useless. Your weapon is absolutely without function. There will be people speed-walking at you and crazy ladies and spiders hanging from trees and you can’t do anything to them aside from try to avoid them. So why even have a weapon? I think that’s got to be the number one question every person who’s ever laid eyes on this game has been asking. This is bottom of the barrel gaming, it makes Tetris on the Gameboy (which was good even in black and green) look like Batman: Arkham Asylum. There’s no saving grace here much like with Ghostbusters. But hey, at least they had their amazing logo to make you smile when you saw it on the shelf.
I’m not sure if I’m excited to go back to playing the good ones or just aggravated that I sat through all the bad ones. A Nightmare on Elm Street, as well as The Addams Family and Friday the 13th are completely playable games but they lack the horror that should’ve been what they excelled at. They don’t even really tie in to the movies very much. But you could still sit and enjoy them on some level. Ghostbusters and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on the other hand… spare yourself the experience all together.