Our resident artist/writer/beer maker (oh you’d better believe it) Chris McAuley is back with another fab article. I prayed to the retrogaming gods for something Halloween-related and Chris heard my prayers! Let us know what you think of his top ten games to play this All Hallows’ Eve…
The nights have gotten darker and the leaves are turning various hues of golden brown and red. There’s devilish excitement in the air and I inevitably find myself indulging in all things spooky. It’s Halloween!
Halloween is one of my favourite times of year and I like to celebrate it with horror film and scary game binges. Lately I have been playing Telltale’s epic Walking Dead games and dipped my toes into the Resident Evil 3 Remake. However this list, as I am sure you are glad to hear, is strictly retro. I have even attempted to include some lesser known titles that never quite received the acclaim that they deserved upon their release.
Here are my top 10 retro game titles to get you in the mood for Halloween.
- Splatterhouse (1988) TurboGrafx-16
Fans of the ‘Slasher’ horror genre will love this game due to the carefully placed references scattered throughout it. This is one of Capcom’s greatest love letters to horror films of the late 70’s and early 80’s. The protagonist Rick is out to save his girlfriend from a grisly death. Unfortunately she turns into a monster and Rick is forced to kill her. It’s after this nightmarish event that the game gets a little… weird.
Rick then follows a blood trail leading to the mansion’s ‘womb’ after this he has to fight off foetus- like creatures. The game features such graphic horrors as foul chained zombies that retch pools of toxic goo. There’s disgusting maggots which emerge from rotting meat and hurl themselves at Rick. Luckily, Rick can combat these nasties with the help of knives, cleavers and a trusty 2×4.
Gruesome fun at it’s best!
- Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (1988) Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis
A port of the original arcade game, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a fun side-scroller where the player takes on the role of Arthur, a brave knight who must fight his way through spooky environments. His armor protects him from encounters with Skeletons, Vultures and evil wizards. If he is hit however, his armor shatters and leaves him almost naked, shivering in his boxer shorts. This makes the game frustrating at times, especially if you happen to misjudge an enemy’s attack.
As frustrating as a play through can be, it’s a visual delight and is like playing through a Saturday morning cartoon. Just booting it up and seeing the imagery of guillotines, bone ladders, skulls, reapers and vomiting pigs will get you in the mood for Halloween.
- Sweet Home (1989) NES
This is the original survival horror game. The first game of its kind that heavily inspired the Resident Evil series. For this alone, it’s important that you find a way to play it and spend some time marveling at its clever design mechanics.
It’s a role-playing game with random encounters and this helps to build tension as you move through the haunted mansion. This game is also packed with scares as well. It’s a surprisingly gruesome game for the NES and features impressive graphics. The narrative is particularly gripping and I don’t want to give anything away here. Horrifyingly good fun!
- Master of Darkness (1992) Master System
Cemeteries, evil laboratories, haunted castles and a house of creepy wax dolls. This game includes every horror trope you can think of. Even with the Master System’s limited graphical capability, Master of Darkness managed to transport me to terrifying locations and project a sense of unease.
This platformer was similar to Castlevania but contained its own unique flavour. It has retained a cult following to this day. It also features an interesting premise, a psychologist fighting supernatural enemies. A novel riff on the then established action platformer premise.
- Clock Tower : The First Fear (1997) PlayStation
This was the adapted and enhanced version of Clock Tower, which was originally available for the SNES in Japan. You are constantly placed on edge due to being stalked and watched by a creepy, scissor-wielding villain. If he catches you, the protagonist begins to panic and you must smash the ‘panic button’ in order to remain calm. It features an engrossing plot and an eerie atmosphere, perfect to play in a dark room with some moonlight streaming in through the window.
- Resident Evil (1997) PS1
I had to place the original Resident Evil on the list. It was the favourite horror inspired title of my youth. I enjoyed being creeped out by the weird mansion setting and screaming out loud as I emptied my precious ammo into the ever advancing hunters. It featured a fantastic story of betrayal, genetic experimentation and picking locks. I highly recommend grabbing the remake of the original which is available on GameCube, PS4, Xbox One and PC.
- System Shock 2 (1999) PC
This game is a first-person shooter, action role-playing, survival horror game. It’s a gem of a title which blends these experiences perfectly and crafts a nightmarish Sci-Fi narrative at the same time. The player finds themselves waking up in a starship in the year 2114 in a cyberpunk styled universe, suffering from amnesia. They then have to fight off an infectious genetic outbreak and an all-powerful super computer!
This is a genuinely shocking and scary game which at times could induce actual nightmares!
- Zombies Ate my Neighbors (1993) SNES
This isn’t a scary game but is a fun game to play and will get you into the Halloween spirit. The player chooses to play as either Zeke or Julie and must navigate through suburbia, taking out various monsters and saving their neighbours. Along the way, they pick up weapons such as fire extinguishers, water pistols and even tomatoes. Many of the monsters are based on classic horror movies, so you get to fight off blobs, vampires, giant ants and squid men. This is a creative and fun diversion and fully co-op to boot!
- Super Castlevania IV (1991) SNES
Everything about this game screams ‘Halloween’. Loosely based on the Bram Stoker Dracula mythology, the Castlevania series is the quintessential Hunter versus Vampire game. The Belmont family must defeat Dracula every 100 years due to a deeply ingrained blood feud. Lots of fantastic graphical effects, a killer soundtrack and some inventive boss battles make this a must-play!
- Blood Omen : Legacy of Kain (1996) PS1
In Legacy of Kain you play as a nobleman in a fantasy realm who dies and comes back as a vampire. Escaping your tomb you as mad as hell and want revenge. To do so, you will play through one of the best hack and slash adventure games available at the time.