80s, 90s, Quick Lists, Video Games — October 25, 2012 2:30 pm

13 Spooky Video Games

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Video games aren’t all about blue hedgehogs or Italian plumbers. Sometimes games are scary and nightmare-inducing (Resident Evil, anyone)? While these aren’t necessarily the games that will keep you up at night, here are 13 classic spooky video games to help ring in that Hallowe’en cheer.

13 – Castlevania (NES)

Whips? Vampires? Was this the original inspiration for 50 Shades?

Castlevania is a classic NES game, but it’s also notorious for being quite challenging as well as quite gruesome. It is the year 1691 and you’re controlling Simon Belmont—a schmuck tasked with defeating Dracula. Instead of punching or shooting, Simon prefers the whip. Nice. The designers of this game were well read, or at least well read in the required reading for high school English category, because at the end of each level, Simon battles a boss taken from horror literature or legend (including Medusa and Frankenstein’s Monster). Finally, Simon faces Dracula himself. After defeating Dracula and getting ready to celebrate your victory, Dracula just transforms back into some monster that you have to re-defeat. Refeat. Dracula is kind of an asshole.

12 – DecapAttack (Sega Genesis)

Who comes up with this stuff?

DecapAttack (the North American version of Japan’s Magical Hat Flying Turbo Adventure, which is a real name I didn’t make up) features Chuck D. Head, a mummy that uses its decapitated head to attack enemies—don’t worry though, Chuck’s face is in his torso so he’s still able to see what’s going on. If all that isn’t gruesome enough, the game takes place on an island shaped like a skeleton that is split into different areas, all named after body parts (Abdomainland and Armington, for example). Chuck D. Head’s creator, the mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Stein, sends him out to defeat Max D. Cap. The early 1990s were a strange time for video games.

11 – Monster Party (NES)

…Thanks for the heads-up.

The North American release of Monster Party, while somewhat creepy, is more cutesy and straight up weird than horror-filled. Still spooky enough for this list, of course. When a Japanese prototype of the game surfaced years after its release, it was discovered that the game was to be much darker. Even the game’s title screen was intended to be more gruesome—instead of the green slime North American audiences were treated to, the title screen was supposed to be dripping with blood. A project to restore the original version of the game is currently underway, after the discovery of that Japanese beta. The game follows Mark, a little baseball playing boy, who is sent to the Dark World to rid the realm of evil monsters. The creepy parts? Fighting a giant fried shrimp and an onion ring. Oh, and that part where a beautiful princess turns into a nasty monster who then melts Mark’s flesh from his bones. Typical first date stuff.

10 – Sonic Unleashed (Wii, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360)

Every time we write about Sonic, we get angry messages. Bring it!

Although the game was released in 2008 and isn’t quite retro enough for this site, it is pretty spooky. Remember how awesome it was playing Sonic 1-3? Take that awesomeness, totally disregard it, and then get eaten by a werewolf. There’s Sonic Unleashed.

If you can’t get enough of this scary Werehog, a pack of Sonic costumes is available in the PlayStation store for Little Big Planet on the PS3. In addition to a Sonic the Werehog costume, the pack also includes regular Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Dr. Eggman.

9 – Chiller (NES)

The challenge of the game: finding the quickest and most effective way of killing helpless torture victims.

While only 8-bit, Chiller is rather creepy and nightmare-inducing. With its graphic portrayal of violence, Chiller puts the player into the place of a murderer. The game saw its start as a light gun arcade in 1986 and was later turned into an unlicensed port for the NES in 1990, where the player can use either the Zapper or the regular NES controller to play the role of a torturer. The player gets to maim, mutilate, and murder helpless victims in a dungeon, giving new depth to the name “red room of pain”. The game didn’t do so well in North America, probably because it played like a bad episode of Criminal Minds.

8 – Ghosts’n Goblins (Numerous Consoles)

More bothersome than the ending: the grammar in the title.

Ghosts’n Goblins (or its Japanese translation: “Hell Village”) is a 1985 game that has been released on numerous consoles and is pretty notorious for being one of the more challenging games in existence. In the game, the player controls Sir Arthur and slays zombies, ogres, demons, cyclops, dragons, and other monsters. His task? To save Princess Prin Prin (stop it, I didn’t make that up!), who, conveniently enough, was kidnapped by Satan, King of Demon World. This game will haunt you. It only takes two hits to kill your character, and you’re sent back two levels if you show up at the main boss without a certain weapon. Oh, and then when you return with the weapon for the first time, you’re told that the battle was just a trap devised by Satan and then have to repeat everything on a higher difficulty level. What kind of sadistic jerk designed this game—oh right, Satan.

7 – DOOM (PC, Numerous Consoles)

“Jurassic Park is frightening in the dark…”

Many likely played DOOM on their PC, but it was later released on countless consoles. Rife with satanic imagery, the game DOOM features a space marine fighting his way through a military base and killing hell demons on Phobos (Mars’ moon). The marine even has to fight his way through Hell. This first-person shooter also saw numerous WADs, including a “Weird Al” Yankovic version with a spooky midi of “Amish Paradise” looping infinitely. It doesn’t get scarier than that.

6 – A Nightmare on Elm Street (NES)

Has no one sent Freddy any Bio Oil?

In Nightmare on Elm Street, players (up to four) fight their way though the ‘hood, but the real task is to watch that sleep meter so your character doesn’t fall asleep and succumb to the dream demon that is Freddy Krueger. No joke—you can wake your character up with cups of coffee or a boombox. Waking up to loud 1980s music—now that’s terrifying.

Okay, the real terrifying part—throughout the game, players collect ol’ Fred’s bones to toss into a furnace. Creepy, yes, but it gets better. Players then must battle a boss at the end of each level. Okay, not uncommon, but here it is: each boss is a different part of Freddy’s body. Glove, head, you name it.

5 – Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2600)

Watch out for that menacing block!

In the same vein as Chiller, players control psychopathic murderer Leatherface as he murders trespassers in this video game from Wizard Video. This is one of the first horror video games, and although it was hindered by the graphic capability of the Atari 2600, it didn’t stop parents from freaking out about the violent nature of the game. I guess if you squint real hard you can kind of see murder? Or two pixels? Either way, it didn’t sell very well, but it’s now widely available on an Atari emulator near you.

4 – Friday the 13th (NES)

Is this really the cover you’re going to go with? It looks more like a title card for Save by the Bell: Screech Finally Snaps.

In Friday the 13th, largely panned as one of the worst video games, players control a camp counsellor out to defeat Jason as he murders children and other camp counsellors. Jason must be defeated three times because, well, why not. When that’s out of the way, the player moves on to fight Jason’s mother, who is hidden in a cave. And they market this to children! In true LJN fashion, however, the game’s creepy factor is undermined by terrible controls and an overall terrible translation of the film to video game.

3 – Halloween (2600)

Jamie Lee Curtis never looked so good!

Halloween also saw a video game translation from the same company that brought us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This time, instead of controlling the murderer, the player gets to control a babysitter who attempts to protect children from Michael Myers. Not as creepy as its predecessor on the Atari, but those are still some mean blocky pixels.

2 – Haunting Starring Polterguy (Sega Genesis)

Ghosts and yuppie families, together at last.

In Haunting, players control Polterguy, the star of the show that looks like the undead version of the Fonz, as he hides in vases, couch cushions, and more to haunt and scare some yuppie family. Instead of an energy bar, Polterguy has an ecto bar that gradually depletes. When it’s gone, Polterguy is sent back to the Underworld where he can collect more ecto. While it may not be gory, it is kind of frightening. Makes me eye that vase in my kitchen a little longer.

1 – Alien vs. Predator (Atari Jaguar)

Nope. Just nope.

The Atari Jaguar gets a lot of flack (even from me, and I love Atari), but Alien vs. Predator is a highly respected Jaguar title. In the game, a first-person shooter based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, players can select to play an Alien, a Predator, or human Private Lance Lewis of the Colonial Marines. What’s so creepy about this game? If you play an Alien, you’re able to cocoon marines. If you die, a cocooned marine becomes an Alien that you’re able to take over. Overall, just freaky nightmare-inducing creepiness.

Did we miss your favorite scary game? Leave us a comment below!


  • Great read! I like the depth that you went into and the length of the blurbs here.Good choices on the games too. I’ve been playing a lot of Haunting this month.

    • MisterZero Thanks man! Haunting is such a weird game, but really fun!

      • soapsite MisterZero It is a really weird game. I tend to supplement Beetlejuice for Polterguy in my mind, so I suppose that’s why I bother trying to scare that damn family at all. That’s goo collecting stage can bite a big one though.

        • MisterZero soapsite Yeah, that goo collecting stage is tricky! Gotta move quick! I’ll have to try the Beetlejuice substitution in my mind the next time I play!

  • personally i liked project zero, and its sequel, project zero – crimson butterfly

  • DecapAttack!! One of my very first and all time favorite Sega Genesis games. Thanks for the nice bit of nostalgia on that one.

  • Great list. Was it in Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm St. that you were required to punch snakes? The idea of punching a snake cracks me up.

  • One of the ACTUAL scariest games I’ve ever played was Fatal Frame, for the PS2. At 3am. With my best friend. We screamed a lot.

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