As 2020 shuffles onwards, we stumble into October and one of the high points of every calendar year – Halloween! Yes, Samhain is summoned once more from beneath his pumpkin patch to provide us with our annual celebration of all things spooky. After the very real horror movie that is 2020, the poor sod has a harder task than Pat Sharp’s hairdresser this year. Even with all that, I’ve still managed to become just as intoxicated by the spirit of the season as ever, consuming an unhealthy amount of food colouring drenched snacks with the appetite to match a resident of Racoon City. TV, movies, video games, books, music, food – everything has to be supernatural themed in some way. It reaches the point where the Thriller jacket I bought for a Halloween costume party many years ago becomes a nightly feature of my outfit whilst I sit there eating Dracula themed Cheetos and attempting to beat Castlevania 2 for the 30th year in a row. Now is a very good time for the kind of distraction provided by Halloween themed episodes of Garfield or even a rewatch of Hocus Pocus, but if you are looking for something a little more interactive, something which makes your Dual Shock go bump in the night, then there are plenty of spine-chilling videogames to entrap our imaginations and whittle our extra lives down to zero. Now is not only the perfect time to revisit them – but also for me to make a list of some of my favourites.
Below you will find a carefully selected list of 10 spooktastic games from across the generations that offer the perfect excuse to barricade your front door and pretend you’re not in when the Trick or Treaters come knocking. Enter, if you dare…(or just scroll down).
10. Zombies Ate My Neighbours
Some games don’t get the credit they deserve and the first game we dig up from its grave is a shining example of that. Originally released on the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive, Zombies Ate My Neighbours presents itself as a loving homage to classic American horror movies that sees you zip around the neighbourhood saving your neighbours from Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, Aliens and even giant babies! Using a top-down perspective it’s kind of like Ikari Warriors meets Stranger Things, but what really sells this game is the excellent co-op mode. It’s that classic Smash TV style co-op but with a bit more exploration. Me and my cousin used to play this for hours whilst drinking far too much Tizer and pondering just who was leaving all those keys around the place in this game.
9. Nightmare Creatures
What do you mean you don’t remember this game? This was one of the original Playstation’s big hitters. An era where 3D slash’em’ups were still a novelty saw Nightmare Creatures blend Victorian gothic horror with absurd violence and time it perfectly to catch the eye of a generation of kids that were ready to move on from cutesy 2D adventures with Mario and Sonic. Glorious theming and outlandish violence aren’t the only thing the game has going for it though. Historical events such as the great fire of London are woven into the narrative, as well as interesting gameplay ideas that were brand new at the time. An example being the game encouraging you to go on a violent rampage of mass death by depleting your health bar if you don’t kill enough enemies. Stealth was shambled off to the side in favour of an intense focus on violence. Unfortunately after a single sequel the franchise found itself laid to rest in its own virtual graveyard with the likes of G-Police and Tunnel B1. Sleep well, sweet psychotic prince.
8. Ghostbusters: The Video Game
PS3\PS4\Xbox 360\Xbox 1\ Nintendo Switch
If Bustin’ makes you feel good then what better way to spend an evening than with “the guys”, trapping spooks and spectres as the star of your own Ghostbusters movie. Terminal Reality’s 2009 game acts as the threequel (that’s a real word in the dictionary – I looked it up) we never got to see in cinemas, smothering itself so intensely in the sights and sounds of the movies that you’ll find yourself putting on the pounds after snacking on too many Twinkies. It was recently remastered and re-released on PS4, Xbox 360, Switch and PC at a reduced price, but unfortunately the cooperative multiplayer was removed – so I guess we’ll have to play it…on our own.
7. Luigi’s Mansion 3
On a somewhat related note, if you aren’t seeking scares and are looking for something a little more family friendly then Luigi’s Mansion 3 is an excellent choice. You take control of Mario’s taller brother, in Ghostbusters cosplay, who is tasked with ridding a hotel of unwanted spectres that are presumably leaving the hotel bad reviews on Trip Advisor. Rather than being scary, it carries itself with that warm, Disney scented style Halloween that can be enjoyed by any age or heart condition. Also, the hotel is evidently dog friendly as Luigi takes along his pet, “Polterpup”, which is just the best name for anything ever.
6. Decap Attack
If you were a kid in the UK in the 90’s then this game is probably more famous to you from its recurring series in the pages of Sonic the Comic. As was the style at the time, it’s a side scrolling platformer where you jump on things, avoid things and collect other things in the name of…who knows. Sega present’s a charmingly spooky world, but its hook is the starring role it gives to a mad Mummy with a Kuato face in his stomach, who channels the (very much alive) spirit of Fatima Whitbread to launch his own skull at unfortunate foes. The skull even has it’s own name! Okay so it’s name might be Head, but who are we to judge the names deranged scientists give to their experiments? It also has one of those soundtracks you’ll find yourself humming when putting the bin out. Interestingly, despite its “Mummy” themed trappings, this game was originally released as “Magical Hat’s Turbo! Flight Adventure” in Japan before Sega Frankensteined it into an entirely different game.
5. Darkstalkers Resurrection
Capcom may have forgotten about the Night Warriors but I never will. If you’ve never played a Darkstalkers title, think the Street Fighter Alpha games reskinned with gloriously cartoonish horror. Beautifully animated character sprites battle across fantastical stages in a vague story that’s another one involving a giant demon baby. Why is this a theme?! You can play as any of the usual horror tropes like Vampires, Werewolves, Mummy’s etc, but then you get all sorts of mad stuff like a possessed suit of armour and Red Riding Hood wielding an entire armoury that would make Tony Stark blush. It’s bonkers in the best kind of way and adds a few gameplay tweaks of it’s own that helped distinguish it from Street Fighter and spawn it’s own rabid fanbase. Honestly Capcom, this is one franchise you need to raise from the dead – NOW.
4. Castlevania: Bloodlines
There are enough Castlevania games to fill an entire list like this and the question you’re probably asking right now is: “why this one?”. Bloodlines is hardly one of the franchises most revered games but it’s unique in that it serves as a psuedo sequel to Bram Stokers original Dracula novel. Which is an interesting twist in a series that sends Belmont after Belmont to into battle against the hordes of the night. Being the only Castlevania game to appear on the Sega Mega Drive makes it a special curio all of it’s own. Nintendo must really have put the frights up Konami. Maybe they sent Miyamoto into the Konami offices dressed as a Boo and the Konami execs thought it was a real haunting.
Bloodlines was recently re-released as part of The Castlevania Anniversary Collection on PS4, XBOX ONE, Switch and Steam and can be bought on sale for the cost of 3 Vegan sausage rolls from Greggs.
3. Alien Isolation
PS3\PS3\Xbox 360\Xbox One\Switch\PC
In space, no-one can hear you scream. But on a council estate in Nottingham – your next door neighbours can hear your terrified shrieks just fine. Instead of blazing Pulse Rifles, Creative Assembly return to the creeping, lonely, anxiety of space terror that made the original movie a classic and ensured I didn’t sleep for about a year. If you want to spend Halloween sweating nervously without taking a COVID test then this is probably the virtual socially distanced game for you.
2. Resident Evil 2: REmake
I’ve got chills, they’re multiplying…..because a licker falls off a ceiling every time I try to catch a breath in this eerily ornate Police Station. Like Castlevania, the Resident Evil franchise could have it’s own list but the remake of the second game is so terrifyingly fresh that it’s the easy choice to go with. The story and characters will be instantly recognisable to anyone else who skipped their SAT exams in 1998 to play the original game, but the world has been completely rebuilt in the image of modern gaming. Following the lead of RE:4, it’s an over the shoulder shooter with all the new-fangled mod-cons like item physics and a movable camera. The biggest change here is that the game has gone from having a skin crawlingly high creep factor to being genuinely terrifying. Even now, I check round all the corners before going to the bathroom to brush my teeth just in case Mr X is lurking on my landing in his daft hat.
1. Parasite Eve
If there’s one thing I love even more than Halloween – it’s Christmas. So when leafing through one of the American videogame magazines that my local newsagents occasionally used to import, back in the ancient times of 1998, I ran across an article about an upcoming Squaresoft survival horror set during Saint Nick’s signature season, I knew this game was going to be for me. Of course, Squaresoft deciding Europe wasn’t worthy of the game (just like Chrono Cross) was annoying, but ultimately it wasn’t a major hurdle (nor was it with Chrono Cross) and the experience of this game is unlike few others on the PlayStation. Snowy streets add a chill to what is already a haunting atmosphere, as poetically named NYPD officer Aya Brea tries to save that little known city of New York from all sorts of confusing paranormal goings-on, including the supernatural theft of sperm. Yep, the story is utterly insane. Square mixed RPG elements into their bubbling survival horror cauldron to brew something that is peculiar at each turn and fights against almost every instinct you’ve honed over in Capcom’s Resident Evil series. This is one of my favourite games on the original PlayStation and if you can find it then it’s well worth diving into. You’ll even discover who really wrecked the Statue of Liberty before the Cloverfield monster got its pinchers on it.
This is just a quick list of some of my personal favourites. It pained me to not include games like the House of the Dead series amongst so many others, but hey – that just means there’s more for another year, right? So on that note I bid you goodnight, as I go to eat toffee apples, chocolate and cakes shaped like Frankenstien’s head in a room dimly lit by flickering candle light. Happy Halloween.
“BAT!”*Turns into a bat and flies into the night*