As October shuffles on, we have reached one of the high points of every calendar year – Halloween! Yes, Samhain is upon us which provides a welcome respite from the very real horrors that 2020 continues to conjure. At this point each year, I become completely intoxicated by the spirit of the season. TV, movies, video games, books, music, food – everything has to be supernatural themed in some way. Let’s face it, 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. Over the decades we’ve also had plenty of spine-chilling videogames to keep us occupied and now is not only the perfect time to revisit them – but also to make a list of some of my favourites.
Below you will find a list of 10 of games that might just keep you entertained…if you dare….mwahahahha. (Of course you will, it’s just a list, it can’t hurt you….or can it…)
10. Zombies Ate My Neighbours
Some games don’t get the credit they deserve and the first game we dig up from the dead is definitely in that category. Originally released on the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive, Zombies Ate My Neighbours presents itself as a loving homage to classic American horror movies. As a top down adventure game you zip around the neighbourhood saving your neighbours from Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, Aliens and even giant babies! It’s kind of like Ikari Warriors meets Stranger Things. What really sells this game though is the excellent co-op mode. Me and my cousin used to play this for hours whilst drinking far too much Tizer and stuffing our faces with too many pieces of bonfire toffee.
9. Nightmare Creatures
What do you mean you don’t remember this game? At a time when Adidas Predators were tearing up England’s football pitches this was one of the original Playstation’s big hitters. In that era 3D slash’em’ups were still a novelty and Nightmare Creatures blend of Victorian gothic horror and absurd violence was perfectly timed to catch the eye of a generation of kids that were ready to move on from 2D adventures with Mario and Sonic. Glorious theming and outlandish violence aren’t the only thing the game has going for it. 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 games encouragement of you to go on a violent rampage of death by depleting your health bar if you don’t kill enough enemies. This was survival horror with less of the stealth and more of an intense focus on violence. Unfortunately after a single sequel the franchise found itself being laid to rest in it’s own virtual tomb.
8. Ghostbusters: The Video Game
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If Bustin’ makes you feel good then what better way to spend an evening than with “the guys” trapping spooks and ghouls 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 released on alllll the current gen consoles 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. The hotel is evidently dog friendly as Luigi get’s to take along his pet dog “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 from it’s 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 a charmingly spooky world, but it’s hook is it’s starring role for 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.
5. Darkstalkers Resurrection
Capcom may have forgotten about the Night Warriors but I never will. If you’ve never played a Darkstalkers game 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 you need to raise from the dead. NOW.
4. Castlevania: Bloodlines
There are enough Castlevania games to fill an entire list like this of their own 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 face the Lord of the Night. As the only Castlevania game to appear on the Sega Mega Drive console it’s also a weird curio all of its 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.
3. Alien Isolation
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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 such a hit. 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 familiar to anyone else who skipped their SAT exams in 1998 to play the original game, but the world has been completely rebuilt at the altar of modern gaming. Following the lead of RE:4, it’s an over the shoulder shooter and there are even new-fangled mod-cons like item physics. The biggest change though, is that the game has gone from having a reasonably 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.
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 1998, I ran across an article about an upcoming Squaresoft survival horror set during Saint Nick’s signature season – I knew I had to have it. Of course, Squaresoft decided Europe wasn’t worthy of the game (just like Chrono Cross) but ultimately that wasn’t a barrier (nor was it with Chrono Cross) and the experience of the game is unlike few others on the PlayStation. The snowy streets of New York add a cold feel to what is already a haunting atmosphere, as poetically named NYPD officer Aya Brea tries to save New York from all sorts of confusing supernatural goings on – including the paranormal theft of sperm. Yep, the story is insane. Square threw 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 Resident Evil. 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 many others but hey – that just means there’s more for next year right? If we survive 2020 that is, because that’s a horror story all of it’s own. 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 candles. Happy Halloween.
*Turns into a bat and flies into the night*