One of my absolute favorite ways to get into the Halloween season is by surrounding myself in some good, old fashioned, retro horror videogames. The reason I tend to stay in the retro side of the pixel pool is that it allows me to experience more horror goodness. Older games are meant to be played and finished pretty quickly so you can plop on your couch, dedicate a single evening to one game, and then move on like some sort of videogame kissing slut. You can’t fuck about in October. Time is of the essence and before you know it the season has passed and everyone starts yammering on about turkeys and Black Friday. So before that happens I’d like to share with you some of my favorite retro horror gaming experiences. This will be split into two parts. Please enjoy Part One!
Friday the 13th (NES) – I know this game is practically INFAMOUS, but I stick by this recommendation wholeheartedly. And yeah, this website mentions Jason Voorhees with a regularity that would suggest he has compromising pictures of myself and Josh…BUT damn this game doesn’t get the respect it properly deserves! Listen, I get that it is absolutely FULL of cryptic NES era bullshit. I get that. However, if you actually learn the game and take some time to get fully invested you actually have a unique little horror game on your hands. Despite Jason sashaying around a purple jumpsuit and donning a sky blue hockey mask, this game scared the everliving shit out of me as a child. As an adult it still manages to illicit some frights. When Jason just fucking POPS out without warning and you’ve got the TV cranked to the max…yeah I jump almost every time!
Pretty fucking eerie for a NES game!
For a licensed game it does some incredibly unique things as it mixes adventure game elements with platforming, and a nerve wracking rescue timer. Plus, it still has the gumption to retain a few hallmarks of the Friday the 13th Movies including Camp Crystal Lake, Jason’s Mother, Pamela Voorhees’ sweater etc… You can say that LJN just cashed in with another lazy NES game, but you’d be wrong. What is here doesn’t work perfectly, but its flaws don’t make it unplayable or unfun. If you’ve never actually played this and your only frame of reference is the Angry Video Game Nerd shitting all over it…do yourself a favor and track down a copy this October. I assure you it’s MUCH better than the herd mentality of the internet would lead you to believe.
Demon’s Crest (SNES) – The sequel of two previous Gargoyle’s Quest games is widely considered a cult classic. It was treated like the videogame equivalent of a leper upon it’s release in the 1990s. Now, it’s hotly sought after treasure that remains hard to collect as it has SKY ROCKETED in value over the past few years. In this game you’re controlling Firebrand, the Red Demon, from the Ghouls n’ Ghosts franchise. Wolfman’s Lounge protip – Any game where you get to be the monster is automatically awesome.
You know just from the title screen this game is gonna be amazing!
Demon’s Crest plays sort of like Castlevania, mixed with Ninja Gaiden, and the whole thing is DRENCHED in spooky, gothic, 16-bit sprites that look marvelous! You will breathe fire, fly over pits of doom, cling to walls, and unlock new transformations throughout your side scrolling adventure. It’s a treat from start to finish. The Ghouls n’ Ghosts series and its Gargoyle’s Quest games are due for a righteous comeback. At the very least I’d love to see Capcom bundle all of the games into a collection on the PS4 similar to what they’ve done with Mega Man. Don’t make me beg Capcom. It’s not a pretty sight.
Mutant League Football (Genesis) – Unlike the SNES, the Genesis is home to a shit-ton…a literal SHIT-TON of weirdo themed games. I wanted to mix this list up a bit and what better way than with an absurdly violent, heavy metal rocking, totally bitching football game! Clearly, this was Electronic Arts (as they were known back then) attempt at bringing Games Workshop’s popular tabletop game Blood Bowl to home consoles. To their credit they totally nailed it. This game DOMINATED my childhood. It was in constant rotation amongst my friends. Side note, my best friend and I shared a pet turtle (What? That’s totally not weird at all). In honor of Mutant League Football we decided to name it SPEWPUKE after one of the characters in this game. Well, my friend’s mother didn’t quite approve of the name and I quickly received a phone call informing me that SPEWPUKE’s new name was, um, Murtle. Yeah. Not nearly the punk rock, in your face, boldness that SPEWPUKE invokes!
Modern sports games could learn a thing or two from MLF!
Oh well. Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah Mutant League Football! Who could resist a game of football with skeletons, robots, aliens, trolls, and super humans? Fucking nobody…that’s who! Along with being a damn fine football game, it was filled with violence, cheating, bribing the referee, and more. There was a gleefully morbid sense of black humor sprinkled throughout the game that has endeared it to fans around the world. If you want a nice horror-ish sports game to play with a pal this October you’ll do well to track down a copy of this pigskin brawler!
Night Warriors: Darkstalker’s Revenge (Saturn) – It’s October. You want to play a 2D One vs One fighting game but you don’t want to halt the non-stop horror-a-thon? Night Warriors has got you covered! While I’ve always been a big Street Fighter II fan, my favorite Capcom fighting series was Darkstalkers. It’s mixture of classic horror monsters, Japanese Anime and super smooth Street Fighter style fisticuffs has always struck a particularly strong chord with me. Sure maybe it’s because you can fight as a super bad ass Wolf Man. Is that such a crime? Maybe I want to live out my House of Frankenstein fantasies and pit all my favorite monsters against one another. This game let’s me do that and more.
Kung Fu Wolf Man!
Playing Night Warriors on the Saturn makes you fully comprehend just how much of a 2D powerhouse the console really was. 2D games like this make the Playstation 1 blush with inferiority laced jealous! The highly detailed sprites are huge and animate like liquid hot butter. Also, the stage backgrounds are some of the most imaginative in all of fighting games. If you you’re in the mood to body slam a rock n’ roll zombie with a huge ass Frankenstein’s monster, then look no further than Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge.
Clock Tower (Playstation 1) – My favorite thing about Clock Tower is that everyone has the same initial impression. You ask yourself, “Man how scary can this crude, ugly, point and click adventure game be?”. Then you play one level…just the first fucking level and you’re ready to toss the controller across the room shouting, “Nope, nope, nope, fuck it, nope!”. Clock Tower is arguably the best representation of the slasher genre in all of videogames. You constantly feel hopeless, you constantly feel like you’re going to die, you never feel safe, and you’re constantly screaming like a little girl. When the villain, Scissorman, shows up to murder your ass your most primal human instincts kick in. It’s fight or flight baby…and since you almost never have a weapon you make like Forrest Gump and run! If you’re lucky you’ll find a hiding spot and Scissorman will give up for a few minutes. Then you continue your search for clues and items to finish the current stage.
FEAR THE MAN WITH THE GIANT FUCKING SCISSORS!
The fact that the game is controlled by a pointer only makes it more frightening. The hampered controls give the player an appropriate handicap as you’re not able to use agility and nimble button presses to out maneuver Scissorman. Instead, you need to use your brains, keep your wits about you, and learn from any mistakes you endure. I adore this game and wish it had a larger following. If you can find a copy I highly recommend experiencing it’s nightmarish and atmospheric gameplay. Play it alone in the dark with the sound turned ALL the way up. It’s a one of a kind experience!
That’s it for today. Come back for tomorrow’s exciting conclusion to this list. Thanks for reading and please like and share. We appreciate everyone that happily spreads the Word of the Wolf!