If you’re a horror game fan like I am, Halloween’s probably got you in the mood to dust off some of your old favorites for a creepy trip down memory lane. Everyone knows their “Resident Evils” and “Silent Hills,” but if you’re looking to expand your horror game repertoire a bit, here are a few gems of the genre that are perfect for the season.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors- LucasArts, 1993 (Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis)
The first game on the list may be more funny than scary, but I can scarcely think of a more perfect Halloween game than “Zombies Ate My Neighbors.” The game essentially plays like a refined version of the 1985 arcade game “Alien Syndrome” with you and a friend tromping around suburbia to save your hapless neighbors from a smattering of monsters inspired by classic horror films. Aside from, well, zombies, most of the Universal monsters are also around to menace, like vampires in the style of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, wolfmen and creatures from the black lagoon. Blobs, killer dolls, and giant ants also make appearances, making “Zombies Ate My Neighbors” a real treat for horror film fans. The game was recently released on WiiWare, so it should be pretty easy to get your hands on. Don’t bother with the clumsier sequel “Ghoul Patrol’ (Also on SNES and WiiWare).
Alone In The Dark- Infogrames, 1992 (PC, 3DO, Mac)
Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, “Alone In The Dark” was the game that set the formula for the “survival-horror” genre, made popular by the 1996 giant “Resident Evil.” In the game, artist Jerry Hartwood has committed suicide in the attic of his Louisiana mansion, known as Derceto. As either a supernatural private investigator or as Hartwood’s niece, the player must discover Derceto’s secret before the mansion’s dark power consumes them as well. Graphically, the game has not aged well, but this gives it a strange, eerie charm that weaves well with the supernatural narrative. The game spawned a handful of sequels, most recently the poorly received 2008 game of the same title. For fans of survival-horror who want to see where the genre started, the original is a must play.
The Dark Eye- inSCAPE, 1995 (PC, Mac)
This is a bit more esoteric of a title, but if you can track down a copy it’ll be well worth your time. Less of a game and more of an interactive film, “The Dark Eye” has the player walk through three of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories in the first person: “Berenice,” “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” To make this creepier, you go through each once as the tale’s murderer, and again as its victim. The game’s graphics are entirely claymation, with characters displaying exaggerated and grotesque facial features and a sickly pallor that makes “The Dark Eye” one of the most aesthetically interesting video games ever. Watching Montresor seal you in your makeshift tomb brick-by-brick in “Amontillado” is a truly unnerving experience. There’s very little in the way of gameplay in “The Dark Eye,” but it definitely makes up for it with atmosphere.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem- Silicon Knights, 2002 (Nintendo Gamecube)
Though commercially unsuccessful in 2002, “Eternal Darkness” has since reached cult status for its intricately-woven story and interesting sanity mechanic. Not unlike “Alone In The Dark,” the game’s main storyline has the player as Alexandra Roivas, a college student who is investigating the mysterious death of her grandfather in a mansion. Throughout the game, you play through a number of vignettes throughout different periods of time and in different locations, ranging from Persia in 25 B.C. to the frame story’s 2000 A.D. Rhode Island. Each story exposes a bit more of the mansion’s true nature, as the characters’ stories intertwine and overlap. The game is perhaps best known for its fourth wall-breaking insanity effects. Your character’s sanity is drained in the presence of monsters, and when it falls low enough strange effects take place. These can range from in-game effects, such as paintings of idyllic landscapes turning hellish or walls bleeding, to more meta-effects, like the game pretending it’s changed the video channel on your television or that it’s deleting your save file. There have been rumblings of a possible sequel in recent years, but no official word yet.
There are a lot of horror games out there. Most of them are pretty bad, but there are still plenty of fun and, often times, genuinely spooky diamonds in the rough. This is, of course, only a small sample of the good horror games that haven’t been developed into big-name genres, but if you’re looking for a good game for the Halloween season you may not have thought of before, these are four great places to start.
Alex is a senior majoring in journalism and communication arts. Email him column ideas for the next Herald Arcade at firstname.lastname@example.org.