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Jump Off the Couch: Halloween Horror in Retro Gaming

by James Deighan on 10/14/19 10:42:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


We’re all familiar with some of the most notorious ne’er-do-wells that go bump in the night. The likes of Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers have haunted the silver screen since the late 70s and 80s, and show no signs of slowing their roll. The same can be said in video games. You may know of Friday The 13th: The Game and Dead By Daylight, but video games have seen just as many horrors in their classic console glory days.


Splatterhouse Retro Horror

Released for the arcade in Japan in 1988 and eventually on the Sega Genesis in the United States, Splatterhouse is one of the forerunners of retro horror. The influences in this game are quite apparent as you don a Jason-esque hockey mask while fighting Deadite looking creatures in a side-scrolling beat ‘em up fashion.

The game was so unsettling at the time it even came with its own warning: "The horrifying theme of this game may be inappropriate for young children... and cowards." That warning obviously didn’t stop many people, as it was re-released on the Wii in 2007 and saw a reboot in 2010.

Sweet Home

Sweet Home Retro Horror

Another 1980’s horror game, Sweet Home was a top-down RPG that has you splitting up your party to collect gear and solve puzzles. The origins of the game go back to the Japanese film of the same name and, while most video game adaptations of movies tend to flop, Sweet Home has been deemed something of a grandfather to the horror video game genre. It’s remained relevant enough to be one of the driving influences of the powerhouse known as Resident Evil.

Super Castlevania IV

Super Castlevania IV Retro Horror

Is there a more iconic horror duo in gaming than a Belmont and his whip? Released in Japan on Halloween of 1991 for the SNES, Super Castlevania IV took the supernatural horror platforming series into the 16bit era and added a multi-directional whip and some cool swinging mechanics.

Haunted House

Haunted House Retro Horror

Perhaps the oldest entry here, Haunted House is a classic early 1980s game. Is it scary? By today's standards, no, not really. However, given the constraints of their time, the developers tried their best. This sentiment is heightened by Digital Press calling it "the dinosaur of the SCARY genre," which I guess is a compliment, depending on how you look at it.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th Retro Horror

Remember before when I mentioned how video game adaptations of movies don’t usually hit it right? Well, a perfect example is right here. Released in 1989, Friday the 13th was pretty much bashed by everyone who played it, with GamePro listing it at the bottom of it’s “Top Ten Worst Games Based on movies. The NES game was smacked with the “one of the worst horror games of all time” label. Thankfully, Illfonic has since stepped in and has created a worthy Friday the 13th game. 

From Boos to Moos

The Meating Retro Horror

The Meating takes influence from the retro horror games of the 20th century, with the only difference being that it’s being developed nearly 40 years later. 

Solid platforming and an interesting story are what made some of the above truly wonderful in their own right, and it’s these inspirational and driving pieces that have been adopted by the team behind The Meating.

A great-grandchild to these gems (and coal piles), The Meating and it’s minotaur protagonist are looking to put the horror back into the retro genre, while only including what made the old greats, great.

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