It’s that time of year, boys and ghouls! Time to buy another jumbo-sized bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that you swear you’re going to give out to kids this time, dig through your closet to find the costume you’ve been re-using since college, and whine about hipsters complaining about pumpkin spice on your Twitter feed! Yes, it’s October, the spookiest month of the year. Why? Because rounding out the month is All Hallow’s Eve, better known as Halloween.
So if you’re in a spooktacular mood like the rest of us, you’re probably craving some great Halloween games. After all, video games are no strangers to horror. It’s one of the biggest genres in the medium! However, rather than just naming off a bunch of known horror franchises and calling it a day, we thought we’d go the extra mile. We’re going to take a look at some games that fit into the public perception of Halloween.
10. Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge
- System: PlayStation 2, Xbox
- Publisher: Capcom, Buena Vista Games
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Dates: October 10th, 2004 (US)
Good ol’ Jack Skellington is just as chilling as ever. In fact, after this year’s Halloween, the citizens of Halloweentown honor Mr. Skellington with the ever prestigious “Most Spines Tingled By a Non-Corporeal Being” award. Now, with nowhere else to go, Jack begins to feel a malaise. Not a fun Edgar Allen Poe kind either. He wants more. Jack approaches Dr. Finkelstein for some advice for how he can improve his skills, and he’s given the Soul Grabber to smack people around with. However, what Jack doesn’t realize is that, while he’s out training himself, Oogie Boogie is rising from the ashes…
Okay, before you scroll right past this entry for being a PS2-era licensed game, hear us out. Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge was actually developed as a sequel to the iconic holiday classic. This isn’t meant to be a simple cash-in title, but a canon sequel. So if you want more from the Nightmare Before Christmas franchise and are sick of waiting for the new Kingdom Hearts game, check out Oogie’s Revenge in between your visits to Hot Topic! You might be pleasantly surprised!
9. Monster Bash
- System: DOS
- Publisher: Apogee Games
- Developer: Apogee Games
- Release Dates: April 9th, 1993 (US)
No no, Johnny Dash is not the hero of a long-forgotten 50s sci-fi TV serial. He’s just a kid who got dragged down to Hell… er, “the Underworld”. While he’s there, he’s got to save his dog Tex from Count Chuck, the master of the realm. Armed with nothing but rocks, a slingshot, and a pair of PJs, he just might have a shot.
Look, we’re not going to dance around this: Monster Bash is a weird, weird game. Developed during the Wild West days of PC development, Monster Bash doesn’t know who to appeal to. It’s too gory and gross to be played by kids, as monsters erupt into chunks of flesh and bone when killed. Yet, at the same time, the premise is too childish to be taken seriously as a horror game. But that’s also why it’s a perfect fit for Halloween! It straddles that line of kitschy horror and childlike wonder that encapsulates the holiday so well.
- System: PlayStation
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: SCE Cambridge Studio
- Release Dates: October 21st, 1998 (US)
There was once a great hero named Sir Daniel Fortesque. He was the king’s greatest knight and led the army of Gallowmere to victory against the evil wizard Zarok. A century has passed, and somehow Zarok has returned. He’s raised an army of the dead, but in the process, Zarok also accidentally revived Sir Daniel. Now, Zarok stands no chance!... except, well, there’s one little problem. Daniel never faced Zarok before. He was actually the first to die in the original raid, but the king credited him anyway. That’s not going to stop Sir Daniel Fortesque though! He’s going to turn legend into reality!
MediEvil was a cult classic on the PlayStation 1, seen as the spookier alternative to Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Having such a bone-chilling hero and creepy setting makes MediEvil a perfect fit for Halloween. However, If you don’t mind a bit of a wait, Sony is actually remastering the game for PlayStation 4! It’s getting the full Crash Bandicoot treatment with a complete graphical overhaul.
7. Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
- System: Wii U
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Koei-Tecmo
- Release Dates: October 22nd, 2015 (US)
It’s said that, long ago, Hikami Mountain housed a shrine where its priestesses had the ability to read minds. There, they’d show any wandering travelers a way to die in peace. Over time, the priestesses went mad and were eventually sacrificed to Black Water, the evil deity that oversaw the shrine. Now it’s present day, and three girls have returned to Hikami Mountain, all for their own reasons.
The backstory of Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water plays out like a good campfire story. You could be out with your friends and just change “Hikami Mountain” to wherever you guys are staying and not miss a beat. Combine that with a classic horror set-up of being trapped in a haunted shrine and Fatal Frame: Curse of Black Maiden is sure to be a treat. Make sure you’re getting together with your friends this holiday and scare the wits out of them!
6. Alien: Isolation
- System: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Creative Assembly
- Release Dates: October 7, 2014 (US)
Amanda Ripley is trying to figure out what happened to her mother, Ellen Ripley. She’s informed that the flight recorder of her last voyage was found on a space station called the Sevastopol. She joins up with Weyland-Yutani team so she can retrieve it for herself. When they get there though, Ripley is terrified to discover that the Sevastopol has actually been infested with a nasty case of Xenomorphs. After getting separated from the rest of her team, Ripley’s got to find her way out of the Sevastopol and find her mother’s recording all while avoiding a deadly alien!
The Alien franchise has somewhat lost its way as of late, but the hook of the very original movie was that it was a haunted house in space. That’s exactly the same kind of feeling that Alien: Isolation captured in video game form and brought back some much-needed clout to the iconic horror series. If you’re in a spooky mood but are sick of supernatural monsters and knife-wielding maniacs, give Alien: Isolation a look. Aliens are quite frequently forgotten staples in the realm of horror, after all!
5. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
- System: PlayStation, Sega Saturn (JP), PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
- Release Dates: March 20, 1997 (US)
It’s been 4 years since Richter Belmont defeated Dracula. However, Dracula’s son, Alucard, isn’t satisfied with that. Alucard wants to make sure his father never returns again. So, like any reasonable son with a father-complex would do, he goes off to destroy his castle. When Alucard arrives though, he’s horrified to find that not only has he been stripped of his powers, but Richter seems to be on Dracula’s side now! Alucard will need to get to the bottom of this, and fast!
You more of a fan of gothic romance horror over the cheesy 80s movie-of-the-week monster variety of horror? You may need to get into the Castlevania franchise if you haven’t already. Specifically, Symphony of the Night serves as a good entry point for what to expect from the franchise. It’s got a lush soundtrack that sounds as if the Trans-Siberian Orchestra only had a synthesizer to play off of, meticulously crafted sprite work that looks like someone threw a pixel filter over the works of Giotto (just Google him), and a winding castle that’s as easy to get lost in as, er, an actual castle.
4. Until Dawn
- System: PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Supermassive Games
- Release Dates: August 25, 2015
One year ago, a group of high schoolers played a trick on some of their friends while they were out on a cabin in the mountains. Those poor girls got lost out in the wilderness and were tragically never seen again. However, the time for mourning is over, and now everyone needs to get on with their lives. Josh, the brother of one of the lost girls, invites everyone up to the mountain again for another party, but strange things start happening while they’re there…
Do you ever watch horror movies and get angry that the main characters ACTUALLY went into a spooky room that’s clearly got nothing but shenanigans inside? Well, see if you would do any better in Until Dawn! It plays out exactly like an 80s slasher flick, and you take control of every character to try and save them from the crazy murderer who’s out to kill everyone in a choose-your-own-adventure set-up similar to Heavy Rain. It’s a great game to play in a group even though it’s single-player because everyone will be shouting at you at what they think you should do next. Be careful, as your choices will determine who lives and who dies!
3. Mr. Bones
- System: Sega Saturn
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Zono
- Release Dates: October 18, 1996 (US)
The world exists in a system of balances and counter-balances. Good and evil, Yin and Yang, Blue and Red skeletons… you know, that sort of thing. One philosopher by the name of DaGoulian believes the world has become too good, and thus sets out to inflict as much evil as he can so the world may become pure again. To do so, he revives an entire cemetery with the power of skeletism. There’s one brave skeleton however that was so kind and generous that he went unaffected by the power of red skeletism. Instead only received the power of blue skeletism. His name? Mr. Bones.
Just take one look at the cover art and tell us you’re not immediately enthralled. No, seriously, there’s really nothing more we can do here to convince you to track down a copy of Mr. Bones. Put simply, Mr. Bones is the most insane experience that was ever put out on what was already a system not lacking in weird games, mixing and matching all sorts of different gameplay systems in this wonderfully experimental game. Suffice to say, Mr. Bones is the ultimate game about skeletons, and is a must-play for any calcium-craving fan of Halloween.
2. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
- System: SNES, Genesis
- Publisher: Konami, Lucasarts
- Developer: Lucasarts
- Release Dates: July 19, 1993 (US)
Zeke and Julie are having a rough day. Their entire neighborhood has become infested with just about every horror cliche you can think of. Zombies, werewolves, chainsaw-wielding maniacs, living dummies… you name it and they’ve probably seen a couple. For some reason though, none of their neighbors seem to get what’s going on, so Zeke and Julie will need to save them before they get eaten!
A co-op cult classic of the 16-bit era, Zombies Ate My Neighbors has survived in the gaming zeitgeist due to its love of B-horror movies. It’s hard to tell if it’s meant to be a tongue-in-cheek homage either. On one hand its cartoony aesthetic and goofy animations make it seem like it’s kid appropriate, but when you hear that screech when one of your targets gets eaten, it will haunt you for the rest of your life. It’s an absolute Halloween must-play if you’ve got someone to share it with, as, trust us, you’re not beating it without a partner.
1. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
- System: 3DS
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Next Level Games, Nintendo SPD
- Release Dates: March 24th, 2013
E. Gadd, why would you think that painting of King Boo was okay to sell? He escaped and went straight for the Dark Moon. Now the incredibly posh neighborhood of Evershade Valley is infested with ghosts, and it’s up to Luigi to stop them! He’ll need to track down the pieces of the Dark Moon that King Boo hid away in 5 different mansions to lay the souls that haunt Evershade Valley to rest.
Look, we know we’ve suggested some legitimate horror games up until now, but let’s be real for a second: Halloween isn’t scary. Nobody is actually scared by the ghosts you crafted from napkins you swiped from Mc Donald’s, or the plastic Jack-o-Lantern-themed streamers you bought from Walgreens for $2.99. It’s a silly holiday where you put on a horror pastiche without actually scarring your kids for life. And that’s exactly what makes Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon the perfect Halloween game. It’s about as scary as you’d expect from a game starring cartoon plumber who captures ghosts in a vacuum cleaner. It’s the perfect essence of what makes Halloween, Halloween.
As we said, we tried to avoid choosing just flat-out horror games. We wanted games that found that nice blend of kitschy horror trends and genuine heart. Because Halloween is a fun holiday. We like the idea of being scared, but not actually being scared. That’s what we want out of Halloween, and that’s what these games provide.
Got your own ideas? Want to share your scariest gaming experiences? Well, please, let us know in the comments below!