We’re continuing our retrospective look at our favorite Halloween-esque video games from yesteryear but this time we’re leaping into the next generation with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System! With improved graphics, sounds and gameplay mechanics these SNES titles really brought the eerie atmospheres of the gaming world to the next level. Now, not all of these entries are scary, in fact, some are downright silly, but these games all share the same spooky spirit of Halloween in some way.
This obscure little title from Acclaim wasn’t a bad game; I just think it suffered from poor timing. Released one year before the Space Jam boom of 96 the game stars Porky Pig
(obviously) as he fights his way through a nightmare world in Super Mario Brothers 2 fashion. It’s nothing special when compared to other classics of the era (mainly because the game was aimed towards younger children) but Haunted Holiday still features some decent platforming gameplay, some impressive use of Mode 7 and the music is legitimately eerie to this day. I think the fact that Haunted Holiday stars Porky Pig is what really kept this game from crossing over into the mainstream for many fans and had he been replaced by some generic anime character I feel that people would consider this game a lost gem.
Unlike the last entry, released by Viacom Entertainment in 95, this game came out at the height of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters popularity. The headmaster of monster school, The Gromble, needs you to perform the monster Midterm Exam in order to prove yourselves to
be a real monster (whatever that means). Basically it just means you collect garbage, throw said garbage at people, and scare them in the process. The game is more or your less your average platformer with nonlinear level designs (as usual these can be kind of confusing) but what really makes it special are the interchangeable characters you play as each with their own special moves used to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles. Ickis can fly for a short time, Oblina can reach higher ledges, and Krumm can see off-screen locations. They can also collect monster books that will teach them new scares.
In Zombies Ate My Neighbors, the player must rescue a certain amount of neighbors from a never-ending horde of vampires, mummies, zombies, Martians, chainsaw maniacs and an array of other horrifying monsters using different weapons like a bazooka ,water gun, lawnmowers, explosive soda cans, Popsicles, tomatoes, silverware etc. The game plays from an over the top camera angle where the player unlocks sections of the level by various methods so it sort of works as both a shoot em up and a problem solving exercise. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a wacky parody of the horror genre that manages to be both fun and challenging (even with a friend in co-op mode). The game was also released on the Sega Genesis but the SNES port is superior!
Enough of the kiddy crap, now we’re into the real scary stuff! Seta’s 1995 game Nosferatu, much like the film of the same name, is kind of a rip off but also like the film, I still love it none the less. The game follows a young man named Kyle who must rescue his girlfriend
Erin from the vampire Nosferatu’s castle. Along the way he encounters dungeons, traps and horrific monsters! Sounds kind of like Castlevania right? In basic story, yes, but in gameplay Nosferatu actually rips off Prince of Persia the most. Kyle must slowly work his way around traps, pitfalls and walls in the same exact way that the hero in Prince of Persia does but adding horror elements like creepy monsters and spooky music really create a level of suspense that neither Castlevania or POP ever attain. So, if you’re a fan of the Prince of Persia games and the Castlevania games you’re doing yourself a dishonor by not checking this one out. If you’re not a fan of those games, Nosferatu still has some stunning graphics and some of the best cut scenes the system has to offer so either way, check it out.
This 1995 Japan only point and click title from Human Entertainment is considered one of the founders of the survival horror genre thanks to its’ intense atmosphere. Clock Tower
puts you in the shoes of an orphan named Jennifer Simpson who, along with her friends, has been adopted by a wealthy recluse named Mr. Barrows, who lives in a spooky mansion known as the “Clock Tower”. All is well for Jennifer until her friends vanish and a murderous psychopath with giant gardening shears appears! Jennifer must avoid the killer scissorman while searching for her friends and surviving the secret traps of the clock tower. It’s a simple yet effective premise and the inclusion of the ever-present scissorman adds a level of tension to the game not seen in the point and click genre before. As I said, this is a Japan only title but translated roms exist for it and I highly suggest checking it out if you’re a fan of survival horror.
A sequel to 92’s Gargoyle’s Quest, Demon’s Crest continues the story of Firebrand the demon as he attempts to regain the five demon crests from the evil Phalanx. As Firebrand progresses through the levels he gains new transformations and abilities (like charging,
infinite flight and swimming) by attaining the titular Demon Crests. These power ups also have individual weaknesses that really add an extra aspect of gameplay to the experience. Each level has multiple paths that can only be accessed with certain abilities so replay value on this game is very high. Much like many NES sequels on the SNES, Demon’s Crest is still pretty much a remake of Gargoyle’s Quest 2 with updated graphics, music and controls but this game adds enough to the franchise to make it stand out on its own.
Sure, Williams Entertainment’s 1995 SNES port of the super revolutionary video game DOOM may be obsolete to its’ PC counterpart but that doesn’t mean that it was any less revolutionary for the home console market. In a time when not every household had
multiple computers in every room the SNES version of DOOM was a godsend for non-pc owners who yearned to slay demons from hell with shotguns and chainsaws. Although it was not the first “first person shooter” game on home console (or PC for that matter), DOOM was certainly the first taste many of us had of the genre that would soon become the standard for (what seems like) a bazillion percent of the gaming market. The game is dated, sure, but all the scares and spooky atmosphere still manage to hold up over all of this time.
Just like Demon’s Crest (which is based off of a spinoff from this game’s previous entry Ghosts n Goblins) 1991’s Super Ghouls n Ghosts is more or less an updated remake of its’
previous NES incarnation, Ghosts n Goblins, except its’ legendary difficulty level has been scaled back a bit. That’s not to say that Super Ghouls n Ghosts is a walk in the park, you’ll still be murdered ruthlessly by demons and hazards alike, but just not as often as before. As to be assumed, the graphics are better, the music is better and the controls are more forgiving than Ghosts n Goblins but this time around Arthur also has upgradeable armor that in turn upgrades his weapons therefore adding another dimension of gameplay to the franchise. Unfortunately, you still have to beat this game twice to get the correct ending though.
The third game in the Metroid series, Super Metroid, follows the bounty hunter Samus Aran as she searches the open world planet Zebes for a Metroid that was stolen by Ridley, the leader of the Space Pirates. Along her journey, Samus collects power-ups that
enhances her armor and weaponry, as well as grant her special abilities that allow Samus to access areas that were previously inaccessible. Super Metroid is a bit of an oddity on this list since it revolves around aliens and an otherworldly…uh, world, but rest assured that this game is as spooky as they come. With its eerie music, cinematic cut scenes and overall sense of dread, Super Metroid is just as gripping as any film in the Alien franchise (and it’s so much fun!) Many regard this game as one of the greatest of all time and with good reason.
Now, I’ve pointed out a few times already on this list that most games in the SNES library are beefed up reboots of NES games but Super Castlevania 4 is THE perfect example of how this should be done. Back are all the franchise standards like creepy music, gothic atmosphere and classic horror villains but everything “super” sized! Although numbered
as the 4th entry in the series, the story is actually a retelling of the first Castlevania game as Simon Belmont fights his was through hordes of zombies, skeletons and those damned Medusa monsters across Dracula’s castle to fight, you guessed it, the one and only Dracula! Each level stands out on its’ own with unique themes, monsters tailored to each setting and different uses of the system’s Mode 7 feature so things never get stale. Also, no more cheap deaths for Simon Belmont because the game’s controls have been fine-tuned to darn near perfection making this, to me, the best improvement for the series.