10 Horror Games from the ’80s That Scared Us


This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

As Sheriff Leigh Brackett appropriately acknowledged in John Carpenter’s slasher traditional, “It’s Halloween – everyone’s entitled to one good scare!” And scare us Halloween did, together with any variety of horror films earlier than and since. But, with the day of pumpkins, trick-or-treaters, and apple bobbing nearly upon us, this obtained us questioning: at what level did video video games grow to be scary?

These days, we absolutely anticipate trendy video video games to have us cowering behind our sofas, with present-day computer systems and consoles capable of render all kinds of stuff you want for a correctly scary story: rain, blood, that type of factor. But manner again within the mists of time, on the daybreak of the online game medium, that sort of realism merely wasn’t potential.

Instead, the makers of early horror video games needed to provide you with every kind of artistic methods to scare or unnerve gamers – and inevitably, a few of these methods labored higher than others. So to rejoice Halloween, this is a glance again at 10 video games from the ’80s and the way they used blocky graphics and bleepy sounds to terrify the life out of us.

Haunted House (1982)

Memorable for its beautiful field artwork (as had been many Atari 2600 video games), Haunted House was additionally one of many earliest – if not the earliest – makes an attempt at interactive survival horror. Trapped within the title residence, you need to discover an enchanted urn and head for the closest exit, on a regular basis avoiding bats, spiders, and the ghost of Mr. Graves, the mansion’s proprietor.

Fear issue: 5

Although hamstrung to a sure extent by the Atari 2600’s easy {hardware}, there’s one thing oddly disturbing about Haunted House. Maybe it is as a result of your on-screen character consists of nothing greater than a pair of eyes, which look anxiously about as you progress from room to room. Or perhaps it is the bizarre minimalism of the sound and the single-colored partitions of the mansion itself – the act of repeatedly charging round nearly an identical screens being like a blocky recurring nightmare.

The Evil Dead (1984)

Palace Pictures distributed Sam Raimi’s breakout horror traditional The Evil Dead within the UK, and it was due to them that we ended up with Graham Humphrey’s beautiful poster illustration, with its appropriately lurid colours and approving quote from Stephen King. A subsidiary of Palace – Palace Software – additionally made this 1984 online game tie-in, which appeared on the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum.

Related Article: A Brief History of Retro Horror Gaming

Like Haunted House, it is basically a top-down maze recreation, besides you management Ash, who has to maintain the demons from getting into the notorious cabin within the woods. Tasks embody closing home windows to maintain the demons out and killing possessed mates with an assortment of weapons and sharp implements.

Fear issue: 3

Little touches, just like the ominously transferring swing on the veranda and the flickering embers within the hearth, add environment, as does the eerie absence of sound. Unfortunately, the strain’s undercut by the convenience with which the possessed monsters die, and likewise the looks of the demons themselves: depicted as a gas-like miasma, all semblance of worry is misplaced when you notice that Ash appears as if he is working away from a lethal cloud of flatulence.

Alien (1984)

This belated movie tie-in tried to cram all of the worry and suspense of Ridley Scott’s 1979 haunted home in house into an 8-bit laptop, and programming duo John Heap and Paul Clansey did a exceptional job. Alien takes the type of a technique recreation, with the purpose being to both flush the dreaded xenomorph out of the Nostromo’s airlock or get to the escape ship with Jones the cat in tow.

Fear issue: 8

Related Article: New Alien Video Game in Development at Fox

It won’t seem like a lot from the video above, however Alien is a fairly good train in slowly-building pressure. The characters below your management – all named after those within the movie – will typically refuse to comply with orders in the event that they get too scared. One of them’s an android intent on defending the alien. Jones the cat likes some characters, however not others. And all of the whereas, the xenomorph’s someplace on the ship, ready to pounce…

Go to Hell (1985)

A 12 months after Evil Dead got here this exceedingly unusual horror recreation, which really captures the gleeful Grand Guignol environment of Sam Raimi’s film a bit higher than Palace Software managed to. Having ended up within the depths of hell, you need to navigate your manner round its ghoulish community of caverns and discover seven crosses in an effort to escape.

Fear issue: 5

A easy maze recreation although it’s, Go to Hell is livened up significantly by its macabre graphics. Bodies are stretched on racks, a big noticed grinds via a screaming crimson cranium, and bloodshot eyes glower out of the display screen. The crude nature of the sprite design makes Go to Hell extra comical than horrifying, however then once more, the gaudiness additionally provides the sport a type of neon-drenched, nightmarish air to it – like Hotline Miami, however with crucifixes as a substitute of shotguns.

Cauldron (1985)

Games do not come way more Halloween-themed than this little ’80s curio from Palace Software (the ZX Spectrum model even included a replica of Evil Dead on the B-side, reality followers). Apparently, Cauldron was initially deliberate as a tie-in recreation based mostly on John Carpenter’s Halloween film, however designer Steve Brown, sad together with his work in progress, went off in a completely totally different route as a substitute. A hybrid platform-shooter, Cauldron sees the participant take management of a witch, who’s on the hunt for six components – as soon as chucked in her cooking pot, these will type a spell which she will use to defeat her mortal enemy, the Pumpking.

Fear issue: 4

Taking place beneath a full moon, and with places later extending to gloomy, bat-filled caves and haunted dungeons, Cauldron definitely had a good environment, and for the time, the graphics are actually colourful and detailed. It’s extra like an interactive Saturday morning cartoon than a horror recreation, however its approachable sprite design masked an astonishingly excessive issue degree, with bouts usually ending in screams and blood-curdling howls of anguish.

The sequel, Cauldron II: The Pumpkin Strikes Back, was even higher, and the witch on the duvet seemed like Bruce Forsyth in a inexperienced wig. No, actually.

Soft & Cuddly (1987)

Go to Hell programmer John George Jones returned two years later with a recreation even weirder and grotesque than its predecessor. A flick-screen arcade journey, the purpose is to retrieve all of the elements of your dismembered android mom, all of the whereas avoiding assorted floating monsters and admiring Jones’ trademark nasty surroundings, which this time consists of conjoined infants, dismembered physique elements, and a bouncing sheep.

Fear issue: 5

The “more comical than scary” remark from the Go to Hell entry additionally applies right here, nevertheless it’s price mentioning that Soft and Cuddly was mildly controversial at a time when graphic gore in laptop video games was nonetheless comparatively uncommon. Remarkably, Jones as soon as claimed in a Sinclair User interview that Soft & Cuddly was initially extra gory and violent, however he modified the graphics earlier than launch.

Related Article: Silent Hill, BioShock, and the Art of Scary Games

Mind you, he did additionally state that “My game is the best game ever written,” so perhaps we should always take this with a pinch of salt.

Fun reality: Soft & Cuddlys inlay artwork was created by fantasy illustrator Tim White, and likewise appeared on the duvet of a 1985 H.P. Lovecraft story assortment, Dagon and Other Macabre Tales.

Splatterhouse (1988)

Although higher recognized for his or her cheerier output within the ’70s and ’80s, equivalent to Pac-Man, Galaga, and Mappy, Namco took a visit to the darkish aspect for Splatterhouse, a beat-em-up impressed by a legion of horror films. The protagonist, Rick, is clearly modeled on Jason Voorhees, and the opposite movie references are simple to identify, from demonic disturbances straight out of Evil Dead to mutated monsters from The Thing.

Fear issue: 6

More a straight motion recreation than an train in creeping terror, Splatterhouse did nonetheless handle to throw in some moments to make unwary gamers leap. I nonetheless vaguely keep in mind enjoying Splatterhouse in a coastal arcade and letting out a little bit yelp of worry when the hooded boss wielding two chainsaws leaped onto the display screen.

Related Article: Revisiting Splatterhouse at 30

It’s additionally price mentioning Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti (1989), a cute, Nintendo Famicom-only parody starring a super-deformed model of Rick, and much more TV and movie references than its arcade mum or dad. A vampiric Michael Jackson lookalike leads a Thriller-style zombie dance on the finish of the primary degree; a lady has dozens of Alien-like creatures spring from her chest, then shrugs and wanders off; and in a single hilarious scene, the participant fends off demonic roast chickens as they leap out of a haunted oven.

Wolfman (1988)

British developer and writer CRL actually pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in gaming via the latter a part of the ’80s, with the gory imagery within the likes of Jack the Ripper, Frankenstein, Dracula, and the topic of this entry, Wolfman, rewarded 15 or 18 certificates by the BBFC. Ironically, these claret-spattered graphics had been largely extraneous, since all of those video games had been textual content adventures – interactive variations of traditional tales or, in Jack the Rippers case, a fictional story based mostly on a real homicide case.

Fear issue: 9

Although all of CRL’s video games had been actually good at making a creepy environment, Wolfman was, on this author’s estimation, the scariest from the opening paragraph. You get up along with your garments torn, your palms coated in blood, and offended townsfolk gathered across the corpse of a girl exterior.

Brilliantly written by Rob Pike, Wolfman casts the participant as a monster who should discover a method to management his killer intuition, and it is not possible to sit down via the sport with out an occasional shudder – proof that the scariest encounters rely not on dazzling graphics, however the participant’s creativeness.

A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday The 13th (1989)

In the late ’80s, the US toy firm LJN started firing out licensed video games at a ferocious price – in case you wished them, there have been film tie-ins as diverse as Jaws, The Karate Kid, Warlock, and Back to the Future in truth, look intently on the second-hand store window in Back to the Future II (the film, not the sport), and you will see a replica of Jaws for the NES prominently displayed.

Like most tie-ins within the late ’80s and ’90s, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th took the type of side-scrolling platform video games. In the previous, you rushed round in a dream world, punching rats and snakes and gathering the bones which shaped Freddy Krueger’s corpse. In the latter, you ran round Camp Crystal Lake, looking for weapons to kill Jason Voorhees.

Fear issue: 3

Although based mostly on decidedly grownup properties, neither recreation introduced with it lashings of gore or terror, although Friday The 13th did characteristic a big, floating head of Mrs. Voorhees. Truly the stuff of nightmares.

Sweet Home (1989)

Widely thought to be the creepy mum or dad of the Resident Evil sequence, and the trendy survival horror style as we all know it, Sweet Home was a pioneering adaptation of the Japanese film of the identical title, as overseen by its director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa. A top-down RPG, Sweet Home sees 5 characters attempting to find an escape route from a mansion with a grim historical past – and simply so as to add to the enjoyable, the constructing’s teetering on the point of collapse.

Fear issue: 8

Sweet Home was one of many earliest examples of a recreation that makes use of its mechanics to unnerve the participant; weapons and provides are briefly provide, and as soon as characters die, they’re gone for good. In reality, the later Resident Evil shares a number of components in widespread with Sweet Home, except for its mansion setting – the switching of play between characters, using a list with restricted house, and using notes and different objects to narrate the constructing’s story.

Rather than trying to pummel the participant with leap scares, Sweet Home as a substitute regularly builds a way of claustrophobic unease. It might seem like a primary recreation by present requirements, however simply have a look at how far video video games traveled between 1982’s Haunted House and the tip of the last decade: with its reliance on puzzle fixing and suspense somewhat than fight, Sweet Home pointed the best way forward for a brand new era of survival horror.

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