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8-Bit Terror: Nintendo’s Horror Games that Inspired a Thriving Subgenre

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8-Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games that Inspired a Thriving SubgenreAs a nostalgic child trapped in a man’s body, I confess my addiction to all things horror as a youngster and still, as an adult, today. By age 8 I craved the emotionless face of Michael Myers, the idea of what could potentially be at the end of his sharp kitchen knife tugging at my imagination.

I hung on Freddy Krueger’s every punchline, shook in anticipation of Jason Voorhees’ latest inventive means of murder. I loved it all… every bit of that sadistic shit that turned me into the unstable hound I am today.

But parents aren’t typically keen on allowing their young children to sit back and absorb gratuitous violence, excessive foul language and liberal fashion requirements. If a flick is too bloody, graphic, perverse, or politically incorrect, the youth are generally banned from any form of association. That’s what we do as parents in the hopes of saving our offspring from opening Pandora’s Box, from exposing them to something dark enough to be considered evil, that they may, for one reason or another, take a particular fancy to.

8 Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games That Inspired a Thriving Subgenre

I think those little ones who do indeed find some mysticism in disgusting behavior are rare. Most children don’t see a Scream film and aspire to be a magnificently witty murderer who dons a spooky ghost mask and targets the broods of unfaithful parents. Doesn’t seem too reasonable to me. But anything can happen. And that’s why it’s probably best that the youth of today be introduced to horror fare at a slow, steady, controlled pace.

When I was a little turd in the mid-80s, life was pretty simple. Before being allowed the right to explore the cinematic world of horror, I was afforded the chance to excavate other sources. Comic books. Children’s books. But best of all, original Nintendo games. We’re talking the dark ones that, as unfathomable as it seems today, scared the crap out of us. Decades have passed, and the majority of those games have been forgotten. Nowadays consoles feature video games that look realistic. Faces and body types that – when viewed from a distance – could be mistaken for live-action entertainment. Those games are amazing, and they suck gamers in like a vicious tornado. But the truth of the matter is, those games owe a debt of gratitude to systems like the Atari and the Nintendo, especially their horror offerings, which no doubt helped to inspire terrifying games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, and Clock Tower.

It’s about time we took a trip back in time and issued a proper nod to the treasures released by Nintendo, (arguably) the originator of horror gaming.

Maniac Mansion:
Hands down the coolest genre game to land on the NES (well, the coolest puzzle-oriented game for the NES), Maniac Mansion was one hell of a baffling game. Loaded with riddles, wrong turns, and creepy doctors, this one is a must. A must play for hours on end!

8 Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games That Inspired a Thriving Subgenre

Friday the 13th:
Prepare for an endless trek through the largest campgrounds in existence. Will you find Jason? Sure. Can you kill him? I never made it happen… but that creepy music always made the attempt worthwhile, and I can chuck rocks at that SOB all day and night.

8 Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games That Inspired a Thriving Subgenre

A Nightmare on Elm Street:
Okay, so A Nightmare on Elm Street is essentially identical to Friday the 13th with foolish youngsters venturing into daunting homes battling an array of creepy creatures, hoping to avoid that bladed bastard Freddy Krueger.

8 Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games That Inspired a Thriving Subgenre


MORE Nintendo Horror Games on the NEXT page!


Beetlejuice:
It was a blast being able to traverse odd landscapes as the devious Beetlejuice. Of course the action – like most games at the time – really consisted of a lot of jumping and dodging, but what the hell. You get to be Beetlejuice, dammit!

8 Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games That Inspired a Thriving Subgenre

Castlevania:
Be realistic now; what sounds more badass than being a noble vampire hunter completely decimating foes with a six-foot long whip? I can’t think of many better ways to spend my days… or nights for that matter.

8 Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games That Inspired a Thriving Subgenre

Uninvited:
Uninvited was a bit like a cross between Dungeons and Dragons and Déjà Vu. Always a sucker for the brainbuster, Uninvited yanked this gamer into a dark, mysterious world (that can happen when the game starts by nearly running over a stranger in the road) that, oddly enough, made me want to linger for hours on end. While I’m too damn old to be playing video games these days, works like Uninvited would be definite go-to material for a relic such as myself.

8 Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games That Inspired a Thriving Subgenre

Fester’s Quest:
Maybe it was a simple affinity for “The Addams Family,” or maybe it was the fact that, for once, an overweight bald dude with terrible fashion sense got to be the hero… whatever it was, it made Fester’s Quest a damn memorable game. And unlike a few others on this list, it wasn’t nearly impossible to beat. (Seriously, not to keep on about it, but who the hell ever beat Jason?!?)

8 Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games That Inspired a Thriving Subgenre


MORE Nintendo Horror Games on the NEXT page!


Ghostbusters:
If you were a kid in the 1980s and you owned a Nintendo, you either had Ghostbusters or you were what your buddies referred to as a loser. For a few years I wore the “L” with shame. Eventually that changed, and then I learned that I was terrible at this game. For all the praise my pals dished, I just didn’t “get it.” Classic, regardless!

8 Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games That Inspired a Thriving Subgenre

Bram Stoker’s Dracula:
Bram Stoker’s Dracula was probably the smoothest running game to be featured on this list. I love how the story progresses and attempts to remain faithful to Bram Stoker’s actual tale. Believe it or not, the graphics even look pretty good… by classic Nintendo standards, of course.

8 Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games That Inspired a Thriving Subgenre

Ghosts ‘N Goblins:
And, finally, the game everyone had! If I could count how many hours I dumped into this classic… well, I might be a bit embarrassed. But I’ll be damned if you don’t realize this game is going to rock the moment that evil demon comes down and snatches your pretty little lady up. And then, when you don that armor… oh yes, as the kids say today: Shit just got real!

8 Bit Terror: Nintendo's Horror Games That Inspired a Thriving Subgenre

Bonus Mentions
Jaws and his conch shells
Bandai’s Frankenstein: The Monster Returns
Werewolf: The Last Warrior‘s incessant howling

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Matt Molgaard

One Comment

  1. hahah the article headline is so misleading, made it seem as if Nintendo made these games. They were released on the NES, yes, and back then the general public referred to the console as, simply, the ‘Nintendo’ (Entertainment System). Actually, the majority of these games were published by LJN. Castlevania is Konami’s property, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is Capcom’s. Ghostbusters NES was from Activision.

    If there’s any retro horror game that deserves a mention here, it would be a little horror RPG from Capcom called SWEET HOME, which released on the Famicom in 1989. It’s what inspired the first Resident Evil.

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