The Atari 2600 isn’t known for its horror games, but quite a few were released for the system. While they may not make you leave skid marks on your Snuggie, some of them are worth checking out.
On the Atari 2600, nobody can hear you scream. They’ll hear you crying instead from playing this Pac-Man clone. Based on the original film, you play as Ripley who has to run through the USCSS Nostromo dodging sad looking xenomorphs (H.R. Giger’s influence is nowhere to be seen on these sloppy sprites). If you play your cards right, you can snatch up a flamethrower (think the power pellet in Pac-Man) and turn the tables. This one is a smidge more enjoyable than watching Alien: Resurrection sober.
Run through the castle to defeat the evil titular monster of Dr. Frankenstein. Much like other games of the time, this is a rip-off of an arcade game. In this case, this Donkey Kong knock-off has controls stiffer than the bolts in Frankie’s neck. The stages are a bit different and the Frankenstein Monster appears menacing enough, but the gameplay is poor.
Ghost Manor is quite ambitious. You play as a couple of kids going into the (what else?) Ghost Manor. After catching a rainbow ghost in a graveyard, you have to battle skeletons and a fierce mummy. This is not an exciting as it sounds, but the levels are quite varied, making this one of the more ambitious titles for the time.
Based on the hit movie, you play as Billy Peltzer, a kid who gets a menacing creature as a pet. Gameplay revolves around two rotating stages. First, you collect as many Mogwai as possible to keep them from eating burgers and turning into their cocoons. The Mogwais transform into Gremlins, requiring you to blast them into submission in the second round. Like the best Atari games, this keeps the gameplay nice and simple.
Based on the original John Carpenter film, Halloween has you rescuing a bunch of kids as the evil Michael Myers stalks you in your house. Taking place over two floors, you have to shuffle kids to the safe areas, but beware! If you hear the iconic Carpenter music theme squawking through your speakers, that means Michael Myers is near. He has a knife and he’s not afraid to use it. This game is pretty suspenseful. Color me surprised.
A bit of a dungeon crawl like the classic Adventure, this has you roaming through a haunted house collecting treasures. You are represented by wide open eyes and you’ll need a flashlight to see the monsters that lie within. This one’s pretty cool if you with a creepy atmosphere to boot.
A port of the arcade game, Rampage has you playing as a human turned monster who smashes his way from city to city. The Atari 2600 can’t muster up the iconic graphics and sounds of the original, leaving things in a blocky messy. It’s impressive the gameplay is close to the original, albeit simplified to a degree. Stick with one of the million other home versions of this game.
Revenge of the Beefsteak Tomatoes
This is a very odd shooting game that’s rips off the horror comedy Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. You have to blast Beefsteak Tomatoes while avoiding their attacks. That’s it. Lacking in humor and sophistication, this is easily the worst game I played for this list. You’re better off getting in a screaming contest with a sack of tomatoes.
Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Based on the controversial Tobe Hooper flick, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has an inspired take on its bloody source material. You play as the killer Leatherface who has to whip out his chainsaw and slice up the men and women who are running away (!!!). Sure, the controls are stiff, but the digitized screams of your victims are hilarious. You die when you run out of gas. Playing a bit like an endless runner in the mold of Temple Run, it’s more fun than it should be.