zophar53's Blog

Posted on Oct 3rd 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Spooky Plays, Halloween, October

Ah, October. It signals not just the start of Fall and all things pumpkin spice (for better or for worse), it also rings in the season of scares, creeps, and frights. For most holidays, the way in which I enjoy and appreciate them has changed as I've gotten older. But with Halloween, the reasons I love the season haven't changed at all. As an adult though, I'm able to enjoy all the same things in much more elaborate and fun ways. I'm able to get better costumes, get all my own candy, and find bigger, more intense ways of scaring myself. It's for this reason that Halloween has become my favorite holiday of the year as an adult.

In the spirit of that evolution, I thought I'd put together a history of some of my favorite spooky games over the years. These are in no particular order, and this is by no means a comprehensive list, as I tried to shy away from the most obvious choices in favor of more off-beat or oft-forgotten titles. There are also a bunch of games I'm sure would make the list if not for the fact that I haven't played them. So let me know what you think of my choices below, and feel free to recommend your own in the comments below.

Super Castlevania IV (1991)

This might seem an odd choice. It's not necessarily the darkest entry of the franchise, nor is it most people's favorite. But for me, Castlevania IV brought the series into the 16-bit era beautifully. The improved art, parallax scrolling, and Mode 7 capabilities of the SNES ensured that the presentation made a striking impression. Belmont purists may scoff at Simon's increased jump and whip control, but after millions of cheap hits on the NES games, it was a welcome breath of fresh air for me. And the increased orchestration in the soundtrack was rich with impactful atmosphere. It's not as challenging as its partners, but it remains my favorite Castlevania to date.

The 7th Guest (1993)

Old Man Stauf built a house, and filled it with ominous puzzles for his guests to solve, if they don't discover the secrets of his madness in the meantime. Myst may be the game most people think of as showing off what games on CD-ROM were capable of, but The 7th Guest beat it to the punch by a good five months. It's basically a puzzle game, but wrapped around those puzzles is an ambiguous and intriguing mystery about the crazy old man who created it, and an uninvited guest who has more to do with things than you think. This game is bafflingly obtuse at times, but if you let yourself get into the macabre setting and aren't afraid to use the generous hint system, it's a creepy-fun good time.

Parasite Eve (1998)

This was a rather bizarre experiment of a game Squaresoft tried in the wake of their success after Final Fantasy VII. By combining the gameplay of Resident Evil, a turn-based/action RPG-hybrid combat system, and a storytelling style not unlike their famous role-playing games, Parasite Eve was familiar and unique at the same time. It worked well, and was successful enough to warrant a sequel two years later. I never did finish the game, as I didn't have the patience for the RE-style tank controls, but I look back on it fondly and have a lot of appreciation for it.

Onimusha: Warlords (2001)

Capcom themselves tried their own RE spin-off, and it was one I loved so much I actually did manage to play all the way through, even with the dreaded tank controls. It's basically Resident Evil but with samurai warriors and demons in place of cops and zombies. The combat is a lot of fun, and even though Onimusha's sequels are pretty hit and miss, the original game left a big impression on me, and had a lot to do with my enjoying Nioh so many years later. If you haven't played this one, news recently broke of an HD remake, so you'll have an easy way to check it out with a fresh coat of paint early next year. I know I'm excited!

Doom 3 (2004)

Yeah, I know, this is the red-headed step child of the Doom franchise. But if you can look past the name and its lack of Doom-ness, what's left is actually a really scary game. The graphics may not be much to look at now, but at the time they were great, and while the super low lighting and monster closets were cheap, overused tricks, they were undeniably effective at setting a tense, eerie mood. I still remember playing this all night not long after I got it. I was at my computer desk with the lights off, headphones on, and was on the edge of my seat when my then-fiance came up behind me, touched my shoulder, and scared the living crap out of me. She'd gotten up to see why I hadn't come to bed yet; I hadn't even realized I'd been there so long the sun was starting to come up. Ah, good times.

The Darkness (2007)

The first part of this game is a basic mob-story FPS, but shortly into the narrative, Jackie, the main character, is possessed by some kind of demon that makes tentacles come out of his back. This is where the game really gets fun. As you make your way through the mob-filled streets in your quest for revenge, your uninvited symbiote helps you by stabbing, biting, and eating the hearts of your foes. Great voice acting (Mike Patton from Faith No More as the Darkness is particularly awesome) and using your demonic powers to decimate crime bosses makes the adventure maniacally satisfying, and I think it's still worth going back to The Darkness if you missed it back in the day.

Condemned 2: Bloodshot (2008)

The first Condemned was an Xbox exclusive, so I never got to play it. Thankfully, I didn't feel like I was missing much when I got my hands on the sequel on PS3. The story is kind of forgettable and the main character is a junkie I didn't really care about; the thing that made this game so engrossing for me was the raw brutality. Condemned 2 is filled with gritty, filthy settings, gory environmental kills, and enemies that literally seem like insane drug addicts. For me, it was disturbing in the way that certain movies make me feel, where the things happening are just real enough that it's more unsettling than the average horror movie. Definitely quality Halloween material.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009)

I've heard a lot of people hate on this game, and have never understood why. It feels more like the original movie than any other Ghostbusters game out there (not that there's a ton of them). Written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, voiced by the original actors, and filled with references and spot-on sound effects, this game is so much fun. If you wrote it off back then or are holding out hope for another movie, do yourself a favor and give this one another chance.

Costume Quest 1 (2010) & 2 (2014)

I wrote about Costume Quest last year, and I still stand by the recommendation. It's light-hearted kiddie fun as you play a trick-or-treater searching the nighttime city for your sister (or brother, depending on who you pick at the start). In the overworld you can smack things with you bag of candy to reveal secrets, talk to and recruit other kids to join your party, and play minigames like bobbing for apples and hide-and-seek to gain experience (and more candy, of course). The best part though is the Paper Mario-esque RPG combat, where you're treated to a bright and colorful scene where your humble costumes of cardboard and tinfoil are transformed into grand knights, robots, and other things. It's a wonderfully whimsical adventure that delights in the imaginations of its characters.

Crypt of the Necrodancer (2015)

What's better than sneaking around a crypt in the dead of night? Doing so to the beat of awesome music. This is a roguelike rhythm game where every move you make has to be on beat, or you lose your multiplier. There are a lot of enemies in the crypt, and they're all moving to the beat just like you are. The challenge is in learning their attacks and the timing of everything so you can attack them before they do the same to you. It's incredibly challenging (I've never beaten the first boss), but once you get the hang of its flow it's very addicting, especially since the music is fantastic. And between the roguelike randomness of things and the daily challenge, there's always the possibility of seeing something new and increasing your pool of available drops.

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Wow, this is a nice varied list! I have to wholeheartedly second Parasite Eve. What a great game. I've heard great things about Crypt of the Necrodancer, and have enjoyed some of the sountrack, but haven't played it yet. I might have to check it out. Good stuff!

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