Who else is tired of the current video game landscape? Does anyone else want to travel back in time for a bit of nostalgic bliss? My time machine is busted, but my memory banks are full, so let’s take a trip backwards and talk about the NES! The original NES, lovingly called the Regular Nintendo by my generation, had a widespread launch in the US in 1986. At the time, most gaming companies had gone bankrupt due to the 1983 video game crash and only reemerged due to the popularity of the Nintendo’s new system. While horror-related games weren’t the most common genre available, some creepy titles did make it to store shelves.
Developers like Konami, Capcom, and Namco managed to overcome Nintendo’s stringent policies and put out some decent gems. So, let’s check out the void known as…
Digital Darkness: The Hardest Horror Games on the NES!
Ghosts ‘n Goblins
Let’s kick start this list with a kick in the teeth. Released by Capcom, Ghosts ‘n Goblins dropped in arcades in 1985 before receiving home console ports in 1986. There’s 5 worlds within the game that you must traverse. You play as Arthur, a valiant yet naked knight who’s having a picnic with Princess Prin Prin in a graveyard. The princess is captured by a flying demon, and your quest to save the princess begins.
The game starts you off with basic armor that can take two hits before you’re reduced to running around in your underwear. You also get a lance projectile right off the top, although you can pick up several different weapons along the way. Personally, I prefer the daggers since you can spam them like a machine gun.
Spoilers if you’re not familiar with this series: reaching the final boss is not the end. Once you beat him the first time, you must start all over again and look for a specific weapon, which is the only way to really take him out.
Ghosts ‘n Goblins has had a pretty good life with sequels being released on the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Sony PSP, and iPhone. This game itself has also received multiple ports, with the most recent being on the Capcom Classics Collection for PS3 and Xbox 360.
Have you ever wanted play a game where you fight vampires with a whip and eat meat that you found in a wall? Then I have just the game for you! Published by Konami and dropping in 1986, Castlevania was initially a disc-based game before being ported to the NES. You play as Simon Belmont, a member of the Belmont Clan of Vampire Hunters. As with all early game heroes, you’re tasked with defeating a great evil. In this case, Dracula!
You’re initially armed with a vampire killing whip, which can be upgraded to make it longer and more powerful. You can also pick up various projectile weapons and spells, such as daggers and holy water.
Besides Dracula, the games in this series draw heavily from the gothic themes in Universal Studios’ classic horror franchises such as Frankenstein, The Mummy and Wolfman.
This is the longest running game series on this list, with the most recent entry being 2019’s mobile game, Grimoire of Souls. Later games in the series would take a more non-linear approach where you could explore the castle on your own, drawing comparisons with the Metroid series and creating the term “Metroidvania” as a way to describe the new play style. Also of note, Castlevania has spawned a fairly popular anime series on Netflix.
How does a beat ’em up where you play as knock off of Jason Vorhees sound and face off against untold evil in order to save your girlfriend? Pretty rad, right? Welcome to Splatterhouse!
You play as Rick, a parapsychology student who takes refuge from the rain inside West Manor, aka the Splatterhouse, which is owned by a mad scientist named Dr. West. Rumor has it that the good doctor conducted gruesome genetic experiments on patients. Rick is accompanied by his girlfriend, Jennifer, who goes missing just as he dies and is then resurrected by the Terror Mask, which transforms him into a hulking brute to battle the monsters in the mansion.
The game draws heavy inspiration from both the modern slasher genre and H.P. Lovecraft’s works, with a notable homage being Dr. West, who was named after the protagonist of Herbert West from Re-Animator.
The game is fairly linear. You follow a straight path and punch or kick whatever is in front of you. Don’t mistake Splatterhouse for a walk in the park, though. Some enemies fire hard to avoid projectiles or can kill you with one touch.
Throughout the game, you’ll find various weapons such as machetes or 2x4s – or even the occasional boomstick – to do damage against some of the stronger enemies.
This game was fairly controversial at the time. Not only did most of the original copies infringe on copyrighted images like Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask, but Splatterhouse was also targeted by various parental associations due to the violence. Much of the gore and the terror mask design were edited out of most home copies. Later, ports were able to add the gore back in but kept the mask redesign.
As of late, there’s two sequels to Splatterhouse, one surprisingly kid friendly spin off, and reboot that came out back in 2010 that had the three original games as unlockables.
So, what did you think of our NES horror game list? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!