Throughout the year, numerous themed games are released that try to take advantage of the excitement generated by holidays. Since most gamers are always eager for another free day to play their favorite games, it’s nice to have something available that fits the spirit of the day in question. While the Genesis isn’t the powerhouse in this department that say, the PlayStation or NES were, our favorite little black box can hold its own.
Sega-16 will be examining games related to these holidays as the year progresses, beginning with everyone’s favorite spooky celebration: Halloween. In my eyes, Halloween is a day to be observed in three ways: dressing up like a fool, stuffing yourself silly with candy, and playing something scary. This is ironically one of the Genesis’ stronger themes, as holidays go, as there are quite a large number of horror and fright-orientated titles available.
Sure, I know you’re already thinking “but nothing on the Genesis is as scary as Resident Evil or Silent Hill.” That may be true but while you may not get a big scare, these games are still worth enjoying. Bear in mind that this is in no way meant to be a definitive top ten list for anything, just ten games that you can check out this Halloween.
The battle between the Belmont clan and the Prince of Darkness is legendary in gaming. As the only installment to appear on a Genesis (or any other Sega console, for that matter), Bloodlines stars two heroes who aren’t directly related to the famous family of vampire hunters, John Morris (son of Quincy from the novel Dracula) and his friend Eric Lecarde. The story isn’t the deepest but most Castlevania games suffer from this ailment, so it isn’t really much of an issue.
Bloodlines sets itself apart from most of the series by means of the awesome graphical effects it throws at the player. Super Castlevania IV had plenty of effects to go around but no one was really expecting Konami to whip the Genesis around like they did. There’s rotation, scaling, and even some awesome reflective effects; all adding to the already tight gameplay and grim soundtrack. Definitely a game to play on Halloween, Bloodlines is a great addition to a classic franchise.
I know you’re wondering why I chose to include this stinker. Well, I thought some dark humor was in order and there are few things better for that than Dark Castle. Awkward control, lame music, and near NES-level graphics cannot save this Commodore 64 port. As a young adventurer looking for your next challenge, you decide to tackle the ominous Dark Castle. Will you survive? The question is: Will you actually play long enough to care?
This was one of those Genesis titles that I always wanted to play but could never find a copy to actually see how bad it was. Of course, my illusions were shattered miserably upon playing it but still I kept trying to make myself like it. It is good for a laugh and if you’re able to actually live with the gameplay, you might even find yourself enjoying it a bit. Now there’s a scary thought.
Chuck D. Head may not be so scary, but nothing says Halloween on the Genesis like Decap Attack. A huge game with excellent platforming elements and some neat items to mix and use, Chuck’s only adventure to date is a wonderful little romp that never takes itself too seriously and shows the fun and light-hearted side of All Hallows Eve. The gameplay is excellent, and the levels are large enough to offer plenty of exploration without ever going on for too long. Many people might find the game too long to play through in a single sitting but those who tough it out are rewarded with an incredible ending sequence that makes it all worth the effort. The best thing about Decap Attack is that a complete copy on eBay can be had for a mere pittance and there are always quite a few copies available for auction. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper and easier than trying to find any of the Japanese platformers this game shares its gameplay dynamic with. It’s also a lot better than being stuck with Kid Kool.
Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
This is a title which needs no introduction. Gamers have long been familiar with Sir Arthur’s exploits in the arcade, on the NES and SNES, and most recently on the Game Boy Advance. His Genesis outing is a direct port of the arcade sequel to the original Ghosts ‘N Goblins and was an amazing rendition for its time. All the levels and bosses of the coin-op are here, as are the weapons and magical armor. The gameplay is great, and the graphics hardly suffered in the transfer to the Genesis, and this was an excellent example of how the Genesis could successfully reproduce the arcade experience. Reprogrammed by Sega and originally released as part of the Genesis launch line-up, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts still holds up well today.
Note: If you boot up an American copy of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts in a Japanese Mega Drive, you’ll get the Japanese title screen.
Haunting Starring Polterguy
When a snobbish Sardini family kills him and then moves into his former home, the ghost of a deceased teenager seeks to remove them by scaring them silly. Since he can’t be seen, Polterguy must possess items in the house in order to frighten the new residents. You’re able to exist in the human world as long as you has “ecto” and this is replenished with each scare.
A highly original title that’s lots of fun to play, Polterguy’s weird control scheme can sometimes get in the way of the fun but it’s nothing to get too excited about. The isometric view works well, and the graphics are cuter than you’d might expect from a title involving a murdered teen and his killers. You’re definitely not going to be scared playing Haunting, but you’ll have a great time scaring others. Have fun making the walls bleed!
Here was a game that knew how to make use of the Genesis’ power to show off some gore! Ported from the Amiga computer, The Immortal gave gamers a taste of what other titles like Diablo would make mainstream. You play the role of a wizard who stumbles upon a message left by another sorcerer who disappeared while battling an unknown evil force. You decide to complete his quest and thus embark upon your adventure in one of the most original titles for its time.
Even more so than for its great puzzles and challenging obstacles, The Immortal distinguished itself for its great battles that resulted in one of many graphic and usually bloody deaths. Slice your enemy cleanly in half, burn him to ashes, or make his head explode; the choice is yours. Coupled with the “never know what’s going to happen in this room” atmosphere, the great gameplay made for an awesome adventure that left you scared to even enter a room for fear of a sudden and unexpected death.
Watermelon Games produced Sasha Darko’s “M”-rated graphic adventure in 2015. Dark and creepy, it fills a niche on the Genesis in a way none of the other titles of its type does. Sasha Darko calls it a “visual novel,” and it’s easy to see why. As a private detective, you’re lured out to a spooky forest in Eastern Europe, where her worst nightmares come true and she fights for survival. The game uses “pre-calculated graphics and sounds” and includes multiple endings and a ton of secrets to explore. The emphasis is on atmosphere and playing this one with the lights off and headphones is a great way to spend a spooky 16-bit Halloween. The Genesis version of Sacred Line is sadly sold out now, but the enhanced version is still available on Steam.
Here’s a game I’m sure many didn’t even know was available on the Genesis. Scooby-Doo Mystery was published by Sunsoft with Acclaim (of all companies) very near the end of the console’s life span and played much like the classic Maniac Mansion. You could choose between two different mysteries (Blake’s Mansion or Ha Ha Carnival) and although neither one was particularly long, they were lengthy enough to make you notice the lack of a save game feature. Use Shaggy and Scooby and search different areas for clues to solve both mysteries (we all know it’s always the first old guy they meet).
Chock full of the classic humor that has made the series endure, Scooby-Doo Mystery is a fun game unlike most others on the Genesis. It’s also a pretty hot commodity as of late, going for upwards of $20 on eBay. I can honestly tell you that current prices are not a direct reflection of the game’s highly annoying intro theme.
The Splatterhouse Series
Rick’s journey into madness and terror began in the arcades and then made its way to the Turbo Grafx-16. It didn’t end there though. Namco was gracious enough to offer both sequels on the Genesis, giving fans of the series more of the gory action they’d come to love. Furthering the plot of the Mask of Terror, Rick must face foes of incredible power to save not only himself and his girlfriend Jennifer, but their son David as well!
The first Splatterhouse sequel was essentially more of the same, with better graphics and more gore. Splatterhouse 3, however, changed the gameplay dynamic and became more of a Streets of Rage-type beat-ém-up. A timer was also added, forcing you to dispatch your enemies as quickly as possible to reach your loved ones. There were also multiple routes and what looked like the shortest path wasn’t always what it seemed.
Both games are excellent additions to anyone’s gaming library and even though Splatterhouse 2 goes for a fair amount of coin, you should be able to find a complete copy without much trouble.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
A freak toxic spill has resurrected the dead residents of your small town. Now you must rescue survivors before they’re eaten alive! Released by Konami but developed by LucasArts, Zombies Ate My Neighbors really stands out for its awesome two-player mode. Pick either Zeke or Julia and save cheerleaders, babies, even grandpa! It’s a blast to run around town, nailing zombies with everything from bazookas and water guns. Over fifty levels of mayhem await you and thankfully, there’s a password option.
The cool thing about Zombies is that you can play it fast and furious or you can take it slow and methodical. There’s no time limit but you do have to be quick to save the neighbors, especially when rampaging mutants stick to you like glue. LucasArts squeezed about as many B-movie references as they could into this game and the tongue-in-cheek humor gives it lots of personality.
As you can easily tell, there aren’t all that many truly scary games for the Genesis but there are enough to get you into the mood to enjoy some spooky gaming this October 31st. Sega-16 will be back this Thanksgiving with its next holiday feature (can you say football?) so enjoy the games mentioned here and remember to check your candy before you eat!
Updated October 30, 2018