Growing up, there weren't two things I loved more in the world than Halloween and the Super Nintendo. Every year I would look forward to the calendar revealing the month of October. October meant leaves falling, early dark days and atmospheric thunderstorms. All leading up to my favorite holiday: Halloween. It's that one special night of the year where you dress up and roam the streets nabbing free candy left and right, full moon cast overhead... an entire town to take over It just doesn’t get any more "suburban Americana" than that ^_^
Five years ago I wrote a Memories of Halloween article here on RVG. Wow has it been five F'N years already? That’s nuts. The article is a smorgasbord of some of the greatest Halloween moments I’ve experienced in my life: a quick tribute to the classic Halloween film franchise, an entire recap of the epic cartoon episode Doug’s Halloween Adventure, and of course, my absolutely unforgettable, 100% yes it's true, coming-of-age Halloween 1994 out-of-body experience. Since ’94 there’s not a single Halloween that passes where I don’t fondly recall the crazy happenings of that night. And since 2007, there’s not a single Halloween season that passes where I don’t read the Memories of Halloween article. Five years later it’s STILL one of the most favorite pieces I’ve done here on the site. Sad as this may sound... I still get chills reading through that article and recalling that awesome Halloween night of 1994, thanks to Becky (more on her later below...)
My love for the Super Nintendo has been well documented; it’s why I began this SNES fansite to begin with nearly six years ago. I grew up on all things SNES, and back in 2006, I got back into it and did so in a massive way. I suppose you could say I grew up on it, and then grew back into it. It’s my favorite system of all time hands down. So many awesome games in the library… ya gotta love it. I do, and I always will...
Like baseball, I can't help but get 'romantic' about the Super NES
So, with Halloween right around the corner, I am proud to write and launch this special article that I had plans for way back in 2007 when I first opened the site. As someone who loves both Halloween and the SNES like there is no tomorrow, it’s only natural you see for me to concoct a spooktacular Halloween Super NES extravaganza. While yes, on the surface many think of the SNES as a system filled with far too many “kiddie” games, dig a little deeper and you will find a decent pocket of darker more mature games that are perfect to play on a dark, stormy, bitter cold Halloween night. The following is a list of 30 SNES games to snuggle up with during this month of October. Please note that there is no order. How did I qualify a game to make this list? I've nominated games that either scream Halloween, or just are darker and more 'mature' games that are ideal to play during the fall season. In fact, there is something real special about gaming around this time of the year. The rainy days, shorter days and longer nights create an atmosphere conducive to staying in and snuggling up with old gaming favorites by the fire, or discovering some new ones for the first time!
This is the first title that jumps to mind right away when I think of SNES Halloween games. And why not, seeing as it has practically every creature of the night represented on its monster roll call. Featuring a sick, stunning soundtrack, great graphics (for its time specifically) and satisfying gameplay mechanics, it is a bloody sin not to, at the very least, pop this game in for a quick go every October. Turn off the lights, grab that ancient magical Belmont whip, and hack away at mummies, frankensteins, and oh yeah, Dracula himself, as you try to eviscerate the Prince of Darkness and his minions one more time. It doesn’t get any better than that, folks
Like fine wine, this game just keeps getting better with age ^_^
On a side note, crazy how it’s almost been four years (where does the time go?) since I wrote the SC IV review. It’s one of my most favorite reviews I have ever cranked out. Featuring scenes from Halloween 4 used in a slight RVG plot reimagining, I had a blast making that piece come together. And like the Memories of Halloween article, the SC IV review is one I try to read (or at least skim) every October or so… both playing the game and rereading the review never fails to get me into Halloween mode! "IT'S ALWAYS GOT A FACE AND NAME. YOU CAN'T KILL IT..."
Best to get this out of the way early… OK so it isn’t nearly as epic as Super Castlevania IV. And yes, you can’t help but wonder what if Konami had made a proper sequel using their SNES know-how by 1995. Got you drooling a bit there, eh? Well, Drac X isn’t quite up to those standards, BUT it is a pretty solid (and damn difficult) action game, with Konami’s signature stellar soundtrack. In my book, Dracula X is just good enough to warrant firing up every October... Dracula X is capable of haunting you for a few nights on end…
It’s impossible to talk about Halloween SNES games and not think of ZAMN (love that acronym!) almost immediately. When this relatively unhyped game dropped on our collective laps back in late 1993, man none of us knew what had just hit us. It goes along perfectly with all the horror movies you’ll watch throughout October, as many of its enemies are knock-offs of various horror movie villains. From evil Chucky to Jason to cheerleader snatching aliens, it’s a who’s who of horror movie icon lore. ZAMN is most fun when playing with a well-skilled friend. And that’s one major bonus for ZAMN. Most of the games on this list are one-player only. ZAMN may feel mighty cheap at times but with a skilled friend in tow it’s a hoot and a half, BABY
Konami tried to reinvent the magic of ZAMN with this oddly different name sequel. Unfortunately, they didn’t succeed on that end. But, not all is lost. Ghoul Patrol has some decent things going for it. It’s just nowhere as good or fun as the original. However, this game is much more forgiving, allowing you to advance much further in the game even when you go at it alone. All in all, not a shabby sequel but it is missing considerably the fluidity / charm of ZAMN [Don't think I missed that "oh-so-clever" BABY pun above... -Ed.]
Long before Resident Evil, this was Capcom’s first original “horror” franchise. And a mighty fine one it is, too. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts sports a high difficulty (but somewhat overrated in my humble opinion, at least, on easy mode). Featuring stunning graphics (mind, for 1991 standards) and sound, this game always delights and is a reminder of the Super Nintendo’s early GLORY days. You absolutely can’t go wrong giving this one some October play time
"Oh my. Kind bird, have you ever thought of getting a pedicure?"
One of the most underrated SNES games around, once upon a time, anyhow. In the past six years, I’ve seen enough people recommend and praise Demon’s Crest that I don’t think it’s actually “unknown” or “underrated” anymore. Everyone loves this game… NOW. On top of excelling in all the basic video game categories, Demon’s Crest exudes atmosphere and coolness like very few other SNES games do. Playing as a winged no BS demon that collects orbs and changes form accordingly is too damn bad-ass, y'know?
Super Metroid fans, don't miss out on DC, as it's slightly similar
While this game may not seem like a “Halloween title” right off the bat, I ask you, where else can you pump mutant chunks full of lead in a mere matter of 10 seconds? In my book, there are few adrenaline rushes on the SNES quite like the one that Wolfie provides. With its many menacing monsters, large labyrinths and scare-inducing sound (I have flinched more than once when turning a seemingly innocent corner only to be greeted by the loud crack of gunfire and a gravelly, sharp “STOP!”), this is a solid choice to play during the Halloween season
Opinions range over the board with this port, but I have always loved it. Back in the day I rented it several times before buying it in ’96 for $30. I love going through the game every blue moon or so. It’s still a blast every time. Besides, the closest thing you’ll get to seeing Michael Myers on your SNES is right here. And as you well know, it just ain’t Halloween without a little Michael Myers action!
Don't forget the creepy "I'M COMIN' TO GIT CHU!" SFX
You can’t mention Wolfenstein 3-D without bringing up Doom. Wolfenstein wasn’t the first FPS (first person shooter) around, but it was the first B-I-G one. Doom later exploded onto the scene and with it the FPS genre shot right through the roof in both popularity and demand. I guess you could say the two games, respectively, were not unlike Street Fighter and Street Fighter II in terms of impact and legacy. The story for Doom was simple. You are a marine, on the shores of Hell, fighting against an army of undead soldier zombies, vicious imps and assorted nasty demons. It doesn’t get much better than that. The SNES version is one that I’ve come to appreciate over the years. Initially, in ’95, not so much (I was so used to playing the PC game). However, in the past several years I’ve come to enjoy the SNES version for what it is. While it’s kind of lame that there is no save or password option, at the same time, being forced to beat all 22 gut-wrenching levels in one sitting makes it quite a lengthy quest, and one that somehow feels epic due to its tall challenge. It took the normal intensity of PC Doom and upped it by giving you no wiggle room for error. If you make a mistake, fail to grab a weapon or don’t use your ammunition wisely, there is no net to fall back on. I’ve come to enjoy my 4+ hour marathons with the SNES port. Starting at the witching hour with the lights turned off, it’s a sadistic rush to see what comes first: the butt crack of dawn, or the Cyber Demon‘s grand demise, thanks to the good ole trusty BFG 9000! Damn good times...
This is one of those tantalizing games I studied and drooled over in gaming mags way back in the day... only to finally play some 15+ years later and find out that, sadly, it fell short of the gem my mind had built it up to be. Nevertheless, it’s not all bad. In fact, it’s decent (at least, for the first couple levels before the difficulty becomes far too daunting). It’s not the superb smooth playing Castlevania meets Prince of Persia mix I was hoping for, though. Darn...
I love the look and feel of Nosferatu. Shame it wasn't better, then
For a game that was delayed years and years on end before finally being released in 1995... one can’t help but feel quite disappointed that this isn’t one of those games often placed on people's “Most Underrated / Overlooked Super NES Games” list. Instead, I would place it perhaps even #1 on my “Most Disappointing SNES Games” ranking. My high hopes for this game were sadly dashed when I first played it a couple years ago. So much potential… and such disappointing execution. Nevertheless, Nosferatu joins the rather short list of dark, mature-themed SNES titles, and that is never a complete loss. One simply cannot deny its intensely intriguing macabre atmosphere. And that makes it worthy to be played every Halloween season
While Blackthorne doesn’t scream Halloween off the bat, this is a refreshingly “mature” SNES title that plays well in the backdrop of October’s lovely early darkening days. Not to mention, this is my list and I get to decide what ultimately qualifies (wink). The decrepit, dank and depressing levels all fit perfectly with this time of the year. Besides, what’s more fun (and cruel) than shooting an innocent chained prisoner? Of course, I never do this... Blackthorne isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it’s wickedly entertaining!
Shooting them without looking? Just plain irresistable...
#11 / #12: POCKY & ROCKY SERIES
A widely regarded Super NES classic that’s worth playing anytime... but especially during Halloween time. Better yet, it’s even more fun with two skilled players. If you like this game, you will want to keep your eyes peeled for a very similar Super Famicom exclusive that I will feature a bit later below. Pocky & Rocky II also came out on the SNES and that is worth checking out as well
+100 if you’re a fan of the cooky, ooky family. Between Addams Family, Pugsley’s Scavenger Hunt and Addams Family Values, there is enough Addams action here to satisfy even the staunchest AF fan. AFV is the unique one of the lot, being an ARPG. It had some promise that was unfortunately derailed by a faulty password system (password character is way too long and awkward, plus not to mention the password points are far too sparse and tricky to find). Shame, as Values could have been a really nice game. I remember being curious as hell about it back in the day, but recently played it and was turned off by the password issues. Thank God for save states. Ups the value for Values... [Oi -Ed.] Uncle Fester in an ARPG? Sign me up...
Let’s get in a little ARPG love here! Here’s a super short yet extremely sweet game that you oughta play if you haven’t already. It’s so criminally short that it can be beaten in a measly 3 to 4-ish hours. Players control Spike McFang, a young vampire warrior in the making. A very good game that falls just short of the “great” category, but definitely not on the fun and quirky scale
Like Demon's Crest, this game has FINALLY gotten its due props
The classic definition of a love or hate game. Give it a shot, because if you’re one of those people who end up loving it, like I do, you are in for a rare treat. Players take on Varik, a bounty hunter (how many SNES games can claim a bad guy as the character you use?) who falls into a deep underworld maze filled with 55 different monster breeds roaming the cursed halls. The game’s music and atmosphere does an excellent job convincing you that you are 40 floors buried underneath the surface. As you fight to make your way back to the top, there is a real sense of dread that works well with the Halloween season, not to mention the 55 different monsters, with a little something for everyone. From menacing minotaurs to towering T-Rexes to even Death itself... almost every creature imaginable is milling about the hell hole! When I beat it back in 2007, it was one of the most enjoyable single-player gaming experiences of my life. Once in a while a game really resonates with you in a way you can’t explain. Brandish is that game for me… if you love atmospheric games and monsters, and like a more methodical action RPG, give it a shot. No better time to than October! Has its fair share of creepy moments
This isometric ‘3D’ action adventure is packed with epic music and a haunting atmosphere that makes it an ideal Halloween selection. It is damn difficult, though, but well worth persevering through. Try it!
'Memberthe gnarly ad for this back then?
Gritty, grimy, and great for October. For goodness sake, you start the game out by waking up on a slab in a morgue... suffering from amnesia. Talk about morbid and sordid. The control takes some getting used to, but the game's cyberpunk feel is what makes it special. Shadowrun is a very unique game and something I wish the SNES saw more of
Shadowrun's world is immersive and vast
#20: PORKY PIG'S HAUNTED HOLIDAY
Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a decent little platformer that came out late in the SNES’ lifespan. Therefore, it was overlooked even more. It’s no Super Mario World, but I do enjoy its wacky levels and it isn’t at all a shabby Halloween choice. It’s not the first title anyone thinks of, which might add to its appeal as it’s something a little different and can provide for some entertainment. Also, an interesting aspect of the game is that the weather changes every time you turn it on, and often weather will vary during the game itself. From one level to the next, it may be raining, snowing, or clear, and may have summer, autumn, or winter color schemes. At least it shows that the makers gave PPHH a little bit of thought. Overall, you could do far worse than Haunted Holiday
#21: FIRST SAMURAI
Speaking of unsung choices, here’s another one. I’ve always been intrigued by this game the day I saw EGM previewing it in early 1993. It looked different than most of your average “bright” SNES games, as First Samurai is dark and has a dreary foreboding look to it. When I finally tried it in 2006, I wasn’t much disappointed. I never expected a stellar game, but just a fun adequate one. First Samurai is. From its abnormal enemies to the “Hallelujah!” song and “OH NO! MY SWORD!” sound effect… First Samurai just has a different feel from your regular SNES game, and is one I enjoy playing in October. The game's mood fits this time of the year perfectly. Try it for yourself A bit of a unsung SNES game in my book
You transform into a wolf and shoot down bad guys like empty tin cans sitting on a fence. Wolf Child is a bit reminiscent of Werewolf (NES) and perhaps even Altered Beast (Genesis). Decent fun to be had and worth playing through at least one time for the diehard SNES fanatic. A forgotten game that was lost in the me-too SNES crowd of early-mid 1990's
Forgotten to time but not to RVGFANATIC
#23: ADVENTURES OF DR. FRANKEN
Speaking of forgotten games lost in the me-too SNES crowd of the early-mid ’90s, this is just what the doctor ordered… or not… er, nevermind. This is a game I wanted to like so badly, but ended up just being disappointed with. I do know of at least one e-buddy who enjoyed this game though, so who knows, maybe you might, too. Still, it’s a shame to see a game like this not play better. It could have been decent if it was handled with a bit more polish
The joy of $5 today versus $55 back then...
If you can withstand the difficulty, here's a decent movie-game adaptation. Just like the ALIEN films, Alien³ has a dark and foreboding feel to it. The alien monsters come at you fast and furious and from all directions, making it a worthy candidate to play late at night with all the lights turned off. Happy shootin'
I love the SNES port of MKII. My bro bought it back when it came out, September 1994, so I have fond memories of playing this during Halloween season that same year. Characters like Baraka and stages like the haunted forest give MKII a lovely Halloween spirit. As a kid I used to think they somehow snuck the arcade into my living room! Ahhhhh, such good innocent times... FINISH HIM!
You cannot talk about Halloween SNES games without bringing up Clock Tower. Hands down the most frightening game on the system, this is where the epic Scissorman origin and villain began. You’d never think an SNES title can make your heart skip a beat... but I dare you... double dare you to try this at 2 in the morning home alone with all the lights out. The game has an uneasy feel to it and Scissorman popping up randomly is the main reason why! Just an awesome survival horror game that is a MUST PLAY for the Halloween season. Buy a copy now Scissorman's TERROR began on the SNES. Not one to be missed
Pocky & Rocky fans rejoice. This game is ultra bizarre and it features a good deal of Halloween-y vibes. I mean, where else can you kill Asian hopping vampires, astronauts on Mars, giant bamboo-eating panda bears, vile rotting zombies, aliens, ninjas, knights and Bruce Lee wannabe's, all the while transforming into a large steroid-injected muscle maniac who oh yea JUST happens to be the spirit of your deceased father?!? Intrigued? If you are not then you have no pulse!
If ya thought Pocky & Rocky was bizarre, wait til ya play this one!
Thisgame goes hand-in-hand with Halloween. It’s not quite the epic action game I was hoping it might be, but it’s pretty solid and gives us Super Nintendo fanatics one more sinister game to enjoy. You can transform into various demon forms -- giving it an Altered Beast feel. This was one of the key games that got me FIRMLY entrenched into the wild Super Famicom collecting scene back in 2006. Fun times
A somewhat surprisingly solid action game based off a manga. Too many times such efforts are hack jobs and cheap attempts to cash-in. Mikami, on the other hand, is handled well. It won’t rock your world but it’s fairly fun and you gotta love its ghoulish look
A highly difficult game that seems passable at first but is made somewhat worthy when playing with a friend (as one can block and one can attack). Not my first choice to play for Halloween, nor 10th, but you can’t deny Kitarou’s Halloween spirit. Check it out only if you can, but don’t go out of your way to
Boy I tell ya, those Japanese sumthin' else
UPDATE ON THE LADY IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE
Becky and Bill Johnson, the super cool couple that hosted the free haunted house I attended back on Halloween '94, live on. At least, Becky. Sadly, Bill passed away several years back but his spirit lives on. Crazy how life works out, because in 2010 I reconnected with Becky and thanks to her word of mouth, she helped me get a full time teaching job. A lady I met once previously by random chance (or not...) on Halloween 1994... would prove to become such a blessing to me beyond what words can articulate. Last Halloween, we had lunch and pontificated on their haunted house and our Halloween memories throughout the years. Before we parted ways in the parking lot, I said half jokingly to her that we should reprise the haunted house in honor of Bill one day. Becky laughed and smiled at me. "Well you know, Steve," she began warmly. "Time will tell, won't it." I chuckled and realistically added, "Well Becky, I know how it is with time and resources. These days, we never seem to have enough of either." Becky flashed me another smile. "You know what they say, Steve. Our thoughts keep us going. And it's a very nice thought." I smiled back at her. It was like a scene out of a movie. We hugged farewell and went back to our respective cars... all the while Becky's haunting words ringing over and over again in my head, "Our thoughts keep us going." They sure do, so think good thoughts!
Who knows, maybe Becky and I will do the haunted house together on the 20 year anniversary (2014) in honor of Bill. Only time will tell. In the meantime, with Halloween rapidly approaching us, I think back to all the great times I had roaming the streets on Halloween night like a bandit without fear. I'll truly never forget those golden times. I don't know what I'll be doing this year, but I *always* make it a point to take in the crisp cool October night air, and to say a prayer for Bill and Becky. I can't believe when I first met them Halloween 1994 that these two initial strangers would play such a huge role in my life. They were both teachers of many years, just what I'd aspired to become. Becky helped me get my big break and as corny as this sounds, I know Bill is looking down smiling on us from Heaven. There isn't a Halloween that passes where I don't think of both Bill and Becky Johnson... AKA "The Lady in the Haunted House." Thank you for impacting me!
It's corny I know, but I believe Bill is looking down on us, smiling
I hope you enjoyed going through this list, recalling old Halloween Super NES favorites... in addition to maybe discovering a few new titles to fire up in the next couple weeks as we count down to Halloween once again. No matter what happens in my life, part of me will always have a very special place in my heart for both Halloween and the Super Nintendo. Both of 'em have given me countless memories over the years, and deep down inside, there’s a little robust 10 year old boy still yearning for one last great American Halloween adventure. There’s nothing like watching horror movies and playing some of these SNES games as I count down the days to Halloween. With that said, there's really only one thing left to say...