by Ryan C.
With Halloween rapidly approaching and October almost coming to an end, people should be perfectly in the mood for this time of year. But lets say you have no decorations up or any candy to eat, well, have no fear for I am going to share the perfect games to play on each Nintendo console, starting with the classic NES.
NES – Castlevania
I had a difficult time trying to pick which NES Castlevania game to put on the list. The first one is a classic, Simon’s Quest was different, but I still love it, and 3 is arguably the best, but most difficult. When it came down to it, I had to pick the first, as it was the first of its kind and my personal favorite on the system.
As Simon Belmont, it is your job to hunt down and destroy the evil Count Dracula. As far as story goes, it is pretty bare bones. The game features no dialogue or any cutscenes. Now that there is a huge Castlevania timeline, the game is important in regards to the big picture, but as a stand-alone title, a story is not the main selling point. Here, it is all about whipping monsters while listening to kick ass tunes. In my opinion, Castlevania has some of the best songs of all time, and is up there with other classics such as Mega Man.
What separated Castlevania apart from any other game at the time was how it honours all the classic Universal movie monsters. Dracula is the main villain, and under his commands include Frankenstein’s monster, the hunchback, mummies, a giant bat, the grim reaper, and merman similar to the Creature From the Black Lagoon, medusa, and more. It uses a more serious tone then other games at the time and offers a stiff challenge.
NES – Ghosts n’ Goblins
One of the hardest games in existence, Ghosts n’ Goblins is a classic gem that is not afraid to make you beg for mercy.
Why is it so hard? The biggest reason is that you can only take two hits, but it is not like Super Mario Bros, it is more like they made a Mega Man game and the life bar depleted with two hits. The game is six stages long, but they will put your skills to the ultimate test, and just when you think you are done, the game gives you a false ending and you are forced to play through a second time. This is remedied (somewhat…not really) by having unlimited continues and even if (read: when) you get a game over, you will start at the same checkpoint as before.
Ghosts n’ Goblines feature a wide variety of enemies such as zombies, devils, dragons, ghosts, among other traditional horror-type enemies. The game also includes numerous weapons such as the lance, knife, fire, and a shield. Each has their advantage, but the knife is the weapon you would want to stick with.
With a brutal difficulty curve and enemies straight out of any Halloween special, this game is worth a playthrough, pending you can risk some controllers breaking.
SNES – Zombies Ate My Neighbours
Similar to how Castlevania honoured classic Gothic horror, Zombies Ate My Neighbours celebrates all the campy ‘B’ films. Back when Lucas Arts made games other then Star Wars, they were known for creating games that dealt with off beat humour and ridiculous scenarios.
This game can be played solo, but I strongly recommend finding a buddy to sit down with for some two-player co-op (no online needed). Players can take control of two stereotypical 90’s kids, Zeke and Julie. The goal of each level is to rescue at least one neighbour from all sorts of monsters. It may sound easy, and at first it is, but the difficulty quickly ramps up when the game introduces chainsaw wielding maniacs, or giant babies. If that sounds quirky, that is only because it is.
Weapons are not of the typical zombie massacre variety, as the default weapon is a water gun. Of course, this would not be a SNES game unless there were some weapon pickups, and this game features plenty such as a fire extinguisher that freezes monsters, soda cans that act as grenades, tomatoes that can be thrown through walls, dishes and silverware, weed whackers, and more. Essentially, it is the Dead Rising of the 16-bit era.
It is simple quirky fun that is best enjoyed with a friend, and while it may be rare and expensive, just hop on that Virtual Console and spend 800 points for this radical cult classic.
SNES – Super Castlevania 4
I know I already put the first Castlevania on the list, but there was no way I was leaving this one out. Super Castlevania 4 is the perfect Castlevania game in my opinion. While I do enjoy the Metroidvania style ones, to me, nothing beats Super 4. The whipping in eight directions, moon walking, level design, and bosses all howl perfection.
Super Castlevania 4 is more of a remake of the NES original, as players once again take control of Simon Belmont going through Dracula’s castle to destroy the evil. Although a remake, it features more levels and bosses along with the updated graphics and improved controls. This game is a beauty, with loads of little details to pull you into its atmosphere. The soundtrack is classic, with both new tracks and remakes of beloved songs from the NES era. The enemies and bosses are again lifted from old mythology such as the Gorgons, Wolfman and Mummies, but with new additions to keep things fresh.
While all that is great, the controls steal the show. Whipping in eight directions ensures that enemies cannot run to unreachable locations, nor can they attack from cheap positioning. As a result, the difficulty is not controlling snapping-ly frustrating, but it is not a walk in the park either. If players hold the attack button, the whip goes limp, and by playing around with the d-pad, Simon can swing around the Vampire Killer in irregular patterns. It may not be as powerful, but it sure is fun.
I cannot recommend this game enough, I always wanted to talk about it but could never find an excuse, but now that it is Halloween, I can finally tell everyone to play this gem.
N64 – Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 has a special place in my heart. Sure it aged pretty poorly in the presentation department, and the tank controls is a love it or hate it control scheme, but I cannot deny the brilliance of this game, no matter how old it gets.
Similar to how the first game took place in a mansion, Resident Evil 2 is set primarily in the Raccoon City Police Station, and what an area it is. As Leon or Claire, the player explores the police station solving head scratching puzzles, fending off legions of the undead, and finding notes that flesh out this disturbing world. The actual game may be scary, but some of these notes can be flat out disturbing. One memorable moment is when you find a journal of a person who has been recently bitten, and as the dates become more recent, you can tell the person’s mind is starting to deteriorate. Once finish reading you can check the closet behind you and find the writer of these journals.
I am impressed with the atmosphere and that it does put some emotional weight behind the characters and scenarios, with the aforementioned journals, or a police officer on the verge of turning that offers you help.
On the gameplay side, it is very similar to the other pre-Resident Evil 4 days, but it is executed perfectly in 2, offering a healthy balance of puzzles, mystery, fighting, and scavenging health and ammo. As far as I am concerned, this is one of the best Survival Horror games before the genre (sadly) became focused more on cheap scares and third person shooting.
GCN – Luigi’s Mansion
Not everything about Halloween has to be scary, case in point: Luigi’s Mansion. After all these years of playing second fiddle, Nintendo finally let the lovable loser have his own game. Unfortunately for some, it was not a traditional Mario game in any sense of the word; Luigi could not even jump. The focus was instead shifted to exploring a haunted mansion and solving puzzles (think more Resident Evil then Super Mario).
Similar to the first Resident Evil, Luigi explores a mansion that are infested with the undead at every turn, except this time the player uses a vacuum to suck up the ghouls Ghostbusters style. On its own merits, it is a solid game with a few quirks, such as its short length and relatively non-existent difficulty curve.
Most of the time, progression boils down to find a key and open the specific door, solve a puzzle to capture the boss to get another key, repeat. Later in the game the players have more room to explore, even with some side attractions that reward the player handsomely.
With those few issues aside, Luigi’s Mansion is insanely fun no matter the age or skill level, definitely worth a play through this time of year.
GCN – Eternal Darkness
When it comes to the horror genre, there are generally three types: survival (Resident Evil 2), action (Resident Evil 6) and psychological horror that focuses on getting into the mind of the player to cause an uneasiness and sense for foreboding doom. One of the best examples I can think of for this type is Eternal Darkness, a game that literally messes with you as much as the character you control.
Players take control of Alexandra, who visits her grandfather’s mansion to investigate his mysterious death, and in the mansion she finds a book called “The Tomb of Eternal Darkness”. Each chapter in the book is the story of a different person in history, and each time you read it, the player takes control of that person. With 12 chapters spread across the mansion, it makes for an intriguing plot with plenty of suspense and character development.
However, one of the most unique and memorable aspects of this game was the Sanity Meter. While commonplace in games these days such as Amnesia, Eternal Darkness started it all and even broke the fourth wall sometimes. Some examples are random noises such as women screaming as they are being murdered or doors slamming; bleeding walls, your characters head randomly being decapitated, and the infamous memory card glitch that informs you that all your save files have been erased. It is effective in creating a dreadful atmosphere, and one that is not afraid of making the player feel stressed out as well.
While rare and expensive, it is a gem of a game that was sadly overlooked by many. However, with the upcoming release of the Wii U and the promise of Gamecube Virtual Console games, I would not be surprised to see this title be available for download in the near future.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories – by Hjort
For those who want their Halloween kicks to be of the more psychological variety, Konami and British developer Climax deliver the goods in the form of their 2009 Silent Hill installment.
Its story begins with Harry Mason waking up behind the wheel of his recently crashed car, unable to find his young daughter, Cheryl. Armed only with a flashlight, Harry sets off into the snow covered, abandoned streets of Silent Hill, desperately looking for any trace of his child. While the initial premise is instantly recognizable to anyone who played Silent Hill on the PlayStation, the plot actually turns out to be quite a different beast, and one of the most intriguing storylines out there, with absolute world class pacing and top-notch acting.
As good as the story itself is, it’s the immersive gameplay and tense atmosphere that truly sell it. Having been developed ground-up for the Wii, Shattered Memories features pixel-perfect flashlight controls by way of IR, motion controlled puzzles, and some of the most impressive visuals on the system, with high resolution texture work letting you gather information from the environments seamlessly – all in the name of immersion. For the same reason, the developer has completely eliminated the HUD, and placed all vital information and menus inside Harry’s smartphone. This game was made to make you think of it more as a nightmare than a game, which brings us to one of the most controversial design decisions: getting rid of combat.
As the world freezes over, and faceless monstrosities start to well out of the darkness, all you can do is run for your life, and pray that they won’t catch up. You can slow your stalkers down by tossing flares, or toppling furniture behind you, but there is no killing them. And as if that wasn’t enough, the game is watching your every move. Analyzing you.
An ambitious profiling system registers your behaviour, and adjusts plot elements to fit your personality. The psychological profiling system may not be able to do all – or even most – personality types out there justice, but those who find their personalities reflected in it will have a horrible time. In the very best way possible.
With Halloween only one more sleep away, what better way to celebrate then by playing or re-playing any of these classics? So dress up, grab some candy, turn off the lights and immerse yourself in this wonderful holiday.