When it comes to horror-themed games, the Sega Genesis isn’t exactly hurting for content. Indeed, there are so many titles in the Genny library about zombies, monsters, demons and chainsaw-wielding maniacs that narrowing down the list of seasonally-appropriate must-plays to just 13 games is a challenge. Still, several classic titles immediately spring to mind whenever the terms “Genesis” and “Halloween” are juxtaposed, and if you’re looking for some 16-bit shivers this All Hallows Eve, the following titles ought to give you all the Blast Processing-powered thrills and chills you can handle …
The go-to horror game on the Sega Genesis. In my eyes, this is an even better game than the universally lauded Super Castlevania IV, thanks to the dual-character gameplay and stiffer challenge. The levels are beautifully designed, the controls are excellent and the graphics and music are downright superb. And the boss fights – from stage one’s gigantic, zombified wolf to the climactic throwdown with Dracula himself – are among the most memorable you’ll experience on the console. This game just exudes the Halloween spirit, and beyond being a mere seasonal favorite, it’s easily one of the best 2D action-platformers ever.
Splatterhouse 2 and Splatterhouse 3
Super Nintendo owners never experienced games like this. Namco’s beloved horror series gave us two of the most memorable side-scrolling beat-em-ups of the 16-bit era, and both titles hold up remarkably well today. Splatterhouse 2 is a more straight-forward brawler, with an emphasis on gruesome and gory combat and wayyyy over-the-top boss battles, while Splatterhouse 3 is a more atmospheric, story-driven game, complete with branching paths. If you’re looking for some good old fashioned guts and gore, few games out there do it with as much panache – or sure-handedness – as these two cult classics.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
The Super NES version may have had the better audiovisuals, but I still think The Sega Genesis version offered the better gameplay. An homage to practically every bad horror movie ever made, Zombies Ate My Neighbors is an outstanding top-down shooter with a fantastic (or is that fang-tastic?) two-player mode. Each stage is a massive labyrinth filled to the brim with hedgetrimmer-wielding psychos, killer dolls and the occasional 200-foot-tall toddler, and it’s up to you to save the cheerleaders and lost tourists of the world using your impressive arsenal of silverware and exploding soda cans. Halloween-time or not, this is just an outstanding game all around, and one of the most entertaining co-op experiences on the Genesis, for sure.
Ghouls ‘N Ghosts
Not only is Ghouls ‘n Ghosts one of the best arcade conversions on the Genesis, I personally think it’s superior to Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. By now we all know how challenging the series is, and even by the franchise’s lofty standards this one is hard. But as difficult as the game may be, the exquisite action-platforming goodness will have you hitting the restart button over and over again, just to see if you can catch a glimpse of a few more pixels of each beautiful (and brilliantly designed) level. And just how awesome is that charged attack, by the way?
Released way late in the Sega Genesis lifespan, a lot of people overlooked The Ooze, an underrated top-down shooter (well, kind of) that was obviously inspired by B-movie classic The Blob. The gameplay here is unlike anything you’ve ever played on the Genesis before, as you have to maneuver an amorphous slime-pool across playing fields littered with relentless enemy projectiles and tricky infrastructural puzzles. By no means is it a flawless game (you oftentimes have to wrestle with the iffy controls), but just for sheer originality points, you’ve got to give this one some major props. I mean, just how many other games are out there that let you play as sentient Jell-O creatures, anyway?
Dragon’s Fury and Dragon’s Revenge
Don’t let the new moniker fool you – Dragon’s Fury is actually an enhanced port of the TurboGrafx-16 classic Devil’s Crush, with faster gameplay, better music and several all new pinball tables. And although the Genesis-exclusive sequel Dragon’s Revenge has more of a fantasy theme than the straight horror vibe of its predecessor, it’s still a game that feels perfect for late night October gaming sessions. While video game pinball might not sound like Halloween-ish good times, I assure you the dark and pseudo-demonic aesthetics of each game – complete with their awesome synth-metal soundtracks – make for outstanding All Hallows Eve ambiance.
Superficially, Devilish is basically just Arkanoid with a semi-Satanic theme, but once you play it for a couple of minutes you’ll realize just how unique a title it really is. With your dual paddle set-up (which can be configured several ways) and ample power-ups, the game feels more like a mixture of Breakout and Galaga than just another “bat and ball” offering. And with the later stages incorporating more dynamic puzzle elements, it even takes on a pseudo-pinball vibe at times. The soundtrack is pretty amazing, too – in fact, it’s so great it almost makes up for the game’s surprisingly lengthy load times.
Haunting! Starring PolterGuy
Now here’s a Sega Genesis game that practically invented its own genre. On the surface, Haunting! is a game oddly similar to The Sims, except instead of playing virtual house, you play a punk-rock Frankenstein ghost that uses protoplasm to turn household appliances into killer objects, with the goal of scaring the human tenants off the property for good. It takes a while to get used to the control scheme, but if you can overlook the fairly slow pace, you’ll have an absolute hoot possessing blenders and bearskin rugs and making grown men wet their pants.
Before Sonic came along, this was definitely the best platformer on the Sega Genesis. Playing as mummy Chuck D. Head, you’ve got to traverse across several massive stages, using your projectile eyeballs and boomerang skull hat to do battle with giant blue Yetis and the occasional 10-foot-tall punk rock barbarian ogre. The animations and sprites are fantastic, and the music is some of the most impressive chip-tuneage the system ever produced. Give the localization team some credit – whoever thought of reskinning Magical Hat Flying Turbo! Adventure as a game about zombies jumping around on bones and fighting morbidly obese elf cavemen is undeniably a genius.
his is an odd licensed game that isn’t really based on either the movies or the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and that’s probably why it remains one of the few good games based on the property. The super-deformed, chibi-style graphics might be a little off-putting at first, but the excellent action-platforming gameplay will win you over in a hurry. Whether you’re duking it out with evil snowmen inside giant frozen apartments, doing battle with the Grim Reaper himself, or even dodging demonically possessed coffee cups, there’s never a dull moment; and if you think the cameo appearance from the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man is cool, just wait til you get around to the game’s final boss – Gozer and Vigo the Carpathian ain’t got nothing on this guy!
Barney’s Hide & Seek Game
at, you scoff at this game’s inclusion? Well, despite the seemingly innocuous tone of the PBS spokes-dinosaur’s sole foray on the Sega Genesis, the subtext of Barney’s Hide & Seek Game is surprisingly unnerving. The premise of the title? Playing as the cloying children’s TV host, you run around levels trying to find cowering kids so you can hug them and literally mind control them with your magical belly dust. Sure, it’s not canonically about abducting and brainwashing elementary schoolers, but we can all read between the lines here. And the character design in this game is undoubtedly some of the creepiest you’ll see on the Genesis; those googly-eyed, buck-toothed frogs look like something out of Sid and Marty Krofft’s worst LSD trips, and there ain’t no way it’s just a coincidence…
*Updated September 1, 2020