With October comes Halloween and with Halloween comes watching lots and lots of horror and horror-adjacent movies. These iconic movies usually have many spinoffs and, for better and for worse, sometimes that means video game tie-ins, too. Over the decades, we’ve seen the events of Halloween both adapted into being chased by Michael Myers via Atari graphics but also being chased by Michael Myers in the far superior Dead by Daylight.
There are plenty of other memorable horror games based on scary movies, like LJN’s NES takes on Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. Konami threw a couple Saw games at us. We even got a seriously underrated sequel to The Thing in 2002.
But here are also quite a few licensed games that have fallen through the cracks of time, forgotten attempts to capture the power of cinematic horror that have vanished into obscurity like swimming teenagers in the living oil slick from Creepshow 2. Sit back, boils and ghouls, as we take a look at some of Freddy and the others’ lesser-known video game adventures.
There were several Beetlejuice games released in the early ’90s and they were mostly based on the animated series. For good reason, too, as the cartoon version of Beetlejuice was an actual antihero and someone worth rooting for.
Though coming out three years after the movie, the NES game chooses the more villainous movie version of the character as the source material. Beetlejuice spends the game doing the job he was hired to do in helping the Maitlands rid their home of the Deetz family, while the game ignores the big plot point that he’s a sinister entity who can’t be trusted. It just so happens that he does his work through some excessively bizarre and borderline unplayable platforming and fetch quests.
Rather than the Maitlands coming to grips with the monster they had unleashed on the world, we instead just end the adventure with Beetlejuice bowing to the audience and using his victory to promote himself for future jobs.
14. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
While incredibly tame by modern standards, the 1983 Atari 2600 version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre was seen as controversial at the time. After all, crude graphics or not, you were playing as a monstrous lunatic whose only want is to carve up invading teenagers with his chainsaw and steal their skin.
A simple game, you play as Leatherface, chasing young kids around and trying to shred them apart with your favorite power tool. As you run around cow skulls, fences, and empty wheelchairs, your gas gradually runs out. To refill your chainsaw, you have to kill five victims.
The cover for the game shows what appears to be a detective of some sort firing a gun. You would think that being shot at would be one of the hazards of the game. The gunman makes zero appearances in-game, and when you run out of gas completely, you get a game over screen of one of your potential victims running over to kick you square in the butt.
Has anyone else ever tried that? Was that Leatherface’s weakness this entire time?
13. Jaws Unleashed
As bad as the NES Jaws game was, its release made plenty of sense. Jaws: The Revenge had just come out and the NES game was its tie-in. That disaster of a movie killed the series dead despite how optimistic Marty McFly’s trip to the future was. Jaws has since become one of those classics that nobody would want to reboot because of how nigh impossible it would be to pull off.
Then in 2006, Appaloosa Interactive decided that it was time for a sequel, taking place 30 years after the first movie and released on PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC. Jaws Unleashed allows you to play as the titular shark in what feels more like an adaptation of the 1977 Jaws knockoff Orca. Being that you are the shark and the one eating people and causing problems, the plot is that your tantrums are caused by man’s meddling with nature and not because you are a gigantic ocean predator.
Sadly, unlike Jaws: The Revenge, there is no Michael Caine there to class it up. Then again, if he was, people would be annoyed that the game isn’t about Michael Caine punching sharks. I know I’d play it.
12. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The Francis Ford Coppola movie was certainly a big deal back in 1992, though I just remember being put off by Gary Oldman’s silly hair puffs. Despite trying to make a serious high-budget take on the Dracula mythology, the movie was adapted into several games that were anything but serious.
The one for Sega CD is well-known thanks to the impressive visuals it was able to pull off at the time. This game has you play as Keanu Reeves’ Jonathan Harker, an absolute badass who can take out Dracula and his hordes with nothing but his bare hands.
But it’s actually the SNES version that stands out above all others. Again, you’re playing as Keanu, but this time he gets a Strider-like sword and takes on some ridiculous bosses, including dragons, giant wolves, and a 15-foot-tall Tom Waits. The final fight pits you against Dracula, who takes the form of a giant ninja. Once you defeat him, he turns into his withered form, but only escapes because Harker shows an ounce of pity. You know, like in the movie.
11. Friday the 13th: The Computer Game
1986 was a volatile time for the Friday the 13th franchise. Jason Voorhees was killed off and replaced by a large dude named Roy, followed by possibly being replaced by Tommy Jarvis. While the movie makers were in the middle of reviving Jason as a zombie, Domark released a Friday the 13th game for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum that ALMOST got it right, but not quite.
Though vastly different from the more well-known NES game, the setup is still the same. You pick from one of several counselors at Camp Crystal Lake and wander around looking for weapons, knowing that Jason is out there ready to murder you and all of your friends. While that part is solid, the bizarre twist is that Jason is not a hulking brute in a hockey mask, but a master of disguise, pretending to be one of your fellow counselors. Even when you see through his disguise, he’s depicted as just an unmasked dude with black hair wearing black clothes.
Too bad it was such an early video game. I would have killed to see cutscenes of Jason trying to fit in.
10. Chucky: Slash & Dash
There have been many attempts to get a Child’s Play video game off the ground, but the only thing to come out of it is Chucky: Slash & Dash, an endless runner game for iOS from 2013 that was delisted less than two years later.
The game lets you to play as Chucky or Tiffany, as you spend the game running through a toy factory filled with endless boxes of Good Guy dolls. As you dodge obstacles, you gain batteries for points and occasionally get to jump onto security guards for some good old stabbing. Other than that, there’s nothing much else to it. This game was both annoyingly difficult and featured some sloppy-sounding quotes from the movies that made it feel even cheaper.
9. Rocky Interactive Horror Show
Back in 1985, there was a point-and-click adventure game based on The Rocky Horror Show for the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Apple II, and other home computers. And you know what? It was decent and had fine graphics for the time. Then a decade and a half later, On-Line Entertainment gave us a quasi-remake called The Rocky Interactive Horror Show. Originally, the game was supposed to come out in the mid-90s for the Atari Jaguar CD, but that console flopped and killed its release. The finished game sat on the shelf until finally being released for Windows in early 1999 (late 2000 in North America).
This digitized Maniac Mansion fever dream is such an oddity. It looks like someone was trying to recreate the mansion from Rocky Horror using crap found at a TGI Fridays. You get to play as either Brad or Janet as you try to free the other from the Medusa Transducer and figure out puzzles that are too obtuse to complete without help.
The true saving grace is that Christopher Lee of all people is your narrator and guide through it all. This includes having him explain just how one does the Time Warp.
8. Scream 4
Ghostface has become a regular when it comes to video game guest appearances, but the masked killer finally got their own game back in 2011. Available on Android and iOS, Scream 4 had you to play as Ghostface and go on a killing spree. Each level saw you stealthily track your various victims. When you catch them, it turns into a slashing minigame where you have to swipe the screen in a specific way to get the kill. If your victim sees you or you mess up the slicing, they will run away and call for help. That in turn alerts the police, who are more than capable of filling Ghostface full of lead.
As fun as the game was, it was eventually delisted in all formats, and has unfortunately fallen into the abyss of lost media. Maybe they’ll bring it back for Scream 6.
Back in 1988, a Psycho game came out for DOS, Amiga, Atari ST, and Commodore 64. The setup isn’t that bad. Much like the doomed Arbogast in the original movie, you’re a detective whose search for stolen jewels leads you to the Bates Motel. The game takes the form of a puzzle adventure as you have four hours to solve the mystery. Unfortunately, if you’re attacked by Norma Bates, a dog, or a ghost (?!?), you will fall asleep and lose precious time.
Yes, that’s why we’re afraid of Norman’s mother. Because she might make you fall asleep with her sharp knife. Hell, I’m sure Marion Crane and Arbogast woke up just fine after the movie ended. In short, Psycho is borderline unplayable and a complete mess of a game that’s filled with more bugs than Norma’s rotting corpse.
6. Ghostbusters 2
Despite being kind of mediocre overall as a movie, Ghostbusters 2 really got a lot of play in the realm of video games. So much in fact that there are two separate Ghostbusters 2 games for NES. But the one for DOS was the most interesting of the tie-ins.
In a game that adapted the movie fairly well with the best graphics and sound design that a 1989 computer game could muster, you had to do a mix of collecting slime, targeting ghosts on assignments, and occasionally breaking your teammates out of the asylum. It’s mostly based on the hotel scene from the first movie in that, yes, you have to zap and collect the ghosts, but you also have to be sure not to cause too much damage because money and your reputation is on the line. You might knock out innocent bystanders, destroy pieces of the background, and even accidentally expose a woman in the changing room at a clothes store. This “win but be careful” gameplay continues into the penultimate level where you control the Statue of Liberty and need to make it to Vigo in time without stepping on too many cars.
For some reason, despite this being a DOS game, you are shown to be using an NES controller in-game during the Statue of Liberty level. It’s off-putting. Afterwards, when you finally defeat Vigo, his painting is replaced with the image of Slimer holding Dana’s baby.
5. Halloween: Michael Myers Rampage
Making a game based on Halloween is pretty difficult. If you’re set to play as a survivor character, then you’re basically just running away from a single villain the entire game. That didn’t help the overly simple and repetitive as the Atari game. If you play as Michael Myers, then there aren’t too many threatening enemies to get in your way. Michael’s biggest obstacles include an old woman, an old man, a little girl, Paul Rudd, and Busta Rhymes. I don’t want to play a game that forces me to stab Paul Rudd. What’s wrong with you?
In 2007, to promote the Rob Zombie reboot, an official Flash game was created online called Michael Myers Rampage. It’s a simple game where you play as Michael, stabbing at 3D models in first person. Whether they’re in the living room, laying in bed, or taking a shower, you have to get the best score by getting the most brutal shots in while your victims thrash around. It gets old fast, but at least it’s over quickly.
It’s no wonder Michael’s video game career became a collection of guest appearances.
4. The Evil Dead
That there are so many Evil Dead games should be no surprise. Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams is one of the top heroes of horror and perfectly rides the line between badass and buffoon. There have been various digital follow-ups to his adventures in Medieval Times, including one where he played multiversal poker with Brock Samson and Claptrap. Sadly, plans for him to fight the cast of Mortal Kombat 11 fell through due to the complicated rights issues involving the Evil Dead trilogy.
But truth be told, Ash wasn’t truly an icon until Evil Dead 2 came out, so there’s something awkward about playing as him in the 1984 Commodore 64 Evil Dead game. Despite being a simplistic bird’s eye view adventure game, it fits well with the plot of the movie. As Ash, you try to both fight demons (for some reason, they look disembodied legs a lot of the time) and try to keep more from entering the cabin, all while searching for the Necronomicon so he can destroy it for good.
Fun fact: instead of an angry monster face, the Necronomicon just says “ED” on the front. Surely, it’s named after Hell’s favorite talking horse.
3. The Addams Family
Am I out of line for lumping The Addams Family in with horror movies? Maybe, but whatever, it’s the same ballpark. It’s an October movie about a family of death-obsessed psychopaths. Putting it on this list gives me a chance to discuss one of my favorite WTF video game concepts. When the movie came out, it was adapted into a Turbografx-16 game with a very interesting twist.
See, there have been many Addams Family games over the years based on different incarnations of the family. Different family members have been the protagonists, from Gomez and Fester to Pugsley to Wednesday. So…just who is our hero in the game based on the movie? Why, it’s Tully Alford, the scheming lawyer played by Dan Hedaya… Not only is he not a good guy in the movie, but he’s not even the main villain!
The Addams Family is a rather dull Metroidvania game where you search the mansion for its hidden riches, all while fending off the different Addams family members. It still makes more sense than that game about Fester fighting space aliens, I suppose.
2. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
After the success of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it was only a matter of time before we got a newer take on the Frankenstein tale. The latter also had a series of video game adaptations. The SNES and Genesis ones were pretty straightforward adventure games.
The Sega CD version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, though…wow. In all honesty, this may be one of the strangest video games ever made, both in terms of the medium and as an adaptation. Although its foundation is a point-and-click adventure, every now and then, it transforms into a fighting game. You play as the monster, trying to spam your rushing attack, when taking on such bosses as a dog, a wolf, a landlord, a sewer guard, and so on.
This includes when the monster accosts Elizabeth, as Frankenstein’s wife busts out kung fu acrobatics before being beaten to death. Rather than her reanimated self committing suicide, followed by Victor Frankenstein dying of illness and the monster mourning him, we instead see the monster and Victor have a final fight on a boat, followed by the monster and his new bride setting fire to it before wandering off together into the Arctic.
1. Nightmare on Elm Street: Keep Her Awake
Initially, when tasked with coming up with a Nightmare on Elm Street entry for this list, I was just going to go with the 1989 DOS game loosely based on Dream Warriors. Then I went down the rabbit hole and found an obscure game from 2010 whose controversial past has turned it into lost media. To hype up the ill-fated movie reboot, the studio licensed a flash game using live action footage called Keep Her Awake.
Centered around the horrifying and inevitable nature of having to face Freddy, you watch a teenage girl in her room as she tries to fight the biological need for sleep. The longer you stay awake, the higher your score. Sounds like a good idea, right? The problem came from the different ways you could have the girl stay awake. There were options like cold showers, exercise, ingesting stimulants, and the ever-so-fun idea of…self-mutilation. Oof.
Nine, ten, don’t expect to find a copy of this game again.