When a horror movie is successful enough, it will find itself with all different kinds of attempts at merchandising. Novelizations, comics, and sometimes video games. These are usually the clunkiest of the attempts to expand a franchise beyond the movies. They don’t always work, sometimes literally, as they can be bogged down with unfixed glitches or just generally frustrating. I have no doubt that several of the pieces on this list will elicit eye-rolls and groans. Most of these were not overly well-received.
The only thing I can speak to is my own enjoyment. And I can confirm that I had loads of fun with every single game on this list. I didn’t beat all of them. In fact, I didn’t even make it all that far into some, but I still had fun and I think that’s the key component here.
Before we get started, I should make it clear that I’m only counting officially licensed games. There are some terrific fan-made games out there that might be worth diving into in another piece. But Terrordrome doesn’t count for these purposes, nor does the entertaining Puppet Master: The Game.
With that in mind, let’s dive right into some games based on horror movies that are shockingly, surprisingly fun.
Friday the 13th
Let’s just get this out of the way: this game is hard as hell. It’s virtually impossible to beat, but as a kid I would rent it all the time and I absolutely loved it. The look of Jason is very far removed from the movies, but it’s kind of charming at the same time. It’s also scary. I know it’s stupid to say that, because it’s an original NES game. But Jason can pop in and out at any moment, he’s nearly impossible to fight, but that’s all part of the experience. I also love that the new Friday game retains the notion of each counselor having different strengths/weaknesses.
On some level, I’m well aware that this game is very bad. But here’s the thing: Van Helsing is like watching a video game. It’s almost a mistake for it to be a movie. It’s one streamlined ride of CGI action moving from boss battle to boss battle. In that respect, it almost works better as a game. As a Universal monster fan, I like the treatment of these creatures in the game better than the feature itself. It’s just a lot of silly monster fun, and I’m OK with that. Also, a cheat code allows you to play as Invisible Van Helsing, which is almost like adding another classic monster into the mix.
I can’t believe how stupidly fun this game is. This is an open-world Jaws game where you play as the goddamn shark and I love it. Imagine if in Ecco the Dolphin you just go around eating absolutely everything. There’s something great about leaping into the air and crashing down on unsuspecting fishing boats. But the game reaches peak form in a Jaws 3 sequence where you’re trapped in Sea World, basically, and have to escape, all culminating in a boss battle with what is essentially Shamu.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds
I really enjoyed both Buffy games, but the thing I think this has over the first is that it allows you to play as characters beyond Buffy herself. That’s such a great thing for fans, especially because it brings back so many actors from the show to play their respective roles. Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike and Faith are all playable and have their own solo levels within the story itself. There’s some alternate universe stuff that also brings in evil versions of Giles and Tara.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Other than loving the movie, I don’t know why I love this game so much. But I do. I think it’s so much fun. This is basically Castlevania with the character designs from the Coppola film, and you play as Keanu Reeves the entire time. But there’s also a weird darker edge to it—the first thing you see is a spanning silhouette shot of impaled corpses—and the music is great. I was huge into Dracula and this movie in particular as a kid, and for those reasons I just couldn’t get enough of this one.
Friday the 13th: The Game
Alright, I’m well aware that there have been issues since the launch and I’m going to dig much deeper into my thoughts on it in a few days, but I’ve barely been able to stop playing this game since it was released. I still can’t believe that it exists. There’s so much terrific attention to detail, it’s such a great experience for fans to come together and share their love of the franchise in a way like this. I can’t wait for them to fix some of the bugs, because this game deserves to shine.
Evil Dead: Regeneration
This game makes it on the list over Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick because it fixes that awful save feature. Not only do you get prime Evil Dead 2 era Ash—you even get to play a bit of Evil Dead 2—but you also get Ted Raimi as a demonic sidekick that you can punt whenever you want. That almost makes up for the removal of the one-liner button from the previous game. This feels like playing through several arcs of the Army of Darkness comic series.