Halloween is easily one of our favorite holidays of the year, acting as a perfect excuse to chow down on candy and bask in gloriously spooky games and movies. While there are plenty of modern horror games filled with spectacular frights, it’s often just as fun to take a look back and celebrate the holiday by playing some of the best spooky retro games. Between underrated horror adventures and a sea of timeless classics, there’s often no shortage of excellent retro horror games to dig into.
Taking every chance we can to marry our love of retro games with Halloween, we’ve whipped up this quick list of five of the best spooky retro horror games to play if you’re in the mood during this spooky season. For this list, we wanted to highlight a variety of games, in terms of both genres and platforms, so you’ll find everything from NES classics to TurboGrafx-16 titles. Plus, thanks to the slew of remasters and retro collections, many of our picks are incredibly easy to buy and play on modern consoles. Keep in mind, these games are listed in no particular order, as each one brings something exciting and unique to the party. If you’re a die-hard retro gamer too, try shaking up your Halloween tradition by playing any of these immensely fun retro horror games!
Spooky Retro Horror Games to Play on Halloween
5. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Developed by LucasArts and originally released in 1993, Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a colorful and joyfully retro run and gun that’s perfect for Halloween. Starring a pair of super radical kids named Zeke and Julie, this excitable adventure sees you blasting through the suburbs as you venture to take down the nefarious Dr. Tongue and his legion of hostile monstrosities.
Playing either in solo or two-player co-op, you’ll journey through nearly 50 stages as you defeat an assortment of festive baddies, ranging from werewolves and mummies to giant ants and spiders. While that game can be challenging in spots, the eclectic weapon variety and simple but satisfying concept make it hard to put down, especially when played with a friend. Luckily, a remastered version of Zombies Ate My Neighbors was released in 2021 on all major consoles, so you can enjoy this cult classic without digging out any old hardware.
Splatterhouse (and its many sequels) are often left out of the discussion when gamers chat about their favorite retro horror games, which is a shame, since they helped push the envelope of horror gaming when things were just getting started. Developed by Namco and originally released in arcades in 1989, this side-scrolling horror action game was controversial due to its levels of gore and violence, which were eventually toned down when the game was ported to home consoles like the TurboGrafx-16. Paying homage to classic 80s slasher films, the game follows Rick, a college student who is driven into a homicidal rage when a supernatural mask attaches to his face while exploring a creepy mansion.
Trudging through the halls of the mansion as he searches for his missing girlfriend Jennifer, Rick must use a grim arsenal of weapons including shotguns, blades, and even his bare firsts to dispatch the disfigured enemies that lurk in the shadows. Featuring mega-gory kill animations and consistently over-the-top violence, Splatterhouse is a prime retro horror game for fans of bloody action. It’s a bit tough to find the TurboGrafx-16 version nowadays, but if you own the 2010 Splatterhouse reboot for the Xbox 360, you can unlock the original arcade version as well as Splatterhouse 2 and 3.
3. Resident Evil
This one is kind of a no-brainer, but we’d be remiss to not mention this iconic title on our list of the best spooky retro horror games. Created by Capcom with famed developer Shinji Mikami at the helm, this 1996 PlayStation classic coined the term “survival horror” and set the bar high for the industry moving forward. If you’re somehow unfamiliar with Resident Evil, the concept is simple – a group of elite police officers are sent to the ominous Spencer Mansion to investigate a string of grisly crimes but encounter something far more sinister. With supplies and ammunition in limited supply, the team must solve puzzles and avoid traps if they hope to survive the night.
While the 1996 version has its own quirky charm, the 2002 remake is often considered superior in both atmosphere and gameplay, and we’re inclined to agree. No matter which version you choose, it’s hard to deny that Resident Evil withstands the test of time and remains a suspenseful masterpiece to this day. The memorable characters and monsters, unique puzzles, and challenging gameplay make for an entertaining but stressful play, especially if it’s your first time through or you’re a bit rusty. Better yet, there’s a remastered version of the 2002 Resident Evil remake available on nearly every major home console, and at a pretty low price too!
We love retro games of all genres, but there’s a special place in our hearts for the point and click adventure genre. Luckily, there are a handful of sufficiently creepy point and clicks available to choose from, including the often-overlooked Uninvited. This unsettling adventure was developed by ICOM Simulations and released exclusively on Macintosh computers back in 1986 before making the jump to other platforms, including MS-DOS, Commodore 64, and the NES.
Straightforward and surprisingly spooky for its time, Uninvited follows a mysterious hero who searches for their missing brother (or sister, depending on what version you play) in an abandoned mansion. While you won’t be gunning through undead baddies like in Resident Evil, there are still plenty of interesting puzzles to solve and some nightmarish monsters to deal with. Although Uninvited wasn’t the most popular game when it was released, you can still play it on modern consoles via the 8-Bit Adventure Anthology Volume 1 collection, which is available on Steam, Xbox, and PlayStation 4.
When it comes to retro games that exude the spirit of all things spooky and supernatural, the Castlevania franchise is easily one of the best. Developed and published by Konami starting in 1986, this beloved series centers around a family of vampire hunters who foil the evil plans of Dracula time and time again. In the original game, you play as Simon Belmont, embarking on a linear but challenging side-scrolling adventure. However, further sequels refined the formula and expanded the gameplay, inventing a new sub-genre commonly referred to as “Metroidvania” (a combination of Metroid and Castlevania).
While there are endless debates over what the best Castlevania game is, fans can all agree that most of the games are pure retro horror gaming bliss. Challenging platforming sections, killer weapons, and excellent boss fights are littered throughout this massively popular series. For us, it’s hard to beat the NES original, but no matter what Castlevania game you choose, there’s a good chance you’ll have a blast. If you want to jump headfirst into this excellent action series, we recommend picking up the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, which is available on most modern consoles and contains eight unique Castlevania games.