Uncover the best horror multiplayer games the past has to offer
Do you want a quick blast before going out and scaring kids, or are you planning a full horror-filled night of retro gaming? Gaming is always an excellent opportunity to bring people together so we’re focusing on the best old-school multiplayer games you can play in a room full of people.
Zombies ate my Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol
Zombies ate my neighbors is a classic game for any Halloween party. The gameplay is fast, run-and-gun with a great multi-player focus but I really felt like the humour and the cliche, B-Grade movie Horror themes help the game stand out among Horror fans. The overall feel is very campy but don’t be deceived, Zombies ate my Neighbors is a really hard game but I has a blast reaching (or using cheats to get to) each new area. Shopping Malls, Suburbia, Egyptian Pyramids, Mining towns even a classic Haunted House. Zombies ate my Neighbors is awesomely self-aware and really aligned itself with the campy horror TV-specials that rule the television during October.
Ghoul Patrol is a spiritual successor. Developed using the same engine, it was originally intended to be a stand-alone game but palmed off to a smaller third-party developer to be made into a sequel JVC could distribute.
In essence, it’s got some very charming graphics, some good new locations and even a few more mechanics (like jumping). But a lot of the original imagination is gone. The levels have wider themes, like ancient Japan, Medieval or Pirates instead of being based on classic Horror premises. Even though we get a lot of new enemies, they’re not very imaginative compared to the original game.
Ghoul Patrol was a lot of fun to play and there’s definitely a few new concepts, like Boss fights, but I like to consider the game more of an expansion to the original. There’s a few small changes and different content, it’s a fun game but it doesn’t quite live up to the original. As an alternative for the Sega Saturn and the PS1, you may want to check out Herc’s Adventure, also designed by Michael Ebert who designed Zombies ate my Neighbors (and started work on Ghoul Patrol).
I reviewed Zombie Revenge in 2014 and had a blast with the game. Although for most people, 3D beat ’em ups are a tired genre that are awkward to play, I’ve always enjoyed them. What sets Zombie Revenge apart was that it’s set in the same universe as House of the Dead (with a trip back to Curien Mansion).
There’s a lot of different weapons available, special moves for each of the characters and firearms are incorporated really well with a charging mechanic.
Outside the Arcade mode, there’s a Dreamcast mode where you can collect items for the VMU Mini-Games, a Versus mode where you can fight a friend and a Boss-Rush mode.
For anyone who digs the VMU Mini Games, Zombie revenge came with a Tamagotchi style mode where you could train a character for use in versus mode. We got two built in mini-games, Zombie Fishing and Doubt. Both offer ways to improve your character (Zombie Fishing is a bit of a favourite), but it’s cool seeing the VMU getting some love and an Arcade — Dreamcast port with so many features included.
Digging Deeper into the Sega Saturn Library
During the 32-Bit era, early 90’s to the late 90’s, the Sega Saturn couldn’t shake the smell of death. It first had to compete with the Sony Playstation, then later the Nintendo 64 before being laid to rest as the Sega Dreamcast steam-rolled onto the scene.
Sega really pushed their arcade division in the 90’s with a series of 3D firsts, like Virtua Cop, Virtua Fighting and Virtua Racing. But for Halloween, we’re going deeper. These are Japanese imports for the Sega Saturn, but totally playable without knowing the language. They’re arcade titles, each one with a distinct horror theme for your next Halloween party.
House of the Dead
The essential on-rails light gun game for the Sega Saturn, and well, any Retro Halloween Horror Party. The original House of the Dead Arcade game was only ported to PC and Sega Saturn. So this stands as one of the best single-best ways to enjoy this arcade shooter.
Sega were super-invested in the art of the on-rail shooter, starting with Virtua Cop released in the arcades in 1994. The best thing about Sega’s arcade library finding a home on the Sega Saturn really is the hardware. The Sega Saturn Stunner. The light gun feels like it was pulled right from a cabinet and when you’ve got a friend over, it’s easy to see how House of the Dead made such an incredible impact. It’s campy, fun and beautifully short.
Sega also teamed up with Palisades to produce a range of action figures based off Sega franchises. House of the Dead got their own line with Strength, Johnny, Ken and Hierophant. Check out our review of Johnny here
Battle Monsters — Scarab
A 2D fighting game in the same vein as Mortal Kombat. Digitized and claymation monsters go head-to-head in multiple stages. Complete with monstrous special moves and some unique stage deaths, the Battle Monsters (バトルモンスターズ) is a unique Sega Saturn fighting title developed by Scarab and published by Naxat Soft in Japan. A few years too late to be considered cutting edge, Battle Monsters is an incredibly rough game that uses a zooming camera and platforms within the levels to variety to the fighting. As well as plenty of terrible effects.
For Sony Playstation fans, Scarab returned to publish Killing Zone. A 3D fighting game with a bunch of returning monsters, as well as a few new characters. Again, Killing Zone is a raw title lacking a lot of polish. The 3D game engine doesn’t hold up well, especially compared to the previous 2D engine used in Battle Monsters. It may be simple, choppy and lackluster but Battle Monsters is a fun gem to pull on a weathered Sega Saturn enthusiast.
Henry’s Explorers (Crypt Killer) — Konami
A few years before House of the Dead bought the full haunted mansion experience to the arcades, Konami released Crypt Killer in 1995, also known as Henrys Explorers in Japan (ヘンリーエクスプローラーズ Henrī Ekusupurōrāzu). You need to navigate 8 different stages, filled with monsters, ghouls and demons to uncover treasure. Unlike House of the Dead, Crypt Killer uses 2D sprites in a 3D environment.
It’s an interesting snapshot of the era, moving away from titles like Corpse Killer (no relation), which has you scrolling from left to right on a pre-rendered background shooting sprites. The on-rail shooter genre was really a product of its time, and games like Crypt Killer and House of the Dead both provided an opportunity for the Sega Saturn to show off what it can do in a controlled environment.
And again, we need to consider the hardware. Crypt Killer is an amazing opportunity to use the Sega Saturn Stunner. Even though the game isn’t impressive on its own, think of the Saturn as an entertainment multiplayer. It turns any mediocre Saturn shooter into a fun party game.
Vampire Hunter & Vampire Savior (Darkstalkers) — Capcom
Capcom have been long considered the staple of 2D beat ’em ups, ruling the roost with their Street Fighter series since the 90’s. Thankfully for fans of their beat ’em up titles, we’ve seen Capcom adapt their amazing fighting engines to work with a few other franchises and IP’s. Games like Marvel Superheroes and my favourite, the Darkstalkers (ヴァンパイア Vanpaia) series.
Bringing that same level of detail, fun and imagination into a horror themed fighting title, Capcom have created a unique arcade experience that captures the spirit of Halloween and makes the ultimate multiplayer party game.
The Sega Saturn missed the first Darkstalkers game, The Night Warriors (which was a Playstation exclusive), but did recieve a port of the Second Title, Darkstalkers’ Revenge in 1996 (also known as Vampire Hunter in Japan). The biggest differences over the original title are the extra included characters.
Darkstalkers 3 (or in Japan, known as Vampire Savior: The Lord of Vampire (ヴァンパイア セイヴァー The Lord of Vampire Vanpaia Seivā Za Rōdo Obu Vanpaia) was originally released in arcades in 1997 and ported to both the Sega Saturn and the Sony Playstation in 1998. On the Sega Saturn, it requires the 4MB RAM expansion cartridge.