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NES Nightmare Fuel

Despite having primitive graphics and sound, some games for Nintendo's 8-bit system scared the crap out of my younger self. A few of the games on this list I didn't play until I was all grown up and they somehow still managed to be frightening.

List items

  • The aliens invading Fester's hometown in this frustrating Addam's Family spin-off were downright terrifying. Sunsoft managed to put a lot of detail into them. Among the regular enemies was a giant spider-like thing that for some reason often spawned on the other side of hedgerows and walls. It couldn't reach you, but would just sit there and stare at you, which freaked me out. When entering certain buildings the game would shift to a first-person perspective, where you navigated long dark mazes with eerie music playing. Then suddenly, when you opened a door, you'd find yourself fighting a giant scary boss in a black void. I would run screaming from the TV whenever that happened.

  • Now here is a punishing game. It isn't very hard if you know where to go, but does it ever enjoy killing you for taking one false step. Open the wrong door and a monster might jump out and tear you to shreds. The descriptions of the various ways you can die are pretty damn detailed and it didn't help that the game was localized when released in Sweden. Dying would send you to a game over screen with a grinning 8-bit Grim Reaper and eerily sad music, asking you if it isn't "too sad that your adventure would end here". I would use that music to torture my little sister for years to come. Some of the other tunes would also send shivers down my spine, even if they were extremely repetitive.

  • This was the third adventure game released by Tecmo for the NES. I actually played this one only a few years ago, but it still managed to freak me out at times. Like Shadowgate, it contained plenty of death traps and detailed descriptions of your demise. The most frightening deaths include: ripped apart by an undead Southern Belle, locked in a jail cell by a headless ghost, devoured by a horde of zombies and pushed into a bottomless pit by the villain. Near the beginning of the game you'd find a gem that would slowly kill you if you picked it up. The devs didn't bother telling you that the thing was cursed, only that you suddenly began feeling ill and having disturbing hallucinations. Thanks a bunch.

  • Resident Evil's 8-bit ancestor might look like the first Final Fantasy game when you first look at it, but this game keeps you on your toes. The gory close-ups of zombies torn in half look pretty damn disturbing even today. In certain sections of the game a ghost will appear out of nowhere and randomly carry one of your party members away. The music is as chilling as chiptunes get.

  • Now this one I heard of from a review on If I had played the first level of this game as a kid I would lie sleepless for a week afterwards. There you are, navigating a weird, but not especially scary alien world. Then suddenly the background shifts to this nightmarish landscape filled with bloody skulls. The ending is infamously disturbing (look it up if you haven't seen it) and I feel sorry for those who played this as kids.

  • Nowadays I'd say Gremlins 2 is a cute little game, but back then the creepy compositions, weird scale and huge bosses haunted my 7-year old mind. There was something about the level of detail that SunSoft managed to cram out of the old NES. Also, I didn't see the movie until a few years after I played the game, so I didn't understand that it was supposed to be funny.

  • WHAT A HORRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A CURSE. Just hearing the first few notes of the night time music sends shivers down my spine even today.