We will discuss the first horror games to grace our home consoles. Games such as Haunted House on both the Magnavox Odyssey and Atari 2600, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1982). We begin to delve into what has come from this. With horror games being popular for streamers since Five Nights at Freddy’s, it’s easy to glance away from those early years. The world itself has come a long way from the Magnavox Odyssey, same with perception. How do horror games hold up today? Let’s take a look!
Remember your first?
Most of us remember our firsts, to an extent. Your first experience with playing video games. The first console you actively had the money to buy. When you first asked your parents to buy you a video game, but you realized it sucked. For us, it’s the first video game that had given us some level of horror and enjoyment. The game Haunted House is what we are talking about. The Atari 2600 version that was released in 1982 is often mentioned. For some, it was the Magnavox Odyssey version before that in 1972. That’s a difference of 10 years apart. A decade between, yet considered the first horror games released on their respective consoles.
Haunted House: The First in Home Console Horror.
In 1972, Magnavox released a game titled Haunted House for their Odyssey. It looked interesting, with a very beautiful overlay that still looks like a work of art to this day. Overlays were the bread of that console. Having a work of art meant getting others wanting in on the game. Haunted House might have played out like a board game rather than console games we all know, but it was okay. It had a complicated setup, but you didn’t expect much being the first home console. Consisting of 2 players, one had to pick up clues as detective, the other giving out clues and hiding as the ghost. Haunted House was the first and shouldn’t be held accountable for that. The instruction booklet it has is so confusing that you’re better off just winging it. You will have more fun that way.
A worse or better game?
What can we say about 1980s video games? It was a different time, with different tastes in video games. Or was it? Games like Centipede, Pac-Man, and Defender were pretty popular as they still are today. Some can argue they are just as addicting this console generation. 1982’s Haunted House for the Atari 2600 was not perceived as a terrible game. The fact you’re just a pair of eyes floating inside a dark mansion is a little creative. Tapping the fire button allows you to illuminate areas surrounding you. Every layout is the exact same, but that was to be expected with most games. Every time you go through a door, the whole layout changes to a different color. It’s fine, but it doesn’t jump out at you. It’s not an addicting game, but it is one to keep your attention the few minutes it takes to beat.
As horror games go between Atari and the Odyssey, the 1972 version might be superior. Haunted House (1972) is certainly an older game, but that doesn’t make it a worse game. It cemented what we know as the ‘horror’ genre of games. Clearly doesn’t hold a candle to today’s standards, but it’s a game that makes you think. As educational games go, perhaps LeapFrog would do better if they implemented horror classics. It is a simple game with a simple premise. No real winners or loser. It’s just a true family experience. While the 1982 experience is just pop-in and play, it is less engaging than that of Missile Command or Asteroids. Maybe it’s just the fact we enjoy destruction or working together, even during that time.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1982)
In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre video game, you take the role of Leatherface. This is a hit or miss, because a good horror game in today’s standards generally has you as a survivor. In a more recent game Friday the 13th, you can assume both roles as either a survivor or the slasher. Jason is fun to play for a while, but the game is boring without a group of friends. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was seen in its day to be a bit controversial. Many stores that had sold video games at the time refused to place it on their shelves. This produced very low numbers and thus sold very poorly. With video games still being a niche form of media, it’s understandable. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it was one of the first video game controversies surrounding violence.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is not considered that good, even for the time released. It did give us a game where you go around slaughtering random people. Something like that can only get you so far, like the novelty of 3D on a 3DS system. What best describes this game is that it’s a novelty. Even though it was late, the original movie was still making money. Looking at the numbers, with only a budget of $140,000, it’s no wonder there was eventually a video game adaptation.
Was there any takeaway for modern horror games?
Not much. We have some things still used effectively. This includes artwork/graphics, working together, and doing forms of investigation. Games like the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill have puzzles that make us think. We get to play the role of the slasher in some games, such as with Friday the 13th. Games based either loosely or largely on movies are a thing. Developers also have various amounts of creativity, like Five Nights at Freddy’s lead developer. Horror games started off mediocre with what Haunted House was, even for the first generation of gamers. As we begin to see new and future releases still breaking ground, it’s become almost mainstay. Streamers and the regular person alike seem to enjoy where this generation of horror games have gone. So have we, and we don’t mind a re-visit of the originals.