It’s halloween at the moment, and you know what that means! Trick or treating, parties, ghosts and monsters… it’s the perfect time of year for horror games of all types! Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Eternal Darkness… the list of creepy games you could be playing just goes on and on. But what if you want something a bit… tamer? A bit more ‘creepy’ but without all the blood and gore of the M rated horror games everyone else seems to be playing at this time of year?
Could Nintendo games provide enough creepy entertainment for this hallowed evening?
Yes, yes they can. And with so many Nintendo games having fantastic ghost house and horror themed levels, we thought it only be right to look at some of the better ones. Some of the ones that really do keep you playing all through the darkest parts of the witching hour. So here they are. Here are, the top ten Nintendo levels to play this halloween!
10. Crescent Moon Village (Wario Land 4)
Starting off the list, we have one of the more interesting ‘ghost’ themed levels in Wario Land 4. Set at the start of the horror themed Sapphire Passage, Crescent Moon Village takes place in what can only be described as something out of a Stephen King novel. A creepy old ‘abandoned’ village in the middle of Lovecraft Country, the place is absolutely dripping with character in a way that’s not really the norm for most Nintendo haunted house areas.
Above: Not your average Mario ghost house
Seriously. There are no old mansions with graveyards and church organ music here, it’s all ‘creepy town inhabited by undead death cult territory’. The enemies? Not mummies or skeletons or traditional ghosts like in its Shake It era successors, but suspicious KKK esque ghosts wielding hatchets and driven by a thirst for blood. The walls are falling apart, with what look like bullet holes littering the background, the exteriors look like something from a Victorian era village in rural England… even the music has its own feel distinct from that used in many other similar areas:
It’s a fantastic stage, with a level of character not seen in most Nintendo titles before and since. As a result, it gets a hearty recommendation and the first spot on our list!
9. Creepy Castle (Donkey Kong 64)
Following on from the above, we get to our second choice. And to put it simply… Creepy Castle is as different from Crescent Moon Village as a haunted house level could possibly get. With a location set in a standard haunted castle inhabited by hilariously bad looking fake ghosts and set to a somewhat corny background song, it’s almost a pastiche of the average ghost level.
But while the amusing corniness of the main level is amusing in its own right, it really starts to shine with one certain sub section.
The mine cart ride.
Oh god. If there’s ever been a section in a Nintendo game that needs to be turned into a theme park attraction… this is probably it. Just look at it:
Above: This needs to be in Universal’s Nintendo theme park.
This place is creepy as hell for an E rated game, and also pretty damn cool to boot. With eerie flashing lights, tombstones popping up from the ground and a giant skeleton ghost (referred to as a ‘Resident Demon’ in game) appearing to blow you up with flaming skulls. it is just absolutely perfect for this time of year, and thoroughly deserves its spot on this list.
8. Twisted Mansion (Mario Kart 8)
Moving on to a non platformer now, Twisted Mansion is the one Mario Kart track making our level list.
But given that the series has featured ghost levels in every installment, you might be wondering why this one is included over some of the others.
Well… it just nails the atmosphere and level design much better than any of the other haunted house themed levels in the series. Ghost Valley and its Super Circuit spiritual successors are kind of boring, Banshee Boardwalk feels rather empty and lifeless at times and Luigi’s Mansion… well nothing really happens in it. You explore a mansion, but the only spooks you encounter are a bunch of walking trees that pose no threat whatsoever.
Twisted Mansion on the other hand… does the ghost house track idea right. The level design is varied and interesting, going through everything from a library to an underwater pasageway before reemerging in the front garden of the mansion. The visuals are incredible, without not one part where nothing cool can be seen in the background. And most importantly of all… stuff actually happens there. Boos fly around courtyards, fishbones swim in the cellars, giant Boo possessed suits of armour straight from Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon try to smash you to a pulp… it’s just so much more interesting than the alternatives.
And hey, the music ain’t half bad either!
So with that said, Twisted Mansion takes the eighth spot on the list.
7. Mad Monster Mansion (Banjo-Kazooie)
Back to platformers now, Mad Monster Mansion is one level we just could not possibly leave off this list. Created by Rare for the phenomenal Banjo-Kazooie on the Nintendo 64 and Xbox, the level is pretty much the ideal halloween level all over.
There’s the mansion itself, inhabited by strange ghosts and seemingly once home to Gruntilda or her family in times past. The church where a disembodied hand plays the church organ in a neat mini game. The ever memorable tombstones saying something that sounds questionable even now. And who can forget the sentinent toilet or the kickass organ style music?
It’s definitely a level that you need to play at halloween, and a hallmark of an already amazing game from an era long since past.
6. Chapter 4 (Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door)
Okay, this one is probably going to be a bit controversial. You see, Twilight Town and Creepy Steeple have a… somewhat questionable reputation among Paper Mario games. Not for being bad in terms of style, but for what some call too much backtracking.
But while there is indeed a fair bit of back and forth that happens in chapter 4 of Paper Mario 2, the environment and themes found in the mission really make up for it. You know how I said Crescent Moon Village reminded me of Stephen King or HP Lovecraft?
Twilight Town is like that, except perhaps even more so. The strange, zombie like villagers are being picked off one by one by a curse that turns people into pigs. Cast by a ‘monster’ living in the steeple at the end of the Twilight Trail, it already sets in motion a pretty horrifying plot.
But then… you beat the boss. Who, then steals Mario’s body and impersonates him for most of the chapter. So now, you’re stuck in a creepy old town, stalked by a shape shifting demon who’s turned your friends against you and who seemingly wants to take over Mario’s whole life by force. That’s pretty screwed up, isn’t it? But it’s the kind of genius plotting that Paper Mario games were once best known for, and it makes for an amazing effective halloween ‘level’.
Add the crows and their amusing remarks, and the sheer visual awesomeness of the place, and chapter 4 deserves it place on the list, no question about it.
5. Ikana Canyon (The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask)
And now, onto one that many people likely guessed was coming. Ikana Valley from Majora’s Mask, is an interesting idea for a haunted area, in that it plays on the emotional side of undeath rather than the gore and shock horror found in its predecessor.
A logical choice, given how its game shared the engine and graphics with Ocarina of Time, but it’s definitely one that paid off. From the haunting story of Pamela and her father (transformed into a Gibdo by the hordes circling their house for new victims) to the eerie emptiness of Ikana Castle and its citizens, the place is absolutely filled to bursting with character and ideas.
Above: One of the creepiest parts of an already creepy part of the game.
Oh, did we mention the whole ‘war’ thing? How the Garo and Ikana soldiers are fighting an endless war thousands of years after the fall of their respective kingdoms? The strange tower that flips upside down and comes with one of the largest, most imposing bosses in the Zelda series? The graveyard where Link can command the Stalfos to do his bidding with the Captain’s Hat?
It’s all absolutely amazing, and it mostly definitely deserves to be replayed at this time of year.
4. Treacherous Mansion (Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon)
Well, we couldn’t have a list without something from a Luigi’s Mansion game, right? Both games fit the season in their entirety, to the point their locations could fill another whole list on their own.
But out of the many mansions in Dark Moon (and the mansion in the original game), we’re definitely giving this one to Treacherous Mansion from Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon. Why?
Well for one thing, just look at the place:
Above: You would not want to go trick or treating here.
The place looks and feels like a haunted house straight from a Legend of Zelda game, with an imposing design and structure that just has to be seen to be believed. From the creepy catacombs to the eerie exhibits (it’s a museum based on the other mansions in the game) to a laboratory straight out of Frakenstein, the place is an amazing effective setting for a bit of halloween ghost busting.
Talking of ghost busting, the missions and bosses themselves make it one to play over and over as well. Paranormal Chaos has the universe nearly collapse after a ‘dimensional rift’ of sorts is opened by King Boo, the Tough Possessor tries to kill you with animate suits of armour and mini boss fights even take place in what seems like outer space and a giant toy in the train exhibit.
Above: The Tough Possessor is an amazing boss for a fantastic level.
Add some creepy as heck music, some surprisingly effective jump scares and moments and a kickass final battle, and Treacherous Mansion is the perfect Luigi’s Mansion location for this time of year.
3. Lavender Town (Pokemon Red and Blue)
Oh come on, you knew this was coming. Lavender Town is basically a ‘classic’ of the ‘haunted level’ genre, to the point a whole genre of fan fiction and creepypasta seems to have sprung up based on it.
But why is this place so awesome for this time of year? Well, let’s count the ways:
A: The music is amazing. Creepy, somewhat depressing and catchy as hell, all of which make it perfect for a town dominated by its ten story graveyard tower. The remixes and orchestrations just make it better:
B: The fact Pokemon actually die. Okay, other graveyards exist, but this is the only place in the series where an actual Pokemon ghost is battled by the player.
C: The whole Silph Scope thing. Come on, those weird ghosts look creepy as all heck, especially in the olden days of gen 1:
Above: At least he doesn’t actually kill you in the real game.
So it’s a good part of the first gen to replay on October 31st. But do you know what makes it even better?
The ghost stories not found in the actual game. Yes, the endless legions of horror stories based on Lavender Town you can find online. You’ve got the one with the ghost Pokemon that the player uses to murder enemy Pokemon and people with Curse. The whole ‘buried alive’ sprite thing where that zombie creature would apparently eat the player if you lost to it in a Pokemon battle.
And then there’s the whole Lavender Town syndrome thing. The mysterious stories featuring mass suicides due to subliminal messages and content in the area, with the thing being a horrifying experiment by a messed up ‘programmer’. It’s not real, but it’s certainly a pretty messed up story, and it’s certainly a good choice to listen to tonight:
Either way, regardless of whether you read or listen to the creepypastas or just replay the original part of the game, Lavender Town is definitely a Nintendo ‘level’ that deserves to be on this list.
2. Big Boo’s Haunt (Super Mario 64)
So after Lavender Town, what could be next on the list?
Well, Big Boo’s Haunt of course! Now some may question its placement on the list. Why have a Mario level placed above Ikana Canyon and Lavender Town? Why have yet another Mario level at all?
The answer to all that is pretty simple; it’s a very simple, yet incredibly effective ghost house level in a game whose style seemingly wouldn’t be able to support it. Put simply, Big Boo’s Haunt is a lonely, mysterious place, one which is very different from similar areas in the Mushroom Kingdom. Whereas other games (most notably Galaxy and 3D World) have fairly upbeat feeling ghost locations with cheerful music and lots of bright colours everywhere, Big Boo’s Haunt is a dark, depressing place whose colour scheme and aesthetic feel seems better suited to a survival horror title. The music? Just an empty set of sounds somewhere between ambience and an actual song:
And then, you have the actual content. The piano is pretty well known, and a fairly effective scare even today. The secret rooms and passages are intriguing in their layout and add to the feel even more. The merry go round? Yeah, that’s certainly an unnerving addition to the area.
But what makes Big Boo’s Haunt effective is not what’s there or trying to kill you, it’s what isn’t. The mansion is a mostly dead, deserted building with far fewer enemies than you’d imagine in a Mario ghost house. The signs out front point to a Ghoul Medal, which doesn’t seem to actually exist anywhere in the game. The background contains what appears to be a crypt on a hill, which can only be seen as a black silhouette.
Above: Can you spot the crypt in the distance?
It’s just a very different type of ghost house compared to the standard Mario game type, and is definitely worthy of a replay or two.
1. Bottom of the Well (The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time)
Finally, it’s down to this. The Bottom of the Well from The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time is the top Nintendo level to play at halloween.
So why is that?
Well for one thing, it’s the kind of location that makes you wonder how it ever got included in an E rated game. A creepy torture dungeon like area filled with crucifixion devices, fake walls and floors, acid and body parts littered everywhere, the area is already quite the terrifying place to explore.
And that’s before you get to what actually ‘lives’ there, like the Redeads, Gibdos, Wallmasters, Dead Hand… it’s like every one of the most horrifying monsters from the Zelda series can be found here, and their presence just makes it scarier than ever imaginable.
Above: You would not want to bump into this guy in a dark alleyway. Or anywhere for that matter.
Add some ominous music, the horrifying implications of the backstory (this place somehow supplies the water for Kakariko Village) and the fact that Master Quest makes it even worse (the enemy placement there includes such ‘gems’ as a Redead placed right after the entrance), and the Bottom of the Well is a fantastic level that’s absolutely perfect for halloween.
So with that, the list draws to a close. Ten creepy haunted levels in Nintendo games, all of which fit the spirit of halloween perfectly.
But what do you think? Are our level choices decent ones, or are there other Nintendo levels more worthy of a place on the list? Either way, post your thoughts here and at the Gaming Reinvented forums today!