In our article about 5 retro horror games to play on the PC, we went over some classics to add a little more “spooky” to your Halloween.
We didn’t want to leave the console games behind so we are going to cover 11 horror classics for the Atari 2600.
While making this list, it was fun to realize just how long horror and gaming have gone hand in hand. I was also surprised that almost every horror game on this list is a movie tie-in. In fact, there are probably more horror movies tie-in games for the Atari than there were for kids movies.
So if you are fan of blocky 8-Bit monster mayhem, this is
The 11 Best Horror Games For The Atari 2600
Frankenstein’s Monster boasts an interesting horror design that has some advanced gameplay for the 2600. You take control of a tiny little fellow that is attempting to make his way through a dreadful castle and prevent Dr. Frankenstein’s monster from breaking loose.
If the monster escapes it would be bad (of course) because he has a habit of freaking out and tossing people in lakes.
Building a blockade around the monster requires you to go into the dungeon six times to collect bricks, and it gets more challenging with each trip.
You must avoid enemies such as bats, ghosts, spiders. All while trying not to fall into pits. There is even an acid pool at the bottom.
If you make it through that you will need to get through a hoard of bats while returning with the bricks.
Crashing thunder and lightning warns you about the reviving monster. If you run out of time or use up all three lives before completing your task, the monster escapes, and he’ll get you!
The psychokinetic energy level is rapidly rising and it is up to you to set up shop and save the town from the impending ghost invasion. If you don’t decrease the PK level, the resurrection of the evil Zuul from the temple will destroy the town.
You can purchase gear, including traps and vehicle upgrades that will help you capture ghosts and prevent them from entering the temple.
The Ghostbusters game has both a side and an overhead view. On the overhead map, you must keep track of the roaming spirits and ghosts and decide what part of town you want to “Bust” next.
After planning the route, you have to drive to the area in the Ecto- one. I remember when it first came out, getting to drive the Ecto-1 was pretty freaking cool.
Capturing ghosts successfully will earn money, which you can use to buy gear and modifications throughout the game. The PK level accelerates with the progression of the game, ultimately releasing the evil one.
If you are able to keep the PK level under control, you can proceed to the temple to have the final match with evil itself. However, if the PK level gets too high, the game ends, you failed, and everyone dies.
One thing that makes Ghost Manor a unique game is that it has five stages, which is pretty big for the Atari 2600.
You can play as a nerdy guy or a blonde girl, and the goal is to get your friend out of Dracula’s castle.
At first, you have to chase a ghost around a cemetery and earn 25 spears. Then you are off to the manor only to find a mummy with an ax guarding it.
There will be monsters outside the manor that you have to destroy using the spears all while avoiding getting chopped by the mummy.
Once you get past that, you have to go inside and look for crosses in the coffins, meanwhile trying not to get pinched by the moving wall.
The game’s final stage is in the vampire’s den, where you must hold a cross and drive the vampire to walk into the tower.
Did you get all that? If you succeed, you and your friend are free.
Adapted by Wizard Video in 1983, this game plays like the movie (kind of). You play as the babysitter and it is your job to save the children from everyone’s favorite masked killer who runs around the house just looking for trouble.
You score points by finding children and taking them to a safe room. Although the graphics are flat, the rooms are filled with colors and have doorways and windows.
Michael Myers has an intimidating look and can suddenly appear just about anywhere. If a victim falls prey to his hands, you are treated to probably one of the very first extremely violent deaths in video game history.
You get three lives marked by jack-o-lanterns at the top of the screen and the goal is to just save as many victims as possible.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is another game adaptation from Wizard Video. But this time instead of escaping the killer, you are the killer! That’s right, This game lets you play as Leatherface.
As the chainsaw-wielding baddie, you are out to hunt down as many victims as you can. You get 1000 points for slaying each one. You have to score five victims to get additional gasoline, if you run out, it will cost you a life.
Playing as a villain, you will be chasing around victims while trying to avoid cow skulls, wheelchairs, and fences.
In Haunted House, it is so dark, your player is just a pair of eyes. You must steer through the late Zachary Graves’ haunted mansion to retrieve three urn pieces.
The mansion contains a basement and three floors to explore while avoiding a tarantula, a bat, and even Mr. Graves’ ghost.
Like the classic 2600 game Adventure, each time you come across an item (the urn, a scepter, or a key), you get to choose only one to carry.
The fire button lights a match that will help you to see things a bit more clear for a few seconds.
There are nine levels in this game, all similar but getting progressively harder. The game comes to an end, and you lose if you let the monsters hit you nine times. But if you manage to escape the haunted house with the pieces of the urn, you win.
Based on the film Alien by Ridley Scott, this maze game by Fox Video Games is about destroying aliens in a spaceship.
You play as one of the crew members held captive by aliens with the goal to smash alien eggs in the hallways of the spaceship. The eggs can be destroyed by just stepping on them.
As for eliminating the aliens, you get a flamethrower that can paralyze them for a brief time. In addition to that, “pulsars” or power pills appear to help give you an advantage over the aliens.
If you are a fan of horror games but want something different from the classic ones, you’ll enjoy Alien.
Developed by Atari in 1984, Gremlins is another great game based on a movie.
You play as Billy from the movie, Gremlins has two playable modes. In the first mode, Billy runs across the screen in an attempt to catch Mogwai before they eat the hamburgers at the bottom of the screen.
The second mode is kind of like Space Invaders. It involves you moving around the bottom of the screen and shooting at the descending gremlins before they devour you.
As you progress the game speed increases, making it more difficult. Gremlins is simple and fun. It is one of the best games from Atari.
Revenge Of The Beefsteak Tomatoes
Clearly a knock off of the movie “Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes” you use a tomato sprayer to thwart attacks from the menacing tomatoes.
You will need to shoot down the bricks moving around the screen while avoiding projectiles. As the bricks fall down, they can successfully build walls that eventually set and kill the tomato plants at the base.
The game consists of eight levels and you can select one of four difficulties, each increasing in difficulty as the levels go up. The size of the tomatoes also increases with the levels.
Revenge of the Beefsteak Tomatoes is a bit on the easy side in comparison to the other horror games mentioned here and does not have much of a storyline. Nevertheless, it is interesting and can certainly keep you busy for a bit.
Demons To Diamonds
Operating as a laser base, your goal in this game is to shoot down demons to turn them into diamonds. Makes sense, right?
The game setup is a field with several rows where you use the paddle controller to move sideways and fire laser beams at the demons. You are supposed to target the demons that are the same color as your ship. If you hit a different colored demon, it turns into an indestructible skull that can attack you.
The true fun is in the multiplayer mode where the second player controls a different colored laser base at the screen top. Here, the skulls can laser attack both ways.
Players start with five lives in both versions, they lose one when hit by an opponent or a skull’s laser.
Dark Cavern is a port of the popular Intellivision game Night Stalker. It is a top-down maze game that has you blasting through spiders, bats, robots, and more.
You start in a secure bunker where you are immune to the dangers that surround you, but you are low and ammo. You must leave the safety of your shelter and find a gun that you can use to defeat the monsters.
The guns spawn at random throughout the level and only contain 6 bullets. You must conserve your ammo and use it wisely to take out the enemies, and garb the next gun for a reload.
It is a fun maze shooter for any console, but sadly it only has one level. A few different floor plans would have added much more replayability to this classic.