10 Scariest Video Games From The 8 & 16-Bit Eras | ScreenRant – Screen Rant

The 8 and 16-bit video game eras were all about arcade-style action, but some games had horror elements that were downright terrifying.
It’s hard to look back on the 8 and 16-bit eras of gaming and think of anything besides stone-age graphics, beep-and-boop sound effects, and high-octane arcade-style games. However, beneath this still relatively infantile period in gaming, many developers were cranking out some truly scary and foreboding horror-themed games.
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Despite the limitations of the hardware in question, many of these games still managed to create suspense and ambiance while scaring gamers at the same time. It’s a remarkable testament to their ingenuity and helped pave the way for a host of highly influential horror video games that followed.
Castlevania’s debut on the Sega Genesis was a stark departure from its traditional Nintendo platform. At the time, SEGA had a much more liberal view of violence and gore in video games, having already one-upped Nintendo on several releases, particularly Mortal Kombat. Castlevania was another example of how the horror aspect of the franchise could be leveraged without any restraint.
Bloodlines is much creepier than previous Castlevania titles, relying on the macabre to create a tense, rich vibe of horror and darkness. Enemies are frightening, the level design is quite creepy, and the music is incredible. Bloodlines is one oft-forgotten Sega Genesis title that deserves a lot more acclaim than it got.
Nosferatu was an interesting title that blended real atmosphere and terror into a Prince of Persia-style game system. The result wasn’t perfect, but it did manage to nail the feel of horror and foreboding, amidst the backdrop of the classic vampire formula.
The game feels old, in a good way. It eschews flashiness in favor of something that feels like an aged tale with a layer of dust overtop. The combat system is a little dull, and the levels repetitive, but Nosferatu manages to create a stirring atmosphere that few horror games of the time could manage.
At first glance, Super Metroid doesn’t appear very scary, until players get past the first 30 minutes. It quickly becomes clear that terror is a major element of what makes the game so memorable. On the surface, it’s just another side-scrolling Metroidvania-style adventure game, but there’s far more to it than that.
Super Metroid evokes tension and fear from the first moment to the last. Players encounter horrific enemies as they dive deeper and deeper into the catacombs of the planet, and it all builds up to one final, climactic battle against the chilling Mother Brain in her true form. To date, it’s one Nintendo game that has aged extremely well.
It’s a bit corny by today’s standards – particularly the cinematics – but Rondo of Blood continues to be a landmark title in the Castlevania series. First introduced in Japan on the PC Engine CD, the game has since been ported to a number of platforms, including the Super NES and the PSP.
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Still, the original is considered the de-facto standard. Not only was it scarier and more foreboding than its predecessors, but it slapped a new coat of paint on the entire franchise aesthetic, paving the way for the incredible Symphony of the Night to debut on the PlayStation a few years later, which tied directly into this story.
Long before Resident Evil popularized the survival horror genre, games like Clock Tower were helping to influence it. In many ways, it feels like a two-dimensional predecessor to Resident Evil, with elements of Alone in the Dark, and some macabre imagery to scare the player.
Clock Tower is one of the scariest games of the 8 and 16-bit ages, particularly due to the atmosphere. There are long stretches of silence, with no music to build up tension, that gives way to explosive reveals of a vicious killer chasing after the player with a pair of large shears. Definitely a horror classic.
Out Of This World was a popular game at the time, primarily because of its fledgling use of polygons as a graphical model. The Super NES version was perhaps the most widely accessible port.  The goal was to create a cinematic experience with a silent protagonist telling a fish out of water story about a guy trapped on a hostile alien planet.
Sci-fi elements aside, Out Of This World is rather terrifying. The player is never safe, either from the vicious creatures that inhabit the world or the alien race in hot pursuit. Death is always one step behind, and if players relax even for a moment, they’re doomed.
Based on the PC game of the same name, the Sega Genesis port of The Immortal was considered a renegade when it first came out. At the time, console games stayed far away from excessive blood and violence, but the Sega Genesis platform welcomed these kinds of games with open arms.
The Immortal is a top-down isometric-style RPG adventure with a lot of darkness thrown in. It was one of the games that would influence later adventure RPGs like Diablo, Torchlight, and Sacred. The atmosphere is tense and scary, the enemies monstrous, and the gore plenty.
Back in the day, game companies had to get Nintendo’s trademark official seal of quality before they were allowed to make games for the system and get noticed. Exidy didn’t care about any of that when it ported Chiller to the NES as an unlicensed title.
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The game is a port of the arcade light gun title which allowed players to maim, torture, and kill helpless victims strapped to medieval torture devices. It gained a small underground cult following, mostly due to its gruesome notoriety.
Uninvited was a port of the computer game of the same name, with toned-down visuals to make it past Nintendo’s strict censors. Still, it’s a dreadfully frightening game with ominous music, creepy visuals, and descriptive text that is more horrifying than anything an actual visual could portray.
Gameplay is a mixture of old-school pseudo-3D dungeon crawlers and descriptive adventure games of the early 1980s. The game drips with atmosphere, despite the limitations of an 8-bit video game console, making Uninvited a creepy experience all these years later.
Splatterhouse might have made a controversial impact on the TurboGrafix-16, but its Sega Genesis sequel upped the ante in a big way. It took full advantage of SEGA’s lax policies regarding blood and gore, and covered the game in both. The result was a violent, more visceral game as opposed to its predecessor.
It’s a relatively simple side-scrolling fighting game, brought to life with inventive and horrific monsters, solid level design, and an interesting story. Despite the fact that carnage is the game’s main allure, Splatterhouse 2 still manages to be terrifying due to its atmosphere, and a mask-wearing protagonist with a kill count that rivals Jason Vorhees.
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Derek started writing about video games at age 14 and went on to write for GamePro Magazine and several other prominent outlets. He now brings his veteran pop culture XP to ScreenRant.