Arcades are places of family fun and nostalgia. Bright lights, loud sound effects, high scores, and a hum of energy. While the arcades themselves are rarely scary, there have been quite a few popular, and very fun horror-themed arcade games and pinball machines throughout the decades.
In celebration of Halloween, we thought it would be fun to look back at some of the most classic and fun horror games and pinball machines to hit arcades.
The House of The Dead - Sega (1996)
As far as horror-themed arcade games go, Sega’s The House of The Dead was, and still is, a classic. The House of The Dead was a cultural watershed moment across the globe. It helped to kick-off the zombie renaissance that started in the 1990s and continues to thrive today.
A classic in the light gun shooter genre, The House of The Dead combines dark, foreboding visuals with fast-paced rail shooter action. Players must shoot their way through zombie-like monsters across a modern Victorian Europe town, all in the pursuit of the maniacal Dr. Roy Curien – a geneticist obsessed with eternal life.
With tight action, adrenaline pumping pacing, and plenty of monsters, The House of The Dead is undoubtedly among the best of arcade horror games. Check out the video below to watch gameplay from The House of The Dead 2!
The Addams Family - Bally (1992)
While it might not be quite as frightening as many of the other games on this list, The Addams Family is a classic of pinball. Manufactured by WMS Industries and released under the Bally name in 1992, The Addams Family is the top selling pinball machine of all-time, with over 20,000 units sold.
Full of gameplay references to the classic film, The Addams Family is highly regarded by pinball fans and arcade goers for its balance of fun and complexity. The playfield offers a variety of shots for players to attempt, some of which are simple and straightforward, and others that take time to master. For this reason, it’s still one of the most widely popular pinball machines over 25 years after its release! Check out some gameplay from an M&P Amusement restored Gold edition of The Addams Family below!
Splatterhouse - Namco (1988)
Namco had a number of arcade hits in the 1980s, including the timeless Pac-Man. With a number of colorful, fun characters and game franchises, Namco wasn't known for producing arcade games with violence or dark themes. That changed in 1988 with the release of Splatterhouse.
Splatterhouse is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up. Similar to contemporaries, like Double Dragon, players moved from level to level while defeating enemies. What made Splatterhouse different, however, was its gratuitous levels of violence and gore.
Players control Rick, a college student who has been resurrected by the Terror Mask after his gruesome death. Transformed into a hulking monster, inspired by slasher film staples like Jason Vorhees, Rick must battle his way through West Mansion in order to save his trapped girlfriend, Jennifer.
Rare for arcade games of the time, Splatterhouse gives players the opportunity to eviscerate hordes of undead foes, using punches, kicks, and an array of weapons. Filled with grotesque monsters and visceral, gory combat, Splatterhouse is a frightening, although still incredibly fun arcade gaming experience!
Twilight Zone - Bally (1993)
Another Bally pinball machine based on an unusual IP, Twilight Zone was released in 1993. While Bally’s Twilight Zone pinball machine isn’t a frightening experience, it still taps into the bizarre mythos of the series. As such it features a large number of odd features.
Some of the game’s oddest playfield features include:
- A working gumball machine that releases extra balls
- Five possible multi-ball modes
- A mechanical clock with rotating arms
- A piano that if hit when it’s unlit, awards a random number of points between 10 and 10 million
Given how eccentric of a pinball machine Twilight Zone is, it should come as little surprise it’s a popular machine among home collectors. In fact, there are many home modifications sold for it, including a real, working mini television and a flashing camera.
CarnEvil - Midway (1998)
Set in an evil haunted carnival, CarnEvil (Carnival...Evil… you get it, right?) is a 1998 light gun rail shooter released by Midway Games. Billing itself as “the most frighteningly realistic first-person shooter ever unleashed on the living”, players take on the role of an unnamed protagonist who must fight off the undead hordes of the ghostly ringmaster Professor Ludwig von Tökkentäkker.
Built on Midway Seattle hardware, CarnEvil features colorful graphics, a clean sound design, and plenty of gore. While not as challenging or as long-standing as other horror-themed rail shooters, CarnEvil mixes up the formula and offers a fun, spooky atmosphere for players to enjoy.
Haunted House - Gottlieb (1982)
Marketed with the slogan “Triple Playfields Mean Triple Fun!”, Haunted House was released by Gottlieb in 1982. The game was one of Gottlieb’s most popular pinball machines and is noted for introducing multiple playfields. Players can move the ball between three different playfields, including one below the main playing surface. Each of the three available playfields correspond to a level of the titular haunted house - the cellar, the main floor, and the attic.
Alongside introducing multiple playfields, Haunted House featured bright, colorful Saturday-morning-cartoon cabinet and playfield art. It has survived in several digital iterations, including the original Microsoft Pinball Arcade, in which Haunted House was the only playable table in the demo version of the game.
Ghosts n’ Goblins - Capcom (1985)
With its simple yet timeless graphics and difficult gameplay, Ghost n’ Goblins is a classic of arcade side scrollers. The original entry into the series was released by Capcom and entered arcades in 1985. While its later console ports are more widely known, the arcade version of Ghost n’ Goblins offers an experience unmatched by consoles of the era.
While not as atmospheric as Konami’s long-running Castlevania series, Ghost n’ Goblins nonetheless offers challenging side-scrolling gameplay. Often cited as one of the most difficult games of all time, players must defeat and avoid an array of undead, occult, and mythical monsters as they attempt to rescue Princess Prin-Prin, who has been kidnapped by Astaroth, king of Demon World.
With a legacy that has spanned multiple sequels and ports, Ghosts n’ Goblins still holds up over 30 years later!
Shop For Classic Arcade Games at M&P Amusement
Whether you’re looking for one of the classic horror-themed arcade games we highlighted in this list, or you’re one the hunt for a specific game or pinball machine, we have a large selection of restored games for sale.Shop our online selection of restored arcade cabinets! You can also give us a call at 717-887-5293 to speak with our sales staff about specific games - we’re happy to answer any questions! You can also get in touch with us online and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.