Hi, and welcome back to Silver Linings where I spotlight the maligned, the forgotten, and even stuff that leaves people scratching their heads.
It's October again, and I spend the whole month indulging in creepy movies, games, and even music. Well, I'm talking games today. It's not unusual to see people loading up Dead Space, Silent Hill, or Resident Evil over the course of the month. Hell, on my gaming channel on YouTube, I'm currently playing through one of the Fatal Frame games for October (Project Zero everywhere else in the world).
However, there are plenty of games befitting Halloween that, rather than scare people, actually leave people wondering, What the hell did I just play??? These are games that range from odd to total lunacy. Not all of them are masterpieces, but they're still worth checking out just to see how far out of left field developers can go when not tied to studio mandates.
In alphabetical order, here are 13 games (of course, it had to be 13) that are guaranteed to leave players wondering just what the developers were smoking.
Carrion (PC, Switch, Xbox One, Playstation 4)
Metroid-vania type games are nothing new to Halloween. In fact, the game that gave birth to the subgenre involves fighting Dracula. However, this pixel art entry from 2020 takes on a new twist by letting the player be the villain. Furthermore, that villain is an ever expanding mass of carnivorous protoplasm that would make Tetsuo from Akira vomit. Who ever thought that a nondescript mass of red pixels can make a person sick?
Dead Rising 4: Super Mini Golf Ultra (PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4)
I've already talked about Dead Rising 4 when talking about Christmas games, but its addictive DLC bonus mode is worth bringing up here. While the idea of adding mini golf to a game doesn't seem so weird, adding it to a game that's crazy already feels like overkill. The first time you whack an oversized golf ball with a giant rubber mallet, flattening undead Santa Clauses and snowmen on the way to the cup, you'll wonder whether you're tripping or the folks at Capcom are.
Deadly Premonition (PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Switch)
While Deadly Premonition starts like a bog standard survival horror game about ritualistic murders in Washington state, it soon reveals its true goal... making you wonder if Hidetaka "Swery" Suehiro was really David Lynch in disguise. The whole game feels like a lost season of Twin Peaks except the protagonist York makes Agent Cooper look normal! Helping the residents with their little problems feels bizarre when faced with the murder spree that York is supposed to be investigating, but the game probably wouldn't have developed its cult following without it.
Deathsmiles 1 & 2 (Xbox 360)
Shmups are normally the last place to find anything Halloween-y since most are historical like 1942 or sci-fi like the Raiden series. However, the Japanese bullet hell maestros at Cave decided to swap out ships shooting bullets for anime-inspired witches and their familiars flinging spells. The original game and its disturbing Christmas-themed sequel have a lot of fun with horror tropes and a helping of cheesecake thanks to the protagonists. Compilations are releasing for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Switch in Japan later this year; let's hope an American release is not far behind.
Doki Doki Literature Club! (PC, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Playstation 4, Playstation 5)
I can't really talk about this visual novel. Like with the movie Psycho, the player is best off going in knowing as little as possible. Just trust me when I say that, what starts as a simple dating sim goes into a realm of insanity that will stick with the player for a long time. This game is WTF??? to its very core.
Killer7 (PC, GameCube, Playstation 2)
When talking about weird games, there's no avoiding Goichi Suda, AKA Suda51. Killer7 was the first Suda51 game to be released in America, and it still gets people scratching their heads today. A film noir style and a complex international conspiracy plot are married to nearly invisible demons and a protagonist with multiple personality disorder. Did I mention that all seven of the hero's personalities are government assassins? Add in the very unconventional moving and shooting mechanics, and you have a game that would leave players confused all the way to the end.
Lollipop Chainsaw (Xbox 360, Playstation 3)
Lollipop Chainsaw is what one would get if Buffy The Vampire Slayer was uncensored and written by a pervert. Think... what other hack-and-slash game exists where a cheerleader beheads zombies with a pink chainsaw, uses her pom-poms as weapons, keeps the still animated head of her boyfriend on her belt, and goes into rainbow-drenched fever dream special moves while "Mickey" by Toni Basil plays in the background?
Did I mention that Suda51 made this one, too?
Mr. Bones (Saturn)
I've already talked about this oddity when I talked about platformers on the Sega Saturn. It's still worth loading up for its Tim Burton feel, its catchy music, and its bizarre mix of various gameplay styles. If you've got a working Saturn, give this skull-head a crack.
This point-and-click interactive movie was one of the biggest games Sierra had ever produced in the mid 90s. It also gets players questioning the developers' sanity thanks to some of the goriest death scenes ever shown in a game. Seriously, people were screaming about the fatalities in Mortal Kombat when this was available at the same time??? Fortunately, it's available to download on GOG.com for $10 if you want to see gore that even Clive Barker would think is too extreme.
Plants Vs. Zombies (PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, DS, Vita)
Yeah, let's ignore the average multiplayer shooters that grew out of this franchise and focus on the original tower defense game from 2009. Just looking at the title would make anyone wonder what PopCap was thinking. Did they just pick two random nouns out of the dictionary and decide to make a game out of them? It is one of the most enjoyable tower defense games ever designed, but the premise feels so random that even Suda51's insane games seem logical!
Rock of the Dead (Xbox 360, Playstation 3)
Okay, see if you can follow along... a zombie rail shooter... with Dr. Horrible himself Neil Patrick Harris as the protagonist... played with the Guitar Hero and Rock Band peripherals that have been collecting dust in your closet for the last decade.
DID I MISS SOMETHING HERE???
While this budget game got mixed reviews when it released, it's worth checking out just to see the absurdity firsthand!
Slayaway Camp: Butcher's Cut (PC, Switch, Xbox One, Vita, Playstation 4)
While there have been plenty of playable homages to classic horror films like the multiplayer games Friday the 13th and Dead By Daylight, Slayaway Camp is by far the oddest. It's a puzzle game where you lead your serial killer of choice on a murder spree with limited movement control and limited turns. The mechanics are simple like any good puzzle game, and all the classic slasher references would get any horror fan smiling. Still, what convinced Blue Wizard Digital to take all these classic movie fiends and make a puzzle game with them?
Typing of the Dead (PC, Dreamcast)
House of the Dead is a classic light gun shooter series from Sega, but you know what it needed? Typing lessons!
Typing of the Dead is one of the most fun educational games ever made if you can ignore the ridiculousness of typing to kill zombies and other monsters. It's worth checking just to see the game trying to explain why the agents are packing keyboards instead of... you know... actual weapons.
What did you think of this little trip to Wackyland? Know any other games that feel like acid trips? Let me know, and Happy Halloween!