Aside from costumes, big bowls of sweets and the impending fear that I’m A Celebrity will soon dominate TV again, if there is one thing that you can bank on over Halloween, it’s lots, and lots of scary video games. The spooky season has an annoying habit of seeking out those of us — this writer included — who are not the best with things that go bump in the night, plastering our news feeds with lists of ‘Top Ten Games To Ruin Your Sleep Schedule‘ or ‘Video Game Moments That Will Make You Think Twice Before Turning The Light Off‘. Yes, we’ve read them, and yes, they keep us up at night every time.
For some people, horror just does not click — books, films or, importantly, games. But many of us do, however, still like to get involved in the festivities, albeit in a much more cozy, less give-you-sleepless-nights-for-a-week kind of way.
That is why we have assembled the following list. Made up of games that are very much not spooky, we have picked out some suitably spooky levels so that we can all feel like we are part of the same celebration without breaking into cold dread-induced sweats. Importantly, each of the following picks comes from Nintendo games which are not horror-themed. You’ll find no Luigi’s Mansion or Majora’s Mask (look, it’s scary, okay?) here, we’re afraid.
Instead, these are much lighter games, which have the odd sprinkling of a Halloween flavour thrown into a particular zone or level. There are a whole host of levels that we could have included here (Nintendo has a real thing for taking unexpectedly spooky turns), but we have decided to keep it limited to 13 entries, because, you know, scary number.
Even if the scares of Halloween are a little too much, there’s no reason why we can’t all do some festive gaming!
The Spookiest Levels in Non-Spooky Games
Big Boo’s Haunt, Super Mario 64
It’s one thing to have the odd Boo-based level in a Mario game — a fact that we have all begrudgingly come to accept — but to go from the soothing strings of the Super Mario 64 castle grounds to the empty and metallic wind theme of Big Boo’s Haunt? Now that’s just asking to give us the creeps.
Look, a lot of these spooky levels are emphasised in our minds through a certain level of nostalgia, but Big Boo’s Haunt is genuinely still creepy today. Perhaps it’s the blank walls and pointy profiles of the N64 graphics, but an environment like that is the kind of nightmare fuel that Slenderman could only dream of achieving. It’s no wonder the title has been modded into a first-person horror game.
Creepy Castle, Donkey Kong 64
You know you have a properly creepy level when the game designers put it in the title. Creepy Castle is just that. The Donkey Kong 64 stage has everything that we are after for some low-stakes spooks. There’s an opening cutscene featuring one of the slowest ‘jump scares’ ever committed to screen, creepy organ music from Grant Kirkhope, a full moon, rain, a giant rolling gorilla — it’s got it all.
True, this might be one of the more linear levels in Donkey Kong 64, but we didn’t come here to linger in the spookiness. Oh no, for the modest amount of scares that we’re after, linearity works a treat, thank you very much.
Ghost Ship, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
For a game which is generally so filled with brightness and joy, Wind Waker’s Ghost Ship always side-swiped us in our younger years. To go from the jolly Ocean Theme straight into a room full of terrifying monsters? Nah, youre alright, thanks.
Seriously, Ghost Ship wastes no time in throwing you face to face with the Wizzrobe’s haunting manifestations, and then you clear the room for what? A Triforce Shard, yes, but most notable thing in our mind is the cackling laugh before waking up on King of Red Lions. This is not what we signed up for in the jolly little boat game!
Haunted Mansion, Kirby: Triple Deluxe
Look, we couldn’t include anything from Luigi’s Mansion in this list because those games wear their spookiness right on their sleeve, but what we can do is include levels that match the Luigi’s Mansion vibe to a T. One such ghostly appearance can be found in Kirby: Triple Deluxe’s Haunted Mansion, a level full of catching ghosts and sucking them up, only the capturing is a little less vaccum-cleaner-based.
There are a lot of spooky-themed levels across the Kirby franchise, and we’ll admit it, none of them are going to keep you up at night – but hey, isn’t that the whole point? The Haunted Mansion in Triple Deluxe may not be any more or any less spooky than the franchise’s other offerings, but you can’t really go wrong with the low-stakes platforming of Nintendo’s least threatening character.
Just don’t tell Kirby that we said that.
Horror Land, Mario Party 2
As if the thought of putting your relationships on the line for nothing more than a few stars wasn’t scary enough, Horror Land in Mario Party 2 ups the stakes with some seasonal spooks to boot.
What could be better over Halloween than to substitute the genuine jumps and screams of horror games for a bit of Mario Party over a big ol’ bowl of sweets? The characters dress in spooky outfits for this board (a tradition that we see as a must for the real world, too), and there is enough Halloween iconography to make sure that you feel involved in the festivities without actually, you know, doing any of the scary stuff.
Lavender Town, Pokémon Red and Blue
Many of the other levels on this list have just been inspired by horror, or carry some sort of Halloween theme as a fun little token for the festive folk out there; but Lavender Town, Lavender Town is a straight-up horror show.
Rarely is a name so iconic that merely hearing it is enough to bring haunting memories of a soundtrack back to mind years after playing, and oh what a creepy track it is. From these cursed stings to the Pokémon Tower and the concept of actual death, Lavender Town is one of the creepiest locations in all of gaming. Period.
If it wasn’t for the sheer jollity of the rest of Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow (and Green), you know that this would be booted straight off of this list and in with all the other horror titles.
Mad Monster Mansion, Banjo-Kazooie
When you think of horror in Banjo-Kazooie, there’s a lot which might immediately come to mind, but what is the spookiest of them all? That’s right,
the camera controls Mad Monster Mansion! [*raises eyebrow* – Ed]
The level has got everything that a good Halloween bash should have: gravestones, Mummies, pooping eggs into flower pots, etc. Throw in some creepy organs — the musical kind from maestro Kirkhope — and you have a recipe for spooky success.
Of course, all of this is met by Kazooie’s squeaking and the odd interlude of Banjo music, so it is pretty forgiving on the scares front. That being said, the pointy N64 polygons once again play their horrific role to perfection — never has a cartoon witch looked creepier.
Seven down, six to go in this round up of 13 creepy levels in otherwise non-creepy Nintendo games…