The Halloween Grab Bag!
Chiller: The Arcade Game!
by: Dr. Boogie

The history of violent video games is long and storied, going back far beyond the days of Doom, Carmageddon, and a whole host of other games that would be considered tame by today's standards. Before games like Mortal Kombat shocked and delighted adolescents in dimly-lit arcade parlors across the country, one could find a few scant examples of ultra-violent arcade games scattered here and there. Excessive? Sure. Unnecessary? Probably, but that's what made them so great! One such example of these forgotten classics of blood and gore is an old shooting arcade game called Chiller.

Though it had a fairly unassuming name and consisted of a tiny screen with a plastic rifle mounted on a swivel, Chiller contained an almost sociopathic amount of bloody violence. As soon as you pop in a quarter, you're taken to the pre-game screen that tells you what special objects you'll have to shoot in order to unmask the secret bonus level.

And so, after committing that first row of horrific images to memory, it's on to the torture chamber!

(no this was not drawn in MS Paint)

Things are looking pretty nasty. You've got bloody limbs all over the floor, bats and ghosts flying around, and people in various forms of torture (hence the name). However, this is all before you start shooting. Each stage requires you to hit a certain number of targets to empty out the "monster meter" before you can move on, and that means doing stuff like this:

A dozen or so acts of mindless violence like that, and you're on your way to the "Rack Room":

In this stage, you still flay the torture victims with your bullets and shoot down vermin for points, but the real treat comes with lowering that unfortunate fellow hanging from the ceiling above the river of blood:

Mm mmm, good. That's one happy alligator... or is it a crocodile? I always forget which ones inhabit rivers of blood. Stuff like that will earn you a trip to the diabolical "hallway":

Alright, it's not quite as grisly as the first two levels, but you still wind up shooting at severed heads and limbs as they appear. Early on, you even have to operate a trap door:

Haw haw. At this point, I should point out that the game also includes a number of digitized screams, both male and female, that play at various times throughout the levels, such as when you're shooting chunks of flesh off some guy tied to a rack. If screams are your thing, click here to listen to a sampling.

All good things must eventually come to an end, however, and so you'll eventually wind up in the graveyard:

Here, you'll be shooting at groping hands popping out of the ground, a monk with a wheelbarrow full of body parts, and most notably, a girl buried up to her waist in the center of the screen. See if you can spot the surprising part of this target:

That's right, Chiller wasn't afraid to throw in a little low-res nudity to draw in the consumer. After that, it's hard to be impressed by shooting more severed heads and the like.

And that's not all: if you've managed to find all the special objects in each stage, you'll A) get to play a shot machine for extra points at the end of each stage, and B) advance to the bonus round, where you'll skeet shoot flying heads, hearts, skulls, etc.

And once all that's out of the way, you get to play it all again! Wee!! Ok, I admit that the game was kind of shallow, and seemed to get progressively less bloody in each level. Still, captivating potential players with unprecedented levels of gore is quite a marketing ploy. It even got an unlicensed NES port of the game, and boy does that look good:

Of course, you'd be lucky to find either incarnation of the game these days. Luckily, that's why we have emulators: so you can enjoy all the cheap, tawdry games of yore in the privacy of your own home. Enjoy!


See Chiller in action:


[Download Chiller - The Arcade Game!]

[Download Chiller - The Unlicensed NES Game!]

note: To play either of these games you'll need to download the
appropriate emulators which can be found basically anywhere.

Have any questions or comments about this piece?


If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:

A Nightmare On Elm Street: Freddy's Forgotten PC Game!

Reader Comments

an organism
Oct 4th, 2012, 06:01 PM
If Cannibal Corpse album covers were an arcade in 1986 - nice find!
Pickled Patriarch
Oct 4th, 2012, 06:11 PM
Cybernetic - Haha, that's probably the most accurate description of the game I've heard yet. Very, very true.
Forum Virgin
Oct 4th, 2012, 06:34 PM
Of course, the NES port had the immortal "Dead People Are Cool" on the cover. Can't forget that.
Comic Artist in Training
Oct 4th, 2012, 07:44 PM
When I first read about this game many years ago, I had nightmares.
Sympathizes with the foo'
Oct 4th, 2012, 11:50 PM
I have the NES version, actually. Some kickass older guy I work with sold me an NES console still in its original box -with the price sticker from a local store that's been defunct for 20 years, no less- and a huge pile of games for just $100. Granted, NES Chiller is a buggy and nigh-unplayable mess that locks up when you shoot certain targets, but hey; I got it cheap.

What freaks me out the most about the arcade original, though, is when it came out and who made it. In 1986, most arcade games featured little violence apart from tiny spaceships blowing up. There wasn't even an envelope to push, and yet Exidy went ahead and did it anyway. What's more, none of Exidy's other games like Crackshot and Crossbow are anywhere near this disturbing. It's like the boss asked his staff to make a simple horror-themed shooter to add to the lineup, and they came back with... THIS. "Spooky" doesn't begin to describe what was going on in those guys' heads.
Forum Virgin
Oct 5th, 2012, 09:05 AM
death race came out 10 year before chiller and was very controversial for it's time
Sympathizes with the foo'
Oct 5th, 2012, 04:32 PM
Death Race has implied violence, sure, but I seriously doubt that it gave any kids nightmares the same way Chiller did.

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