If there's one thing I'll always love in video games, it's gotta be whenever the designers decide to include a graveyard stage to appease all the fans of horror out there. Sometimes it's unexpected, other times the graveyard fits in perfectly with the atmosphere with the rest of the game, but regardless, the spooky visuals have made for some truly memorable gaming moments over the years. With that in mind, I wanted to take this opportunity to pay homage to what I consider to be some of the greatest graveyards in video game history. Let's get started, because as Death would say... the clock is ticking.
Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts!
This one should come as no surprise to any gamer, for the Ghosts 'n Goblins / Ghouls 'n Ghosts franchise is likely one of the first things that come to mind when anybody talks about horror-themed video games. While Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the Sega Genesis is my favorite game in the series, I gotta give Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts on the SNES the advantage for best graveyard in the franchise. Right off the bat, there are coffins practically everywhere, as if there's simply no room for them to be buried underground. And upon closer inspection, that appears to be the case - for there are hundreds of skulls just beneath the surface! As if that's not enough, it's filled with dead trees, jumping werewolves, statues that barf up skulls, and coffins constantly popping up as zombies emerge from them. One of my favorite things about this graveyard design, however, is the fact that the ground itself is extremely unstable. It's constantly shifting up and down while you run forward past the hordes of the undead, as if all the dead bodies under the surface are somehow causing the tectonic plates to shift. It's easily one of the most memorable graveyard stages to ever appear in a video game, and absolutely worth playing if you haven't yet. I just hope you're a glutton for punishment because, like its predecessors, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts lives up to its reputation for being one of the most difficult video games out there. Go get 'em, Arthur!
The Legend of Zelda!
I bet a few of you forgot about this classic scene. The Legend of Zelda was an incredible experience from start to finish. I can't tell you how excited I was to acquire that shiny gold cartridge and see what the game was all about when I was a kid. While Zelda had plenty of dungeons for brave Link to explore, the overworld of Hyrule was fairly bright and colorful for the most part. Nice trees, large bodies of water, mountains with convenient staircases, fairies happy to restore your life... what a nice place! But then there was the graveyard in the north-western area of the map. And what a somber looking place it is. The ground is gray, the border rocks are stark white, and there's nothing there but tombstones. However, if you've ever played the Legend of Zelda, you know that the only way to make progress is to experiment by pushing objects. Only thing is, each time you try to push a tombstone here, it awakens a Ghini (ghost) who starts flying around. Push enough tombstones, and you could quickly be overwhelmed by these flying phantoms, but that's what you get for disturbing the dead. Hopefully you can find the hidden Old Man or the level 6 dungeon beneath the tombstones before the Ghinis steal your hearts. But as far as modest, bare-bones gaming graveyards go, this one definitely stole mine.
"Wise fwom your gwabe!" When those hilarious lines were first uttered by Zeus, I knew I was in for something special with this game. Altered Beast came packaged with the original Sega Genesis system, and while there are certainly better games on the console, it really showed off just how much better 16-bit games were than the 8-bit ones we had grown accustomed to on the Nintendo Entertainment System. And what an introduction it was! We're tossed into the open acropolis graveyard, filled with hundreds of tombstones in the background, along with a seemingly endless supply of zombies rising up to attack our hero. You'll also encounter flying demons, and some headless zombies who throw skulls at you, before you reach the boss at the end of the stage. Aggar is a big, ugly monster, appearing to be made of a combination of flesh and dirt, who enjoys throwing faces at you. Your only hope? Turn into a werewolf and use your mystical powers to defeat him! That's right, you're a werewolf battling a giant monster in a big graveyard. Is there any surprise this one made the cut for my article?
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker!
Here's one that's a bit more obscure to most people. Michael Jackson's Moonwalker starred the eponymous hero as he used his Smooth Criminal to save children from the forces of evil. There were two different versions of the game - an arcade version and a Sega Genesis version. Now while the Genesis version has its own graveyard stage that looks great, and even a brief Thriller dance, I prefer the isometric style graveyard featured in the arcade version. Why? Granted, the Genesis graveyard looks spookier, but there's not much in terms of variety at all. There's basically one zombie enemy for the entire stage.
In the arcade version, not only do you have a variety of tombstones, but you have male and female zombies bursting through brick walls like Abobo coming at you. On top of that, you have cyborgs posing as tombstones waiting to attack you, along with Mr. Big's militia o' bad guys armed with lasers. Then, once you make it past all of that chaos (preferably by executing one of Michael's magical dances moves, which make his enemies explode when they try to keep up with him), you have to face the stage boss. The graveyard stage boss features some kind of steampunk machine that shoots out ghosts, while other ghosts fly out from some nearby tiki torches to attack you. All this happens while you've become a giant killer robot. Needless to say, the entire game is insane as it sounds, and this is one graveyard battle I'll never forget.
The Simpsons Arcade Game!
I know people always talk about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game, but when it came to classic four-player beat-em-up games, I always thought The Simpsons arcade game was even better. And holy crapballs, did I ever love the hell out of stage 3: The Springfield Discount Cemetery! The background features a dark sky and woods illuminated by a big blue moon, while the grounds are peppered with tombstones in various degrees of decay. The music is comically spooky, there's a busted cemetery sign with a frog sitting atop it, there are skulls to throw at your enemies... and then there are zombies. Oh how I loooove these zombies! They're missing feet, as if the flesh was gnawed off, and their arms stretch out and do complete 360 degree movements around their bodies. They even make shrill noises when they rise from the ground. Lastly, as if the stage wasn't perfect enough, Homer, Bart, Marge, and Lisa have to make a run for it by diving into Krusty the Clown's oversized tomb for safety, while one of their enemies in pursuit gets left behind. And what happens to this poor bastard? He's swarmed by four ghosts wearing chains as he screams out in pure terror. They did everything right with this cemetery and I'll always love it.
Gex was one of the games that had me convinced the Panasonic 3DO was far better than people gave it credit for back in the day. Yes, the system was overpriced initially, but it had some really good games like Captain Quazar, Samurai Shodown, and of course, Gex! In Gex, you play as a gecko who loves making smart-assed comments while he traverses the dangers of whatever TV theme stage he's on. The best stage in the game? Yep, you guessed it: The Cemetery!
The Gex cemetery overworld map is a thing of beauty in its own right, what with the marble pathways and tombstones being surrounded by a lake of slime that's spewing from stone skull mouths, but the cemetery itself is even better. With a perfectly spooky blue & green color scheme, the cemetery stage features all the horrific imagery you could possibly hope for. Wrought iron gates and fences, guillotines waiting to chop you in half, a full moon, random lightning strikes, coffins that can jettison you up into the air, skull platforms, and a creepy mist wafting over the tombstones and dead trees in the background are all part of the fun. The music is great and features a cackling voice and pipe organs to really help set the tone as well. Best of all, the stage features some amazing enemies including Frankengeckos that moan 'n groan as they stumble around, flying gargoyles (or "Hot Garg-Oils" as they're known in the game), logs that barf skulls up into the air, Killer Tomatoes (obviously paying homage to the b-movie classic), and my personal favorite: Freddy! Freddy is a hybrid of Freddy Krueger (striped sweater & razor glove), Jason Voorhees (hockey mask), and Leatherface (chainsaw). All these wonderful creepers wandering around a killer cemetery world based on horror films and TV shows? What's not to love?
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest!
This is the last one on my list for today, and I can't think of a better way to end things. If I had to pick a single cemetery out of all the games I've ever played, I think the one from Castlevania II: Simon's Quest on the NES just might be my favorite one. The setting, the vibrant colors, the horrific enemies, the incredible music... is just all too perfect. Tombstones of various shapes and sizes line the background along with trees beneath a mountain range, while you, Simon Belmont, must fight the forces of evil. Zombie hands bursting from the ground, slime blobs hopping at you, a fish man jumping out of the water, cursed mummies and more are all looking to stop you in your tracks. You better stock up on your holy water and get that whip ready to do some damage. What a horrible night to have a curse? No. What a wonderful night to have a curse!
That's all for part one of the Greatest Graveyards in Video Game History, but there are plenty more burial grounds still left to cover. Are there any graveyards / cemeteries (old or new) that you'd like to see covered in a future installment of this series? Rise from your grave and let me know in the comments section below!
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