There’s a reason why we like scary things so much. It’s cathartic, emotional, and a hell of a lot of fun. It’s why the genre has been a staple in video games for as long as they’ve existed. With massive franchises that go beyond the video games they’ve started out as, horror games are a staple that are here to stay.
One such game is The House of the Dead. An arcade original released by gaming powerhouse Sega, the game quickly went from kitschy horror game to full-blown iconic franchise. Released in 1996, the original game was well received and featured a sequel soon after.
The House of the Dead follows the story of an American government agency called AMS that was tasked to investigate worldwide criminal activity. In the fictionalized timeline in the year 1998, dangerously close to Christmas, AMS agents Thomas Rogan and G investigate a spooky mansion that might be the area of hostile, bioengineered creatures.
These creatures were created by Dr. Curien. Known for his work in genetic engineering, he succumbed to a bout of insanity and created these “creatures” that bear a striking resemblance to zombies. The creatures are all different, with varying degrees of strength and abilities.
Dr. Curien unleashed his creatures upon his staff in his mansion before dying to his very own creation. The agents set out to solve the mystery of the creatures and stop them from destroying mankind.
The game is a violent, bloody masterpiece of an arcade game. Initially developed to be closer to a police-style shooter, the creators found the market to be saturated and turned their gaze to something a little scarier.
Although series director Takashi Oda was insistent that the creatures in the game weren’t zombies, the series is praised alongside other franchises such as Resident Evil in making the zombie popular in the media once more. No more were these zombies something that might be easily defeated. Instead, they were fast, powerful, and deadly.
The original game was so popular that it garnered a sequel only two years later from its initial release date. The House of the Dead 2 was met with high praise once more, helping the arcade games get a Sega Saturn and Microsoft Windows release.
From the Arcade to the Big Screen
This move from arcade game to household game helped it to become a common name amongst video game fanatics. It was a nice contrast from the racing games and fighter styles that arcades were becoming known for.
The series even got mobile games, The House of the Dead Mobile and The House of the Dead Nightmare. Both games stayed close to its original source, however, Nightmare changed up the perspective from the original games.
As nostalgia keeps a sweaty grip on pop culture, it only makes sense that The House of the Dead would soon receive that treatment taking it from classic franchise to new and revamped icon.
In late 2019, it was announced that both The House of the Dead and The House of the Dead 2 were getting full-blown remakes from the studio Forever Entertainment. A company that has dabbled with remakes before, they announced the good news on Twitter.
However, even with the announcement there currently isn’t any news on release dates or even platforms. Fans jumped at the announcement, ready to replay the game that scared them senseless years ago.
Of course, it wouldn’t feel like a full-blown franchise spanning over decades if it didn’t have a cheesy movie to help round out the resume.
In 2003, director Uwe Boll released his film adaptation of the game under the same name, The House of the Dead. The plot changed, keeping few details from the actual game but mostly just in name and concept.
As with most films in the early 2000s, the movie follows a group of college students who just want to rave. Of course, the rave is set on an island aptly named Isla del Morte (Island of Death). After a creepy boat ride with someone who might not be a credible boat captain, the students arrive at a disaster scene. The rave site deserted and destroyed, the group splits up.
Then the creatures arrive. Although in the film they are thought of as zombies, another departure from the original source. The movie was a flop, a corny mess of tropes that still managed to get a sequel.
Still, it became somewhat of a cult classic in the horror scene, with fans loving the crude nature and fun soundtrack.
With not only a movie but mobile games, remakes, and a solid arcade history, The House of the Dead is a staple not only in videogame history but horror as well. With a bloody hand in pop culture, it’s determined to stay.