With so much turmoil going on in the world today: Joss Whedon leaving Twitter, great TV shows getting canceled [R.I.P. Forever], and odd DC cinematic universe cast photos, I began to yearn for the days of my youth when things were simpler, and the closest thing we had to the internet was a fax machine. So last week I rolled up my sleeves, and dug out my old NES system from my mom's garage to see if it could help me recapture a bit of magic from a time when there was still a bit of optimism in the air. 
classic nes system
Swoon... You'll always be my first.
Over the past few days I've only playing NES games from my massive game library. It's caused my allergies to kick up from blowing into the cartridges, but it's been worth it.  I know I could have gone the emulator route, but what can I say? I'm a purist.
NES Sprites
Sprites, sprites, sprites, sprites, everybody!
NES ControlerNeeds more contours.
After playing through my favorites, like Mario Bros. 3, Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania, The Legend of Zelda [gold cartridge!], and Megaman, I was feeling pretty good and a solid sense of accomplishment. I still had the touch to dominate with the two-button terminator known as the Nintendo controller. Then, by some cruel act of fate, I came upon another box of games. You see, my mom, Jackie, just so happened to also be digging in the garage this past weekend for some old tarot cards and was hit in the head with another box of old NES games (don't worry, she's fine, but I bet she didn't see it coming!). In a fit, she brought the box into the house and yelled at me for about 20 minutes about all my 'junk' in the garage. After I nodded, and agreed with her to make her go away, I peeked into the box, and was hit with a deep sense of dread. For in this box, which I previously forgot existed, was a collection of my unbeaten NES games. Games with bosses so hard, and levels so unwinnable, I threw them all into one box, and hoped it would be as lost as the Tesseract at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger.

tesseract ocean
You should have left it in the garage... I mean ocean.
I looked over each title and read each instruction manual trying to recall what stopped me from achieving 8-bit victory. In a determined mood, I decided to take on the challenge of beating these games once and for all, and add them to my list of conquered video games. Mind you, there are games I haven't beaten over the years for various systems, but there's something about having un-won NES games that was sticking in my craw. Nowadays, being a well-seasoned gamer with 1000's of hours of playing time, I should be able to beat such simple games with ease, and laugh off the rage I had as a child that caused me to whip the controller across the room. Right?
rage faceWhy I can't beat you!
I looked over each title and read each instruction manual trying to recall what stopped me from achieving 8-bit victory. In a determined mood, I decided to take on the challenge of beating these games once and for all, and add them to my list of conquered video games. Mind you, there are games I haven't beaten over the years for various systems, but there's something about having un-won NES games that was sticking in my craw. Nowadays, being a well-seasoned gamer with 1000's of hours of playing time, I should be able to beat such simple games with ease, and laugh off the rage I had as a child that caused me to whip the controller across the room. Right? Wrong! As of today, both of my NES controllers are currently broken and this is my list of unbeaten games in no particular order. PHOEBE SMASH

Kid Icarus

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It's not so much the difficulty of this game... Alright, it's pretty damn difficult. It's the length of this game. It takes forever to play and when you're mission is to go up and up and up some more, it begins to wear on you by driving your motor skills to nothing as you reach smaller platforms to jump on, slippery surfaces to stay atop of for long periods of time, and backtracking galore. I was able to reach the final Medusa boss but by that time, I was so worn out, I couldn't put up a good fight. You win this time Medusa, but I have the continue code and will crush you yet when I've caught up on sleep and have a 12-pack of Mtn. Dew.

kid icarus boss
My hands are stone at this point. Medusa FTW.

Ghosts N' Goblins

Ghosts n goblins NES COVER
What the hell? You can only get hit twice before you're dead? Then, if you reach the boss, "Satan?!?" You have to have the 'right weapon' to beat him or else you have to replay level 5 at a harder difficulty? After two rounds with the Prince of Darkness, I saw the light and quit.

naked arthur
Yep, fight in your underpants. Seems like a good idea.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Sigh. If driving the Turtle van in the overhead view maze of New York City streets doesn't drive you mad, the loose gameplay will. It's impossible to dodge FREAKING anything leaving you with little power to beat any of the quick moving bosses. I never even reached The Shredder before slamming the power button off.  Give me Turtles in Time any day of the week and I'll showcase some serious "Turtle Power" but when it comes to this game, I'm as powerful as a turtle on it's back.


TMNT NES
Yep, that just gonna have to stay like that. BECAUSE I CAN'T BEAT BEBOP!

Fester's Quest

Festers Quest NES
I'm pretty sure I got this as a re-gift from my classmate Emily in the 4th grade. She hated me. Well, played, Emily, because I hate this game. Like Ghosts N' Goblins, you can only get hit twice before your dead and if you die you have to start all over again. Plus the battle system requires you to keep tapping the B button to shoot stupid blobs. After a good three hours, and a sore thumb, I stopped playing. Sorry world, it looks like the aliens will win.


Uncle Fester
Yeah, just relax while your game sucks.

Marble Madness

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I really have no explanation for this one other than that the time thing really gets my anxiety into high gear. I can't take it. I freak out. I'll never beat this one.


Marble Madness NES
I CAN'T TAKE IT!

Bases Loaded

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I generally hate sports. This game is probably the reason why. I think this was a game my dad liked to play. I have a pretty good understanding of how the game of baseball works and what the rules are, but for some reason, I cannot for the life of me get three outs on the other team! There is no mercy rule in this game, so I removed the cartridge after the 4th grand slam by the CPU. And don't say I suck at this game because I'm a girl! I will throw down and beat anyone in NBA Jam anytime. Try me.


Bases Loaded NES
Swing and a miss.
I'll note that I did in fact beat many of the games in the box including the impossibly hard Double Dragon III, Silver Surfer, Battletoads, and Top Gun to name a few, but the ones listed that continue to challenge me.

If you went back to face your NES library, what games would you like to beat?  Leave your comments below.
 
 
This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I love horror! Even when I was a kid I loved watching horror movies, much to my mom's frustration, as she'd be the one who had to get me to fall asleep later.  To get my horror fix I have a 'Fright Night' once a month with my good friend and fellow horror lover, Tiffany, where we watch scary movies and play horror games to our hearts content. Margaret and Lisa tried to join us once, but never came back after we watched "The Audition." Look that film up if you dare! Now way back in 2012, Tiffany came over sans any movie and asked if we could use my computer. I thought we'd be reading creepy stories or something, but instead I was introduced to a little game called "Slender: The Eight Pages." We each took turns playing as an unfortunate soul who has to wander through a creepy forest collecting eight pages that warn you of its dangerous inhabitant, Slenderman. This antagonist is a tall, slender (duh), faceless humanoid that seems to know when and where you've collected all the pages, becoming stronger and faster with each one, and he'll stalk you until there's simply no escaping him. Seeing him in all of his suited glory, even at a distance, amongst the trees was more than enough to send a chill down your spine and send you running the other way.
Slenderman
He'll steal your soul but not before showing you insurance plans.
Even with his effectiveness as a monster, the mechanics of the game were different from what the public was used to. It was easy enough so that casual gamers could play, making it very accessible, and while most games would give you some kind of weapon or way to defend yourself this game gives you nothing but a flashlight. It's also widely believed that you play a little kid because everything in the forest seems bigger, making the player feel vulnerable and heightening their senses, so that even a pin drop could make them scream. The game was scary, fun, and engaging enough that I figured it would probably be popular, but I truly had no idea. While you could easily find Slenderman in creepypastas and memes everywhere online, before 'Eight Pages' was released, after the game's release, he truly ruled the Internet. After the success of the first game, many sequels were released, one of which really kicked off a worldwide discussion of the mythos behind Slenderman. In "Slender: The Arrival" the gameplay becomes more vast as your task is not just to collect pages, but figure out what happened to your friend, Kate. The story that unfolds isn't unlike many of the ones you can find floating around online where kids go missing, and adults who catch glimpses of him begin to go insane. It's even unclear as to whether he kills his victims, turns them into something else, or even sends them into different dimensions.

Despite just being a solid game, the main source of Slender's fame came from the video-sharing site, Youtube. Because of the games' accessibility, use of atmosphere, and occasional jump scares, it became the go-to source for amusing reactions from people who happened to record themselves while playing. Even well known 'Let's Players' like Pewdiepie and TobyTurner got in on the action and spawned hundreds, if not thousands, of copycats. Let's face it, no matter how good of a person you think you are, you know that seeing people get scared and scream is hilarious. Think I'm wrong? I've got billions upon billions of video views to back this up.
Scared People
Admit it, you could watch this all day.
After the crowning success of Slender, hundreds of other games came up out of the woodwork promising to scare the living crap out of its players. It was (and still is) a beautiful thing, really. Aspiring game designers became inspired to use gaming engines to show their craft through the horror genre. In order for any horror game to stand out it needs to use visuals, sound, game playability and story elements to be successful and immerse whomever is playing it. Only the truly talented saw there games reach the YouTube limelight and it was because they used all of the above elements in new and creative ways, but none of them were able to reach the same level of stardom or public consciousness like Slender did. That is until some genius named Scott Cawthorn used a fear every kid has known since the early 80s and made it into something that has given millions of people sleepless nights.
freddyfazbears
What kid would find this entertaining and fun???
One fateful 'Fright Night,' it was my turn to introduce Tiffany to a game: "Five Nights at Freddy's." In this game you are a security guard working the nightshift at a fictional restaurant similar to a Chuck E. Cheese or the past Circus Pizza called 'Freddy Fazbear's Pizza'. It's your first night and you get a voicemail from your boss explaining the job to you. Everything sounds normal until he mentions that the animatronic animals on the stage wander around the place at night and will stuff you into an animatronic suit filled with wires and rebar if they see you. You're fixed to the one spot at your security desk, giving you limited perspective and making it impossible to escape. Even worse, you have a limited amount of power available to you, power that controls the cameras, lights and doors that are your only protection. Each night becomes more intense as the figures become more active and new characters like 'Foxy the Pirate' and 'Golden Freddy' keep you on your toes. At the end of the week you get nothing but a pathetic paycheck and a sense of dread about coming back to work.
PictureA-are you being serious right now?!
Once again, the games' method of leaving the player practically defenseless made the game stand out only this time the player is expected to notice patterns and develop a strategy for conserving their power and staying alive all five nights. And, like "Eight Pages," the game is easy to pick up and play for anyone. One other very important thing that "Five Nights at Freddy's" and "Slender..." managed to do, was create a mythos behind their game. We learn bits of information about the backstory of the restaurant itself in the first installment of "FIve Nights at Freddy's" but in "Five Nights 2 "an intriguing, if not disturbing, backstory begins to unfold strongly suggesting child abduction and murder by a mysterious 'Purple Man'. Until the release of the 3rd game, forums and comments sections were constantly ablaze with theories and speculations over what exactly happened at Fazbear's Pizza.

FazbeargangCreating nightmare fuel since 1984.
Very recently, the third and last (possibly) part of the game trilogy was released. All of the stories were finally explained and Internet nerds everywhere pumped their fists in the air after finding out their theory was correct. But what impressed me the most was the feeling that I got after finishing the final installment. I won't spoil the ending of the game for you, but by the end you feel as though you've really just solved a decades long mystery and have brought peace to the souls of the murdered children, as silly as that seems. You're suddenly able to see the overarching story as a whole and realize just how sad and tragic it really is, but you still feel as though you've accomplished your role in the story. At that moment, I realized that I had somehow become incredibly invested and emotional over a horror game about walking animatronics. That's what made this game stand out among the others. The creator gave it a heart and soul, if you will. You're given a reason to care, and continue to care throughout the entire trilogy. This is very refreshing and a huge improvement from what the horror medium has been making in recent years. Too often it's about having tons of jump scares, being the most disturbing, or having the most gore. But all of these things in themselves are dull and uncreative and will be quickly forgotten.

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Yawn.
Hopefully, "Five Nights at Freddy's" will inspire a mess of new games and projects that take risks, push boundaries, and make us all enjoy the journey to the end. And please, for the love of God, Scott Cawthorn, keep making games!

What are your favorite horror games and what makes them stand out? What do you hope to see in the future of horror games?
For information on the games mentioned in this post, please use the links below.

Slenderman: The Eight Pages

Five Nights at Freddy's