Halloween Special hosted by Games in Bits!

Welcome to the Indie Retro News: Halloween Special. I'll be your host, Games in Bits. Specially selected because I have the most horrific avatar. Our delightfully despicable opening gif is courtesy of the SNK Arcade game Nightmare in the Dark, which is my personal recommendation for a Halloween playthrough. But I'm not here to recommend horror games this time, I'm here to tell you some gaming tales of terror that will thoroughly put the willies up you (ahem).

Urban myths and ghost stories always reflect the times in which these tales are spun. So it's no surprise that we've had a host of video game chillers popping up over the last 30 plus years of our ever burgeoning gaming culture. Some concern murderous game characters, others are classic tales of ghosts in the machine, and others are just random creepy crap. Like the Hall of Tortured Souls that was included in Microsoft Excel 95. Crediting its vast development team by seemingly trapping them in a blood red computer hell for all eternity.

So here's a portmanteau of frightful anecdotes from ye olde times, when games were measured in bits... TERRIFYING BITS!

Many years back in the awful city known as Miami, an advertisement was spotted on a cursed page on Craigslist. It offered up a fully working arcade cabinet for free, to be picked up urgently, as soon as possible, right now etc. Nothing out of the ordinary here right? People give defunct hardware away on Craigslist all the time right? But... Do they give away an incredibly rare and sought after Ms. Pac-Man cabinet in excellent condition? Well no, as a machine like this could sell for a ka-chingingly huge amount of moolah at auction.

When the owner was questioned as to the nature of this bizarre feat of generosity, the wretch replied...
"My three year old daughter kept talking about the man in the video machine. Didn't think much of it, until my wife swore that she saw a dark figure creep across the basement and into the machine. She ran out of the house, swearing that she would not return until the machine was out of the house, she's been sleeping in the car ever since, or maybe that dumpster." Words to that effect anyway.

We're so used to the Pac-Man family being terrorised by ghosts in the game, but they're supposed to stay in there right? Right? Right? SHITE!


This, the most well known and notorious of today's myths, sprang up in the early 80's. Mysterious Black Cabinets started materialising in Arcades around Portland, Oregon. Our mysterious machine even has its own hazy photograph. making it the Arcade equivalent of Bigfoot.

Nobody is sure what the actual game looked like. The legend refers to it as being somewhat like Atari's early 3D tube shooter Tempest.

The game was supposedly very good, perhaps too good. It was rumoured that it was so addictive that people would line up for hours to get a turn, even fighting over it. Players apparently admitted to experiencing vertigo and continued to have hallucinations after playing the game. Others suffered from amnesia, insomnia, prolific nightmares, and the dreaded shits.

Some older, burned out stoners likened the playing experience to being spiked with LSD, whilst others claimed it could drive you to insanity and even some alleged suicides. Anyway, it's pants-wetting stuff. What was Polybius? Why was it said to have been withdrawn from Arcades by men in black? Was it some kind of weaponised game designed by the military for psychological warfare? Or was it just a steaming pile of crunk that accidentally gave players seizures so had to be recalled. Nobody is owning up either way.

Personally, I like to think it was alien technology sent to Earth to test us. Like that machine in 80's Sci-Fi classic The Last Starfighter.

Berzerk  is that classic multi-directional maze shooter. It spawned many prestigious prodigies such as Gauntlet, all the way through to Smash TV. However, our story concerns the games antagonist. The character known as Evil Otto.

Otto, as he was originally named before the 'Evil' moniker was added, was the central boss character. He was this bouncing happy hardcore face that served as a kind of "HURRY UP!" time enforcer that would chase you around the level until you escaped that screen. Otto was invincible. No matter how many bullets you pumped into the focker he simply would not die.

The same cannot be said for the two young men, aged 18 and 19, who allegedly suffered fatal heart attacks after entering their names on the high score screen.

This makes Otto the only video game character to date who has committed actual homicide. I play Berzerk all the time because it's a classic, but to this day I will never enter my name on the high score screen for two reasons... 1.I'm actually pretty rubbish at it, and 2. I will not mess with Evil Otto. He is the pixelised angel of death.

This story concerns an unusual rom hack of Super Mario World for SNES that was simply titled MARIO. The file was recieved from a mysterious contributor to a Mario fan site. It came in the form of an unreadable text document. Further examination showed it to be code that frequently featured the phrase "find me".

After some tinkering the hack was made to run. What our user saw was an unfinished, glitchy version of the original Mario World featuring many unerving text boxes. Some were cryptic, while others were positively deranged.

This nonsensical story seems to concern blame being laid for the kidnap or murder of the princess and the alleged killing of Mario's dinosaur buddy Yoshi. It makes little to no sense and contains frequent addresses to Mario or the player themselves saying such things as "I hate you!" You can see a short run through of this madness here...

What would drive someone to exert such an amount of time and effort in building such a devious hack? Surely this has no other purpose then to subvert a cute, beloved popular character for sinister ends. To sum it up, this is the work of a twisted brain-wrong. More sinister still... Once the rom code was further examined it was found to actually contain an image file that looked like this...

Now please excuse me while I go have a break, as I regret to inform you that I have shitted my pants.

I'll admit I don't really know much about Pokemon. After all, I was old enough to legally buy alcohol when the phenomenon hit our shores, and I had better things to do then 'collect them all', such as figuring out were I was on a Sunday morning.

This story concerns something unsettling about Pokemon Red and Blue on the Gameboy. An area of the game called Lavender Town contains a graveyard for dead Pokemon. Odd, as this could be the only time in the series that the mortality of Pokemon, or their burial rights, is ever disclosed.

In Lavender town, the music drastically alters into some disquieting and subtly eerie tones. A massive contrast to the jolly adventure music featured in the rest of the game.

This is the original version of the morbid music that has come to be known as the Lavender Tones. This torturous soundtrack is rumoured to have caused massive depression amongst children and some alleged suicides. It is believed that the music contains tones that, while harmless to adults, can negatively affect the underdeveloped ears of young children. The music was changed upon the games world wide release to stop the madness from spreading.

So don't subject your kids to this audio child killer, unless you really hate them.

Our final turgid tale is possibly the most notorious after Polybius. It concerns the acquisition of a second hand copy of N64's Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. This was bought from a jumble sale that was hosted by an old man selling suspicious looking Rorschach inkblot drawings. What was even more unusual was that amongst these psychologically challenging images was a sole game cartridge. As our buyer left the scene the old man cyptically said "Goodbye Ben", a comment that our eager new owner dismissed as simple mad bastardness.

Upon bringing it home and booting it up, it was noted that the cart contained a single save game from a previous owner entitled BEN. Our player ignored it and started a new game with the imaginative title of Link and began to play.

 Even though this was a new file, the game insisted on addressing the new player as Ben. Continued glitching of the game confirmed that the cart must have been broken. Creepy messaged appeared on screen, such as "You've met a terrible fate haven't you?" and "Your turn!"

Weirded out, the player deleted the file called BEN, only yo find it inexplicably replaced by a new file titled YOUR TURN BEN. That was when he experienced this in game message...

Suddenly, throughout the game he was now followed by this statue. It is known as the Elegy of Emptiness and it IS NOT supposed to follow you around the game. Add to that the bizarre apparitions that started to materialise throughout the game and we end up with one seriously shitted-up gamer.

Whilst all of this sounds like the result of a glitch the video evidence is fairly compelling and undeniably creepy.

 Disturbed, our gamer returned to the street were he bought the game to find the old man had moved away. He asked a neighbour if they knew anything about a boy named Ben and was shocked to find that that a teenager of that name had died a few years earlier in a drowning accident.

DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUURRR!!! Apologise if our stories have filled your pants with fear-wee. Of course these tales have the undeniable stench of horse-shit, and at least one of them can be confirmed to be hoax/creepypasta. Games can't be haunted can they? Can they? OR CAN THEY!?!

Now if you'll excuse me... I think I've sharted again. Happy Halloween!

Games in Bits is Christmas Milling. You can follow him on Twitter @GamesInBits
Legend has it that if you retweet him three times he appears in the room and pees himself.

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