Have a Safe Halloween: Stay Inside and Listen to Spooky Videogame Music Instead
Audio Logs #20Games Lists game soundtracks
Look, I know you want to dress up as Sexy Hand Sanitizer and swap droplets with a Sexy First Responder, but maybe don’t? Keep the Horny Indian Princess in the Problematic Closet where it belongs, and if you must go out make sure to wrap your nose and mouth like a damn mummy. I know we’re all bent out of shape and want to cut loose, but there’s a pandemic for god’s sake.
Besides, think of all the fun you can have inside. Have a masque without the red death.
Halloween is a time for ghosts and monsters and all things creepy. Have a haunted zoom hangout with your friends and see just how terribly your webcam handles a room illuminated only by candlelight. Tell scary stories over the phone, have a virtual costume party in Second Life (that’s still a thing right? It’s gotta be), or curl up with a good haunted book.
No matter how you choose to spend your socially distanced haunted eve, here are three of my favorite spooky videogame soundtracks from the ‘90s to the now.
The 7th Guest
I had all but forgotten about this game until my partner reminded me that it existed, and even had a soundtrack. 1994 was a long time ago, and this is every bit the pinnacle of the early CD-ROM era of FMV where psychodrama and over-the-top romantic horror were rampant. Slap some ridiculous puzzles on top and you had a game. But none was quite as charmingly hokey as The 7th Guest (Sorry, Dynamix—Phantasmagoria was weird but also pretty bad). Anyway, my partner was right: this soundtrack slaps. It’s the perfect spooky accompaniment to haunted, obtuse puzzle solving.
While the FMV might have never had staying power, the soundtrack by George Alistair Sanger, aka The Fat Man, features a delightful blend of vocal tracks that are so extremely ‘90s LA Darkwave Rock Band that you could slap them into a mix with Concrete Blonde’s ”Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man” and ”Bloodletting” and no one would know any better. The rest is a mix of eclectic horror tracks that are so overly romantic they make Patrick Doyle’s score for The Best Frankenstein Adaptation Ever) (don’t @ me) seem sedate. But there’s also plenty of Dollhouse Creep, the insistent pulsatile dread that seemed to be a hallmark of Virgin Interactive published games in this era, and some vibrant theatrical horror classic elements that in a room lit only by the glow of a CRT monitor would fill even the most stalwart of stoics with unease.
Hitomi Shimizu has, frankly, combined one of the most nightmarish collections of noises into a truly haunting soundtrack. It’s troubling—the kind of unnerving layering of deep sounds that tremble organs, prick up baby hairs, and makes tongue shrivel into the back of one’s throat as mouth runs suspiciously dry. Organic, wet. The audio equivalent of bad meat giving way to the inclusion of sinister rainfall and the menace of metronomic clock. Static and string, the empty warble of a dead CB radio. Warped notes of muted brass, theramin, and a possessed piano so out of tune even RZA wouldn’t fuck with it and feel safe. Blunt percussive beats throb slowly until the tempo drives them into a barely audible frenzy. The snap of firewood, like denuded bone.
These are lo-fi tunes to be cursed to.
And that’s before the chant-song, which is truly the last thing you hear before you die. Resonant, loud, and ghastly. “Hoshingoeika” is the kind of track that sticks with you forever. Makes you get up to turn the light on. Go into the kitchen, make a snack, anything…if you aren’t fixed in spot by just how damned haunted it is.
The Silence Under Your Bed
From the jump, Priscilla Snow opens with a track that melds the raucous fun of a John Carpenter theme with what could easily be the title sequence for a reboot of Are You Afraid of the Dark. This creepy narrative game from Kevin Snow and Cassandra Khaw, with absolutely frightful illustrations by Trevor Henderson, is a classic digital campfire jam.
It’s an anthology series built around the simple premise: two friends trying to out creep each other with scary stories. While the soundtrack consists of a number of banger metal tracks, it’s Snow’s work with the most grotesque sounds that sticks out. Eerie and ambient and almost always unpleasant, it’s the promise of the Spirit Halloween spooky sounds audio CD played full blast at pint-sized trick-or-treaters with an exacting precision. Tucked away inside is a special treat: the best murder ballad since Nick Cave decided to kill and be killed by his musical friends.
The best bonus is if you buy the game on itchio, you get the soundtrack with it.
Audio Logs is Dia Lacina’s weekly non-linear, non-hierarchical aural odyssey through gaming’s great soundtracks.
Dia Lacina is a queer indigenous writer and photographer. She tweets too much at @dialacina.