Kurt Kalata is an ardent video gamer from New Jersey. He has founded websites such as The Castlevania Dungeon, which focuses on Konami's long running, vampire slaying series, and Hardcore Gaming 101, which gives comprehensive reviews focusing on the history of gaming. His most recent book is Bitmap Books' A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games. In addition to his own sites and books, his writings have appeared in Retro Gamer magazine, Time Extension and at 1up, Siliconera, and Gamasutra.

HG101: The Bride of Retro Horror by Kurt Kalata

Hey kids! Do you like retro horror video games? The Bride of Retro Horror features genre-defining classics like Clock Tower and Alone in the Dark, two titles from the early 1990s that helped define the "survival horror" genre, even though they both predate Resident Evil. Also featured are some movie tie-ins like Friday the 13th and The Nightmare on Elm Street, as well as other early horror games from all over the globe, including the United States (Don't Go Alone, Harvester, Dark Seed), England (Go to Hell and Soft & Cuddly), Japan (Produce, Laplace no Ma), and France (Zombi).


Just when you thought it was safe to peek out from under your covers, Kurt Kalata returns with more of horror gaming's most famous and spooky titles. Learn about hits such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street (one of my favorites) on NES; Clock Tower and Alone in the Dark; and more horror hits from yesteryear. – David L. Craddock




If Infogrames lore is to be believed, Alone in the Dark first originated from one of company founder Bruno Bonnell's ideas. The concept involved a game set mostly in dark surroundings, forcing players to navigate by sounds and sparse light sources. Whether this is true or not, the actual game started as an independent, unfunded side project conceived by tech wiz Frédéric Raynal. He had just earned his 3D programming stripes with the PC version of Continuum, and decided to combine his passion for horror movies with his technical skills into a new kind of video game.

Raynal's concept for the game was based upon a simple set of ideas. He wanted to create an action adventure game with zombies and monsters while evolving the technology used in Continuum to create articulate 3D characters. The player also had to be alone (mainly to save Raynal the headache of dealing with character interaction and dialog), and the game was to be set in an old manor during the early 20th century, a time when electronics and communication weren't as advanced. His first scenario was only three words long, but perfectly captured the spirit of survival horror: "Get out alive!" With the help of lead animator Didier Chanfray, Raynal created a tech demo of a 3D sphere walking around an attic. The initial plan was to digitize photos from real life locations for the backgrounds, but it proved impossible to reverse-engineer the corresponding wireframes for collisions. As a result an artist was needed, and through an internal contest Yaël Barroz, who had graduated from a proper art school (and later married Raynal), was selected as the 2D artist for the backgrounds. Once a first prototype was created, Bonnell gave the green light to produce "In the Dark", the first of the many working titles for the project. The game was conceived as the first title in a series called "Virtual Dreams", standalone games that would all use the same engine. The label is even featured on the original French cover, but contrary to the Alone in the Dark franchise, it never took off.