With just under two weeks until Halloween, I thought I’d do a little bit of a countdown highlighting some of my favorite spooky titles. Up front, I will say that not all of these entries will be considered “spooky games” by many, as in some instances I’m going to simply highlight games that simply have a particular stage or sequence I enjoy that fits the bill.
By that same token, I’m going to try to order these by increasing spookiness — lower ranked entries might have only a certain stage or element, while those higher up the list will have the theme permeate throughout the entire game.
On that note, I’m admittedly starting off on a bit of a cheat, as this covers multiple entries in a series, rather than an individual game. Of course, there’s also a reason that would be valid, too…
#13: Mario Kart Series
Ever since Super Mario Kart hit the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992, there have been spooky, ghost-ridden courses to deal with in almost every installment to come since. The original gave us a whopping three Ghost Valley courses, each haunted by Boos as you race across rickety planks inspired by the Ghost Houses of Super Mario World, and safety rails that weren’t very safe — once you bump into one, it falls off, leaving you prone to fall if you’re not more careful on the next lap. These would also feature in Mario Kart: Super Circuit, while only the second made an encore in Mario Kart Wii, all as bonus retro tracks.
Mario Kart 64 made such courses a tradition with the inclusion of the Banshee Boardwalk, which featured a giant Cheep Cheep leaping out of the waters surrounding the track, while an abandoned shack is home to a nest of bats (later Swoops) who dive down upon the player, reducing their speed. And all the while, the Boos you pass by laugh mischievously at your misfortunes. This track made an encore appearance in Mario Kart DS.
A creepy manor overlooks the track called Boo Lake in Mario Kart: Super Circuit. Boos carry lanterns to illuminate the way, but otherwise don’t interfere in the race. That is, unless they happen to know something about the flickering of the bridge. It’s otherwise very much like the Ghost Valley tracks, but unlike those, it has yet to make another appearance.
Strangely enough, the unconventional Mario Kart: Double Dash!! ended up all but forgoing this haunting tradition, only featuring a single spooky course based on Luigi’s Mansion as an unlockable in its Battle Mode.
Fortunately, Luigi’s Mansion gets a proper course in Mario Kart DS, which reappears in Mario Kart 7 as well. Considering how pristine it looked in the last game, Luigi must have allowed it to fall back into disrepair as racers make their way into the mansion, through narrow, twisting halls filled with Boo-haunted portraits and outside through graveyards and swampland occupied by walking trees.
Mario Kart Wii once again disappoints the console crowd in this regard, as its only cryptic offerings are the aforementioned Ghost Valley 2 remix and a returning Twilight House Battle Stage from Mario Kart DS. On the upside, Ghost Valley 2 never looked better.
Similarly, Mario Kart 7 came up short, bringing back the Luigi’s Mansion course from Mario Kart DS, but nothing new of its own. Well, unless you count the sunken ship of Wario Shipyard, which contains a few skeletal Fishbones. Considering how much I love several of the other new courses in this one, as well as the return of Kalimari Desert to make it one of my favorite Mario Kart games in terms of the course roster, I’m willing to overlook this spectral slip.
Finally, Mario Kart 8 revamps the haunted mansion concept with a Twisted Mansion. Thanks to the new anti-gravity gameplay, the idea takes on a new dimension as you race across twisted floors and ceilings while driving through haunted dining rooms, libraries, and more. Boos up their aggression by possessing hammer-wielding knight statues that will gladly smash you as you race by — at least that Boohemoth at the start is only for decoration, and isn’t nearly as disturbing as the real thing!
With so many choices to make you ghoulishly giddy, how can anybody pick just one? Since most of the games have you covered, that’s why I’m including the Mario Kart series as a whole in my #14 spot.
Images courtesy of Super Mario Wiki.
David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.