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Haunted Halloween '85 is a modern-day NES game coming to Steam

Thirty years after its debut, people still make games for the 8-bit NES console. One of those games is Haunted Halloween '85, which PAX East attendees could buy on actual NES cartridges. Haunted Halloween '85 is also coming soon to Steam. Read on for impressions and our video with interview and gameplay!

A bad day at school

Haunted Halloween '85 Steam

Haunted Halloween '85 takes place during 1985. In that very year, Back to the Future and Pee Wee's Big Adventure hit theaters and the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) changed the world of video games forever. It was a pretty cool time to be alive, other than the internet not yet existing as we know it.

A young lad named Donny lives in the peaceful town of Possum Hollow. He stays up all night playing on his fancy new NES, but still manages to stumble into school the next day. Once there, he discovers the halls have been overrun with zombies! Now Donny must fight through armies of undead monsters as he tries to rescue his friends and find out what happened to their town.

Haunted Halloween consists of six stages of platforming action, each with a big end boss to defeat. Donny's only weapons are his fists, so he'll do lots of punching enemies at close range and jumping to dodge them. Along the way he can collect candy to keep his health up. Between levels, story sequences will clue players in to the source of Donny's troubles.

Retro entertainment for old and new platforms

Haunted Halloween '85 Steam

The release of NES games like Haunted Halloween '85 is quite similar to the way music albums still come out on vinyl. Collecting physical NES cartridges has a nostalgic appeal, while the newness and limited edition nature of modern NES releases makes them feel special. Of course, such a niche product doesn't come cheap – Haunted Halloween '85 costs $50 by itself or $60 with box and manual.

Luckily for classic gaming fans without working NES systems, Haunted Halloween '85 will be coming to Steam within the next few months. The game was originally developed in Assembly code for the NES, so porting is no simple job for the small team at Retrotainment Games. The game has to be recreated in Unity, at which point it can be released on Steam and (hopefully) consoles.

Recreating the exact experience of the NES version is a priority for the developers, but the PC version might still benefit from minor bonuses like Steam Achievements. The Steam version will be significantly cheaper than its physical equivalent. Although they haven't settled on a price yet, the devs tell us it should cost $10 or less at launch.

More Haunted Halloween to come

Haunted Halloween '85 Steam

Haunted Halloween '85 is a brand new NES game, and also a proof of concept for the five-man Pittsburgh-based development team. Having successfully launched their first game, they are already at work on a sequel called Haunted Halloween '86: The Curse of Possum Hollow. The sequel promises a greatly expanded scope, with a second playable character named Tami, more complex game mechanics, and lots of new levels, enemies, and chiptune music.

Retrotainment launched a Kickstarter campaign for Haunted Halloween '86 during PAX East, and the project has already met its modest funding goal. The sequel will come to Steam as well, so classic gaming fans can look forward to playing another modern-day NES game on their PCs or Windows tablets.

We'll be sure to follow up when Haunted Halloween '85 and '86 arrive on Steam! In the meantime, does anybody out there still have a genuine NES or third-party NES console?

See Haunted Halloween '85 (NES version) at Cash-In Culture

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

16 Comments
  • Oh gosh, they wrote that whole game in assembly for the NES? And now they have to port that assembly into C# for Unity? Why would they torture themselves like that? Was it really worth it to make an actual NES game in this day and age. Also, I can't wait until we start seeing graphics comparisons between NES, Xbox One/PS4, and PC. The NES version better support 1080p 60fps ;-)
  • I'm glad they did! It's more work, sure. But it's also a real deal NES, true blue NES game, which of course certifies that it complies with NES spec limits.  Look, I love Shovel Knight....love it, love it, LOVE it! Probably my favorite game in the last several years. But it grates on me a little how it's presented as this "NES-like" experience when it's so unfaithful to the actual capabilities of NES graphics hardware. It's much more impressive on the sound front for being sonically faithful to the 2A03/VRC6 duo found in Akumajou Densetsu and a few others. But even that I think might've received the "stereo" treatment, which if right, makes it less than 100% faithful as well. I suppose it's not actually false advertising, as they never claim it's NES perfect. In fact, they even published a blog post detailing all the ways it deviates from NES. But in the general promotional activity, they sorta upsell the "NES-like-ness" of it all, and sorta downplay how far beyond NES it is enough that it still strikes me as misleading. Especially to the pleb who don't know a thing about NES hardware, or any system hardware. To them, they see pixels, and it's NES. That's all the more discerning they are. Now, I don't want to paint myself above my station, either. I'm not a programmer. The closest I've come to it (and it's far from it), is playing around with FM and Wavetable in Deflemask. I don't know every little nook and cranny of hardware, and I definitely don't know how to exploit it......but I have studied the hardware at least in a theoretical, abstract sense quite a bit - the NES and 3rd gen contemporaries, yes, but even more so, the 4th gen systems....especially as it concerns sound hardware. So I know more than enough to be able to readily see through the likes of Shovel Knight. :-) I dont's know. There's just something very special to me about a game that is so NES perfect, that it'll actually run on real hardware. And to that end, if we're gonna compare graphics on different ports (which I know you we're just joking about, but...) I say 256x224 over a real CRT tube with scan lines for the win....all day......everyday!!! :-) Cheers!
  • So, can I actually play it on my NES ?  (yes, I still have one that works 100%)
  • Me too! Real hardware FTW! :-)
  • I do have a working NES - it's even hooked up to an old 36" CRT, so I could buy this on cart and experience it in its perfection!..... .....but with such a huge price difference between the cart and the Steam release, I may or may not actually spring for it. Probably start with the Steam version, and then make up my mind from there. ....it would be super cool to have it on cart, though! I suppose it's similar to the impulse that makes me want to drop $35 for the Streets of Rage 2 soundtrack on vinyl, even though I already have the actual Sega Genesis game cart and can listen to the soundtrack on my Genesis over the exact same stereo system any time I want. :-)
  • I'm sure they already considered this, but I would have thought an easier porting strategy would be to just wrap up an emulator. Tie in a few hooks for the achievements and be done with it. It would limit porting to console platforms but I would have thought it should cover PC just fine.
  • I didn't know 6502 Assembly had an API for achievement hooks.
  • I mean hooks in the emulator. It knows the state of the game at all times, and could unlock achievements based on game progress or other memory states.
  • I agree that would be a better strategy. Maybe they're recoding in Unity because they hope to release on consoles eventually.
  • What is the price going to be on steam?
  • This looks like a good old school game. I'm gonna keep my eye on this one.
  • This looks really fun. I loved playing games on NES and this looks right up my alley
  • Super old school! Don't think my NES is still working lol!
  • $50 is expensive? I remember buying NES games on release day for C$80, like Mega Man 4. 25 years ago.
  • It is very expensive for a new game from a system older than most people that comment on this site.  This is a $10 max game on Steam.
  • True, but it's so expensive because NES cartridges aren't regularly manufactured any more. They have to do very small production runs for things like this. And carts were always more expensive to make than discs anyway.