The early days of Nintendo were some strange times indeed. Despite several strong censorship policies, Nintendo of America still released many dark and potentially frightening games for the NES. Horror movie franchises like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street had licensed releases on the console, while hit series like Castlevania featured monsters from Universal movies and gothic literature.
One particularly odd title was Monster Party. Released in 1989 by Bandai, the game featured a young boy named Mark being enlisted to save an alien planet from evil monsters. The opening of the game is pretty goofy, as Mark is asked to aid in battle as he is walking home from a baseball game. A purple gargoyle named Bert insists that Mark’s great weapon (a baseball bat) will be the perfect tool to fight off the evil oppressors. This lighthearted tone continues into the first level, where pastel pink, purple, and green decorate a whimsical world. A silly looking tree stands at the half-way point through the stage, covered in smiling faces and lush leaves. But the moment Mark crosses this adorable monolith, everything goes wrong.
The sound of crashing thunder rumbles from the television speakers, colors begin to shift, and this magical environment turns sinister. The candy colored stones become scowling corpses. The mossy grass and leaves melt into gelatinous ooze. The once friendly looking tree has become a towering monster, looming down at Mark. All of these jarring visuals are matched by a change in the soundtrack. The once calm melody is replaced by a dismal tune that echoes a haunting, unsafe mood.
This particularly gruesome imagery is mostly isolated to level 1, but other scary stuff pops up over the course of play. How so much potentially frightening content made it past Nintendo’s censors is unknown, but the release of a game prototype in the early 2000s revealed a much darker game in the original concept. All of the differences between the American release and the Japanese prototype have been detailed at The Cutting Room Floor, a site dedicated to researching and showcasing unused and cut content from video games. Take a look, if you dare!