In Defense of: The ‘Friday the 13th’ 1989 NES Game


If there’s one thing horror gamers are excited about, it’s the upcoming Friday the 13th video game. Having achieved nearly $700,000 in its Kickstarter campaign, the title has been proven to be something that slasher movie fans have been dying to see. With the option to play as either a camp counselor or Mrs. Voorhees’ baby boy himself, Friday the 13th: The Game looks absolutely incredible.

It’s easy to forget, however, that this isn’t the first Friday the 13th video game. In 1989, LJN released a game based on the property for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It has since gained a reputation as being a crummy game, as it’s generally talked down upon whenever it’s brought up (even being mocked by the Angry Video Game Nerd). But is everybody simply being too hard on this game?

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In many ways, the Friday the 13th NES game was innovative, and it doesn’t get the credit it deserves for some of its more unique aspects. For starters, there is a character selection screen at the start of the game; players can choose from 1 of 6 different camp counselors, with the ability to swap them out during gameplay. Here’s the catch, though: if one of the counselors dies, they are permanently gone from that playthrough and you must select another person. The game continues until either Jason or all six camp counselors are dead (with the latter being much more likely to happen).

The point of the game is to stay brave and hunt Jason down yourself, before he kills all of your friends (or a group of ‘children’ you are also responsible for). Using a map, you can see which buddy of yours is currently in danger, and you must get there by a certain amount of time to save him or her before it’s too late. It creates an urgency and a sense of being compelled to do something you really don’t want to, otherwise others will die.

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Surprisingly, the game could be legitimately scary, thanks to a lot of its unique features. The music alone is perhaps the creepiest from any Nintendo game. The game also starts out at daytime, slowly switching to a sunset before it gets completely dark; this overlooked feature seems small, but it added a lot to the feel of the game by gradually making the environment scarier. Permanent character deaths also made each demise feel all the more real, and the player’s despair would only increase as the camp counselors would drop one by one.

Sure, Friday the 13th could be frustratingly difficult, but that can be said for practically every NES game. I can understand why purists get irritated by the millions of zombies and giant wolves that attack you when the movies featured no such monsters. However, I’d say this is still by far the scariest game ever released on the NES, and although you probably won’t beat the game, it’s a lot of fun as a Jason fan to die trying.

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