It’s not uncommon for people to assume that Alone in the Dark or Resident Evil kicked off the horror game genre. However, this is not the case. A little-known game called Sweet Home from the Famicom introduced the world to survival horror in 1989, years before Alone in the Dark or Resident Evil ever came out. Though the game never released outside of Japan, it has been globally praised for its revolutionary gameplay mechanics. Sweet Home was ahead of its time and introduced gamers to many survival horror elements still found in most modern horror games.
Sweet Home is actually a video game adaptation of a Japanese horror movie of the same name. The game loosely follows the film’s story but takes some liberties to improve its gameplay. Players control five documentarians as they explore a haunted mansion in hopes of finding an artist’s lost work. An evil spirit named Lady Mamiya terrorizes the filmmakers as they uncover the mysteries hiding within the mansion.
The game plays like a typical RPG but includes many survival horror elements like puzzle-solving and inventory management. Each playable character has their own unique item to help them overcome whatever obstacles Lady Mamiya throws their way. These items include a lighter, vacuum cleaner, medical kit, lockpick and a camera. Players must pay close attention to each characters’ stats since they will permanently die if their health reaches zero. Sweet Home has five different endings depending on how many characters survive until the end of the game.
Resident Evil and Sweet Home share more than a few similarities. Capcom originally wanted Resident Evil to be a remake of Sweet Home before turning it into its own game. Both games take place in an eerie mansion full of horrifying ghouls and clever puzzles. Sweet Home and Resident Evil also use door animations for loading screens when players enter new rooms. Even the unique character items in Sweet Home can be seen in the original Resident Evil game. Chris Redfield has the lighter, Jill Valentine controls the lockpick and Rebecca Chambers acts as a medic. While all this could be coincidental, there are far too many similarities between the two Capcom games to ignore.
Sweet Home musters up some scary moments despite being an 8-bit game. Some of the enemies are incredibly grotesque for the time. Many of the battle sequences feature bloody images that could give the original Mortal Kombat (which released three years later) a run for its money, and players can expect to see severed body parts and rotting flesh throughout the game. This is one of the main reasons why the game never saw a release outside Japan, as this much graphic violence in a video game was unheard of in the West at the time.
Sweet Homes is undoubtedly one of the most important horror games in history, and it’s influence stretches even beyond the horror genre. Some people even believe Nintendo based the Poltergust 3000 in Luigi’s Mansion on the vacuum cleaner in Sweet Home. While may just be a rumor, it wouldn’t be surprising.
Fans can now play Sweet Home outside of Japan thanks to a fan translation that released in 2000. The game is still regarded as one of the best horror games ever created, but it’s a shame that such a remarkable and revolutionary game is still relatively unknown despite it paving the way for future horror titles.
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Many people think Alone in the Dark started the horror video game genre, but a little known horror game called Sweet Home came out years before.