I’ve never been much of a fan of the FRIDAY THE 13th franchise of slasher films. They’ve just always seemed a bit flat and derivative to me. But even I have to admit that there’s just something about the combo of mask, machete and mayhem that captures the imagination, and there’s no denying that Jason Voorhees continues to make a huge mark on popular culture. Whether it’s appearing on the Arsenio Hall show, or simply dispensing Halloween candy, Jason is the epitome of the silent, lumbering slasher monster.
One of the stranger places he’s repeatedly shown up is in the medium of VIDEO GAMES, where a minimum of exposition and a maximum of bloodshed has usually been seen as a benefit rather than a limitation. He made his first licensed appearance in gaming back in 1986 with FRIDAY THE 13th: THE COMPUTER GAME on the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC. I’d go over a summary of gameplay, but why bother when the game does such a fine job?
It’s a severely flawed game, if only because there’s a distinct lack of Jason. Instead of wearing his trademark mask, Jason disguises himself as one of your fellow campers(?), and when he’s finally revealed, he’s just some dude in a black belly-top. I’m serious. See the guy in this screeshot who looks like a bit like a pixely member of Cobra Kai?
That’s Jason. Yeah, I’m disappointed, too.
I’m sure most of you are a lot more familiar with the NES FRIDAY THE 13th game from 1989, which also put most of the focus on campers, but at least occasionally put you in terrifying contact with the man himself.
Sure, he’s blue and appears to be wearing a jogging suit, but it’s still Jason. Even his mother(‘s head) pops up in game! Don’t get me wrong.. it’s a terrible video game, but at least it’s identifiably based on the FRIDAY THE 13TH series. So that’s something.
But we’re not here to talk about officially licensed FRIDAY THE 13th video games. No, we’re here to talk about the rip-offs, tributes, and parodies that have peppered a wide variety of games since the original FRIDAY THE 13th movie was released in 1980. Programmers repeatedly tried to take advantage of Jason’s near-universal recognition factor, though they often adjusted just enough about the character to avoid any lawsuits. Often they swap out Jason’s trademark machete for a chainsaw, or they’ll simply toss a hockey mask on a random background enemy. Then again, some examples are a bit more blatant.
#10 – NINJA GAIDEN (ARCADE) (1988)
Before it was an impossibly-difficult series of games on the NES, NINJA GAIDEN was a marginally-easier arcade beat-em-up, and I’ll admit that, as a ninja fanatic, I sank way too many quarters into this thing as a kid. One of the first enemies you encounter in the game are a collection of gang-members wearing suspiciously familiar hockey masks and wielding – I think – brass knuckles. Normally you would flip over them and then hurl their bodies into a nearby phone booth. Fun!
Now, you could make a case that these enemies were equally as influenced by the equally-hulking LORD HUMONGOUS from THE ROAD WARRIOR, but when I was nine I was MUCH more familiar with Jason, so I’m saying this fits.
#9 – ALEX KIDD IN THE ENCHANTED CASTLE (GENESIS) (1989)
Remember Alex Kidd? No? Well, for a time he was the star of a series of popular platformers for various Sega systems – starting with ALEX KIDD IN MIRACLE WORLD for the Sega Master System. ALEX KIDD IN THE ENCHANTED CASTLE was the first Alex Kidd game on a 16-bit console, and this amount of intense graphical power finally let the creators include some thematically inappropriate enemies. In the Hiho Forest level of the game you encounter some axe-wielding, hockey-mask wearing lumberjacks who are quite intent on murdering you for some reason. To be honest, Alex Kidd is so doofy looking, so I sort of hope they succeed.
#8 – GEX (3DO) (1994)
GEX was a side-scroller where you play a wise-cracking, sunglasses-wearing gecko because: 90s. Actually, the most notable thing about the GEX series (which would later go full 3D) is that the character was written and voiced by the excellent comedian Dana Gould. The SECOND most notable thing about Gex is that he gets sucked into a television where he travels through a series of TV-themed worlds in order to face and defeat the overlord of the Media Dimension. Video games are dumb.
In the Horror-themed cemetery level you come face-to-face with this masked maniac holding a machete and wearing a striped, Freddy Krueger-esque shirt. Two tributes for the price of one? OK!
#7 – FINAL FANTASY VI (aka FINAL FANTASY III) (1994)
That’s right. FINAL FANTASY. This ridiculously popular series of RPGs started way back in 1987 with, uh, FINAL FANTASY. Things immediately got confusing, as while FINAL FANTASY II and III were released in Japan, they never received a North American release. Instead, FINAL FANTASY IV (on the Super Famicon) was released in the West as FINAL FANTASY II (on the Super Nintendo), while FINAL FANTASY V – again – didn’t get a release. Then FINAL FANTASY VI was released on the Super Nintendo as FINAL FANTASY III. Clear as mud!
But who even cares? We’re here to talk about Edgar Roni Figaro; the king of Figaro Castle and a master engineer. This Final Fantasy Wiki says that he “often redecorates his room and is flirtatious with women”. What a well-defined character! As suggested by his master engineer status, Edgar is able to use a lot of high powered weaponry in the game, including a crossbow, a drill, and a CHAINSAW.
But just using a chainsaw isn’t enough to get on this list. Gosh no. However, occasionally when using the Chainsaw, Edgar’s performs a special attack where his sprite momentarily is shown to be wearing a hockey mask! A HOCKEY MASK! And there we go.
#6 – MANHUNT (PS2) (2003)
MANHUNT is a stealth game series developed by Rockstar North before they became a full-time GRAND THEFT AUTO factory. While its mix of deliberately paced game-play and tense action (aided by the voice of the non-physicist Brian Cox) wasn’t entirely unique, the game made headlines for including a RIDICULOUS LEVEL OF VIOLENCE. As per usual, the mainstream media went ballistic – even blaming the murder of a 14-year-old on the game – and it was eventually banned in Australia and Germany, where violent behavior has never been known to occur.
There’s a gang of white supremacists in the game called The Skinz, and their members are often found wielding bats, nail-guns and knives, with many also wearing a.. wait for it.. hockey mask. Sometimes they even look like the fella in the picture above, with a hockey mask featuring the familiar red arrowhead triangle on the front. Red arrowhead? That’s definitely a Jason reference.
#5 – ROBOCOP (ARCADE) (1988)
What the deuce? Why, ROBOCOP is *already* a movie, and this is a video game based ON that movie. How could a game based on a movie reference ANOTHER movie? Answer me that, tough guy?
You really need to calm down. Remember that part in ROBOCOP where Robocop infiltrates a narcotics factory and ends up throwing Clarence Boddicker through, like, a dozen windows? That part of the movie is accurately(?) replicated in the arcade game, except instead of just mowing down an endless series of faceless baddies with your sweet Auto-9, occasionally a masked dude wearing overalls will jump around the screen while attempting to kill you with a chainsaw. Despite the questionable decision to attack someone entirely covered in metal with a saw, these guys are clearly supposed to invoke Jason Voorhees. Point = me.
#4 – URBAN CHAOS: RIOT RESPONSE (PS2/Xbox) (2006)
A riot? In an American city? Who could conceive of such a thing?!
URBAN CHAOS puts you in the shoes of a member of a riot suppression group called T-Zero as you face off against members of The Burners – a gang of ne’er-do-wells armed with Molotov cocktails and machetes. As difficult as it is to accept riot police as the *chuckle* good guys, this is an energetic, underrated first-person shooter that has a lot of neat little touches.
Occasionally you’ll run into a Burner wearing a hockey mask, which gives you the opportunity to blast them into a slow-motion fall; as in the animated .gif up above. Bald guy in hockey mask + machete = Jason! (We’ll just ignore the Molotov)
#3 – ZOMBIES ATE MY NEIGHBORS (Super NES/Sega Genesis) (1993)
In ZOMBIES ATE MY NEIGHBORS you play as either Zeke or Julie as they attempt to rescue their friends and neighbors from a cavalcade of movie-inspired monsters. Of course, everyone picked Zeke since he had a) spiked hair and b) 3D glasses. You run-and-gun through 55 stages of increasingly difficult mayhem, collecting a huge variety of weapons before facing the fiendish mad scientist Doctor Tongue.
In the level “Chainsaw Hedgemaze Mayhem”, you encounter a familiar fellow brandishing a chainsaw and wearing a hockey mask as he cuts through hedges in tireless pursuit of your character. It could be argued that this character is as much a tribute to Leatherface as it is to Jason, but this isn’t debate club. “Jason” can be temporarily delayed by planting a clown on the ground for him to attack. Yes, this game is bad-ass.
#2 – KID CHAMELEON (Sega Genesis) (1992)
The boss enemy of virtual reality game “Wildside” has escaped from his programming and has begun kidnapping players for some ill-defined reason. Who can possibly stop him except Casey (aka KID CHAMELEON), who has the “power” to put on a variety of masks that change him into different characters, all with unique abilities. There’s Red Stealth (a samurai), Cyclone (a superhero), Juggernaut (a tank) and a variety of others.
Everyone’s favorite is, of course, Maniaxe, who wears a blue jumpsuit and hockey mask and is able to throw axes in a straight line. Yeah, in this game you actually get to play as the Jason analogue. At least, for a while. If only there was a game that let you play as a Jason-looking character for the whole darn thing..
#1 – SPLATTERHOUSE (Arcade/TurboGrafx-16) (1988)
Ah, SPLATTERHOUSE. The mother of all gory beat-em-ups. In it, you play parapsychology student Rick, who is searching the spooky West Mansion for his girlfriend Jennifer. He’s aided by the “Terror Mask”, which has fused with body and turned him into a hulking, beefy monster who is able to wang enemies into the background with his trusty 2×4.
Packed with references to both classic and contemporary horror films, SPLATTERHOUSE is mindless, bloody fun and a real treat for the discriminating horror fan. The most obvious allusion comes in the form of Rick himself. That guy looks just like Jason Voorhees! In fact, he looks SO much like Jason that the mask was made red for the home release of the game to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit. Sequels retconned the mask to be much more skull-like than what we see in the screenshot, but there’s no mistaking what we’re looking at here. You’re Jason, and you’re tasked with killing EVERYTHING. It doesn’t get much better than that.
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