Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Goosebumps, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark are immortalized in many childhoods. They were a gateway into horror movies and television for kids’ later adult lives. These series found a great amount of success due to respecting their audience, acknowledging a child’s age while still providing suspense. The legacy that these pieces of horror media left was thanks in part to a passion that put storytelling first and foremost. Video games, however, are quite different from television, movies, or books when it comes to horror. That makes Luigi’s Mansion 3 and its ilk a little special.
Video games can’t solely rely on storytelling since they require the player to have agency over a character’s actions. This makes for an increasingly tense experience compared to what consumers would find in other formats. While we’ve had many grotesque and chilling games in the history of the medium, we’ve also had games that fit under the genre of “horror for kids.” These titles enhanced themselves through the immersion that stems from interactive entertainment.
Nintendo, creating horror fans since 2001
One of these games was Luigi’s Mansion. Originally released on the Nintendo GameCube, it was largely panned for not featuring his famous “other brother” as the protagonist. Super Mario Sunshine was still 10 months away, and the lack of Mario during the GameCube’s launch was debilitating to Nintendo fans. However, as time went on, Luigi’s Mansion gained a cult following. It spawned a sequel, port, and now an upcoming Luigi’s Mansion 3 for the less glamorous brother. Yet, this success was mostly due to an effort of being a great horror game first and foremost. After all, who better than Nintendo to make one of the best horror games for kids?
The genius came from a palpable in-game atmosphere that surpassed its “E for Everyone” rating. The lighting, well utilizing the GameCube’s technology at the time, made it relieving to turn on the power to illuminate a given area. Its unsettling and arcane soundtrack gave the Mario spin-off title a sense of foreboding terror. It also riffed on the constricting controls of Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise, making them accessible to a wider-audience alongside enjoyable Nintendo charm. The thoughtful level design centered around a Metroidvania sense of exploration that further enriched the experience. Overall, the game managed to become one of Nintendo’s best during the GameCube era and cemented itself as a definitive horror title for even those who weren’t kids.
Luigi’s Mansion also found gameplay satisfaction from combining unique mechanics that had Luigi stunning enemies with his flashlight and capturing ghosts with the Poltergust vacuum. It was a gameplay loop that, when mixed with intuitive puzzle design, made a Mario game work in the horror setting. One of the most unique facets of Luigi’s Mansion was the personality given to the various bosses that matched each section of the mansion. This characterization came in the form of not just design, but also exposition from the denizens of the mansion. And it provided a world that seems to be built upon with Luigi’s Mansion 3.
Luigi’s haunted hotel
The setting of Luigi’s Mansion 3 is slightly different from that of the previous two entries. The first game took place entirely in the same mansion. Meanwhile, the second game spanned multiple, bite-sized mansions that were more suitable for portable play. In this third iteration, Luigi finds himself searching for his friends in a large hotel overrun with ghosts. This has allowed the developers to lean on more creative floors. Kids will be entertained by the playful environments we’ve seen in preview materials including a sound stage, a theater, and even a garden-themed section. The ghosts in the mansion seem to be characterized by these environments as well, presenting different styles of spooks to players throughout the game.
In our extensive preview, we explored a medieval setting that had us scouring dungeons and cellars as we captured ghosts and solved puzzles. This culminated in a multifaceted boss battle with a spirit who wore a king’s crown and challenged us to a jousting match. The developers have made an effort to have the same type of enjoyable bosses from the original game. The hilarious Doctor E. Gadd is back in all his weirdness as well. The eccentric mad scientist who equipped Luigi with the Poltergust to dispatch the spirits has returned to empower children playing their first horror game yet again.
A new generation
After playing Luigi’s Mansion 3 at E3 2019, it’s evident that Nintendo is going to create a new generation of horror gamers. There’s a AAA pedigree towards every angle of the title that wasn’t found in the previous two entries. From the new lighting, which provides even more atmosphere than the original, to the massive amount of content that pushes well past the first game’s 6-hour playthrough, it’s shaping up to be the best “horror for kids” has ever been.
Nintendo has confirmed that Luigi’s Mansion 3 will be released in 2019. While they’ve yet to reveal a specific date, we’ll let you know as soon as that information is available. In the meantime, consider checking out our mischievously violent Link’s Awakening preview.