The House of the Dead (video game)

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The House of the Dead
House Of The Dead, Thelogo.png
Developer(s)Sega AM1
Director(s)Takashi Oda
Composer(s)Tetsuya Kawauchi
SeriesThe House of the Dead
Platform(s)Arcade, Saturn, Microsoft Windows, mobile phone
  • JP: September 13, 1996
  • WW: March 4, 1997
  • JP: March 26, 1998
  • NA: March 31, 1998
  • EU: 1998
Genre(s)Rail shooter
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
Arcade systemSega Model 2[1]
DisplayRaster, medium resolution
horizontal orientation

The House of the Dead is a first-person light gun shooter arcade game, released by Sega in Japan on September 13, 1996, and later internationally on March 4, 1997. It is the first game in the House of the Dead series. Players assume the role of agents Thomas Rogan and "G" in their efforts to combat the products of the dangerous, inhumane experiments of Dr. Curien, a mad scientist.

The House of the Dead has been, along with Resident Evil, credited with popularising zombie video games, as well as re-popularising zombies in wider popular culture from the late 1990s onwards, leading to renewed interest in zombie films during the 2000s. The House of the Dead has also been credited with introducing fast running zombies, which became popular in zombie films and video games during the 2000s.


The House of the Dead is a rail shooter light gun game. Players use a light gun (or mouse, in the PC version) to aim and shoot at approaching zombies. The characters' pistols use magazines which hold 6 rounds; players reload by shooting away from the screen. A set of torches next to the magazine of each player represents remaining health. When a player sustains damage or shoots a hostage, one of their torches is removed. The continue screen appears when all torches are lost. If the player runs out of continues, the game is over. First-aid packs are available throughout the game which restore one torch; some can be obtained from rescued hostages, while others are hidden inside certain breakable objects. Special items can be found within other breakables, granting a bonus to the player who shoots them.

Throughout the course of the game, players are faced with numerous situations in which their action (or inaction) will have an effect on the direction of gameplay.[2] This is exemplified in the opening stage of the game when a hostage is about to be thrown from the bridge to his death. If the player saves the hostage, they will enter the house directly through the front door; however, if the player fails to rescue the hostage, the character is redirected to an underground route through the sewers. If the player rescues all hostages, a secret room full of lives and bonuses is revealed toward the end of the game.


The renowned biochemist and geneticist Roy Curien becomes obsessed with discovering the nature of life and death. While supported by the DBR Corporation and its own team of scientists, Curien's relentless pursuit of this goal slowly drove him insane. His behavior became more erratic and his experiments took a gruesome turn. The Curien Mansion in Europe, which serves as his home and laboratory, experiences an outbreak.

Later on December 18, 1998, AMS Agent Thomas Rogan receives a distress call from his fiancée Sophie Richards from the Curien Mansion. Rogan and his partner "G" fly to Europe and arrive at the estate, finding it overrun with undead creatures, which Curien unleashed. A mortally wounded man gives them a journal containing information about Curien's creations and their weaknesses. Rogan and "G" reach Sophie, only to witness her being carried away by a gargoyle-like creature called the Hangedman. They later find Sophie being attacked by the Chariot, a heavily armored mutant armed with a bardiche. After defeating Chariot, the two attend to Sophie, who passes out. A furious Rogan goes after the Hangedman. Their pursuit leads Rogan and "G" to the rooftops surrounding the courtyard. After a lengthy battle, they managed to shoot it down.

The two fight their way to find Dr. Curien. The doctor releases the Hermit, a giant spider crab monster, and flees. They manage to kill it, and continue the chase, fighting Chariot and the Hangedman once more. Upon being confronted a second time, Curien unleashes his masterpiece, The Magician, a humanoid creature with pyrokinetic abilities. However, immediately after being released, the Magician reveals himself to be self-aware, refusing to serve any master and kills his creator. Rogan and "G" confront the Magician in one final battle. Before dying, the Magician gives a chilling warning, and explodes. After they give their last remarks, they walk back the entire trail and upon leaving the mansion, they take a final look at it, wherein the view zooms to the entrance doors, which open to reveal Sophie, who survived her injuries. The three then leave the mansion.

Alternate Endings[edit]

In one alternate ending, Sophie is reanimated and becomes an undead. In another alternate ending, a far view of the mansion is shown and Sophie is absent (leaving it unknown if she survived or not).


House of the Dead was built on the Virtua Cop game engine.[2]


The House of the Dead came in two cabinet formats, both upright: one with a 50 inch monitor and one with a 29 inch monitor.[3]


Review scores
AllGame4/5 stars[4]4/5 stars[5]
Game InformerN/A8/10[8]
Game RevolutionN/AC[9]
PC Gamer (US)88%[11]N/A
PC Zone76%[12]N/A
Aggregate score

The House of the Dead garnered generally positive reviews, the arcade version being held in the highest regard with AllGame awarding it 4.5 out of 5 stars.[15] However, the Saturn and PC versions gained slightly less praise due to their lack of polish, getting "mixed" or "average" reviews according to the review aggregation website GameRankings.[14][13]

Next Generation reviewed the arcade version of the game, rating it four stars out of five, and stated that "Overall, this is an excellent take on the light-gun genre - a sheer bloody scream."[16]

When Indianapolis attempted to ban violent video games it argued that The House of the Dead was obscene and so unprotected by the First Amendment. This required U.S. Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner to review the game at length, ultimately finding Indianapolis’ ban was unconstitutional. Unimpressed by the graphics, Judge Posner wrote “The most violent game in the record, "The House of the Dead," depicts zombies being killed flamboyantly, with much severing of limbs and effusion of blood; but so stylized and patently fictitious is the cartoon-like depiction that no one would suppose it "obscene" in the sense in which a photograph of a person being decapitated might be described as "obscene." It will not turn anyone's stomach.”[17]

Cultural impact[edit]

According to Kim Newman in the book Nightmare Movies (2011), the "zombie revival began in the Far East" during the late 1990s with the Japanese zombie games Resident Evil and The House of the Dead. The success of these two 1996 zombie games inspired a wave of Asian zombie films, such as Bio Zombie (1998) and Versus (2000), for example.[18] The zombie revival later went global following the worldwide success of Resident Evil and The House of the Dead, which inspired a wave of Western zombie films during the 2000s, such as 28 Days Later (2002) and Shaun of the Dead (2004), for example.[18] In 2013, George Romero said it was the video games Resident Evil and House of the Dead "more than anything else" that popularised his zombie concept in early 21st-century popular culture.[19][20]

The House of the Dead has also been credited with introducing a new type of zombie distinct from Romero's classic slow zombie: the fast running zombie. After first appearing in The House of the Dead, they became popular in zombie films and video games during the 2000s, including the Resident Evil games and films, The House of the Dead film adaptation, and the films 28 Days Later (2002) and Dawn of the Dead (2004).[21]


The game was ported in 1998 to Sega Saturn by Tantalus Interactive, and to Windows (PC-CD) by Sega. The conversion suffered from somewhat rushed development.[22] Official Sega Saturn Magazine criticized the graphics and frame-rate of the game, which ran at 20 frames per second. Extra game modes were also added to both ports, which include selectable characters and a boss rush mode.

Both the Sega Saturn, and PC editions have slightly remixed soundtracks, compared to the arcade version of the game. On Chapter 2, there is a reference to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, as the words Challenger, go at throttle up, spoken by Richard O. Covey from the mission control room only seconds before the explosion, can be heard three times before the music loops.[23] These words do not appear in the arcade version; a snickering laugh is heard instead. The title, and boss themes are also reversed on the PC port as well.


The House of the Dead was followed by four sequels.

The House of the Dead 2 (1998)[edit]

On February 26, 2000,[24] Goldman, the man behind the Curien Mansion case, claims responsibility. Fueled by his detest of humankind's complete lack of responsibility toward its assigned task, Goldman initiates an undead outbreak on Venice while his Emperor project develops. Two new agents named James Taylor and Gary Stewart are sent in order to stop Goldman.

The House of the Dead III (2002)[edit]

In the post-apocalyptic world of 2019, Thomas Rogan and his team of commandos infiltrate the EFI Research Facility in hopes of finding the source of the planet's collapse. Losing contact with him, his daughter Lisa Rogan and his former partner "G" set out on a search and recover mission, unaware that what awaits them has ties to the distant past and the very genesis of the undead horde. Dr. Curien's son Daniel is also trying to prevent the disaster by destroying the legacy of his seemingly deceased father.

The House of the Dead 4 (2005)[edit]

In the year 2003, veteran AMS agent James Taylor (from The House of the Dead 2) and newcomer Kate Green are investigating the Goldman Incident of 2000. Following a sudden earthquake, they are shocked to discover that the undead from three years prior have returned, seemingly unharmed, and locked in a lab, but they soon break out and wreak havoc once again. Intent on preventing a nuclear disaster, they must once again cross paths with the seemingly deceased Goldman.

House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn (2018)[edit]

On December 6, 2006, three years after the events of The House of the Dead 4, Kate Green joins forces with Ryan Taylor - the brother of her late partner, James Taylor - on an undercover mission in a dinner event within Scarecrow's Mansion, until the mysterious manager unleashes his army of creatures upon the dinner guests, and soon the world.


  1. ^ "AOU". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 93. Ziff Davis. April 1997. p. 79.
  2. ^ a b "NG Alphas: House of the Dead". Next Generation. No. 29. Imagine Media. May 1997. p. 108.
  3. ^ Webb, Marcus (June 1997). "Sega and GameWorks". Next Generation. No. 30. Imagine Media. p. 28.
  4. ^ House, Matthew. "The House of the Dead (PC) - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2016-09-28. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ House, Michael L. "The House of the Dead (SAT) - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2016-09-28. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ Randell, Kim (1998). "PC Review: House of the Dead". Computer and Video Games. Archived from the original on 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2014-02-16. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. ^ Edge staff (April 1998). "House of the Dead (SAT)". Edge (57).
  8. ^ "The House of the Dead (SAT)". Game Informer (61). May 1998.
  9. ^ Ferris, Duke (September 1998). "The House of the Dead Review (SAT)". Game Revolution. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
  10. ^ Fielder, Joe (1998-04-23). "The House of the Dead Review (SAT)". GameSpot. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
  11. ^ Williamson, Colin (December 1998). "House of the Dead". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on 2000-03-03. Retrieved 2014-03-26. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  12. ^ "PC Review: The House of the Dead". PC Zone. 1998.
  13. ^ a b "The House of the Dead for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
  14. ^ a b "The House of the Dead for Saturn". GameRankings. Retrieved 2014-02-16.
  15. ^ Baize, Anthony. "The House of the Dead (ARC) - Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on 2014-11-13. Retrieved 2016-09-28. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  16. ^ "Finals". Next Generation. No. 34. Imagine Media. October 1997. p. 183.
  17. ^ American Amusement Machine Ass'n v. Kendrick, 244 F.3d 572 (7th Cir. 2001).
  18. ^ a b Newman, Kim (2011). Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s. A&C Black. pp. 559–566. ISBN 9781408805039.
  19. ^ Weedon, Paul (17 July 2017). "George A. Romero (interview)". Paul Weedon. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  20. ^ Diver, Mike (17 July 2017). "Gaming's Greatest, Romero-Worthy Zombies". Vice. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  21. ^ Levin, Josh (2007-12-19). "How did movie zombies get so fast?". Retrieved 2013-11-05.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Tetsuya Kawauchi (October 29, 2011). "The House Of The Dead Music: Chapter 2". Sega Saturn.
  24. ^ ザ・ハウス・オブ・ザ・デッド2&3ストーリー Archived 2007-12-24 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

  • "The House of the Dead". EGM2. June 1997.

External links[edit]