Halloween RetroVision – Freddy Krueger’s Nightmare on Elm Street

Not only is A Nightmare on Elm Street one of the all time classic horror franchises, but Freddy Krueger is equally one of the most iconic horror villains. It’s a series that has fittingly long haunted the dreams of many a child since its debut in 1984, and one that justifiably continues to be popular to this day. As such, it had to be perfect for a video game tie-in right?

Well despite having all the ingredients for a great game, it wasn’t until some 6 years later that we finally saw A Nightmare on Elm Street grace the NES, and boy did they nail fear. Sadly though, this is because everyone was way afraid of how bad it was, rather than how scary it was. Ultimately, A Nightmare on Elm Street was set to join the long line of butchered horror film to game tie-ins, alongside the likes of Friday The 13th, Jaws, and Alien 3, to name but a few.

Opening screen from A Nightmare on Elm Street
The game gets off to a very poor start here. I mean why does Freddy have knives coming out of his fingers?

So why was it so bad? Well there’s numerous reasons to be honest. A terrible non-sensical plot which has no relation to the film franchise, confusing gameplay, poor graphics, and even mistakes in the portrayal of Freddy Krueger himself all lead one horrific experience. In fact, it had all the hallmarks of an LJN original. Yes that’s right, LJN grabbed the license for this one, just as they did so many other great movies from the 80s.

What’s more, whilst this was an unforgivable tragedy back on release, you may find it even harder to stomach knowing that it could have been an awful lot different. You see, before A Nightmare on Elm Street became the mess it’s sadly remembered as, the original concept from LJN and the developer Rare (yes that Rare), was quite a bit different. Just take a look:

You ARE Freddy Krueger. A horde of obnoxious teenagers is trying to get rid of you by finding your scattered bones and burying them. The only way to stop them is to kill them. You can travel along Elm Street through the electrical and plumbing lines or step into a mirror and step in another room.

The kids have weapons to battle you with and some of them even possess powerful “Dream Alter Egos” …but if you can strike before they wake, they’ll trouble you no more. So sharpen up your finger razors and get ready to slash, ’cause Freddy’s here!

Promotional material for the original concept.
Promotional material for the original concept.

Soak it in for a minute. We could have actually been Freddy Krueger instead of some non descript kids running round collecting hundreds upon hundreds of bones. That’s not all though, as to prove just how close we were to a completely alternate take on Freddy Krueger for the NES, this originally concept was even being promoted in Nintendo Power magazine, and through advertisements.

So why the change then? Well it’s assumed that the change was made to avoid any unwanted controversy. You see, in the early 80s the Atari 2600 tie in for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was released, in turn becoming one of the very first true horror titles ever released, and certainly the most high profile.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Atari Gameplay
By today’s standards The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on Atari looks incredibly tame, even borderline comical. However, back in the early 80s it was extremely controversial.

This wasn’t the only controversial aspect of the game though, as the game not only saw players put in the role of Leatherface, but even gave them the goal of murdering trespassers. At the time, this really didn’t go down well at all with parents, or the American public. This in turn caused many retailers to refuse to stock the game, and ultimately left The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to a doomed fate.

All in all it seems that even six years later, this fear of putting the player in the role of the villain and tasking them with doing unspeakable things hadn’t been forgotten. As such, whilst evidently originally supporting the idea, it seems either LJN or Rare weren’t happy to continue along these lines, and made a quick change in direction. Although this certainly doesn’t help explain why the game we were left with was so bad.

Gameplay from A Nightmare on Elm Street for NES
Be prepared to punch a lot of snakes in your quest to burn Freddy’s many many bones.

In many ways though, given how A Nightmare on Elm Street did turn out, maybe it’s best we never experienced the original vision. I mean it’s really not even worth thinking about a game where players might have had to walk around as Freddy Krueger punching snakes and ghosts is it? That might have been a nightmare too great to ever forget.

Nevertheless, gamers were finally able to play as Freddy Krueger himself some 19 years later, thanks thanks to retro favourites NetherRealm. This ironically came in the form of a special guest appearance in the ultra controversial Mortal Kombat series. A guest appearance which allowed players to do things as Freddy Krueger far more dark than the films portray, let alone the NES title we never got.

freddy-krueger-vs-scorpion
Thanks to NetherRealm, the dream clash of Scorpion vs Freddy Krueger was now a reality.

So there you go. Despite all the pain and anguish of the 1990 NES title, there’s a happy ending to this tale. Well, that is if you count finally being able to play as psychopathic dream invading serial killer a happy ending.

Simon Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that I've written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DudeXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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