Released 1993 / Genesis
Though they have their fans, the third films in long-running classic horror franchises are not typically the most beloved. From the Michael Myers-less Halloween: Season of the Witch to the goofy Sleepaway Camp: Teenage Wasteland, most slasher franchises seem to run out of ideas by the third release; becoming either far removed from or parodies of the originals. Luckily, this is not the case with Splatterhouse 3, which is easily the best game in the series and arguably the best horror title on Genesis.
The improvements over the previous releases in the series are both numerous and immediately apparent. For one, Rick is not only more agile due to more responsive controls, but also has a greater range of movement, as the action is no longer strictly confined to a single 2D plane of movement. This change makes the game feel closer to brawlers like Streets of Rage rather than Altered Beast (which the first two games feel closer to).
Not only does Rick have more freedom of movement on the screen, but in the game world as well. Splatterhouse 3 is the first nonlinear entry in the series- within each stage you are constantly forced to choose from multiple exits. Thankfully, the game includes a map to keep you on the path towards your goal. And you will be consulting that map often to find the most efficient route, as you are under a strict time limit. Running out of time doesn’t result in a game over, but does affect the ending and the continued existence of Rick’s wife and child.
While the time limit may not end your game, the game’s vicious ghouls will. Enemies in Splatterhouse 3 are incredibly powerful, many of which can kill you in only a few hits. Rick has a new fillable power meter that gives him a temporary strength boost, but it in no way makes the game a breeze- you need to approach each room of enemies carefully and learn their patterns if you want to make it out of the mansion alive.
Despite its demanding difficulty, Splatterhouse 3 is an inviting game that compels you to master it with the way it delightfully revels in the macabre. There are many creative new uses of gore in this one, my favorite being a monster that after taking a set amount of damage, loses the top part of its head, leaving just a bottom row of teeth and a tongue flapping about. The intricately designed creatures are repugnant, and nearly every room has some sort of gruesome touch to it, whether it be a small bloodstain on a couch or piles of dismembered torsos.
Not only does Splatterhouse 3 buck the “weak third entry” trend that exists in the slasher films that inspired it, but it is actually the best game in the series- and possibly the best horror game released on the Genesis.