10 Great Spooky Board Games From the Past

There's got to be some spooky games in there somewhere...
There's got to be some spooky games in there somewhere...

Board games have been around a long time, and despite being a now older form of entertainment, there are lots of great ones that still manage to be fun. Sure, the old standbys such as "Monopoly" and "Risk" are a lot of fun, but I always liked the games with a spooky theme to them, and there have been quite a few released over the years. These are but a few I have enjoyed.

10. "Jaws" (1975)

Released around the same time the '70s blockbuster was, "Jaws" is not really a "board game," strictly speaking, but it's aimed at the same crowd who play them. The game consists of a fairly large plastic shark with an open mouth full of junk, which players attempt to fish out with hooks. One wrong move and the jaw snaps shut. A few years later, an "Alligator" version was released in conjunction with the fun "Jaws" copycat film Alligator. While "Jaws" is not the most challenging game ever made, that shark is cool-looking.

9. Ka-Bala (1967)

Billed as "The mysterious game that foretells the future," this weird oddity came out in the late '60s, and it shows. Riding the line between "fortune-telling device" and "game," Ka-Bala consisted of a glow-in-the-dark sculpted board with a scary-looking "Eye of Zohar" that would tell the player's future. It's a pretty weird system, and more akin to a Ouija board than to a typical game. Seeing as how Ka-Bala combined strange elements of Tarot cards, talking boards, astrology and even kabbalistic mysticism, this is also one that probably upset quite a few religious relatives and friends way back when.

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8. Fireball Island (1986)

Fireball Island may be the most fun game on this list, and unfortunately it hasn't been manufactured for a long time, and is a collectible -- Copies on eBay often sell for hundreds of dollars. The board is a large 3D representation of an island with a volcano in the center, and players race around the board, trying to get a jewel and then make it to a waiting boat, while being pursued by others who wish to steal the ruby for themselves. There's quite a bit of strategy, and games can last awhile. On top of everything else, there's an evil-looking idol on the volcano that will shoot fireballs (red marbles) that can knock a player out temporarily. While not exactly "spooky," it's a lot of fun, and that Volcano idol guy is pretty scary. 

7. Seance (1972)

This elaborate Milton Bradley board game re-creates a parlor environment for a "seance" in which players try to increase their chunk of a recently deceased dead uncle's will. The coolest feature of "Seance" is the table, which conceals a hidden record player, allowing Uncle Everett's ghostly voice to speak from beyond the grave. It's all a lot of fun.

6. Voice of The Mummy (1971)

A precursor to the same recording technology used in "Seance," "Voice of the Mummy" had an elaborate 3D board portraying an ornate mummy sarcophagus, which players moved around. They would pull a lever, which triggered a randomly selected and creepy recorded instruction from the mummy's tomb. The player's progress could be either helped along or hindered depending on what the voice said. "Voice of the Mummy" is highly collectible, and has its own online fan pages.

5. Dawn of The Dead (1978)

One of the very few merchandising tie-ins with George Romero's zombie masterpiece, this war game released by SPI is well designed and a lot of fun, re-creating the mall environment of the film, and allowing players what might be the first opportunity to play a zombie-based strategy game. Copies generally sell on eBay for between one and two hundred dollars, and it's well worth picking up for any major fan of the film or person who likes old-school strategy games.

4. Barnabas Collins Dark Shadows Game (1969)

There were two "Dark Shadows" games released to tap into the popularity of the horror soap opera television series -- 1968's version was a cool but typical "move around the board"-style game, but the Barnabas Collins version the following year was a lot more interesting. First. It came with plastic fangs, so I don't know...One player could terrorize the others?

But the real objective is for the player to use the game's spinner to earn various plastic bones and hopefully to build a complete skeleton to hang from a scaffold before anyone else. So the game comes with those fangs, a plastic coffin and a whole bunch of bones. Hard to beat that combo for a fun, spooky game. 

3. Haunted House (1962)

This huge game created by Ideal in the early '60s is fairly famous in vintage toy circles, and pricy to buy, but it looks amazing as the "board" is an enormous 3D cutaway view of a haunted house that players race through to snag a jewel before anyone else. Along the way, they will encounter a variety of spooky beasties, but since this game was marketed at children, none of them are of the lethal variety. There are two versions of the game -- one with a typical cardboard spinner that advances players around the board, and a much cooler earlier version that had a plastic owl that hooted and spun numbers when a lever was pulled. This game is really more of a display piece, but it's an impressive one and still worth playing.

2. Mostly Ghostly (1975)

This game has an objective similar to that of the Barnabas Collins game, but is not quite as elaborate. It's made to be played in the dark, and players take turns at a glow-in-the-dark spinner to collect bones. The first one with a complete skeleton wins. While games are fairly short and the goal is too easy to make this a truly great entry, the overall design and box art make "Mostly Ghostly" a worthwhile score for collectors of spooky games.

1. Green Ghost (1965) Made by Transogram, the same company responsible for Ka-Bala a few years later, the "Green Ghost" game featured a similar glow-in-the-dark design, and was the first board game designed to be played in the dark. Gameplay involves moving around the large 3D board and collecting hidden "ghost kids" from various trapdoors, which also contain creepy creatures such as snakes and bats. One of the kids will be revealed to be the Green Ghost's child at the end of the game, and the player with that kid wins. This game is awesome-looking and somewhat campy in design -- popular enough to have been reissued in a limited run a few years ago.

There are board games covering almost every sort of theme, and some of them got pretty weird over the years. Horror games have always been popular, but not as common as other varieties, and these are but a few. They are a lot of fun, though, and well worth playing if a person comes across them.

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