Hi, I’m Matt, and I collect tapes from old VCR board games.
Just the tapes, I mean. I can’t honestly claim that they’re super fun to watch without the game components, but as a kid, I did it all the time.
It started with the Clue VCR Mystery Game. My parents received it as a Christmas gift in 1985, or maybe it was 1986? Whatever the case, they never played it. The box sat in a drawer for years, collecting dust next to a bunch of mysterious wires that everyone was too afraid to toss.
I eventually adopted it, but it was tough to play VCR board games by yourself. Instead, I just watched the included tape like it was an actual movie. In a way, it was, and in many ways it wasn’t. In time, that tape became something I threw on whenever I wanted sights and sounds without needing to pay much attention to them.
That’s my pitch for this article, actually. Out of context, the tapes that came with VCR board games don’t make a whole lot of sense, but as background noise, they’re phenomenal!
Below are complete rips of the videos that came with three classic VCR board games. Since it’s the Halloween season, all of them have something to do with horror. (Those were the best ones, anyway.)
I’m not suggesting that you plop down on the couch with a bowl of popcorn for any of these, but they’re perfect for those occasions when you’re, say, reorganizing the junk on your shelves, or doodling monsters with crayons, or redoing your eBay watch list as a tacit admission that you’ve never really gonna buy a MOC Stinkor from 1985, even if it’s the best way to guarantee fresh patchouli.
Clue VCR Mystery Game
Released in 1985
You’ve seen the movie with Tim Curry, I’m sure. Imagine that it wasn’t based on a board game, but instead a cheeky British TV series. And then imagine that someone took several episodes of that British TV series and cut ‘em into a VCR board game. That’s what this tape feels like.
It’s a big enough production, with a spooky mansion and an enormous cast. The breaks for gameplay are mercifully short, so you actually can watch this like a real movie, so long as you’re not terribly concerned about cohesive plots or proper endings. (On that note, it even has an IMDB listing!)
As a mood-setter, it’s wonderful. The perfect thing to throw on when you’re cutting coupons on a stormy night.
Doorways to Horror
Released in 1986
If you can stomach the frequent breaks, this is a treasure. Doorways to Horror used clips from actual movies as in-game monsters, so the tape is just a giant horror montage, featuring everything from vampires to witches to werewolves.
The breaks would be more frustrating if the graphics weren’t so delightfully cheesy! There are some impressively weird clip choices in the mix, too, including one from an old Popeye cartoon!
Serious horror fans could make a whole new game out of this tape by trying to identify all of the movies and shorts shown in the clips. (Good luck with that. I certainly wasn’t up to the challenge.)
PS: I’m totally swiping the Doorways to Horror theme — only heard cleanly at the very end — for the Halloween Jukebox.
Nightmare Video Board Game
Released in 1991
With actual-actor Wenanty Nosul as THE GATEKEEPER, even people who’ve never played Nightmare — like me — remember it well. Its television commercial used to air constantly, with The Gatekeeper rattling off some of his famous lines. “ANSWER ME!” “ROLL THE DIE!”
The tape has frequent and long breaks for gameplay, so I admit that it isn’t much fun to watch straight through. I considered cutting it down to just the parts with The Gatekeeper, but that felt like a cheat. (It’s not like normal people could do that back in the ‘90s!)
The Gatekeeper becomes more and more decrepit as the tape progresses, but sadly only spends the final minute or so wearing those badass Palpatine contacts. Definitely putting his final form on my must-do list of Halloween costumes.
There’s a weird phenomenon with this tape. In a group setting, I imagine it’d be hilarious, with everyone racing to make their best Gatekeeper impressions. Watching it alone, though, I’m struck by how genuinely creepy it is. It’s kind of a Candyman situation, where you feel like if you stare at that guy too deeply, he’ll pop out of the TV and vomit bugs on you.
Enjoy the vids! I understand that others have already uploaded them to YouTube, but I doubt they color-corrected the footage and rebalanced the audio. My kink is going the extra mile when it counts the least.