The Evil Dead Games – What’s Dead Can Never Die

The Evil Dead Games - What's Dead Can Never Die

 In the pantheon of horror franchises, few come close to the incredible legacy of Evil Dead. Whether we’re talking about the films or the Evil Dead games, they’ve been a part of our lives for over three decades. 

The original films from Sam Raimi catapulted him and star Bruce Campbell into the realm of household names. The film series made a surprising comeback in 2013 when Fede Alvarez made an incredibly brutal reimagining of the series. Finally, there was a short-lived but excellent tv series called Ash vs. Evil Dead. As I write this, I am practically salivating at the promise of a new entry in the series: Evil Dead Rise. It arrives in theaters in a few months.

For those unfamiliar, the film series follows legendary Deadite slayer and buffoon Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) as he battles against hordes of the undead, evil spirits, and his possessed hand after accidentally releasing the evils from the Necronomicon. It all begins with a cabin in the woods and the recordings of the missing Professor Knowby. The original trilogy ends in two ways: with Ash returning to his time or ending up trapped in an apocalyptic future.

Evil Dead: The Game 2022

Evil Dead The Game 2022
Photo Credit: Renaissance Pictures

Back in the realm of video games, the asymmetrical multiplayer game came crashing through the undergrowth in 2022, pitting legendary but somehow useless hero As Williams against the unending horror of the Deadites once more. It features a ton of cosmetics and costumes that reference the entire franchise and multiple characters from the series. As for gameplay, you can join a team of heroes or Deadites and work together to wipe out the other side.

It follows the massive trend of asymmetrical multiplayer games based on horror film franchises. Games like Dead by Daylight, Friday the 13th, and the upcoming Killer Klowns from Outer Space all harken back to the thrill of the 80s and 90s horror films and feature the same mechanics. I’m personally not a huge fan of these kinds of games. I don’t hate them; I’m just more likely to gravitate to a story based/ludicrous collectible challenge kind of game. Luckily, there have been Evil Dead games before, but no one seems to remember them.

I will only talk about the console games that materialized in the early 2000s because those are the only ones I have experience with. Still, there have been several random Evil Dead games going back as far as 1984 with the Commodore 64 version of the film. There have also been multiple mobile games and a VR “experience” released for the Oculus in 2018. The games I want to talk about, and the ones that consumed my life in my late teens and early university years, are those released for PlayStation and Xbox.

Hail to the King

Hail to the King
Photo Credit: THQ

In 2000 Evil Dead: Hail to The King was released for the PlayStation One. Oh, how I miss the pointy polygons of the PS1. I assume everyone else does, considering the popularity of haunted PS1-style horror games floating around on and Steam. Hail to The King is set about a decade after the events of the third film Army of Darkness. That film has two endings, one of which sees the heroic Ash return to his time and resume his life at S-Mart in the town of Dearborn. Unfortunately, the other ending is less happy. This game follows on from the first ending.

Understandably, Ash, who Bruce Campbell voices because anyone else would be heresy, is not doing great after facing down armies of the undead, his evil Demon twin, and seeing just about everyone he knows die. Ash’s girlfriend Jenny decides the best way to help him is to take him back to the nightmare cabin in the woods to confront his fears. Ash agrees because he is a colossal idiot. Stop going back to this cabin! Once they are there, Ash’s evil and mischievous severed hand plays the original tape recording that started it all. Yet again, Ash is about to be in for a bad time.

The game itself plays similarly to Resident Evil, with tanky controls, collecting things, and brute forcing through all manner of Deadites and silly reanimated skeletons. There are semi-fixed camera angles to deal with and the inescapable nightmare of just getting stuck on everything because of the joys of tank controls. Unfortunately, this one was clunky, with difficult combat and less-than-smooth gameplay. It also lacked some of the spark and personality that makes Evil Dead such an enduring franchise. 

Will other Evil Dead games fare better?

Fistful of Boomstick

Fistful of Boomstick
Photo Credit: THQ

The next game was Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick, which came out for PS2 and Xbox in 2003. This game is decidedly sillier than the first and, thus, much more in line with Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. As Hail from The King did with Army of Darkness, Fistful of Boomstick happens a few years after the events of the 2000 PS1 game. Campbell returns to the role of Ash, who recounts his recent adventures to a random man we don’t know. The game then has you playing as Ash in flashbacks as he tells this man his story. It also features a ridiculous time-travel plot.

A public access tv show is featuring the assistant to professor Knowby as a guest to discuss the Necronomicon and why it’s all nonsense. Then the host plays the original tape recording of Knowlby reading from the Necronomicon for japes. I think we can all guess what happens then. Interesting side note: in the second season of the recent Creepshow anthology tv series, one story was called Public Television of the Dead. This story was directed by Greg Nicotero, the man behind the special makeup effects from Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. It also featured Ted Raimi, the franchise’s veteran actor, Sam Raimi‘s brother, and legend. Coincidence? Possibly not. It was a super fun homage, though, and I recommend it.

Back to the game, Ash hops back and forth in time to different eras of Dearborn’s history, searching for spells, pages, and tools to help him defeat the Deadites in the future. It’s pure fun. Is it necessarily an incredible game? No, but it retained the personality of the series and the charm of Bruce Campbell and was such an easy and enjoyable game to play. It’s a good game and, therefore, one of the better Evil Dead games. That’s more than enough.

Evil Dead: Regeneration

Evil Dead Regeneration
Photo Credit: THQ

The third console game, Evil Dead: Regeneration, is true to its title in that it doesn’t follow on from the previous two games. In this story, Ash is in a mental institution. The events of Army of Darkness have been stricken from history. Don’t fear; Bruce Campbell still voices him. This story carries on from Evil Dead 2. Of course, the doctor treating Ash has ulterior motives and wants to unleash the Deadites. Dr. Reinhard succeeds, so it’s time once again for Ash to take up his boomstick and blow some Deadites away. This time, he is accompanied by Sam, a half-dead man who is one of Reinhard’s experiments. Sam possesses the abilities of the Deadites but is unaffected by their evil. Lucky! Sam is also voiced by Ted Raimi, making him extra cool.

Sam’s abilities are integral to the gameplay. He can recover from any death and is often used as some kind of sacrifice to get through dangerous areas. Sam can also be dropkicked over obstacles and onto enemies due to his small stature. He seems fine with this. Ash also can turn into Evil Ash, triggered by filling his rage meter and increasing his strength. It follows the same basic premise as the earlier games. Stop the maniac, punch Deadites, and wisecrack.

Again, it’s not a masterpiece. Still, it’s escapism back into the world of Evil Dead when there was no other alternative.

What Does It All Mean?

What does it all mean?
Photo Credit: Saber Interactive

What’s the point of this long, rambling nostalgia quake of an article? Well, it’s two-fold. On one side, I wanted to remind people about the silly Evil Dead games before the recent asymmetrical multiplayer one. Secondly, to show that this current trend of turning horror franchises into this style of game isn’t the only option. Creating games set in the world of the franchise while continuing the story can be solo offline experiences.

It’s great that these franchises are being revived/kept alive. However, the need for them all to fall into line and be one thing is bizarre and unnecessary. There’s no need to reduce all of these different films, protagonists, and antagonists to operating on the same playing field with the same mechanics. It is a disservice to the originality of the source material. You can’t chuck in a load of cosmetic options and references to the films. It just doesn’t cut it.

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Written by Emma Oakman

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