Despite the carefully nurtured image of the Nintendo family, the company has released its share of adult games over the years, from the darkly atmospheric Metroid series to the risque Bayonetta 3. And while it rarely indulged in overt horror, it came close with Famicom Detective Club. , a pair of obscure detective games from the company’s early years that are perfect for Halloween.
Originally released in the late 80s for the Famicom Disk System, the company’s first home console peripheral that was never released outside of Japan, the Famicom Detective Club series spans two games: The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind, both of which were generously remastered for the Nintendo Switch. (A third installment in the series was also released for the Super Famicom’s short-lived Satellaview accessory, but it remains unlocalized.)
The author Yoshio Sakamoto, who became a household name among gaming fans for his work on the aforementioned Metroid series, the Famicom Detective Club duology is an early example of the visual novel genre: a type of interactive story based primarily on the choices you make. Tackling much darker themes than other Nintendo games, both Famicom Detective Club games put you in the shoes of a rookie detective tasked with unraveling a series of mysterious murders.
While each game creates an exciting story full of tension and intrigue, The Girl Who Stands Behind is particularly exciting due to its faster pace and immersive supernatural atmosphere. After the body of a high school student is found in a river, you travel to the school to investigate her murder, talking to teachers and other students to gather clues that could potentially solve the case.
As it happens, you soon learn that the murdered student was herself investigating the unsolved disappearance of a girl named Shinobu Asakawa, a former student at the school who went missing 15 years ago. Without spoiling more of the plot, both incidents are also linked to the legend of “the girl standing behind,” an urban myth about a blood-soaked girl who appears from behind students.
Although The Girl Behind was written more than 30 years ago, it’s a thrilling — and often terrifying — adventure brought to life by the upgraded Switch version. Both it and The Missing Heir have been beautifully remastered for Nintendo’s current system, with great visuals and full (Japanese) voice acting, adding even more immersion.
However, not all aspects of the games have aged gracefully. Compared to modern visual novels, the Famicom Detective Club titles can seem stiff and sometimes obtuse; there are times when you don’t know how to proceed and end up resorting to selecting every option from the command menu until one of them inevitably triggers the next conversation.
These flaws, however, are easy enough to overlook in light of the game’s many enduring strengths. The Famicom Detective Club games are more than just curiosities from Nintendo’s past; they are truly captivating visual novels that offer plenty of exciting thrills, making them the perfect way to spend Halloween night.