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The Top 7… Playable ghosts

Whether they’ve advanced menacingly toward our camera lenses, hidden their faces when we look at them or just sort of hovered aimlessly, ghosts have been a semi-constant threat in videogames almost since the medium was invented. One of the great things about games, however, is that they’re a way to explore unusual viewpoints – and every once in a while, they give us a chance to see through the eyes of these undead phantoms, and find out what it’s like to flit insubstantially through an earthly plane that’s perpetually, almost comically afraid of us.

Only a handful of games have actually offered a chance to see things from the proverbial Other Side, but these are our favorites.

7. Ghost babies

Haunted the living in: The Sims 3

When a man and a woman love each other very much, they can go under the covers (or into a hot tub, tree house, tent, or sarcophagus) and WooHoo, and sometimes something magical can happen. In nine months (or a few days, whichever), they have a baby! And if the man or woman was actually an undead specter, the resulting child is, well… a ghost.

Yeah, a ghost. In The Sims 3, you can not only control ghosts as playable characters after Sims die, you can have a ghost bang another Sim (presumably through Whoopi Goldberg’s body) to give birth to ghost babies. You can also drink a ghost potion during pregnancy to turn the Sim with child into a Sim with ghost child.

Ghost-baby Sims actually age like normal Sims, going through adolescence, maturity, and all of the other stages of Sim life, and they eventually even die of natural causes. That’s the only way, though – they can’t be starved, drowned, burned, or killed in any other way. Ghost babies are just like normal babies, except they’re transparent, impossible to kill, and remarkably horrifying.

6. Margaret, Edwin and Brice

Haunted the living in: AMBER: Journeys Beyond

In this underrated point-and-click adventure game from 1996, the ability to play as a ghost isn’t portrayed as fun, cool or zany… just sad. And the three spirits you possess as a paranormal researcher aren’t cartoon sprites or superpowered monsters… they’re believable human characters who died in believably human (though still horrifying) ways.

Margaret, wife of a soldier fighting in World War II, committed suicide upon learning that her husband had been killed in battle. Edwin went sledding with his teddy bear, but ended up drowning in a frozen lake after the ice cracked. Saddest and scariest of all is Brice, a simple-minded gardener who grew obsessed with his employer’s daughter, then murdered her, her family and himself when she refused to accompany him on an imaginary trip to space.

AMBER: Journeys Beyond is about as realistic and grounded as the concept of “playable ghosts” can get. What’s most unique and macabrely fascinating about the game, however, is that these fates aren’t revealed at first. The ghosts don’t realize they’re dead or remember how they died – it’s up to the player to explore each life, put the pieces together and solve the mystery, thus helping the confused souls accept their fate and move on.

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Halloweek Top 7

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25 comments

  • Mike3one5 - November 1, 2011 9:44 p.m.

    No Auron?? Or Tidus for that matter?
  • EBAX1 - November 1, 2011 4:59 p.m.

    I thought of Paxton Fettel from F3AR
  • 510BrotherPanda - November 1, 2011 2:02 p.m.

    MISSILE WAS NOT KILLED BY A SHOTGUN. "Near-sighted Jeego" killed Lynne in the introduction with one. "One-Step-Ahead Tengo" killed Missile in Lynne's apartment with a SNIPER RIFLE. Also, was Princess Zelda from Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks excluded because it was just here still-living spirit, and not a dead ghost? I thought she got more "playability" time that Boo Mario...
  • GameManiac - November 1, 2011 10:33 a.m.

    Yeah, I expected Boo Mario. Glad I saw Sissel from Ghost Trick. I really need to play that game, since I'm hearing quite a lot of praise.
  • NanoElite666 - November 1, 2011 10:13 a.m.

    I remember once when I was a black phantom. Wound up catching the guy who's world I invaded literally with his pants down. Had absolutely no gear equipped when I ran across him, so needless to say the poor bastard didn't last very long at all.
  • Mechamorbo - November 1, 2011 8:58 a.m.

    YES!! I've been waiting for ages for Polterguy to be mentioned in any capacity on the site. I friggin LOVED this game as a kid. There were definitely flaws to the design, and the developers didn't really seem to hone in on what made the game FUN (my favourite objects to hop into were the ones you could control, like some of the kid's toys or the dishwasher, but there were only two or three of these per house), yet it was still loads of almost-sandbox-game type fun to be had. It's too bad they didn't ever make a followup to it, since there were a ton of great ideas in there that could have been fixed. Also, the backstory in the game's manual says that Polterguy blames the father for his death because he was knowingly selling cheap and faulty skateboard wheels. When they fell off his board, it caused him to careen into traffic and get hit by a truck. His kids are actually just little sh*ts and his wife is a bitch, so it's fine to scare them too. The end of the game reveals the dog to actually be a demon that you have to face in a final dungeon. It was the only part I could never beat, but I hear that once you defeat him, you someone win back your life... only to almost immediately die again for another stupid reason, I don't remember what. But Polterguy is all like, "F*ck it", and goes back to scaring the Sardinis
  • Darkshine34 - November 1, 2011 7:44 a.m.

    FFX. That is all.
  • Dmancapri - November 1, 2011 6:42 a.m.

    Wow. I really thought the Deku, Goron and Zora masks from Legend of Zelda Majora's mask would be on here. I mean you play a song and watch these guys die, then trap their spirits in masks!
  • Turboash - November 1, 2011 6:12 a.m.

    Ummmm... Lego Star Wars!?
  • macrodeath - November 1, 2011 5:45 a.m.

    Astral from Ghosthunter is the sexiest ghost in any videogame ever.
  • OtterPopAfterbirth - November 1, 2011 4:14 a.m.

    Does anyone else think that being able to drink a "ghost potion" in the sims to make a "ghost baby" sound suspiciously like an abortion?
  • Dmancapri - November 1, 2011 6:44 a.m.

    yes. Yes it does
  • Nap1400 - November 1, 2011 4:05 a.m.

    Hey, where's Spirit Tracks Zelda? She was awesome! But otherwise, I agree with this list.
  • GrandmasterB-Funk - November 1, 2011 2:54 a.m.

    as soon as i saw this, i was like, Ghost Trick better be at least mentioned, or i'll kill someone then as i started going, i was like, wait no, Ghost Trick better be first, or else i will kill someone luckily no one has to be killed! but yeah, ghost trick is amazing, i almost cried at the end it was so touching
  • CitizenWolfie - November 1, 2011 2:52 a.m.

    I know I pointed out Monkey Island in your classic Skeletons article but how about Guybrush Threepwood in Tales of Monkey Island?!? Although I guess he plays the same as when he's alive... I bet the Ghost Pirate LeChuck would be fun though.
  • codystovall - October 31, 2011 9:56 p.m.

    Wow so underused, developers should hop on it.
  • Jdub9064 - October 31, 2011 9:37 p.m.

    Completely forgot about Geist, never got around to playing that
  • shawksta - October 31, 2011 8:28 p.m.

    Awesome list, YAY Ghost Trick is aknowledged, Sissle was an awesome ghost. its hard, every great moment in Ghost Trick is eventually a spoiler, too many plot twists.
  • GhostbustTyler - October 31, 2011 7:55 p.m.

    I honestly think that Boo Mario should be lower and John Rami should at least be number 2 (haven't played Ghost Trick so I have no idea how awesome it is). Boo Mario conrolled clunky and wasn't as fun as it promised to be, not to mention the rarity of the power up. John Rami in Geist is pretty much everything you'd want to do as a ghost, scare people, and then possess and kill people. Now i admit that the plot and even some parts in the game are batsh*t crazy (like the possessing a motorcycle to help your friend get away)and the controls can be extremely frustrating at times, but it's still a great ghost game and provides more of a whole experience then Boo Mario ever did.

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