Despite Nintendo’s carefully cultivated family image, the company has produced its share of mature games over the years, from the darkly atmospheric Metroid series to the risqué Bayonetta 3. And while it’s rarely dabbled in outright horror, it came pretty close with Famicom Detective Club, a couple obscure detective games from the company’s early years that are perfectly suited for Halloween.
Originally released in the late 1980s for the Famicom Disk System, a disk drive peripheral for the company’s first home console that was never released outside of Japan, the Famicom Detective Club series spanned two games: The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind, both of which have been lavishly remastered for the Nintendo Switch. (A third installment in the series was also released for the short-lived Satellaview accessory on the Super Famicom, but it remains unlocalized.)
Written by, who would become a household name among gaming fans for his work on the aforementioned Metroid series, the Famicom Detective Club duology stands as an early example of the visual novel genre: a type of interactive story driven primarily by the choices you make. Delving into a much darker theme than other Nintendo games, both Famicom Detective Club titles put you in the shoes of a budding detective tasked with solving a series of mysterious murders.
While each game weaves a compelling story full of suspense and intrigue, The Girl Who Stands Behind is particularly exciting thanks to its faster pace and haunting, supernatural atmosphere. After the body of a high school girl is found in a river, you head to the school to investigate her murder, talking to the faculty and other students to gather clues that could potentially solve the case.
As it happens, you quickly learn that the murdered student herself was investigating the unsolved disappearance of a girl named Shinobu Asakawa, a former student at the school who disappeared 15 years ago. Without spoiling too much of the plot, both incidents are linked to the legend of “the girl standing behind,” an urban myth about a bloodied girl who appears behind students.
Despite being written more than 30 years ago, The Girl Who Stands Behind is a fascinating – and often chilling – adventure brought to life by the upgraded presentation of the Switch version. Both it and The Missing Heir have been beautifully remastered for Nintendo’s current system, with exquisite visuals and full (Japanese) voice acting that adds an even greater sense of immersion.
However, not every aspect of gaming has aged gracefully. Compared to modern visual novels, the Famicom Detective Club titles can seem stiff and sometimes dull; there are times when you’ll be at a loss as to how to proceed and end up resorting to selecting every command menu option until one inevitably triggers the next conversation.
However, these flaws are easy enough to overlook in light of the games many consistent strengths. The Famicom Detective Club games are more than trivia from Nintendo’s past; they are truly absorbing visual novels that offer plenty of haunting thrills, making them the perfect way to spend Halloween night.