A Shocking Conversion: ‘Hellraiser’ Morphs into an Unforgettable Christian Gaming Experience on the NES

A Shocking Conversion: ‘Hellraiser’ Morphs into an Unforgettable Christian Gaming Experience on the NES
Randy Meeks

Randy Meeks

The history of video games is full of amazing little moments, a priori absurd details that seem innocuous but that have shaped history to this day. For example, that time the NES was about to have, in 1990, a game based on ‘Hellraiser’… And how, because of it, the developer ended up becoming a company that turned to Christian merchandising.

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From hell to heaven

Hellraiser’ was released in 1987 and revolutionized horror cinema thanks to the Cenobites, characters incapable of distinguishing between pain and pleasure, from which Pinhead emerged, an icon on a par with Freddy Krueger, Chucky and Jason Voorhees. The movie was such a cult hit that it spawned nine sequels, a remake, novels, comics and a video game. Well, sort of.

In 1990, a newborn studio called Color Dreams, specialized in releasing games not licensed by Nintendo on cartridges that squeezed the console to the maximum (with a Z80 processor and various changes that sounded spectacular in their head) bought the license of the movie for between 35,000 and 50,000 dollars, with the idea of making a little more or less a rehash of ‘Wolfenstein 3D’ that emulated what the 16-bit consoles were capable of.

In the game we would embody one of the victims of the cenobites trapped in the puzzle-box and trying to get out and solve the puzzles while the enemies tried to prevent it. The problem is that what seemed to be an easy task became more and more complicated and the budget was increasing, to which another problem was added: the owners of the stores. In 1990, Nintendo, always faithful to its principles that no one should make money apart from them, gave a warning to the stores that sold unlicensed products: if they continued to do so, they could forget about having any more titles from the Japanese company.

‘Hellraiser’ was even rumored for the Sega Genesis and Atari Lynx (“Solve the puzzle of pure hell. Over a million worlds. The biggest game for Nintendo. Over a hundred demons to escape from,” said the advertising) and was advertised in different magazines, but ended up being cancelled. Or, well, rather… modified.

Hellraiser’ became ‘Super 3D Noah’s Ark’, a rip-off of Christian ‘Wolfenstein’ for the Super Nintendo in which Noah had to lead the animals to the ark by shooting tranquilizer darts at them. It’s a change from the Nazis and submachine guns, really. The game thus avoided distribution problems; because instead of going to specialized stores they went straight to Christian bookstores. By then, Color Dreams had already morphed into two companies: Bunch Games, for simple games, and Wisdom Tree, for Christians. This is the only one that survives today.

It must be said that the last game they released was in 2007 and its name alone is already fabulous: ‘Jesus in Space’. Please, a crossover with ‘Hellraiser’ for when?

Randy Meeks

Randy Meeks

Editor specializing in pop culture who writes for websites, magazines, books, social networks, scripts, notebooks and napkins if there are no other places to write for you.

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