For the 2003 film adaptation by Uwe Boll, see House of the Dead (film).
"It feeds on your fear. Don't go into the house... Alone!"

The House of the Dead (ザ・ハウス・オブ・ザ・デッド Za Hausu obu za Deddo?) is a horror-themed rail shooting game developed by SEGA AM1 (now WOW Entertainment) and released by SEGA to arcades in 1996.

Set during the fictional events of December 18th, 1998, The House of the Dead follows AMS agents Thomas Rogan and "G", who investigate the mansion of genetic engineer Dr. Roy Curien. In a fit of insanity, Curien has produced hostile creatures which threaten mankind.

After sister group AM2 released Virtua Cop in 1994, AM1 sought making a horror game utilizing the same Sega Model 2 arcade hardware.[1] Development began in December 1995, spanning one year and three months.[1] AM1 envisioned a two-player game that had replay value and targeted adults in their 20s and 30s.[1]

Despite controversy for its violence, The House of the Dead was well-recieved and has become a franchise. Although series director Takashi Oda does not consider the enemies zombies,[2] the game nonetheless has been credited for popularizing zombies in the media.[3]

The game was later re-adapted for mobile devices called The House of the Dead: Nightmare. While the basic premise and the characters involved stayed the same, the game deviated from the original by using an aerial perspective rather than first-person.

The arcade version was ported to the SEGA Saturn and Microsoft Windows. A sequel, The House of the Dead 2, was released in 1998.

In 2019, Polish-based video game developer Forever Entertainment confirmed that they had signed an agreement regarding remakes of The House of the Dead and The House of the Dead 2, but could not provide further details.[4]


In his pursuit of controlling life and death, DBR Corporation research director Dr. Roy Curien descends into insanity. On December 18th, 1998, he unleashes biologically-engineered creatures upon his staff at the Curien Mansion in Europe.

After receiving a distressed phone call from his fiancée, DBR researcher Sophie Richards, AMS agent Thomas Rogan and his partner "G" arrive at the creature-infested mansion. Rogan and "G" reunite with Sophie, who is then kidnapped by the bat-human hybrid Hangedman. A mortally wounded scientist gives the agents a field journal notebook containing stronger enemies (bosses) and their weakpoints. The agents fight through undead enemies and find Sophie inside the mansion, but the armored behemoth Chariot seemingly kills her.


The Magician, upon awakening, vows to "destroy everything".

Rogan and "G" kill Hangedman in a rooftop fight. They find Curien, who escapes. After defeating the spider-like Hermit and a revived Chariot and Hangedman, the agents confront Curien in an underground DBR research center located in a cavern system underneath the estate.

Curien awakes the Magician, an armored creature with mastery of fire. However, the Magician refuses to recognize Curien as his master and kills him. Rogan and "G" defeat the creature, who, before exploding, warns that the ordeal is not over. As they leave the mansion, the agents bid Sophie and Curien farewell.


Thomas Rogan
Sophie Richards
Dr. Roy Curien


After the credits, the camera pans back to the mansion; depending on the player's performance, two extra scenes may play out:

  • Good ending: The mansion doors open, revealing Sophie to be alive. She runs at the camera and exclaims "Thank you!" Sophie's survival is canon, as she marries Rogan and gives birth to their daughter Lisa.[2]
  • Bad ending: The mansion doors open, revealing Sophie to be one of the undead.


Players use a light gun (or mouse, in the PC version) to aim and shoot at approaching enemies. Both characters' pistols hold 6 rounds in a magazine; players reload by shooting outside the screen. Levels, or chapters, consist of fighting creatures, rescuing DBR researchers, and shooting destructible objects for bonus items. Each chapter ends with a boss battle.

The players' lives are represented by torches next to each magazine; one torch is removed with every enemy attack and hostage shot. Losing all lives kills the player and triggers a "Continue?" screen, followed by a game over if one elects not to continue. Bonus lives are earned by rescuing researchers and collecting first-aid kits hidden in the environment. Other items include coins and hopping golden frogs, which award points.

The first three chapters have branching paths, wherin the player's action (or inaction) determines the route taken; all routes differ in set pieces, enemies, and difficulty. For instance, in the opening chapter, a researcher is about to be thrown from the bridge to his death. Rescuing him takes players through the Curien Mansion's front door; failure redirects them to the sewers. If the player rescues all hostages, a secret room full of lives and bonuses is revealed toward the end of the game.




Console ports

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A "deluxe" House of the Dead arcade cabinet.

Initially released to arcades, The House of the Dead was ported to the PC and Sega Saturn with downgraded graphics.


In late September 2019, Polish website reported that Forever Entertainment, the developer responsible for remaking the first two games in Sega's Panzer Dragoon series, will remake the original House of the Dead, as well as The House of the Dead 2.[5] Forever Entertainment confirmed via Twitter on October 3, 2019 that they had signed an agreement to produce said remakes. No further details were provided.[4]


The arcade version of The House of the Dead was generally well received. However, the PC and Saturn releases were both met with mixed reviews. The game received a percentage score of 70.54% by GameRankings. The arcade version received 4.5 out of 5 stars, while both the Saturn and Windows port were rated 4 stars by Allgame.

The Sega Saturn port was released in the final days of the console's lifespan. Despite its high market value, it is generally considered a poor port due to its lower framerate and graphical resolution compared to the arcade version.


  • The first House of the Dead can be compared with the first Resident Evil in many ways:
    • Both involve various undead creatures, although in RE, their zombies were based on the Romero type of zombie.
    • Both games were developed in 1996.
    • Both games take place in the year 1998, however Resident Evil takes place in July while House of the Dead takes place in December.
    • Both games are set in a monster-infested mansion, with a secret laboratory underneath.
    • The underground laboratory houses the antagonist's "masterpiece", which upon release immediately kills their creators and are fought outside the mansion as the final boss. They even die in a similar manner as well, with both bosses being killed in an explosion.
    • The antagonists of both games return in future installments of their series, in which they are fought as resurrected mutant versions of themselves (Curien returning in HOTD III as the Wheel of Fate and Wesker returning in RE 5 and being mutated by the Uroboros virus).
    • The respective sequels of both games take place in a city.
    • The only difference is that the Curien Mansion does not explode in the ending while the Spencer Mansion explodes in a fiery inferno in Resident Evil.
  • Although the game takes place in an unknown country in Europe, it is implied that the setting is in either England or Scotland in the United Kingdom, due to the agents' car being a right-hand drive type (driver on the right), which is a characteristic of British cars.
  • Though the game's intro shows the date December 18th, 1998, the game actually takes place on December 20th. The game's Sega Saturn manual revealed that December 18th was when Curien unleashed his undead experiments and Rogan received Sophie's message.
  • The Sega Saturn port loses many graphical details due to the console's low graphic resolution, causing such details as the Hangedman's armor to be lost.
  • According to an interview from "The Website of the Dead" with series creator Takashi Oda, it was revealed from a Japanese game guide that the first House of the Dead was originally pitched as a ghost-hunting game. In that original draft, Sophie Richards would also appear as a villain.
    • To quote Takashi Oda- "In the initial game design document, the game’s environment was pretty close to what it is now. There were ideas to try a world where you face ghosts, but a game where you fight against phenomena that you can’t see was never an option. There was an idea to make Sophie a boss in the sequel, but that plot was deleted early in the planning phase."
  • In the same interview, Takashi Oda cited the film Se7en as being the main influence for the atmosphere and final look of the first game. This must be why Thomas Rogan bears a somewhat striking resemblance to Brad Pitt.




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Interview: The House of the Dead, Sega Saturn Magazine, issue 23, September 1997, page 62.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Website of the Dead's Exclusive Interview with Takashi Oda
  3. Weedon, Paul (17 July 2017). "George A. Romero (interview)". Paul Weedon. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  4. 4.0 4.1
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