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. Curien. In a fit of insanity, Curien has produced hostile creatures which threaten mankind.

Developed in just over a year, the game was envisioned by Sega AM1 as having replay value and appeal to adult horror fans. It ran on the Sega Model 2 arcade hardware.[1]

Despite controversy for its violence, The House of the Dead was well-recieved and has become a franchise. A sequel, The House of the Dead 2, was released in 1998. 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 arcade game was ported to the SEGA Saturn and Microsoft Windows. It also received two mobile adaptations: The House of the Dead Mobile, and The House of the Dead: Nightmare. While the basic premise and the characters involved stayed the same, the latter game deviated from the original by using an aerial perspective rather than first-person.

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. 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 weak points. The agents fight through undead enemies and find Sophie inside the mansion, but the armored behemoth Chariot seemingly kills her.


Magician, upon awakening, refuses to be given instructions and 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 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.


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.





After arcade development division Sega AM2 released Virtua Cop in 1994, Sega AM1 sought making their own light gun game.[1] They chose a horror theme in order to distinguish themselves.[1] The game was first conceived as dealing with the paranormal.[2][5] Sega AM1 ultimately used zombies because they were "real" and appealed to the game's target audience: adult horror fans aged 20 to 30.[1] According to director and planner Takashi Oda, Sega AM1 knew "[they] didn’t want children playing this game."[6]

The team wanted the game's tone and atmosphere to emulate horror films.[7] Influences included the science fiction television series The X-Files,[1] the 1996 crime thriller film Seven,[7][2] and the 1997 science fiction horror film DNA.[7] They also watched other unspecified zombie films.[1] In addition, Oda wanted morally gray characters like those in the manga Black Jack.[5]

Sega AM1 brainstormed game titles by using Japanese horror-themed phrases that had the "[coolest]" visual when translated to English. As none of its members could speak English, the team was not concerned about what connotations the phrases might have to English speakers. The House of the Dead is a simple translation of the Japanese phrase shi no ie ("house of dead"). Other titles that were considered include The Horror Show, Zombie, and The Deadly Dead.[1]


Characters and setting

HoTD1 zombie CA

Concept artwork drawn by Takashi Oda of three creatures (from left to right): Sam, Ebitan, and Harris.

Although the team was influenced by zombie media, Takashi Oda has described the word zombie as "trite", preferring the term creature instead in reference to the main enemies of the House of the Dead series.[2][8] The reason for this is that the enemies are not undead, but "copied and created".[8]

Design was prioritized on the creatures and bosses, while the human characters were made more generic to maintain realism.[2] The creature designs evolved heavily throughout production, with Sega AM1 even removing one creature because of its resemblance to an elderly woman.[9]

The idea for the final boss, Magician, was conceived after 2 days of brainstorming. The team wanted the final boss to be "really strong and really cool."[6] They designed him to be more handsome in order to contrast with the other enemies of the game.[10]

According to designer Hiroyuki Taguchi, once the team began detailing the Curien Mansion, "[they] didn't want to stop—[they] wanted to craft every detail, right down to the trim on the doorways."[6]


A major challenge for Sega AM1 was tailoring game difficulty around enemies that approach the player without firearms, gradually becoming larger targets.[5][6] Test players were confused by the creatures being resilient and requiring multiple shots to kill.[6] The solution was having creatures boast fast and unpredictable movements, yet also allowing them to die faster if certain body parts are shot.[5]

The branching path mechanic was designed to increase replay value and encourage players to discover their preferred routes. It was originally more complicated: players could select routes when the game began, and the plot could change. For system space and data-related reasons, this mechanic was simplified. Sega AM1 drew rough sketches in order to plan out the routes.[11][12]

Sega AM1 wanted the scoring system to correlate with the quality of the player's performance.[12] They also felt revealing boss weak points would help players who could not discover them on their own.[10]


Console ports


Graphical comparison between the arcade (left) and home port versions (right).

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.[13] 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.


Arcade cabinets

Arcade flyers

Game covers



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Interview: The House of the Dead", Sega Saturn Magazine, issue 23, September 1997, page 58.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 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
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Interview: The House of the Dead", Sega Saturn Magazine, issue 23, September 1997, page 59.
  8. 8.0 8.1
  9. "Interview: The House of the Dead", Sega Saturn Magazine, issue 23, September 1997, page 62.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Interview: The House of the Dead", Sega Saturn Magazine, issue 23, September 1997, page 63.
  11. "Interview: The House of the Dead", Sega Saturn Magazine, issue 23, September 1997, page 60.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Interview: The House of the Dead", Sega Saturn Magazine, issue 23, September 1997, page 61.
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