The Classic VHS Horror Game That Was So Funny It Was Scary

The Classic VHS Horror Game That Was So Funny It Was Scary

Yes, my gatekeeper!

Last weekend, I was hanging out at a friend’s board game night. There were some dice on one table, and a deck of cards on the other. Then, over in the corner, some people started fiddling with a VHS player.

“Oh,” I thought. “Um.”

Before I knew what was happening, we had divided into teams and were playing a spirited, hilarious game of Nightmare, the classic 1991 board game originally called “Atmosfear” in Europe.

Where do I begin with this game? It is simultaneously exhilarating and funny, never scary but damned if I can’t think of any better way to spend 60 minutes with a group of friends. Preferably while drinking.

The only VHS game I played back in the 90s was California Games, which was nowhere near as much fun as Nightmare.

The setup is like this: You have a number, one to six. You press “play” on the VCR. You roll the dice to move around the board. Sometimes, this guy… this absurd, absurd guy, named “The Gatekeeper”, will pop up and yell at you. He is played by an actor named Wenanty Nosul, who is clearly having a lot of fun with the role.

It. Is. Amazing.

Sometimes he yells. Sometimes he snorts (See part five above.) He gets progressively more jacked-up looking as the game progresses. He’s never anything less than entirely entertaining. And the music. The music! Where do I begin. It sounds like Freddy Krueger music made on a Casio rapman keyboard.

You’ll draw cards that will prompt you to scream at people at a certain time; if you scare them, you get a reward. Other cards will make you go and worship the TV, or laugh maniacally until someone asks you what your problem is. It’s awesome.

The entire video plays out the exact same way every time — each game lasts 60 minutes, and you have that much time to get enough keys to win. Needless to say, there’s limited replay value. But man… you could probably play a version of this game just by using the YouTube videos (which I’ve collected in the gallery here) and recreating the board somehow.

Though I have to say, it wouldn’t really be the same without the actual VCR, with the spotty tracking lines at the corner of the screen.

For a more in-depth look back at VHS games, check out Wes Fenlon (one of our board game night’s hosts)’s great retrospective at

I just might have to use this final AV connection I’ve got on my TV to plug in a VCR. Heading over to eBay…


  • I have the DVD version of this. It mixes it up a bit with far more interruptions then needed for one game so everything is random. Great fun with a bunch of mates.

  • So much fun — my sister, brother and cousins used to play this all the time back in the day. Lights turned off and huddled around the TV.

  • I still have it and the 3 expansions, just recently got all VHS tapes converted to avi and played the first 2 games again. Planning on doing the other 2 soon

  • Dam near pooped my pants a few times when he yelled, “STOP”
    Just because you would forget when because you had to focus on the game!

    • article says the original European release was called Atmosfear, it was returned Nightmare in the US. I think Australia got both versions.

    • The DVD version released a few years back was called Atmosfear. Didn’t know the original in Europe was called that too.

    • There were actually three “expansions” released for Nightmare (strangely called Nightmare 2, 3 and 4) with a new video tape containing a new villian, and I think new cards as well.

      I always thought Atmosfear was actually a different game (I never played it), but if Wikipedia says otherwise who am I to argue.

  • I loved this game. Had 2 of the add-ons too (new VHS and set of cards)
    All I recall was one was the Vampire the other was the Mummy, forgot what those 2 were called.

  • I wanted this game so incredibly badly as a kid but never got it. One of my friends had it but by the time I realised this the novelty had worn off for him so we never played it. Maybe I’m better off imagining what it was like.

  • Fun fact: Kot US missed that Atmosfear was actually developed/produced in Australia circa 1991 (sequels came out in 95, 04 and 06 according to wikipedia). I remember, sometime around 1993 (year 9/10 for me) playing Atmosfear at a Halloween-themed friends birthday party. And on her Dad’s computer was Sega/Apogee “Monster Bash”. Good times.

  • I only JUST tripped over this game in the garage just the other day.

    Atmosphere, The Zombie and The Witch ones all in a nice pile collecting dust… should really copy them over to a DVD and revisit them one day.

  • I have the Nightmare game and all 3 expansions sitting here. Loved them back in the day, and it’s probably been a long enough time that I might have forgotten all the elements in the videos to make it fun again. It is definitely a genre of board game ripe for revival. Imagine what a board game coupled with the tech in a PS3 or Xbox360 with motion and/or sound control could do. You could have the gatekeeper as an AI character that could respond to what was done or said . You could randomise the encounters you have with him. The Nightmare franchise had plenty of room left for sequels too, they only did Baron Samedi, Anne de Chantraine and Elizabeth Bathory. They still had the Mummy, Werewolf and Poltergeist to go through before they’d used up the original nightmare characters.

    • That was the plan, but by the 4th expansion with Elizabeth bathory, interest had dropped significantly.
      still, would have been nice to have the others though….

  • wow, that’s not a bad idea.
    i still have this in my cupboard and the 3 other expansion tapes.
    and something called Atmosfear the harbinger. no idea what it is.
    next party, while we’re all drunk as f**k I’ll be breaking these babies out.

  • Buahaha ohh man I remember this game! Never played it properly and instead made out with the tv everytime the actor appeared on screen…..gave my brothers and cousins the biggest laugh…..

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