In 2018, “creepypasta” is a household term. Internet ghost stories aren’t restricted to the dark corners of obscure message boards anymore—they play out in original video games, YouTube videos, and even on professionally-produced television shows. Despite the vast and various types of creepypasta, all of it is, in some way, an exploration of the hopes and fears of a generation. It’s a way to make sense of the things we deal with in our respective days and ages—in other words, it’s folklore.
These stories rely on liminal, nightmarish imagery. Their monsters are fearful not simply because they can catch you, but because they can see you when they shouldn’t be able to. The most popular ones have always involved elements of our childhoods coming to life or becoming corrupted—the “lost episode” stories, the dark fan theories, and, perhaps most notably, tales of haunted video games.
You may have heard of SONIC.EXE or BEN Drowned, but they’re far from alone—there are now so many haunted game stories that the Creepypasta Wiki has actually blacklisted the subject. Most of these resonate with readers of a certain age because they draw on widely-known, innocent childhood media—games like Sonic the Hedgehog, The Legend of Zelda, and Pokemon.
But the best, most complex and unnerving tale in the genre isn’t about a game beloved by a generation. It isn’t about hedgehogs or pocket monsters. No, it’s about a forgettable Nintendo Entertainment System title based on the King of the Monsters himself—it’s Cosbydaf’s epic NES Godzilla, a surreal horror story in nine parts.
Would You Like a New Monster?
Our story begins in the Bogleech forums in 2011, kicking off with a short scenario showcasing Cosbydaf’s sprite edits and the beginnings of a “haunted cartridge” tale based on the 1988 Godzilla: Monster of Monsters game for the NES. Reaction to the story element was mixed , but readers were in agreement—the sprites Cosbydaf had created of kaiju absent from the original game were amazing.
These sprites weren’t originally intended to frighten—they’re simply adaptations of famous monsters to the game’s visual style. In fact, in an interview with Gunaxin in 2014, Cosbydaf revealed that he had originally wanted to create a kaiju fighting game using the NES title’s sprites and adding his own. The shift from fan game to horror story came about as a result of a joke from a friend in an IRC group.
It wasn’t his first time working in the genre—Cosbydaf’s previous works included Stop! Go! and the popular NormalPornForNormalPeople.com. But Godzilla NES would come to dwarf those stories in complexity and length.
The story begins innocently enough—the narrator is given a copy of Monster of Monsters!, a game he remembers from his youth. He’s soon surprised, though, to see kaiju that were never in the original game. It’s an odd occurrence, for sure, but the narrator brushes it off, and is even excited at the prospect of owning a rare prototype cartridge.
But things only get stranger from there. In Part Two, our protagonist travels to a planet in the game called “Pathos” and meets creatures that didn’t exist in the original game, including kaiju from films that were unreleased at the time. Again, odd, but not scary. Until…
This guy. The narrator names him Red, a demonic creature that appears to be equal parts Visible Man, tribal mask, spider, and the reason God created nightlights. Red is also one of the first bridges between game and player, creating the story’s most enticing element of terror—the feeling that either nothing is real, or everything is. Because Red isn’t just a scary monster chasing Godzilla across a fiery cemetery—it eventually becomes clear that he is aware of the player’s existence. More than that, it hates him. And without spoiling too much, by the time the narrator can’t go on anymore he finds that he doesn’t have a choice.
Dreams and Nightmares
Much of the imagery in Cosbydaf’s story goes unexplained, leaving it open to interpretation. And not all of it is explicitly horrifying—some is just bizarre and alien. But all of it raises questions: Why does the game mock the player with a recurring image of a mother figure? Why does it quiz him between levels on his inner thoughts, and what do the various reactions of the Face character mean? Who exactly is Red? Zachary, our protagonist, readily admits that even he doesn’t know all the answers.
Cosbydaf says he deliberately left elements vague, since the story is largely about our personal concepts of reality. In fact, evidence is provided—I won’t give it away—both that the story is completely true and that it was a all a hallucination.
Which is true? Cosbydaf says he enjoys seeing people’s theories, with some even touching on possibilities that he hadn’t intended during the writing process.
Back to the Past
NES Godzilla is a long read—extremely long, for creepypasta. It’s so long that it’s been divided up into multiple entries on the Creepypasta Wiki. Much of its length is thanks to the fictitious screencaps created for the story, though, which are pure bizarre eye candy. Even if you’re short on time, just scanning over them is worth it to see the corruption of the world from familiar and safe to strange and threatening—especially when you get to the final chapter where the game pulls a full late-Undertale boss fight (spoiler warning), exceeding what the console should visually be capable of.
Provided you can find the time to read it from start to finish, NES Godzilla is a wild, unsettling mind-bender, regardless of your familiarity with the source material. It also has unexpected moments of drama, though what exactly those moments mean is largely up to you.
Spurred on by the enduring popularity of the story, Cosbydaf is now working on Godzilla Replay, a sequel to the original tale in which a new player explores the game. If you want to see more of his work, you can check out his deviantART page for more sprite creations and edits. As for the original story, it continues to inspire other artists and writers, with one developer even attempting to recreate it as a playable game.
Whereas video-based and playable game creepypastas pull the viewer in with jump scares and interactivity, NES Godzilla relies on the artistry of the creator and the mystique of a largely unknown niche title. A familiar franchise, a largely unfamiliar game, imagery that’s already on the disturbing side, and monsters that seem to see you through the screencaps come together in a story that, despite its unconventional format for a video game horror story, is scarily effective.