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) is a horror-themed rail shooting game developed by SEGA AM1 (now WOW Entertainment) and released by SEGA to arcades in 1997. It is the first game in the House of the Dead series.

The plot concerns AMS agents Thomas Rogan and "G", who must rescue the former's fiancée from the mad Dr. Roy Curien and his macabre test subjects.

The House of the Dead received positive reviews, but its violence was subject to controversy. The game was ported to the SEGA Saturn and Microsoft Windows. A sequel, The House of the Dead 2, was released in 1998.


In his pursuit of controlling life and death, DBR Corporation research director Dr. Roy Curien goes mad. On December 18th, 1998, he unleashes biologically-engineered creatures upon his staff.

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 Curien Mansion. Rogan and "G" reunite with Sophie, who is then kidnapped by the bat-human hybrid Hangedman. They 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 a DBR research center.

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.


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.[1]
  • 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.

In the first three chapters, the player's action (or inaction) determines the route taken through the stage; 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.


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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.


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, and despite its high market value, is generally considered a poor port, due to its poor framerate and lower graphical resolution compared to the arcade original.

Chapters & Bosses

There are a total of 4 chapters (levels) in House of the Dead. Each chapter has a boss character who is fought at the end of the chapter. Some later chapters feature reappearances of bosses from earlier levels.


  • The first House of the Dead can be compared with the first Resident Evil in many ways:
    • Both involve various ungodly 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 mansion with a secret laboratory underneath which houses the antagonist's masterpiece: an abomination that eventually turns on their masters.
    • 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.
  • Though the game's intro showed the date December 18th, 1998, the game actually took 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. The Website of the Dead's Exclusive Interview with Takashi Oda
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