Scary games offer an experience that few other mediums can. While watching horror movies, you can look away or hide your eyes from the terror on screen. Video games force a player to make the conscious decision to continue, frying nerves, and toying with perspective. I am generally not a fan of being scarred, I am not a horror film expert and haunted houses drive me absolutely insane, but I enjoy a good scary game every now and then. With Halloween this week, here are some great games to fire up and scratch your horror itch.
When Red Barrels showed off their product with a demo at PAX East, Outlast made quite the impression. A Youtube video captured the fear of players as they raced through hallways, chased by a super-human monster. The opening sequence of the game itself is one of the most horrifying things I’ve played, leading me to rip off my headphones and walk around my living room repeating, “Nope, nope, nope!” Outlast’s horrific experience dies out a few hours into the game, but few titles have ever boasted such a well-paced introduction.
9. Condemned: Criminal Origins
Arriving with the Xbox 360 was the little known horror game, Condemned: Criminal Origins. While first person horror was hardly anything new, Condemned gave new life to horror games in the current generation. A lack of ammunition and firearms often forced players to fight hand-to-hand, and a terrifying use of light (or lack of light) was used to give players a whole new horror experience. Condemned created an atmosphere that continues to run chills down my spine.
8. Alan Wake
Alan Wake is strange game that plays with stereotypical third-person shooter mechanics. Following their work on Max Payne, the team at Remedy made a non-traditional horror game that pays homage to possibly the greatest horror writer ever, Stephen King. Set in rural Washington, the game focuses around a novelist who is desperate for an idea to salvage his once great career. When Wake’s wife is taken from him, he begins a journey through darkness to find her. Alan Wake’s story may not be traditional in it’s horror, but that’s part of what makes it so great.
7. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
While the GameCube was originally pitched as a “family-friendly” system, it actually boasted two of the best horror games of its generation with the remake of the original Resident Evil and Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. When Alexandra Roivas’ father is murdered, she discovers a secret war against evil forces that has been fought for centuries. Whipping through time periods and locations, Eternal Darkness was a completely unique horror experience. The highlight of the game was the sanity meter, which would drop as players experienced the terrors that awaited them. As the sanity meter would got dangerously low, your television would being to play tricks on you, like having the volume drop, the channel change, or the size of the screen shrink. While the team behind Eternal Darkness has had a nightmare of a time getting a sequel off the ground, this game stands a gem of horror.
6. Dead Space
While publishers and developers continue to capitalize on the lucrative Aliens franchise, with limited success, the best game to channel the spirit of science fiction horror is the Dead Space series from Visceral Games. While there is fractioned support about whether the original or its sequel is the better title (best to avoid it’s recent third entry altogether) both games boast a horror experience that was totally new to video games. Exploring the dark remnants of a destroyed space ship or space colony in the shoes of Isaac Clarke, players battle a litany of horrific monsters transformed by a mysterious artifact. If you love the Alien movies, this is a game you have to play.
5. Year Walk
Most of the games on this list are available for console and PC, but Year Walk was the first game I have played to bring the genre to your iPhone. The player takes control of the nameless main character who participates in an old Swedish tradition of starvation and dehydration, then wandering the winter woods naked at the stroke of midnight. What follows is a puzzle of madness with shocking surprises. The puzzles populating the game are very challenging and developer Simogo will not give you much help, but the eerie reward for each challenge will keep you invested in this title. After the game is over, download the companion app and unravel the real mysteries of this surprisingly wonderful iPhone game.
4. Silent Hill
The mid-to-late 90’s saw a rebirth in the horror genre, starting with the work being done on the PlayStation. This movement began with Resident Evil, but continued with the much beloved classic, Silent Hill. Set in a mysterious town, the first two entries (which are regarded as the of the series) revolve around two men looking for their lost loved ones in the strange location, leading them to horrifying revelations. The franchise spawned the iconic and terrifying Pyramid Head monster, and transcended video games to print and film, with mixed results. Silent Hill remains a horror classic, and while the franchise has lost its way, its imprint in the genre is everlasting.
3. Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead may not be the most terrifying game that you will play on console or PC, but it is by far the most fun. Embodying one of four survivors during the zombie apocalypse, players are forced to shoot their way through hordes of zombies, varying in strengths and weaknesses. While Left 4 Dead won’t provide the jump scares or silent terror that other games might, it still will leave you on the edge of your seat with suspense, either by the moans of a crying Witch or the impossible odds you seem to always overcome, Left 4 Dead is an incredible game and the best horror game to play with a friend.
2. Resident Evil
Resident Evil is probably the most iconic horror video game franchise ever. A staple in zombie media and a complete revolution for its time, Resident Evil took players through a mansion devoid of life, but populated with the undead. Resident Evil didn’t boast amazing graphics and may not hold up as well today as it once did, but the classic horror game and its amazing sequel still inspire stories of late night scares. If you have trouble going too far back in video game history, the series’ fourth numerical installment is also regarded as one of the best games of all time. Resident Evil is not only a beloved franchise amidst video game players, but also among horror fans of any background.
1. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Despite flashes here and there, this generation struggled to produce decent horror games in its early years. It was not until the independent team of Frictional Games delivered this gem that developers began to circle around the horror genre. Amnesia’s main character suffers from the titular affliction and begins a journey through a labyrinth of a castle, slowly discovering his terrifying reason for being there, meanwhile trying to avoid the hideous inhabitants that have taken over. Amnesia: The Dark Descent is one of the scariest experiences available in video games and is a must play for anyone who wants a bit of a scare this Halloween.