Seven Genuinely Terrifying Horror Games
By Eric Ashley (@flapjackashley)
Being a big horror movie fan, I love to be scared. But watching a movie doesn’t quite do it for me as much as it used to. So the next best thing to living a scary movie is playing a horror game – where the suspense seems to be greater because actions within directly affect your character, and therefore, you as a player. Watching Jamie Lee Curtis run screaming down the streets of Haddonfield is great, but placing yourself in that situation instead of just watching it is an entirely different matter. And that brings me to the first game on my list:
Halloween (2013, PC)
You know, it’s about time someone took a slasher movie license and made it in to a horror game. Sure, there were attempts like those bad NES games of Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. And you’d think movies of this nature would be a no-brainer for a survival horror game. But the blood well was dry until this fan-made PC game made such a splash that it has become a thing of legend. The game itself only runs about a half hour from start to finish and takes about ten minutes to really get going. However, once it does, it doesn’t stop and is, quite frankly, an absolutely horrifying experience. Playing the role of a babysitter, Michael Myers sets you in his sights and its literally an unrelenting cat and mouse game until the end. Using harrowing new music and themes from 1981’s Halloween II, the game is so intense there are videos on YouTube documenting gamers’ reactions to the scares. The game is no longer available through regular channels because of obvious rights issues, and a sequel – that takes place in a hospital – was also altered to remove any Halloween references. But if you can find this gem, you won’t be disappointed.
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (2003, PlayStation 2/Xbox)
If you want what is hailed as among the absolute scariest games ever made, you’ll want to check out this title. You play as twin sisters who are visiting a favorite childhood hangout, only to find that swings and teeter totters have taken a backseat to ghosts and screaming. Armed with just the flash of a camera or a flashlight to photograph and capture the spirits, the player is thrust into a third-person perspective game that is as scary as a first-person with multiple endings that lends a lot of replay value. A Wii version (in Japan only, called Project Zero 2) adds the bleakest ending to the game, although it is the standard one that leads into its frightful sequel, Fatal Frame III: The Tormented.
Dead Space (2008, PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
They say that in space, no one can hear you scream, but if you were playing this game, I’d beg to differ. Putting a zombie twist on an alien outer space story is nothing short of brilliant as the danger comes at you from all directions. Corpses reanimated into wicked alien creatures, you say? Changing settings in which they are not your only enemy? Add to that an ending that is fitting for all that came before it and you have yourself the first new horror IP to come along in a great while that lives up to the hype.
Clock Tower (1997, PlayStation)
Do you know the Legend of Scissorman? Well if you like horror, you’ll want to with this remake of an SNES Japanese franchise that plays like a slasher movie with some rather famous influences. Jennifer is haunted by the stories and when he, with his giant clanging sheers, begins to come after her, she is thrust into a world more horrific than the legend. Fans of Italian horror director Dario Argento will immediately find much to love as homages to his work litter this game – from the Goblin-inspired soundtrack, to scenes inspired from the movie Suspiria, to even the lead character’s name. This point-and-click adventure takes a bit to get going, but the randomization of where Scissorman pops up at makes this horror game stand out from the rest and insures you never play the same game twice.
Resident Evil (1996, PlayStation/Sega Saturn)
Even though Alone in the Dark really started the survival horror boon, it was this game that really shot its popularity into the stratosphere. Originally conceived as a remake of a Japanese NES game called Sweet Home, Resident Evil tells the story of a group of Special Operations officers who become trapped in a large, spooky mansion and having to solve puzzles and fight off the undead. Groundbreaking at the time, who can forget the jump of the dogs breaking through the windows, or the growing dread of approaching a door and hearing some creepy shuffling noise behind it? The “Director’s Cut” on PlayStation upped the tension by mixing up the puzzles and placements of key items, while the Sega Saturn version added a new plot twist (that, incidentally, makes later games impossible) and an awesome hidden Battle Mode upon the game’s completion. The game’s GameCube remake and subsequent HD ports on PS4 and Xbox One are outstanding, but the charm of bad dialogue and clunky controls makes this game more tasty than a Jill Sandwich.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002, GameCube)
One of the earliest first party games for the Nintendo GameCube was also one of the best of that console. Eternal Darkness was a psychologically horrifying game that uses a slow burn to begin to creep under your skin. As the main characters begin to question their sanity, so does the gamer with a “Sanity Meter” and other subtle effects that always happen at the best (or worst) times. The game was not a huge hit upon release, but it showed that the house of Mario could put out a mature horror game that rivals some of the ones that are much more popular. It has a huge cult following now that continues to hope for a sequel with every Nintendo console that has come out since.
D (1996, PlayStation/Sega Saturn)
Another game in which sanity plays a key role is D, a horror title that spans up to three discs. Heavy on animated cut scenes and puzzle solving, this game won’t be for everyone. The player takes control of a character named Laura who is trying to find out what happened to her father after a major security breach at a nearby hospital. Genuinely creepy moments and flash cut scenes grow more intense as the player nears the conclusion – which, depending on the ending you get, can end up being quite a disturbing finale.
I know I’ve left out some favorites like Silent Hill, but these are the games that affected me the most and have created a ton of scary memories for me as a horror gamer. They have caused me many anxious moments, and even a sleepless night or two. And that is the definition of what horror should do.