Mat Ombler walks us through the 10 scariest video games of all time.
From the early days of movie spin-offs such as Friday The 13th: The Computer Game, the manic button-mashing massacre that was Namco’s release of Splatterhouse in 1988 or the explosion of Doom in 1993, video games have had a long history with violence and horror.
It wasn’t until the release of Resident Evil in 1996, however, that developers would witness the birth of the survival horror genre. The success of Resident Evil has inspired and helped grow the horror genre into what it is today.
With Halloween just around the corner, we took a look back at some of the scariest video games ever made and narrowed the list down to the 10 most spine-chilling games of all time.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Amnesia is a first-person survival horror game that takes place in an old German castle. After waking up with no memory of how you got there, it’s your task to navigate Daniel through the dark depths of this unforgiving environment.
As the title suggests, you’ll be sending a lot of the time in darkness hiding from monsters. What makes Amnesia so punishing and often so terrifying is the fact these monsters can tear down doors and will stop at nothing to find you.
Sure, you can hide in the dark, but doing so will have dramatic effects on your protagonist’s mental health that can cause visual hallucinations.
At the time, Condemned was a fresh approach to the horror genre that video games really needed.
You play as an investigator trying to track down a serial killer, which involves investigating a lot of crime scenes throughout the game – many of which are pretty horrific.
The lack of light and focus on hand-to-hand combat – especially in earlier segments of the game – makes Condemned a brutally visceral experience.
Bloodborne takes heavy inspiration from one of the biggest names in horror: H.P Lovecraft.
The worshipping of giant, tentacled creatures is a nod to Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu, and themes such as the merging of reality and dreams and people being drawn to insanity from the horror of what they’ve witnessed are all too familiar for fans of Lovecraft’s work.
While Bloodborne may not jump the player into constant scares, if you take time to explore the game’s lore and understand its context, you’ll uncover some horrific stories.
Creative Assembly managed to make an Alien game that didn’t suck by embracing what made the movies so special: that claustrophobic sense of horror and the absolute necessity of survival.
Alien Isolation features a single Alien creature that cannot be defeated. Instead, you must learn to hide and escape as the alien relentlessly pursues you over the course of the game.
It’s a gigantic game of cat and mouse, and although weapons are available to help you evade the alien, you’re vulnerable enough to make it present at every opportunity.
Silent Hills P.T.
The now-cancelled project by the mastermind behind the Metal Gear series, Hideo Kojima, will unfortunately never see the light of day.
It’s a shame, because somehow P.T. manages to achieve more its single location of a hallway than other games manage to achieve in an entire play through. The demo features cryptic puzzles and sees the player looping around the same hallway as new features are revealed after certain puzzles are solved.
It’s an unsettling and unique experience, and the only way to play the demo now is if you were lucky enough to grab it when it was available for download.
Resident Evil (REmake)
While the original Resident Evil on PlayStation will be remembered as one of the most influential horror games of all time, the Resident Evil REmake, first released on the Nintendo Gamecube in 2002 and most recently for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, added a ton of new features to Mikami’s masterpiece, including some terrifying new enemies.
The scariest of all these new enemies was the “crimson zombie,” a zombie that comes back from the dead with the ability to run.
After spending the early hours of the game ducking in-between slow-moving enemies, having a zombie rise from the dead (again) and chase you down corridors was terrifying on your first experience.
If you’re a fan of the slasher genre, Until Dawn is a must play. Until Dawn follows the cliché slasher set-up: a group of teenagers go on vacation to an isolated cabin.
However, unlike the saturated market of its flooded B-flick counterparts, Until Dawn keeps a fantastic sense of pace throughout the entire game that will literally have you on your feet (or behind your couch) at times.
It’s violent, gruesome and unforgivingly terrifying.
After the success of the Resident Evil series, Konami wanted a survival horror game of their own to attract a new western market. While the elements of combat, survival horror and puzzle solving weren’t worlds apart from Resident Evil, Silent Hill would focus on exploring psychological horror.
While Silent Hill 2 deserves a special mention thanks to the inclusion of the terrifying “Pyramid Head,” the opening moments of the original game – that thick blanket of fog, the window breaking in the diner, the first defiled corpse you find – terrified me far more than the Resident Evil series at the time.
Silent Hill’s depiction of horror was far more graphic than its survival horror counterpart.
While games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent and even Bloodborne have explored gameplay mechanics focused around the player’s sanity, Eternal Darkness was the game that did it first.
An exclusive release for the Nintendo Gamecube, the game employed the use of a “sanity meter” that worked the same way as a health bar and lowered with every enemy encounter. As your sanity dropped, the game would begin to mess with you in a number of ways, including muting your TV, setting up your character for fake deaths and even pretending to delete your save data.
Opening with a quotation from Edgar Allan Poe and with obvious nods to Lovecraft, Eternal Darkness is worth tracking down a Gamecube for just to play it.
Dead Space managed to successfully combine survival horror with science fiction, resulting in a series that has been met with critical acclaim.
It’s the sci-fi setting that sets Dead Space apart from other survival horror titles. The cold, grey corridors of the USG Ishimura create a massively unsettling atmosphere. Weapons, ranging from a pulse rifle to a seeker cannon, have been carefully selected around a theme of bodily dismemberment.
The enemies in Dead Space are “Necromorphs,” mutated and reanimated corpses. Choosing where you place your shots plays a huge part in battles as you decide the best way of slowing down your enemies.
It’s realistically graphic at times, but that’s not surprising when you learn that the development team studied photographs of car crash victims and war scenes to make the game more realistic. Yikes.
Speaking of scary games, Pokemon Go has announced its first ever in-house event for Halloween.
- Lead image: Konami (Silent Hills PT)