I thought I’d put together my own personal top 10 horror games. Now, there is probably a lot more that could have made the list, but I am going on the games that I have played myself over the years (which is scarily a lot in over 30 years of gaming).
The game that never was had to make an appearance somewhere in the list. Within the short Playable Teaser is brought more than its fair share of frights as well as a perfect atmospheric backdrop of a seemingly endless loop of narrow corridors.
I remember the first time I played it. I had switched all the lights off and closed the curtains with the intent of becoming fully immersed within its gameplay. It worked. I could feel my nerves shaking as I edged around the corridors, random noises playing around me. The second that fetus started to cry, that was it; my curtains were thrown open to allow in the friendly sunlight once more. It played on the subconscious fears of people. If you were to play a horror game and come across characters that you can kill, it takes away from the fright as you know you can fight a way past them. Get into your head and play on your psychological fears and you have a truly terrifying game on your hands.
Hideo Kojima proved to us what could have been from a Silent Hill title, how truly terrifying yet also stunning in graphic content, but it was never meant to be thanks to Konami pulling the plug and removing Kojima from their staff. One of the biggest (and public) mistakes a major company has ever made, and probably likely to make as well.
There was no hints to what you had to do, and when it first released, no one was supposed to know it was a teaser into the next Silent Hill. You found yourself waking on the floor of a room and that was it, you had to figure the rest out by yourself. The idea from Kojima was it would take the public a week or so to figure it out and see the final scene where Norman Reedus turned to the camera, but people beat it within hours and the revelation that Silent Hills was coming was everywhere.
I have to wonder what Silent Hills could have possibly come; one of the best games ever made at a guess. We will never know.
9. ALIEN: ISOLATION
The thing that made Alien: Isolation fantastic was the mechanics of the game. One-on-one hide and seek where the Alien doesn’t have a pre-determined path meaning it could appear anywhere and you really did have to be quiet and clever with your movements.
There have been various instalments over the years of the Alien franchise, but this was the first time that they succeeded with pure terror. Slowly walking down the abandoned corridors of a space station, the slightest noise would set the heart racing in fear, not to mention when the motion tracker started to beep signalling that the Alien was close and it was a better idea to hide than fight or run.
The game had that replay ability about it however, which made it great. Once you had completed the game (which was no easy thing) I personally wanted to play it all again, and still go back to it every so often even now. So many releases don’t have that need to go over the game once its finished to either collect items you may have missed the first time round or to just experience the tension once more, but its good to find a game that does offer that every once in a while.
8. HAUNTING GROUND
2005 brought us Haunting Ground by Capcom which was very similar to Clock Tower 3. Taking control of Fiona Belli as you wake up in the dungeon of a castle, you need to escape. To do this, the emphasis is more on stealth and hiding than actual fighting.
I still own my original copy to this day and will never part with it. For me, this game was what survival horror should be about; yes, its sexist.. Fiona is dressed in nothing but a silk sheet which she uses to cover her body, and totally useless in the fact that she actually can do very little other than run and hide and solve puzzles. That, however, adds to the scare factor for me. The feeling of helplessness when you are followed around the castle by what can only be described as a massive Quasimodo look-a-like and not being able to do anything about it. It’s when you look past the sexist stuff that you find a fantastic game. You have to remember that over the years, gaming was seen as a male orientated business and sex sells. Thank goodness that now there are more women getting into development as well as the female gamer’s being acknowledged more
The mix of stealth and puzzle solving make this a huge hit in my eyes. Its what I live for when it comes to survival horror. A game is not necessarily a hit just because you have to shoot everything in sight; though it can be fun.
7. THE LAST OF US
You may not look at The Last Of Us as a horror game straight away, yet Naughty Dogs cinematic action masterpiece contains Zombies. Well, technically speaking they are fungus-people, but act in the same manor and can give some amazing jump scares throughout the game.
The story is amazing! No matter what your feelings about the game, whoever wrote this deserves recognition. Within the first 15 minutes of the game I was in tears. For those few who haven’t played this game, I wont spoil it for you, but it was the last thing I imagined happening at that point.
The game centres around the relationship between the 2 main characters and uses that to draw the players into the story line. On foot you are trying to get to a research centre to try and find a cure for the plague that has swept the earth and on the way you obviously encounter various things which hinder your progress; its never straight forward is it?
For me, the horror comes from the jump scares and the idea of an apocalypse hitting the world, other than that I guess you can class it as an action game, but does have a place in this top 10 for me.
6. RESIDENT EVIL 7
I probably could have added older games from the Resident Evil series in my top 10, but I love the latest instalment from Capcom. I have played through this game over and over, not to mention the various DLC that has been released so far and is also scheduled to be released.
The start of the game is what won this for me, within the confines of an old shack in the middle of nowhere you have to figure out a way of escaping from The Family who live there. This is all about playing on claustrophobic fears as well as the good old jump scares that every good horror game should have. I really want to play this on a VR headset as I have seen videos of friends playing and shitting themselves all the way through it.
Once you escape the house, the environment opens up for a while before you find your way back to tight confines once again. The graphics help in a massive way with this game bringing a scary reality to it and combines both a shooter and horror together to perfection as Resident Evil always has managed to do.
5. UNTIL DAWN
I love Until Dawn. So much so that I rushed out to buy it the day it was released and fell in love with the idea of it straight away.
Think of the cheesy teen horror/slasher films that flooded the market in the 90’s and early 2000’s and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. Its more than that though; yes, you have the annoying girls that you instantly hate and want to die, but the game evolves along with the decisions that you make along the way, and with characters played by real life stars, it does feel like you are playing within the confines of a horror film.
Its not all fun and games though, the characters will die horrible deaths if you let them and takes every opportunity to scare the shit out of you. Its packed with nods to the slasher genre and will make you laugh as much as scare you.
4. THE DEAD SPACE SERIES
I had to include the series in this top 10; I couldn’t single out one game from them to say its better than the others.
Borrowing from Alien and other sci-fi classics, the 2008 release of Dead Space put players in the role of Isaac Clarke, an engineer trapped on a derelict spacecraft. Soon Isaac finds out the ship isn’t as empty as it seems, as a strange alien artefact has transformed everyone on board into hideous, flesh-eating creatures, each more horrific than the last.
It plays with an over the shoulder view point and as you work your way through derelict space ships, it relies heavily on tight corridors to manoeuvre through. You are short on ammo and the character rarely knows what is going on around him causing a feeling of confusion as well as unease. The disturbing atmosphere to the games is built around what you can hear, not necessarily what you can see.
Admittedly, as the series progressed, they pulled back on the scares for more of a cinematic experience, but they were still in there. Taking horror beyond the realms of earth was a fantastic idea and it worked.
Outlast offers a first-person trek through a setting literally no one in real life would willingly check out. Armed with just a camcorder you enter a dilapidated Asylum which has opened again under mysterious circumstances. You need to check out the story as to why it has re-opened and as any good B-Movie would base its ideas on, it is being ran by the inmates.
The only view you have is normally through the camcorders lense. The setting is a very dark area, so the use of the night-vision mode on the camcorder is essential to be able to see what you are doing. The battery life does come into play and you can find spares lying around, but they are limited. There is also no way of fighting in this game and therefore you need to be stealthy as well as hide a lot of the time. Most of the inmates don’t pose a risk to you when moving around, but do add a scare dimension. The last thing you want is to be face to face with a naked inmate who’s mouth has been sewn shut and his large tackle hanging out in your face.
Developed and published by Red Barrels as an Indie project initially, it went down so well that a sequel was made and became available over more platforms.
2. SILENT HILL 2
In any top 10, Silent Hill 2 would be at number 1 every single time, and it very nearly was for me as well. This is without doubt one of the best horror games ever made which also spawned a huge cult following.
Silent Hill, as a franchise, is home to some of the most frightening enemies and situations in gaming history, but the developers greatest accomplishment in creating horrors that stay with you forever was Silent Hill 2. This PS2 classic’s greatest achievement is in what you come away fearing. Though he’ll encounter creatures like the iconic nurses and Pyramid Head, protagonist James Sunderland is far more threatened by his personal demons. And the empty town of Silent Hill brings them all to the surface.
James has returned to Silent Hill answering a letter that seems to come from his dead wife, but all he finds are reminders of his own anguish and guilt over her death. Every corner of the town is inhabited by some new horror, but James has to push past his fears if he ever wants to know whats going on. You and he will not like what he finds beyond them. Silent Hill 2 doesn’t just present you with a horror game worth playing, but a story worth being listened to.
And finally we reach the number one spot for me..
LONE SURVIVOR: DIRECTORS CUT was a sleeper hit from indie developer Jasper Byrne. Released in 2013, it was available for the PlayStation consoles and handhelds of the time as well as PC and Wii U.
Lone Survivor is a survival horror graphical adventure by designer Jasper Byrne. The masked protagonist must escape from a city ravaged by disease, by any means. Starving and exhausted, he has begun to question how much of what he sees is even real. This is a new kind of adventure where the choice of how to survive is up to you. Sneak through without firing a single shot, or kill everything in your path. Eat and sleep well, or resort to drugs to keep going. Search for survivors, or try to escape the city alone. Look after your mental health, or descend into madness…
There is so many elements within this game that seem to have been taken from Silent Hill and it does in places feel like you are in that world. The pixel art of the game is amazing. I first saw this game and downloaded it for free years ago, took one look at it and wondered what the hell was going on with the graphics, but the more i played the game on my Vita, the more I loved it and found myself purposely darkening the room to get into the feel of it.
Its simple yet effective. The main character known as ‘You’ must escape from a city ravaged by disease by any means. Starving and exhausted he starts to question how much of what he sees is even real. Its possibly not going to be an instant hit with people, but believe me; give it time to get into it. Simple, yet effective at bringing an overall unease to the player.
And there you go. My Top 10 is my own opinion and most would probably disagree with what I have listed, but we’re all allowed to have an opinion on matters. Feel free to leave a comment below