10 Video Games to Freak You Out This Halloween
When designed well a scary video game can get under your skin far more effectively then any horror movie. No doubt this is down to the interactive element that comes with the medium. Instead of waiting with baited breath while you watch a person on the big screen walk through a dark mansion knowing that something is lurking in the shadows you have to take those steps yourself. In the best horror game making yourself take those steps could be one of the best challenges the game could be offer, especially if you know that staying still could be worse.
No doubt bringing up scary games will also bring out the people who will claim that they weren’t scared playing these games. All the best players know that the experience is most enjoyed when you turn down the lights, turn up the volume and allow yourself to be scared. For the purpose of this list we’ve skipped games like Dead Space that load you down with piles of weapons and tries to startle you and stuck with the genuinely scary experiences.
Although the impact of the game has diminished through over-exposure this game drips atmosphere as much as it drips sea-water. Plunging the player straight into an immersive environment when the plane they’re traveling in crashes into the ocean. You find yourself heading for the one beacon available – a lighthouse jutting out of a rock that houses a capsule. Stepping inside you are transported to the vast underwater city of Rapture. Unfortunately something tragic has befallen this scientific wonder.
Most gamers will remember the first journey down to Rapture and the glimpses of a lumbering, sub-human creature visible through the tunnels. The real horror waits inside with the demented and deformed residents lunging at you wielding make-shift weapons, insane artists turning people into sculptures, lumbering mechanical guardians and the freakish little girls sucking the blood out of the dead. The most horrifying moment? Learning that you’re not the innocent victim you thought you were.
Never a big hit in the English speaking world but certainly a hit in Japan. Only a few entries in the series got translated for the Western market, one being this reboot of the series for the Playstation. Part of the game is spent investigating the grisly ‘Scissorman’ murders (or possibly the work of a copycat as the case was closed) by heading to different areas and talking to people. Then, at various points in the game, you find yourself trapped in a building along with the masked serial killer hunting you down with his garden shears looking to impale you. Time to get scared.
During these intense sequences the game turns into a slasher film with you as the star. You’ve got no way to fight of your attacker, you can only run and hide. Cupboards, trapdoors, boxes…anything you can find will spare you a few moments, just don’t go thinking that it will be safe just because it was safe last time. The player must search the area for a way to escape, solving puzzles on the way, never knowing where Scissorman is lurking. Expect plenty of surprises.
8. Resident Evil (Remake)
Resident Evil was a forerunner in the horror gaming genre – it wasn’t the first but is certainly brought the concept to the mainstream. Although the characters handled like mannequins and the voice acting is beyond atrocious being trapped in that mansion tingled more than a few spines. Many of the technical limitations were ironed out in the remake with plenty of extra little tweaks to the sound and environment that caused more startles. Some of the best moments were the unexpected new additions, such as when the corpse of one of your team-mates who’d been pecked to death by crows snaps back to life and shambles after you when it didn’t do anything in the original version of the game.
It certainly doesn’t haunt the player like other games on the list but if you prefer your horror B-Grade then this’ll be your slice of horror.
Bonus: The Resident Evil games have a proud traditional of having the entire game scrapped and remade at the 11th hour (Resident Evil 2 eventually released as Devil May Cry) but most interestingly is the original build of Resident Evil 4 which was reputedly scrapped for being too scary. It certainly looks the business.
7. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
In the olden days the only way to get a really good story in your games was to play a point-n-click adventure, even if those stories concerned wimpy pirates and psychotic rabbits. In spite of the tradition of being heavily narrative based the genre never took itself very seriously – I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream was one very dark, very disturbing exception. Based on the short story and adapted by Harlan Ellis who also provided voice work for the game’s villain the plot is set in the far future after which a super-computer has decided that the human race needed wiping out, keeping the last five alive so it can amuse itself torturing them.
The player takes control of each of the five in turn as they all get put through their own personal hell, and that’s a term that isn’t used loosely. Over the course of the ‘adventure’ you can expect to find yourself in some horrific situations. These include standing above a prisoner of a Nazi Concentration Camp with a scalpel in your hand while everyone waits for you to get on with your job as it dawns on you that the memory being repressed by the evil computer is that you’re basically Joseph Mengle, confronting your rapist who manifests as a pair of glowing eyes in an empty set of clothing, being put between the choice of cannibalism or starving to death and feeding your own still-beating heart to a talking jackal. Throughout the game you’ll intermediately hear distress calls from other survivors, but whether these are genuine or part of the evil machine’s mind game is yet to be seen.
6. Dark Seed
You’re a geek, you know who H.R. Geiger is. He’s the chap whose artwork has given you nightmares and designed the awesome alien from Alien. What you may not know is that a video game was made based around his artwork back in the heyday of point-n-click adventures (ie: twenty years ago).
Players indirectly control Mike Lawson (who also happens to be the game’s developer), an advertising executive who moves into an old mansion after the previous owner died. Haunted by nightmares in which an alien entity implants an embryo into his skull Lawson is plagued by headaches. While exploring the mansion and the town Lawson learns that a dark parallel world exists and overlaps with the real world around the mansion. Haunted by the visions caused by the dark dimension he eventually crosses over to prevent the creature in his skull bursting forth.
Unlike many other games of the time Dark Seed ran on a timer with events in the game being dictated by the time frame in which the player arrives there. With only three days to escape the nightmare he’s become a part of Lawson is against a ticking clock.
5. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
We all love a bit of Lovecraft, almost as much as we love having a game fuck with our minds. Eternal Darkness provided both in spades. The plot revolves around the completion of an occult ritual across different eras in time. Alex Roivas is investigating the death of her grandfather when she discovers an ancient tome bound in human flesh. Reading the tome allows Alex to relive the lives of those described over the past 2000 years as the tale of the Ancients unfold.
The game was packed with haunting music, disturbing settings and creepy enemies but it was the sanity meter and how it was used to torment the player. The sound of footsteps behind the the player, doors slamming, chains rattling and people screaming will haunt you, walls will begin bleeding, hordes of monsters will appear and vanish, the perspective will randomly shift and the player will appear on the ceiling. Bugs crawl across the inside of the screen, a volume meter will appear and turn down the volume, the characters limbs will drop off. Worst of all…the game will claim that it’s crashed and your saved game is lost.
4. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
A decade ago Japanese horror film Ringu and its American remake The Ring sparked an interest in Eastern Asian horror, and this also came across in the video game format with the Fatal Frame series. A pair of twin sisters set out to explore an old village in which they used to play only to find it shrouded in a dense fog. Mayu, the older sister, is entranced by a red butterfly and follows it into the town leaving Mio to chase after her as the two become separated. It’s soon revealed that the town was the location of failed occult ritual that has seen the souls of the deceased villages trapped on the grounds.
Very much a pure ghost story the spirits encountered by Mio are not always hostile, but always disconcerting. Some simply roam the halls muttering to themselves are warning Mio to turn back whilst others are quick to attack. Mio is almost defenseless against the restless undead only having a camera to keep them at bay. Not only is it the only way to reveal them but by taking photos can exorcise them. The camera is most effective when the ghosts are close so players are put in the situation of waiting for the horrors to get as close as possible before zapping them. It’s a tightly woven story with plenty of haunting visuals and surprises with multiple endings that are rarely a happily ever after.
If you’re up for some simple but effective urine-inducing terror, download this free game. No plot, no character and simple mechanics. It’s a first person game where you walk around a small patch of forest trying to track down eight pieces of paper. The pages all serve as a warning as to what haunts you – the Slender Man. Based on an internet spread myth about a tall, slender and faceless man in a suit who stalks his victims who eventually disappear. Reports suggest that encounters with Slender Man result in amnesia, sickness and interference on recording devices.
Slender Man is scary enough but it really could be any scary figure and the games mechanics would still cause chills. You walk through the dark woods with a failing flashlight helping you find your way (it can be recharged by turning it off, good luck with that). The more pages you find the closer Slender Man follows you and if he catches you the game will end. You’ll become increasingly aware of him as the music becomes more intense and static occasionally clouds the screen. Strangely enough the character of Slender of never designed to move, just stand completely still facing you, but the terror creeps up on you because you never know when he’ll appear.
The most awful moments occur when you finally can’t handle the suspense and spin around to see your stalker, only to find that he’s not there. But now you have to turn around and if he wasn’t behind you…
2. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
So you play a character with amnesia, the most unoriginal starting point in video game history. What Amnesia: The Dark Descent lacks in an original starting point it more than makes up for in atmosphere, detail and mind-numbing fear. The player is put in the first person perspective of amnesiac Daniel, alone in a castle and with a trail of liquid (possibly left by himself) and a note explaining that he erased his own memory. The note also sets yourself the mission of murdering someone for reasons you don’t know.
The game begins slowly, leaving the player to explore their surroundings and soak in the atmosphere. Wind blows through broken windows to snuff out candles and slam doors shut. Simple interactions are available, picking up items and using limited tinderboxes to light the way. It’s not until an hour or two into play that you catch a glimpse of…something monstrous. Taking the smart route of keeping the creatures – especially horrible creatures – mostly hidden to leave a terrifying impression instead of letting the player get used to the sight of them. With nothing to fight with the player can only escape the monsters by running for their life and hiding.
The physics of the game are brilliantly designed, allowing the player to grab items and manipulate them by moving the mouse back and forth. This mechanic allows the player to hide in a closest and carefully open it a crack to peak out at the shambling horrors hunting you. The insanity mechanic is also well implemented with the player suffering from visual and audio hallucinations if they spend too much time in the dark, seeing unusual events or looking at the monsters. If you weren’t feeling the twinges of panic already this may be enough to put you over the edge.
1. Silent Hill 2
Jeez, where do we begin with this one? You’ll have to steel your nerves to get through this game. It gets to the player on many levels – psychological mind games, jump out scares and horrible visuals. You play as James Sutherland, a widower he mysteriously receives a letter from his deceased wife inviting him to meet in their ‘special place’ in the town of Silent Hill. James, driven by longing and confusion, heads to the sleepy northern town to find out what is happening. What he finds is a nightmare – the town is bathed in a thick fog and filled with twisted and violent creatures. Meeting with the occasional survivor and a host of puzzles to impede your progress James has to survive the horror to find closure.
First of all there is the sense of mystery surrounding the story and the truth behind his wife and the girl who has an uncanny resemblance to his wife. The creature design is among the best in gaming, especially giant Pyramid Head who recurs during the game after being introduced raping a monster made up of legs in a deeply disturbing scene. Giving the creatures extra weight is the way they are derived from James’ psychosis such as the busty women figures in nurse-fetish outfits with binding around their face representing his suppressed sexuality. The tone is as thick as the fog that clings to the streets.
The developers behind Silent Hill 2 knew how to tweak the players sense of dread. A key example is the early sequence when James is walking through a forest path. Eventually the player becomes aware that another set of footsteps are following closely. You come to a stop and after a few more steps so do they. You peer into the fog but see nothing so you start walking again. Everything is fine – but after two minutes the second set of footsteps begins up again. It never amounts to anything but you’ll be aware of every creak your house makes for the next twelve hours.
I’m not a gamer but these look creepy. I remember playing a PC game as a kid called The 7th Guest that scared me.
‘The 7th Guest’ is available in the App Store, might be worth seeing how it holds up.
I have to say that the first Dead Space scared the crap out of me. My boyfriend laughed because I would scream and jump all the time.
Reblogged this on alisueonthemove.
Fine choices. Phantasmagoria, DOOM 3, Dead Space series, F.E.A.R. 1, AvP 2 (Monolith), and Condemned 1-2 made me jump.
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I am very happy, that Silent Hill 2 made your number 1. An excelent game.