Halloween is right around the corner and, in honor of the greatest holiday of the year (at least in this writer’s opinion), I figured a list of the scariest video games was in order.
5. Fatal Frame (series)The Japanese know horror. The proof lies in films like Ringu and Ju-on and Kairo, and it lies in games like the Fatal Frame series. Armed with only a soul-stealing camera, the Fatal Frame games pit you head-to-head with disembodied spirits; ghosts. But make no mistake, Casper is not part of the cast; creepy, kimono-garbed men, women, and children will haunt your every step as you explore ominous environments. If movies like The Grudge were too much for you to handle, I’d recommend you steer clear of the Fatal Frame series.
4. BioshockAh, Rapture. What a wonderful place. Well, maybe not so much anymore, but once upon a time… Now Rapture has fallen into ruin. Splicers, the hideous junkies of this underwater “utopia”, have run amok, hunting down Little Sisters for the Adam that they carry. Gorgeous art deco architecture with a healthy spattering of blood and gore, off-putting 50’s-style music, and the heavy thuds of the lumbering behemoths known as Big Daddies (“Mr. Bubbles!”)–every aspect of Bioshock‘s design creates a haunting atmosphere that draws you in and chills you to the core.
3. Dead SpaceOne of the best games of 2008, Dead Space is an incredibly atmospheric game. Imagine if the Nostromo from Alien and the Event Horizon from, well, Event Horizon had a kid. Now imagine if that kid (spacecraft) was populated with the Thing from John Carpenter’s The Thing. Got it? That’s kind of Dead Space in a nutshell; a dark and dingy ship in the deepest reaches of space is infested with nasty monsters that would be completely content in ripping you limb from limb. Might want to keep the lights on for this one.
2. Resident Evil (series)Here we have (basically) the grandaddy of survival horror. Okay, so maybe Alone in the Dark was around a little longer, but it was Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise that dominated the genre and prepared a whole generation for the impending–and it is impending–zombie apocalypse. Ravenous undead, mutated wildlife, and puzzles galore, the Resident Evil franchise has continued to raise the bar and thrill its fans. The series may have strayed from the survival horror path as of late, but that never made my palms sweat any less.
1. Silent Hill (series)
At the number one spot on our list we have the most disturbing series ever created: Silent Hill. I may have been introduced to survival horror via Resident Evil, but Silent Hill convinced me to make the genre my home. Focusing on horrors of the mind as well as the flesh, the Silent Hill series has proven, time and again, that you don’t need to see something in order to be terrified by it. Mixing physical and psychological horror, Konami knows how to get under a gamer’s skin. There are times when Silent Hill seems almost beautiful, as if you were walking through a dream. But then there are times when everything changes and that dream became a nightmare. Definitely too scary for children, and, more than likely, the same could probably be said about a lot of adults. Regardless, it’s worth ruining a pair of underwear.
As a side note, I’d like to add that the effectiveness of the Silent Hill series is enhanced by the melancholy music of Akira Yamaoka. Serene and sinister, calm and chaotic, his soundtracks make the franchise the [somewhat underground] success that it is.
Honorable Mention: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
As a huge H.P. Lovecraft fan, I could not leave this title off of the list. Granted, Dark Corners of the Earth has more than its fair share of problems, but there is still a worthwhile experience to be found here. Despite the shortcomings, Call of Cthulhu is a disturbing first-person adventure.
While on a case, Private Investigator Jack Walters arrives in the seaside town of Innsmouth. There he has to deal with unfriendly villagers, mutant fish-people, and ancient gods. The game has disturbing imagery and a twisted story, but what sells it is the sanity system. If Jack sees something a little too terrifying, his vision starts to swim as he starts to panic. Stare at it a little too long and he might just put his gun to his head and pull the trigger. Having to battle external foes as well as sanity loss kept my pulse racing.
And there you have it: five great games–plus one more for good measure–that are sure to interrupt your sleep schedule. Now, I realize there are more horror games out there and I also realize that many of them are very good, but the line had to be drawn somewhere.
What about you? What games/series would you put on the list?