For the past month or so, I have been on a huge horror-game kick. I’ve been seeking out all the titles I missed out on, simply because either I was too scared to play them or too confused by the control schemes. This has led me to buy some of the classics: Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Silent Hill 2, and Dino Crisis. Even though I haven’t beaten any of these yet, I’m having the best time playing them.
Playing this genre piqued my interest in the history of survival horror games. Turns out, much of the survival horror genre can be accredited to Shinji Mikami, one of the minds behind the original Resident Evil. This guy defined a whole genre. Soon after Resident Evil’s success, not only were there sequels, but other games followed that style and control scheme. Developers started pushing the genre, creating terrifying games like Silent Hill and Fatal Frame.
Now Mikami is back with a vengeance. With Tango Gameworks and Bethesda, he has probably created another masterpiece known as Evil Within. Judging by the trailers, screenshots, and what little I have played of the game, I can already tell that this game is going to be awesome.
In honor of this release (but mostly because I’m on this kick), let me share with you my personal Top 5 Horror Games. Know that I haven’t played everything and that I’ve avoided the genre for a while now, but these are the titles that stand out to me.
Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation)
Don’t question it, just follow me on this. As a child, I was afraid of most horror monsters, mostly vampires. However, there is one particular ’90s movie monster who disturbed me to no end, Chucky. It’s not like I’ve actually seen the movies, but the trailers that played while my dad watched wrestling were traumatizing. Since then, I’ve had a fear of dolls, which leads me to why my favorite Final Fantasy game also scared the crap out of me.
Not long after the forest scene, the party arrivs at a simple mountain town. Zidane and his pals soon discover a dark secret. Turns out, the Queen of Alexandria is making an army of black mages. They look like fat scarecrows that throw fire magic around, but they are described as dolls. The narrative leading up to this moment is creepy. There are sounds coming from the only well in the village and then Vivi vanishes. Towards the end of the dungeon, I found an assembly line of the things being created. That’s when I turned off my PlayStation, crawled into bed, and proceeded to have nightmares.
It took a few days, and daylight, before I could play it again.
House of the Dead 3 (Xbox)
This title is mostly just a fun little arcade game. There are few scares in it, but there is a hefty amount of gore. Players use a lightgun to blast away zombies and monsters, all while having to put up with terrible voice acting. Seriously, it’s like after Resident Evil came out, all horror games had to have bad voice acting too. Granted it’s hilarious, so at least there’s that. I remember playing this game with a friend on his Xbox. We hooked up two gun controllers and shot up a staggering pile of zombies. The best part is having infinite lives. That, and after he got bored of playing, he handed me the other gun.
Dual-wielding light guns, while yelling because the moment is so awesome, will forever be ingrained into my memory.
The pure genius behind the idea of P.T. is astounding. Not only was it a complete mystery, but Hideo Kojima published it under a fake studio name. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the millions who was purely surprised. I learned about this game from my favorite YouTube gaming show Game Grumps. Yet, when I finally sat down to play it, the horror was real.
Ever since Amnesia became a hit, several horror games have chosen to have the player completely defenseless. P.T. uses that helplessness to pull true fear from their players. It is less of a game and more of an interactive short film. Most players don’t know how they “beat” this game, even more, I assume, stopped playing due to the many heart attacks I’m sure they experienced. Me, I share this game with friends and film it for my YouTube show, Forever Classic.
What’s even better than a short, focused horror experience? The fact that this game was a secret teaser for an upcoming revival of the Silent Hill franchise. The amount of talent behind this project is amazing. Not only will Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid) be behind the wheel, but also Guillermo Del Toro (Pacific Rim) and Norman Reedus (Walking Dead).
I can’t wait for Silent Hills’ release, but to be honest I’ll probably never finish it. I’d never thought I would look forward to wearing Depends. . .
Speaking of demos, I first learned of BioShock through Xbox Live. The demo was essentially the first bit of the game. Those who have played it know that this one grabs you by the jewels from the first scene. I remember my friends teasing me about it, saying that the game wasn’t scary. I love media of all types, so I have a tendency to suspend my disbelief for everything. Some people will look at a horror game and say, look how silly the monster is, but I become that character and the fear is real.
One of BioShock’s biggest strengths was definitely its atmosphere. Rapture holds a lot of dark secrets, making the player want to discover them, but these same secrets are often morally puzzling and disturbing. Players have to choose to save or kill the Little Sisters, gaming’s most adorable evil. Also, the player is alone. There are no shop keepers or other characters to help you out, it’s kill or be killed.
Even to this day, I consider the first BioShock to be the best in the franchise. It drew me in and consumed me for a week or so. I’ve always wanted that same feeling, but few games have done that since.
Resident Evil 4
If I hadn’t borrowed Resident Evil 4, and if it hadn’t been seriously recommended by a friend, I never would’ve played horror games. For me, this is the absolute peak of the genre and anyone looking for a place to start may as well start with the best. I have played this game more times than I can count. I know all the secrets, all the weapons, and all the history. While I may know less than I boast, I love learning everything about it.
Resident Evil 4 is a third person survival horror game, which originally appeared on the GameCube. Yep, the same purple box that had Super Mario Sunshine and Animal Crossing was the first to have the newest Resident Evil of the time. I actually didn’t get to play it until it came out on PS2. The mission is simple, save the President’s brain-dead daughter from a grisly fate at the hands of cultists infected with bio weapons.
Even though the main character, Leon, gets to use powerful weaponry, ammo is scarce and placing shots well becomes a key way to survive. He uses these guns to put down angry Spanish farmers, Tolkien-esque trolls, and ugly fish. Several of the later enemies proved to scare me the most, like the Regenerators and the Verdugos. However, one moment in particular made me quit playing for a while.
As my friend suggested, I played this game exclusively at night with the volume cranked up. I was doing fine at first; I only died once or twice, usually to quick time events. Eventually, I was tasked with getting a key to a church. Getting the key wasn’t too bad, but coming back was awful. It started to rain, obscuring poor Leon’s vision. I walked across the rickety bridge with no obstruction, where before there had been farmers. Just before reaching the church, I came across a dog.
Fans of Resident Evil 4 will know that you can save a dog from a bear trap that will later help you in a boss fight. I wasn’t that afraid of dogs up until this point.
A low growl sounded from the dog. At first I was glad to see my puppy friend, but then it leaped at me. I watched as the beast tore at Leon’s throat in horror. After the initial shock I frantically tried to push it back by mashing the onscreen commands. It stood there afterwards, staring at me. I emptied a full clip of my sub-machine gun into the thing, having little to no effect. Ripping out of the beast’s back were tentacles that struck out at me. This depleted my health and Leon fell with a sigh.
This moment not only scared me half to death, but forced me to quit for the night. Since then, if I come across a dog in a horror game, I shoot first and ask questions later. Resident Evil 4 will always be one of my favorite games of all time.
There’s a reason I chose to make this list a Top 5 instead of a Top 10. I simply haven’t played that many horror games. That’s why you should leave your favorite horror game in the comments below. Who knows, you may see an article here at Giga or a video on Forever Classic. Either way, I love this genre, so lead me on a path to discover the best.
If you like to watch other people get scared, check out my latest video on Forever Classic.