Written by J. Weagle
Horror games have an advantage over movies in that they are interactive, putting the player in control of the situation rather then cowardly watching what will unfold. Because of this it can be easy to send shivers down gamers spines but there is no doubt that there are certain games that find interesting ways to do it and separate themselves from the masses. In a lot of cases the games on this list weren’t the first to do things but they are the ones that did it best and still to this day remain a terrifying gaming experience.
To be clear this is not a list of my favourite horror games, these are games that are terrifying which I suppose in a way could mean that they are the greatest. Yes, these games are the ones that you don’t want to put down but have to because your heart can’t take another second of the suspense, creepiness or brutality.
Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 is the oldest game on this list released fifteen years ago as the sequel to the original Playstation classic. Not only is it the oldest it’s also the most iconic and is home to some of horrors greatest monsters in the form of horrifying yet sexy nurses, Pyramid Head and a whole cast of others you would never want to meet in a dark alley nor a well lit room.
The game follows the protagonist James who must travel to Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his dead wife. Still facing anguish and guilt over her death he soon learns that the town itself is inhabited by an evil that has manifested itself from his emotions. The plot alone sets Silent Hill 2 apart but adding in one of video games greatest soundtracks, an unbelievable amount of creativity and a psychological horror not seen prior or sense makes it an all time classic.
Out of all the games on this list Dead Space is perhaps the outsider. Where as the other games offer more slow methodical scares, Dead Space punches you in the gut repeatedly with jumps and brutality. It’s an odd thing but a film needs more then that to be scary, however a game can rely on that alone so long as the scares are at a certain quality.
In Dead Space players take control of Isaac Clark an engineer who is trapped on a derelict spacecraft. It doesn’t take long for him to find out the ship isn’t as barren as he originally thought when an alien artifact starts transforming everyone living and dead into flesh eating monsters. The art design in Dead Space is something to behold, with environments that feel as though they could have been lifted from Alien and creatures that look straight out of John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly
In many ways Fatal Frame 2 felt like the video game industry cashing in on the wave of Japanese horror films that became popular during the early part of the 2000’s. To be fair, in many ways it was but that didn’t mean it would go onto be one of the more suspenseful, edge of your seat gaming experience of all time.
The story follows two sisters who are lost and confused in a mysterious Japanese village and their personal journey as they try to escape and deal with loss and guilt. What separates Fatal Frame 2 is the unique idea that your only weapon is a magically camera that captures the ghost that torment you. This creates a cool element where the player, like the character in game must face things you don’t want to see in order to deal with them. It can be tough to go back to as it uses a more traditional camera and controls however those things do not affect just how scary the game can be.
The newest game on this list is SOMA, a game that feels as though it was tailor made with everything I love about horror put into one neat little package. Some of the best environmental design and perhaps one of gamings greatest stories combines together to make one of the most terrifying and intriguing video games ever created. Mixing psychological horror, body horror, science fiction and good old fashion jump scares SOMA is a game with something to offer just about any genre fan.
Set in an underwater research facility following a protagonist who doesn’t know how he ended up there makes for a layered deeply woven plot that unravels with each twist and turn more unbelievably fascinating then the last I’m surprised Hollywood hasn’t picked up the film rights yet. Because of the heavy narrative focus of SOMA to say anything about it would spoil it, but for those that can bare the depths I highly recommend it.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is perhaps one of the most influential horror video games of all time, right up there with the original Resident Evil and Doom. No game has been more copied then this indie darling and you can see its impact in just about every horror game to be release after. It’s a strange game that doesn’t offer an intriguing story (though it’s not terrible) or great characters. No, instead the one thing Amnesia offers and does better than just about every other video game is tension and unbelievable dread.
The plot isn’t important other then that it takes place in 1839 and your character can’t remember anything prior to waking in a strange place. From here you’ll go from room to room dreading every moment as your body begins to ache from not wanting to see what will come next and you’ll shut your eyes as you moved forward down the dark corridors. It doesn’t sound very revolutionary, but it was the first game to really strip you of your protection (guns, swords, etc) and truly leave you alone with your wits and fears.