Resident Evil 4
“I’m not falling for this old trick.”
What horror game list would be complete without this juggernaut? Sweeping up 2005’s Game of the Year awards left and right, Resident Evil 4 brought horror and action to a head with flawless execution. Playing as series main character Leon S Kennedy, you brave rural Europe on a quest to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter. Managing to make the daylight lose its sense of safety, the game only gets creepier at night: wandering farmland in a light a drizzle while a lone horn sounds periodically, careful of bear traps strewn across the dirt, listening for the call of infected–and that’s just within the first third of the game. Nothing beats the chill of meeting your first Regenerator, though: that ragged, wet breathing as it shuffles and stumbles towards you, and mercy willing you equipped the thermal scope because without it… boy, you best pick a god and pray.
“James, I’m there. At our special place. Do you remember?”
We all remember fading in on James looking at himself in a bathroom mirror in sleepy Silent Hill. A mysterious letter from his wife beckons him to this place, but when she’s been dead for three years, James sees no choice but to investigate. A journey of love and intrigue. Or is it? The town quickly warps into a rusty, surreal landscape of sensual horror. A haunting but strangely catchy soundstrack mixes well with nauseating sound effects. With monsters both creepy and crass, Silent Hill 2 is burned into our minds as a place not for the faint of heart. The most bizarre and commanding monster, the infamous Pyramid Head, has kept gamers talking for over a decade, ensuring this title will come up in any discussion about survival horror games.
“You pathetic creature of meat and bone.”
In the year 2072 a rogue AI known as SHODAN lost her mind. She was snuffed out by the hacker that created her. Forty-two years later, she has something she’d like to say about that. System Shock 2 hit shelves in 1991, beautiful for its time and all the more terrifying because of it. One of the earliest titles to tell the story through found audio logs and ghostly apparitions, it inspired future horror titles like Amnesia and fellow top tenner, BioShock. A gross and interesting research mechanic allows players to collect organs of new enemy types and improve damage done to them. The Many, the dark and grotesque fate of the crew aboard the Von Braun, are only one grisly obstacle to reach SHODAN. Fellow survivor Dr Janice Polito guides you from the safety of a depressurized cabin, and it’s up to you, the player, how much you want to rely on a stranger you haven’t met.
“Twinkle, twinkle little star…”
There is something inherently scary about space. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s vast, and no one knows what is out there. So of course Dead Space, brought to you by Visceral Games, will have a spot on this list. Shortly after discovering a mysterious alien artifact, the USG Ishimura’s communications are cut off abruptly. You, as Isaac Clarke, an engineer sent to the scene, are charged with discovering what happened to the communications and get the ship back in order. However, soon after you arrive to the Ishimura, you find evidence of a bloodbath, and your mission quickly turns to survival. With limited power and unknown enemies, Dead Space puts you in the dark and damaged space ship with no reinforcements and no hand holding. You’ll have to fight to survive… good luck.
“Outlast is the first and only game where I had to stop playing due to anxiety. My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. This one is not for the faint of heart.” — Dusty “DustimusPrime” Stokes.
Armed only with a notebook and camcorder with nightvision, freelance journalist Miles Upshur delves into a remote psychiatric hospital deep in the mountains of Colorado on an anonymous tip. What happens when he finds his way into the building is nothing short of an anxiety inducing nightmare. Canadian game developer Red Barrels does an amazing job building so much ambient horror that it’s quite likely you’ll have to take frequent breaks, which is exactly what we look for in this genre. Be prepared for a trip down the rabbit hole into the horrors that take place in a decrepit mental hospital.
“Please…don’t leave me in this place.”
How far will you go for family? That’s what this game asks you. After being drawn to a cursed circle of land, you and your twin sister are trapped. An area doomed to repeat its final horrifying night, it’s up to you to protect your sister and break the cycle–at least, you hope that will set you free. A haunting soundtrack with bone chilling dialogue from the deceased, the sound space on this game is second to none. With only a camera to defend yourself, the game leaves players feeling unprotected and exposed in the decrepit buildings and debris strewn streets. This game asks what’s more important: family or freedom.
“You’ll never be able to go back to Chuck E. Cheese’s again…”
Five Nights at Freddy’s and it’s sequels are some seriously scary puzzlers. You play as a security guard at “Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza”, home to group of animatronic animals who both serve as the parlor’s mascots as well as the terrors of the night that mean to kill you.
Your mission, with which you have no choice but to accept, is to monitor the place via a series of security camera feeds in your office, and to ensure that the mascots do not wander out of site and kill you. Pretty simple right? Not exactly – there are some rules to this game. Firstly, you cannot leave your office. So no running away. Also, you must cycle through your security cam feeds trying to maintain eye contact on each of these timid horrors (they only move when you cannot see them). This means that you must be keeping track of who you are watching at any given time, as well as the others who are all inching their way closer to killing you.
Five Nights at Freddy’s offers a chilling challenge and plenty of jump scares. Make sure to turn off the lights and put on some good headphones…and don’t die.
“This ain’t your typical CSI story….”
Playing as Ethan Thomas, a crime scene investigator for the FBI, Condemned puts you in Metro city investigating a gruesome series of murders with a dark subtext centering on drug abuse and a possibly cult connection. The mysterious killer X taunts you throughout the game as you come closer and closer to finding him; but the closer you get to him, the further down the rabbit hole you go as your sanity begins to come into question. Will you be able to capture this villain? Or will you become what you seek to eliminate?
Condemned: Criminal Origins has one of the more satisfying combat systems in the list. Ethan has an interesting array of weapons available to him, with the standard issue pistol being a good go to — when you have ammo. Most of the time you will be scrounging the environments for any 2×4 or metal pipe you can find to beat off drugged up junkies. Melee combat has a very good feel to it, as you will sway to and fro with the swing of a heavy piece of lumber, or get knocked for a loop when some punk tags you back.
One cool and unique aspect of Condemned is the crime scene investigation. Each time you encounter the leftovers of X’s work, you will use your handy camera and investigation kit to look for clues and insights to the scene. With the help of a handy coworker on the other line of your cell, you will work through these clues to find out where to go next, and hopefully gain the upper hand in the next encounter.
Condemned can be found on the cheap and is a really good one. Don’t pass it up.
“Would you kindly?”
Set in the audacious underwater city of Rapture, you adventure begins New Years Eve where glamour gives way to chaos. The city has become overrun by ‘Splicers’–individuals addicted to Adam, a heroine-like special power inducing substance–and you’re caught in the aftermath. A civil war rages between those alligned to either mysterious mogul Frank Fontaine or city creator Andrew Ryan, and you align yourself with Atlas, a third party trying to escape with his family. As you navigate the expansive depths of Rapture, you have to watch out for Adam collecting Little Sisters and their terrifyingly dangerous protectors, Big Daddies. The Daddies pose your greatest threat, ready and willing to gore you with the massive drill mounted on their arm. Morality has a hand in your fight for survival, and who you spare, kill or harvest affects the outcome of your struggle. BioShock earned several Game of the Year awards, with its stunning environments and incredible soundtrack, and is well worth the time of any gamer. So would you kindly play it?
“The gap through the door… it’s a separate reality. The only me is me. Are you sure the only you is you?“
Inspiring existential crises everywhere, Silent Hills PT (playable trailer) is a horror experience of its own kind. Set in a looping hallway, each trek across the wood floor provides a new, grotesque scare. A staticy radio tells of a grisly murder that the player is left wondering if they’re somehow involved in. With a terrifying ghost wandering the hall and a bloody fetus narrating another tragic tale, PT has the creep factor cranked up to eleven. The real scary part is that this is probably all we’ll see of the project; with Kojima Studios disbanded, the production house is closed on the game. The rights fall to collaborator Guillermo del Toro, so hopefully there’s still a chance for this spooky title.