I am not too much of a horror movie buff. Jason Vorhees is merely a retired hockey goalie that hates horny teenagers, from what I have heard and Freddy Krueger, and to me, is the last fighter in the latest Mortal Kombat. I prefer to pick up a controller for my frightful fix especially when the leaves turn orange and the pumpkins come out near Halloween’s eve. Fall is the best time of year to celebrate the scariest video games, especially with the genre’s recent resurgence.
The classic Resident Evil 4 is not a traditionally scary game, but it succeeds phenomenally well at establishing panic and terror. The way in which the Ganados slowly shamble toward Leon evokes a creepy sensation and the musty, gross environments allow these tense moments to take place in a setting with actual atmosphere. Adrenaline always runs high no matter the enemy but the creepy Regenerators and Iron Maidens are the single most terrifying enemy in gaming. When I first came across them, I freaked out and did not play the game for two whole months. It shook me like no other.
The Last of Us is not a traditional horror game, but horror is one of the many hats The Last of Us wears. In a few areas, the designers really take the hostility of the infected and put them in some dark, dank environments, turning The Last of Us into a pretty effective horror game. Tiptoeing around was tense, but causing a ruckus brought forth the panic and terror that Resident Evil 4 did so well. Horror is just another aspect that The Last of Us nails.
Silent Hill: Downpour gets a bad reputation for being one of the many sour eggs of the Silent Hill franchise, but while it lacked the nuance of earlier titles, it had its moments. Moments of screaming organs and dark, creepy rooms offset the wonky controls. The creepiness is established beautifully through the fantastic sound design, that makes every gross sound even more gross. While some fans wince at the sheer mention of Silent Hill: Downpour, it had enough of the franchise’s spirit to make it one of the scariest games out there.
The xenomorph stopped being scary at about 1979 after the movie Alien came out. The subsequent Alien movies ditched horror in favor of action, which, while not bad on principle, let the alien become more cool than frightening. Not Alien: Isolation. There is one alien in the whole game and it is dreadful. The way he stalks around slowly looking for something to kill. The way you can hear him scurry though the vents. Every possible action the alien can do is a way to remind the player that he is superior. He can kill you. And he will. Isolation re-aliens the alien in the best possible way in a way in which the movies could not do.
While it can be a toss up between Dead Space and Dead Space 2, Dead Space edges out its sequel because of the mystique surrounding everything. The fear of just not knowing what the necromorphs are gives the foes a sense of mystery that only adds to their overall scariness. Gameplay is mainly derived from Resident Evil 4 with all the same positive aspects with a few changes that make it more fluid but just as tense. Dead Space is a shining example of how to do a horror game in the modern day. If only Dead Space 3 had carried on the series’ horror roots.
The version of Silent Hill 3 that I played was basically broken. The framerate hovered in the teens and the sound was garbled for about a quarter of my playthrough. Despite those issues, Silent Hill 3’s journey twisted my mind in a way only a Silent Hill game could do. The misty town offered itself to more psychological scares over jump scares, meaning it was more of a constant sense of crushing dread over a few monster closets. I did not want to be in Silent Hill but at the same time, I did not want to leave. Just do not watch the movie.
Outlast arms you with… a camera. It is not even a great camera too. This sense of helplessness may be a little frustrating at times, but avoiding mental patients and naked crazy doctors puts you in an easy position to get scared witless. Having to hide and run within the disgusting asylum was a tense experience that did not overstay its welcome. That is a good thing too since I do not know if my heart could take much of that game.
Shinji Mikami, that man who was one of the key minds behind the whole survival horror genre, promised to come back to the genre in a way that would be faithful it its origins. I guess he saw what Capcom did with Resident Evil and could not sit comfortably knowing they destroyed his baby.
Enter The Evil Within, which combines all the best parts of Resident Evil 4, Dead Space, and Silent Hill and funnels them into one package. The twisted setting reeks of Silent Hill. The shooting and overall design is both a healthy mix of Dead Space and Resident Evil 4. In essence, it is equal parts psychological horror, survival horror, and action horror and all in the same game. The fact that each pillar is phenomenal is an achievement worthy of a high spot on this list.
All of these games so far have been the result of me looking for a good scare. Not Slender. Stalking the woods looking for pages while the mythical Slenderman creeps around is utterly crushing in a way that I almost cannot experience. It could be the middle of the afternoon and I would still almost poop my pants in terror. Slender is free too, showing that true horror can be done on a budget.
P.T. should be for me. It is free. It is on the PS4 and the famed Hideo Kojima is behind it. But I cannot bring myself to play more than thirty seconds. It is too cramped, too quiet, and too disturbing for me to ever actively want to play it. It brilliantly plays on the player’s expectations in the most devious of ways. Going through the same hallway allows the player to get comfortable then BOOM, you soil yourself and need to exit the game. I do not know if Silent Hills, the game in which this is a playable teaser to, will hold the same amount of scares, but that does not take away from P.T. being the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced.