Let’s face it. Horror games, whether you like them or not, have been quite a big movement in gaming since the inception & success of franchises like Resident Evil and Silent Hill.
However, those aren’t the only “scare-your-pants-off” games that are worth playing. Remember that, in order to be scary, a game doesn’t always have to rely on things like cheesy jump-scares (I’m looking at you, FNAF). There are so many examples of well-done psychological horror games, survival horror games, and games that just leave you with that unsettling feeling of dread. In my humble opinion, it takes a skilled team of writers, directors, and graphics folks to make a game that can leave you with that crawling willies feeling, without having things jump out at you at inopportune moments, and that’s what I thought I’d bring you today.
With that in mind, I went out on to social media and posed the question: “BESIDES the Silent Hill and Resident Evil series, what are your favorite horror games, or games that scared you because of psychological tension, and why?” I got some excellent answers.
Overwhelmingly, the top answer was the Dead Space franchise. The main fear-inducing aspects of this game seem to be the idea of isolation combined with the vastness of space, as well as the eerie silence found on a spaceship with no crew. The claustrophobic environment, and the fact that the protagonist is not a soldier or warrior, but an engineer who is armed only with mining tools (plasma cutters, rotary saws and gravitic repulsion tools), which instead of being used for “stopping power”, are used for what the game calls, “strategic dismemberment”.
With great action and creepy substance, this one has kept players engaged & coming back for more.
Kholat. An indie game developed by IMGN.PRO, this game is set right after the Dyatlov Pass incident, and involves the player investigating the incident itself. The research into this game is…not something I want to relive. The backstory of the incident is blood-chilling enough, and then this developer went & created a visually & audibly stunning game, and basically brought this story to life again. What really struck me about this one was the feeling of solitude in a wide-open area, save for some sort of smoke-like specter which kills you if you are cornered. There is no way to fight; just outrun, hide, and get away. Set in the mountains of the aforementioned pass, the visuals and music are extremely atmospheric & eerie. This one is downright terrifying if you like games that get into your head.
The Fatal Frame series has definitely given gamers the heebie-jeebies over several iterations. The way these games built up tension and then threw terrifying ghosts at us, gave the gameplay a good combination of knee-jerk scares and some twisted mind-screws. There’s something amazing about the way Asian supernatural horror really gets under your skin, and this series does it beautifully. It’s totally one to play in the dark, especially if you love ghost stories. Akin to watching movies like The Grudge, or The Ring, the Fatal Frame series is a must-play for any fan of good scares.
While not necessarily a “horror” series, the Bioshock franchise has definitely been able to capture the feelings of solitude, persecution, and mind-bending tension, as the player is never quite sure (until the end, that is) what is actually going on. This is especially true with the first game in the series, as being in an underwater city with a lot of dark & dreary environments truly dialed up the tension & sense of impending doom around every corner. This series is a must for lovers of the dystopian horror genre.
This last one, I had not heard of until someone brought it to my attention relatively recently. Layers of Fear puts the player in control of an unnamed protagonist, who is a talented (yet very mentally unhinged) painter. As the character works on what will be his Magnum Opus, he begins having hallucinations about his past. These visions soon morph the world around him into a twisted, decaying mess of horrific visuals & creepy ambient sound. Imagine being stuck in a dilapidated house, designed by the lovechild of M.C. Escher & H.P. Lovecraft. It’s like watching someone descend into screaming madness, and being unable to do a damn thing about it. “There isn’t a single thing in the game that isn’t twisted,” said one player. “It’s mentally horrifying.”
There you have it, dear readers. Some of the scariest horror/suspense games, as suggested by YOU! As we build up to Halloween this year, we here at Pop Culture Uncovered will be bringing you more spooky stuff to sate that craving for good horror (and maybe some cheesy horror too), so stay tuned!