The month of October is probably the greatest time of the year. Why? Because this is when the air gets a little cooler, pumpkin beer is put on shelves, and there is a huge increase in talking about horror films. I love horror films and subsequently, I love horror related games. Movies are a different kind of horror compared to video games, though, it’s passive and the viewer is forced to see the events unfold as the director wanted. With a video game, the player takes part in the horror; they have to decide what to do and figure out how to react to scary situations. It’s not only visceral, it’s interactive and therefore, it can affect you on greater scale.
I’m here today to talk about five games that you should play around this time of year because not only will they scare the shit out of you, but they are also solid titles to play. Like those old horror films you are pulling out of the closet, maybe it is time to revisit these titles and remember what it’s like to squirm.
Resident Evil 4 (2005)
I don’t think anyone can forget those first crazy minutes of RE4 when they approached the village and were terrified of what was lurking in those houses. The rest of the game is amazing (well, the end gets to be a little too silly) but nothing beats the suspense as you walked through this isolated forest while trying to figure out why these people were out to kill you. Bear traps, the occult, and castles make for a gothic experience that shaped my perception of what horror-games should be.
Not only did RE4 reinvent the third-person shooter but it also reinvented the RE franchise. The new controls threw the tank-controls out the window and the setting was a breath of fresh air compared to the Mansion and Raccoon City. I recently played the HD re-release on my PS3 and it holds up pretty well. It’s still a little too long but it’s still effective and some of those levels have you sweating, even if you know exactly what to do.
And this scene is just a lot of fun:
Dead Space (2008)
For me, Dead Space replaced Resident Evil in terms of what I expect from a horror-action game nowadays. RE5 was great, but it was not that inventive and now with the disappointing release of RE6, I have little idea of where the franchise is headed. Anyway, Dead Space reminded me that games can still get into your head and that atmosphere was a key factor to making a great horror title. RE5 lost the atmosphere, but Dead Space came out swinging with an interesting universe and a memorable combat system (shoot those limbs off, son!).
The sequel is a better game in that it balanced the horror and action, but the first one is far more effective in creating tension. Dead Space is like Alien as Dead Space 2 is like Aliens, each go about their business in different ways but if you want a purer, horror experience, go with Dead Space.
Condemned 2: Bloodshot (2008)
Talk about a game that gets under your skin! Condemned 2: Bloodshot was an attempt to put the player into the head of a super-crazy person, and I must say, it was pretty convincing. That one level that featured a crumbling apartment complex with rage-filled junkies had me just hiding in different rooms (in the game, not my actual house) for minutes at a clip because I didn’t know where the next freaky, skinny drug addict was going to be. Sometimes I just had to turn it off because it was getting to be too much for me to handle. It wasn’t a game that was easy to digest either. It was surreal and brutal in its portrayal of violence. Those screaming speakers will never leave my brain.
I never played the first Condemned, so I don’t know how it stacks against its sequel, but Bloodshot was a game I went in knowing nothing about and came out on the other side feeling grimy. Now THAT’S an accomplishment. The combat system was interesting too, or at least, its focus on melee stuff was different and it felt heavy or life-like. Also, the enemies did not wait for you, they came screaming and running which made them all the more horrifying.
Also, no one can forget when that bear chased them. No one.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002)
Ah, yes, the one game that truly built its foundation of the Lovecraftian model should not go missing from any list devoted to horror-games. It was a game that not only wanted to create a unique fiction, and an unsettling setting, but it also wanted to mess with the player’s head with things like the TV volume suddenly going down, or bleeding walls. Exploring the mansion was similar to Resident Evil but the storytelling (and this is my opinion) was more thought out and had more weight to it. It was also quite fun to jump around between different eras and see where the narrative took you. I can’t recommend this enough. Horror fans, you have been told.
Fun fact: Maybe a good portion of you already know this but ED was originally suppose to come out on the N64, but it got pushed up to be released on the Gamecube. Hey, it was one of the greatest games on that system, so it was a good decision.
Yeah, people like to forget about how scary this game actually is and focus more on the way it changed/improved the narrative in video games. That’s not to say those people are wrong, because they are not, it’s just that, the horrific elements of the game get talked about less than it should. Nothing is as unsettling as jumping into a world that that you have little knowledge of, and to coincide with that are these people who look like monsters who are out to kill you. Blood on the walls, creepy life-sucking girls, and a brutal look at the how society can break down.
That’s my list! I’m sure I missed games that you would prefer to be on this list, but these are just suggestions from my own personal taste. I encourage you, in the comments below, to name some games that you enjoy playing in the dark. Remember, Halloween is the time of year to let yourself get a little scared; so, don’t be afraid of being afraid, you might actually have a little fun.