written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Happy Halloweenie! With the candy industry's national holiday coming, I wanted to list off my top 5 horror games of all time. As a gamer, I've been playing for over two decades of my life, from the days of the NES to the current generation of hyper realism, I've been a gamer as long as I can remember.
When it comes to being scared, there have been many games that tickled that fear bone a bit but these five are my most memorable.
Originally titled Biohazard in Japan, the first Resident Evil holds a soft spot in my nerdy little gamer heart. While looking back at it now, it's not nearly as scary as it used to be and the atrocious voice-acting make the game feel more comical than tense, at the time I spent many a sleepless night trying to put aside the feeling of dream this game gave me.
From the first moment that you encounter one of the walking dead to chilling moments like the "hallway" scene firmly plant this game as one of my favorites in the series. The feeling of dread wasn't just courtesy of the atmosphere, but also can be caused by the sheer lack of items in the game. You were forced to conserve ammo and health items and many of the msot heart pounding moments for me happen when I'm facing down far too many zombies with only a few rounds and a single herb in my inventory.
While the franchise has seemingly turned away from the survival horror theme of its first entry, memories of this game stay with me and in a way keep me from being too jaded about the direction of the series... hell, I even bought Resident Evil 6 (a freaking mistake) and gave it the good old college try before selling it off to an unsuspecting soul... sorry to whoever bought it off me.
If movies like The Ring weren't enough to make me feel scared shit-less to live in Washington State... this game does. Alan Wake sees the titular character facing down a hoard of shadowy beasts called "the taken" in the fictional mountain town of Bright Falls, WA.
Alan Wake is a famous author of psychological/thriller novels, while tackling a serious case of writer's block, he looks to the scenery of a cabin on Cauldron Lake to help remedy that. Of course the serene nature of his surroundings make for an interesting juxtaposition when the veritable shit hits the fan. The dark scenery of every set piece hit me at my most basic of fears, being afraid of the dark. Now while, mind you, as an adult I am totally okay with being in the dark... but shadowy figures that could only be hurt with light make for a terrifying experience.
Alan Wake gave me nightmares for a solid week after completing it, I was genuinely scared but at the same time couldn't look away. While much of the game was memorable, hands down the most memorable moment involved a dark garden maze and all manner of shadowy baddies hunting me down.
While the first game in the series set up the fear inducing foggy gameplay, it was the PS2 sequel that solidified its place in my list. Silent Hill 2 came out in 2001 and was one of the first games I bought on the PS2, after some disappointing launch games, this game became my validation for getting a PS2.
While being a sequel to the popular horror game on the PS One, Silent Hill 2 is actually a stand alone entry with only the fictional town being the common denominator. While the game retains the look of the previous installment, James Sunderland and his search for his dead wife have a life of its own.
Much of the game's narrative held skin crawling moments, and the inclusion of a new big baddie in Pyramid Head made for some incredibly tense moments. Pyramid Head reminded me so much from Resident Evil 3, a big baddie that you simply could not take down by conventional means. He crosses your path through much of the game so if facing down demonic people, creepy and strangely sexual faceless nurses wasn't enough, you have this hulking beast of a monster always a few steps behind.
I still get chills thinking about this game.
This game was sorely under appreciated and still stands as one of the best examples of character development in a video game. Released over a decade ago,, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem was a GameCube psychological horror/action game. The plot of the game revolves around Alexandra Roivas, who is investigating the mysterious murder of her grandfather Edward Roivas. In exploring Edward's Rhode Island mansion, she discovers a secret room containing a book bound with human skin and bone. Of course she reads it, The Tome of Eternal Darkness, and is transported into a scene in the life of Pious Augustus, a respected Roman military commander in 26 BC.
The game was notable because even though Alexandra was the main character of the story, through the memories of people long dead she was able to experience everything from the life of a Roman soldier to a Franciscan monk searching for a holy artifact.
The game's standout concept is the "sanity meter", a green bar on screen which is depleted by events such as the character being seen by an enemy. It can be restored by such actions as performing a "finishing move" or casting restorative magic. As the bar becomes low, subtle changes are made to the environment and random unusual events begin to occur, akin to the character losing grip on reality. If the bar remains empty, depleting sanity affects the health bar.
This played into such visual and audible cues like a skewed camera angle or hearing whispers/disturbing noises. As the sanity meter decreases, the skewed camera angle becomes more pronounced and the once subtle sounds increase and become more prominent. This made for some intense moments an further increased the unsettling feeling of this psychological thriller.
While subtle gameplay tweaks were made to the Resident Evil series over the course of the PS One era of games, by large they stayed more or less the same. Even games like Resident Evil: Code Veronica kept a similar gameplay style to the game that made survival horror a household name.
Enter Resident Evil 4, originally debuting on Nintendo's GameCube, RE4 was a substantial departure from previous installments. Starring Leon S. Kennedy who originally made his RE debut in Resident Evil 2, when the President's daughter goes missing, Leon is tasked with bringing her home. This leads Leon to a backwater Spanish village with a threat far different than any he's faced before.
Unlike previous installments that buffered the monsters and mutants with shambling corpses analogous to a Romero nightmare, this game departed from the T-virus infected... instead pitting Leon against hoards of mad villagers dubbed Los Ganados. Unlike the walking dead, Los Ganados were far more formidable; able to wield various types of weaponry... even projectile weapons. Instead of a virus, Los Ganados were host to a parasite known only as Las Plagas.
To compensate for the more aggressive enemies, Resident Evil 4 revamps gameplay from the ground up. The third person perspective is largely from behind with the view snapping into an over the shoulder view when aiming (similar to games like Gears of War and Mass Effect). This was very different than the survival horror gameplay we all remember from previous installments, but pacing and inventory made it feel all the more tense. Ammunition was just as scarce, forcing the player to get creative when taking on throngs to mad villagers. While seemingly more action oriented, the gameplay felt through to the series... something I wish I could say about Resident Evil 5 and 6.
HAPPY HALLOWEENIE! Here's hoping ya dug my list... what games do you have on YOUR list... sound off in the comments below.