What are the scariest video games ever?
Resident Evil 7 has once again proven that video games are the most effective medium for scaring yourself silly.
Unlike movies, games plonk you right in the centre of it all; playing a horror game is the closest you’ll get to fighting zombies and running around a haunted house without actually being in a zombie apocalypse or visiting a haunted house.
In this post, we’ve picked some of the scariest video games we’ve ever played. Grab your comfort blanket and put your mum on speed dial – things are about to get spooky…
Miles Upshur, the main character in Outlast, is either the bravest or stupidest journalist in history.
Instead of writing about village cake competitions and road marking scandals, Miles decides to investigate some weird goings-on at an abandoned asylum. If any sentence telegraphs horror more than ‘weird goings-on at an abandoned asylum’, I’ve yet to read it.
To make matters worse, silly Miles doesn’t bring anything to defend himself with. His sole possession is a camera with a night vision mode that gobbles up batteries faster than a dodgy CD player from the 90s.
Unsurprisingly, the ‘abandoned’ asylum still has a few residents and they aren’t exactly welcoming. One of them is a massive bloke with big teeth and a penchant for throwing you around like a ragdoll before tearing your head off.
Outlast is basically five hours of creeping around hoping that said residents don’t find you and do horrible things to you. This involves hiding in lockers, under beds and running for your life while screaming like a little girl (usually in real life).
It’s frankly terrifying, with a pervading sense of dread and fear as you walk around the bloodstained corridors of the asylum (the new residents don’t have time to clean up after themselves, apparently).
The baddies also have a thing for popping up totally at random with an accompanying orchestral stab that’ll make you jump so far out of your seat that you might want to stick cushions to your ceiling.
Silent Hill 2
Shrouded in a permanent fog and infested with nasty beasties, Silent Hill is the scariest video game town of them all.
Silent Hill 2 is arguably the pinnacle of the series in terms of story and sheer cold-sweat-inducing terror. It places you in the shoes of James Sutherland, a normal chap who receives a letter from his wife telling him to come to Silent Hill. Nothing too odd, apart from his wife is dead.
Naturally, James goes to Silent Hill and immediately runs into those nasty beasties I mentioned earlier. ‘Highlights’ include nurses with no face, monsters with another set of legs instead of an upper body and a charming fellow named Pyramid Head, who has a big pyramid for a head and lugs around a giant sword to cut your head off with.
Silent Hill 2 isn’t all about gruesome monsters trying to eat you though. James’ quest to find his wife is psychologically harrowing, encompassing a cast of broken and tragic characters in one of gaming’s most traumatic and mind-bending plots.
All in all, a truly horrifying way to spend a day. Perfect!
Alien Isolation throws you into the spacesuit of Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ripley from the original Alien series. Amanda has decided to go into the family business of being stalked by a relentless extra-terrestrial killing machine with acid blood, although not entirely by choice.
Like Outlast, Isolation gives you precious little to survive with. You get a hilariously archaic motion sensor, which beeps so loudly that old stabby-teeth-tongue can hear you a mile away, and a few things to distract the alien with. Later, you get a gun and a flamethrower but both are pretty useless against everyone’s favourite hungry xenomorph.
So, it’s back to hiding in lockers and in vents and hoping that the alien doesn’t find you. Did we mention there are killer androids who strangle you while staring into your soul with their cold, dead eyes too? Yep, there are those too.
With the benefit of hindsight, Resident Evil is hilarious. It has perhaps the corniest video intro ever filmed, your character has all the athleticism of a tank and calling the voice acting stilted is an insult to the fine art of stilt-walking.
Back in the day, when Castlevania was the height of video game horror, Resident Evil was terrifying. Evil lurks behind every slowly opened door (and they certainly opened slowly) of the Arklay mansion: zombies who want to munch your face off, nasty dogs, big scary plants, a huge snake, all lining up to kill you in a myriad of gruesome ways.
The scariest part, however, is managing your inventory. Resources are scarcer than water on Mars, with even your amount of saves limited by how many ink ribbons you have.
Luckily, the save rooms have lovely soothing music that calms your nerves… until you step out of the room and get murdered by whatever horror lurks next.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Condemned did first person horror before it was cool, placing players in the shoes of FBI agent Ethan Thomas as he hunts the mysteriously named Serial Killer X (to be fair, your career choices are fairly limited with a name like that).
Cracking the case involves investigating loads of grim crime scenes using forensic tools and bashing loads of baddies over the head with pipes and shovels. The baddies aren’t pushovers though; they can pull all kinds of sneaky tricks like feinting hits and jumping out at you from behind corners.
Condemned relies more on psychological horror than monsters but it’s no less scary for it. If you like Seven or Twin Peaks, you’ll love it.
Alan Wake follows a horror novelist who moves to a small town to cure his writer’s block. Of course, said small town isn’t quite what it seems and soon enough, Alan’s wife has disappeared and he’s out in the woods looking for her.
Unlike many of the protagonists in this post, our Alan actually knows how to use a gun – although he has to shine light onto his foes before he can shoot them. This means you have to get creative. You get a torch as standard, but taking on hordes of baddies requires a little more creative thinking.
Alan Wake is unashamedly inspired by Stephen King, from the main character who basically is Stephen King to the supernatural-heavy plot. It also follows a (at the time) unique episodic structure, with each episode ending on a cliffhanger.
Its a few years old now but it’s well worth digging out if you didn’t play it first time round.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
If the subtitle didn’t give it away, Eternal Darkness aims to mess with your head.
You play as Alexandra Roivas, who has gone to her grandfather’s mansion to investigate his murder. She eventually finds a book bound in skin and bone (always a bad sign) and is transported into the body of a Roman military commander fighting monsters.
The game skips between eras and characters, all linked by the same battle against an HP Lovecraft inspired evil force.
Eternal Darkness’ main feature is the sanity meter, which depletes based on what happens to the character and what they see. As the meter empties, all kinds of weird stuff happens: the camera angle skews, the walls start to bleed, the games makes you think your console is broken, the volume goes down. It’s a unique and unsettling 4th wall breaking feature that few games have managed to imitate since!
Rule #1 of sci-fi horror: if a space ship is sending a distress signal, something really, really bad has happened, probably involving some kind of flesh-eating space monster.
And so, poor old Isaac Clarke, an engineer on ship responding to a distress call, is soon fighting reanimated corpses known as Necromorphs with mining tools, including a plasma cutter, a rotary saw and big torch.
Dead Space is about as horrifying as that scenario suggests. It’s also extremely gory, with combat revolving around a ‘strategic dismemberment’ system in which players have to cut off certain limbs before they can kill baddies.
What is the scariest game you’ve ever played? Let us know in the comments.
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