Horror takes place in all forms, on all platforms. Whilst I love the reading and oftentimes the watching of all things scary, I’ve always found that I become more unsettled by games, where I have to directly interact with what’s going on. There’s times I’ve even had to stop playing and take a break, because the apprehension got too much.
“Do I have to walk down that corridor? Do I have to open that door? Do I have to go toward that shadow that’s so obviously going to jump out at me?”
Not all horror games are done well, a lot are just plain terrible. My enjoyment primarily lies within the storytelling and whether it pulls me in and holds me captive. Cheap jump scares, whilst they do serve a purpose, are nothing compared the atmosphere, the narration, the music, and the tale told through it all.
So, without further ado, I present my personal top horror games.
Layers of Fear is a first-person psychedelic horror game with a heavy focus on story and exploration. Delve deep into the mind of an insane painter and discover the secret of his madness, as you walk through a vast and constantly changing Victorian-era mansion. Uncover the visions, fears and horrors that entwine the painter and finish the masterpiece he has strived so long to create.
I feel like this game came out of nowhere, and for many, it did. Being a story driven experience with emphasis on puzzle solving and exploration, it focused majorly on its environment. One second a room would be set in a particular way, and the next second things would begin to change into something grotesque and twisted. I was thoroughly impressed with the art direction, and pretty much everything else this game had to offer.
Gameplay didn’t involve killing enemies, but rather walking around and paying attention to the details. The scares intensified over time, which brought upon a delicious sense of dread. Certainly I’d call it beginner friendly, as whilst it may have took time to solve some of the puzzles, it wasn’t exactly difficult. It was more of a walking simulator, which isn’t always a bad thing.
Set in modern day rural America and taking place after the dramatic events of Resident Evil® 6, players experience the terror directly from the first person perspective. Resident Evil 7 embodies the series’ signature gameplay elements of exploration and tense atmosphere that first coined “survival horror” some twenty years ago; meanwhile, a complete refresh of gameplay systems simultaneously propels the survival horror experience to the next level.
This highly anticipated addition to the Resident Evil series didn’t disappoint, in fact, it revolutionised the franchise. I can honestly say that there were moments I felt terrified, as the atmosphere was a masterpiece in and of itself. Starting off rather slow, the tension just built until all hell broke loose, and I never stopped loving it. With puzzle solving, exploration, memorable enemies and epic boss fights, I was never more pleased and satisfied with money well spent.
I won’t lie, I had a hard time with certain enemies and boss fights, so I one hundred percent believe that this isn’t friendly to those inexperienced with action games. Even being on normal difficulty, there were times I struggled with the lack of ammunition. “Every shot counts” really applied, especially later in the game.
When eight friends become trapped on a remote mountain getaway gone wrong, things quickly turn sinister and they start to suspect they aren’t alone. Gripped by fear and with tensions in the group running high, you’ll be forced to make decisions that could mean life or death for everyone involved. Every choice you make while playing as each of the eight friends – even the seemingly trivial ones – will carve out your own unique story.
A game that proudly boasted of a system that heavily relied upon decision making, yet rather than being a mere illusion like the majority of games with similar structure, choices did indeed matter and even came to effect the overall outcome. There’s no doubt about it, this was a brutal and unforgivable game, where literally one mistake led to dire consequences within the story itself. The lives of each character was in my (literal) hands, and I’ll never forget the absolute stress that settled upon me.
Not being a console gamer, I had difficulty with the gameplay, which consisted of quick-time events. As I said, it was unforgiving, and my fingers had a hard time trying to coordinate themselves. I wouldn’t call this beginner friendly, not if the desired intention is to save the characters, which mine was at the time.
The Walking Dead is a five-part game series set in the same universe as Robert Kirkman’s award-winning comic book series. Play as Lee Everett, a convicted criminal, who has been given a second chance at life in a world devastated by the undead. With corpses returning to life and survivors stopping at nothing to maintain their own safety, protecting an orphaned girl named Clementine may offer him redemption in a world gone to hell.
I experienced a whole array of emotion whilst experiencing my first Telltale game – intrigue, delight, disgust, shock and that eventual rending of the heart. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t prepared for the story that was so expertly told, and the subsequent decisions I was forced to make. Presented as an interactive graphic novel, it set itself apart from pretty much everything else, giving me characters I could both love and hate. Gameplay played a minor part – there was no need to search for and collect ammunition, no use of big guns to blast down hordes of undead. The controls required were minimal, resulting in being rather beginner friendly.
Of course, this was before the episodic tales of Telltale eventually lost their appeal. It’s true, I’ve never since felt that pull; that amazement and attachment. The illusion of choice became all too obvious and contrived, leaving me feeling rather empty at the end of it all. I’ll still never forget my very first, though.
BioShock is a shooter unlike any you’ve ever played, loaded with weapons and tactics never seen. You’ll have a complete arsenal at your disposal from simple revolvers to grenade launchers and chemical throwers, but you’ll also be forced to genetically modify your DNA to create an even more deadly weapon: you. Injectable plasmids give you super human powers: blast electrical currents into water to electrocute multiple enemies, or freeze them solid and obliterate them with the swing of a wrench.
At first glance, Bioshock is an action packed first-person shooter, but beneath the surface is a story that so utterly grim, that it undeniably called to the darkness in me. Throughout the entire game was snippets of the lore revolving around Rapture; the underwater city of which the game takes place. The lore of Rapture is truly fascinating, so much so that I did my own research during and even after the game was completed. Dystopian and Utopian in general are appealing, but throw in some downright evil atrocities and I’ll eat it up with a smile.
The gameplay itself was enjoyable, even if I considered it repetitive after a time. I’m not a fan of FPS, where it’s solely the killing of enemy after enemy with little to no substance, but I was able to overlook that here, as it offered a whole lot more. I’m actually siding with beginner friendly on this one, as it wasn’t complicated at all to understand, and it could very well serve as an introduction to the genre.
Other honourable mentions: Outlast, Cry of Fear.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and even your experiences with horror games. I’d love to hear from you!