All Hallows’ Eve is once again on the horizon like the birthday of the uncle you barely speak to all year but are obliged to make an effort with. It is a time for ghouls ‘n ghosts, 80’s MJ Thriller clones and kids dressing up as a means to justify stealing sweets from the elderly. So let us run through some of the most notable and scariest video games ever made. Wherever a game is part of a series I have attempted to only include one entry.
* disclaimer, some trailers come with the brown pants warning!
10. Alan Wake (Xbox360)
Alan Wake is a bestselling thriller novelist who is trying to uncover the mystery behind his wife’s disappearance while on vacation in the small town of Bright Falls. What helps to mix things up is that the events of the gameplay out in the same manner as the plot from his latest novel although he cannot remember writing it. The game was split into episodes to give the feel of a TV show and contained a number of plot twists and cliffhangers. Its core mechanic revolves around a ‘darkness’ that had begun to possess living and inanimate objects with Alan using a flashlight to maximum effect.
9. Dead Space (PS3/Xbox360)
Visceral Games had a mission to make the most terrifying game imaginable and from that concept, Dead Space was born. Set in the 26th Century it follows the exploits of Issac Clarke, a systems engineer on a rescue mission to locate his girlfriend after the USG Ishimura went radio silent. It was dark and atmospheric with terrifying monster creations. Dead Space was an instant hit and spawned a bunch of sequels and spin-offs. Even the teaser trailer was a thing of nightmares that was accompanied by a twisted version of twinkle twinkle little star, watching it sent shivers down my spine! It stuck with me for a long time.
8. Until Dawn (PS4)
Until Dawn sets up shop as an interactive teen horror more than a traditional game but is an interesting take on the genre nonetheless. The story follows eight teenagers that, on the anniversary of the disappearance of their friends, decide to spend a night on Blackwood Mountain in a log cabin – because nothing could go wrong with that, right! The game is designed to be played multiple times offering different endings depending on the choices made using the in-game butterfly effect mechanic. With spine-tingling performances from a Hollywood cast things quickly start to unravel and turn sinister. The group soon realise they aren’t alone and it is your actions that will ultimately decide who survives Until Dawn (see what they did there).
7. The Last of Us (PS3/PS4)
A swan song for the PlayStation 3, The Last of Us was a coming of age title from already excellent developer Naughty Dog. It was a showcase of just how far they had grown in emotional storytelling, engagement and visual style. Without a doubt, it was and still is, one of the finest examples in the survival horror genre and even in gaming as a whole. It follows the story of Joel and Ellie who are thrust together in a tragic story set in the post-apocalyptic United States. The first hour of the game was mind-blowingly emotional leading into the horror of a new world overrun by zombified humans infected with a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus. Incorporating elements of stealth it was a difficult gaming experience that kept you tense throughout. After giving up originally, because it stressed me out, I’m glad that it was re-released a year later on the PlayStation 4 and I finally managed to pull myself together and finish it.
6. Alien Isolation (PS4/Xbox One)
The original Alien films are some of scariest cinematic experiences of all time and upon the original’s release in the late ’70s, it was like nothing seen before on the silver screen. Over the years there have been numerous incarnations in video game form from Alien3 on the Sega Mega Drive to Alien vs Predator on the Jaguar but Isolation really managed to recapture that feeling of true fear and helplessness. Creative Assembly built the game engine from scratch to better realise their vision showcasing atmospheric environments and unnerving lighting effects building to the tension of that first encounter with the Alien.
5. Eternal Darkness: (GameCube)
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was a game that came out of nowhere, it was a messed up psychological horror action-adventure that somehow managed to make its way onto the wholesome Nintendo GameCube. It was the first time that I really felt unsettled when playing a game due to some dirty tricks that developer Silicon Knights employed. Almost at random, the sound would seemingly turn up and down on your TV or the screen would go all fuzzy as if there was an issue with the connection but really it was all part of the clever programming. The story revolved around several characters struggling against a powerful entity on a mission to enslave humanity over a number of time periods.
4. Resident Evil 1 (PS1)
It was 1996 and I was still at school, there was a new game in town that the talk of the playground. Resident Evil was a survival horror game set in Raccoon Forrest following the exploits of the S.T.A.R.S elite task force after the mysterious disappearance of some of their team members. The controls were clunky and the puzzles frustrating but it was the first step into a horrifying world that has spawned countless sequels, spin-offs and even a long-running movie franchise. Capcom had struck gold and Resident Evil has since been hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time. What really stuck in my mind was its full-motion video intro reminiscent of the classing Dawn of the Dead movie.
3. Silent Hill 2 (PS2)
The second instalment in the Silent Hill franchise was released in 2001 by developer Konami in a time where they could do little wrong. It was an indirect sequel to the PS1 original, this time following the story of James who visits Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his deceased wife. The game majorly benefited from the additional horsepower of the PlayStation 2 compared to its predecessor which suffered from terrible draw distances disguised by covering the town in thick fog. The story was mind-blowing and much praised at the time covering a number of taboo subjects, psychological aspects and references to historical events and films.
2. P.T (PS4)
Released on the PSN in 2014 as a ‘playable teaser’ (not just a clever name) it was a collaboration between Konami and the fantastical director Guillermo Del Toro. It was one of the best looking, immersive and bizarre games ever dreamt up, which figures with Del Toro on board. You play as an unknown who wakes up in what seems to be a haunted house, with very little guidance the aim was to escape. It employed a number of visual shock tactics and perfectly timed audio to keep the fear and tension levels high. I remember getting stuck in a loop moving from one room to a corridor for a number of minutes in what I thought would be an endless maze. What made P.T special and all that more heartbreaking was that upon reaching the end of the game, escaping the house, a cutscene kicked in to reveal its true form. Sadly the games full release was cancelled due to the breakdown in the relationship between Hideo Kojima and the studio but thanks to the power of the internet here’s the reveal (ok, so the video title kinda ruins it).
1. Outlast (PC/PS4/Xbone/Switch)
Red Barrels 2013 first-person survival horror game Outlast deservedly tops our list. The story revolves around a journalist who pays a visit to Mount Massive Asylum deep in the mountains of Colorado. What sets this apart from the norm is that our protagonist does not have the ability to retaliate when being attacked. The challenge lies in solving the mystery of the asylum and running away… a lot. Graphically stunning with a dark and dingy setting that is coupled with sections played through a night vision lens made this an edge of the seat experience. I squealed like a child throughout.
Honourable mention: This goes out to Alien: Colonial Marines on behalf of our beloved Lopez. He pre-ordered and purchased the game on day one after initially being impressed by the trailers and video diaries that dropped as part of the pre-release build-up hype. But seriously, how the heck did this game ever make it through Q&A testing is the truly horrifying thing. Funnily enough, as if to rub salt in our wounds, it has just come to light that the games seriously broken A.I. was simply down to one rogue character in its code, amazing!
Agree with our top ten, more than likely not. We would love you to tell us about all of the games we didn’t include in the comments section.