Welcome to The Pulse, your lifeline on pop culture and media. Happy Halloween everyone. Today on The Pulse we are going to be celebrating the season of screams with a look at some spooky scary games.
First and foremost I want to state that this list is not ranked necessarily on the overall quality of the game. That is to say, while I may like one game on the list more than another it may still place lower on the ranking because I think the other game is better as a horror game.
And no, this list isn’t just an excuse for me to spend a thousand words fellating Frictional Games. But I’ll certainly be giving them the journalistic equivalent of a quick handjob in the men’s bathroom.
So without further delay, let’s take a look at my top 13 horror games of all time!
13. Little Nightmares
Kicking things off with some childhood horror. Little Nightmares is like if Laika, the studio behind films such as Coraline, decided to make a video game instead of a movie. While nothing in Little Nightmares ever feels outright scary, the game carries itself on uncomfortable visuals and a spooky mood that permeates the brisk, but enjoyable experience.
12. Five Nights at Freddy’s 4
While I still hold the second game as the peak of the franchise from a gameplay perspective, the fourth iteration of the long running Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise is by far the darkest game in the series. Taking the horror home, you play as a young boy tormented by nightmares of the beloved Freddy Fazbear gang animatronics. The shift in setting and protagonist coupled with the truly horrific new designs of the animatronics and the focus on sound-based game mechanics really pushes the scare factor in this entry.
11. Dead Rising
Who says you have to be scary to be a great horror game? Dead Rising was the game that sold me on the Xbox 360 back in the day and even all these years later it holds up. No other game has ever truly captured the sheer joy that is the zombie apocalypse. Borrowing heavily from the classic Romero flick, Dawn of the Dead, Dead Rising sets you loose in an absolute playground of a mall where anything and everything can be used as a weapon. With unique time limit mechanics, some memorable boss fights and a whole mall as your arsenal, Dead Rising is wonderful way to spend an October afternoon.
Mixing gothic Victorian settings with a heavy does of Lovecraftian horror, Bloodborne is hands down the closest From Soft has got to making a horror based Soulsborne title. Moody environments and absolutely grotesque creature designs couple with the punishingly brutal gameplay From Soft has come to be known for in hands down one of the best games of all time.
9. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Who would have expected to see Nintendo show up on this list? The Silicon Knights developed, Nintendo published title was my first experience with Lovecraft influenced media (or at least that I was aware of at the time, as I had just been getting into the author’s work around the time this released). Eternal Darkness set itself apart from other survival horror titles at the time with a fun limb-targeting based combat system and the innovative sanity meter, where the lower your sanity the more the game would fuck with you, the player. From in-game effects such as blood dripping from walls to graphical oddities or jump scares to more meta scares such as making you believe the game reset or the volume on the tv was lowering. Eternal Darkness remains a long neglected gem that Nintendo needs to give a proper rerelease of.
8. Until Dawn
Have you ever wanted to live your own horror movie? No? Just me? Regardless, Until Dawn puts you in the shoes of a cast of memorable characters as they return to a long abandoned cabin on the anniversary of the death of one of their friends. Stalked by a crazed killer, or perhaps something even more sinister, you must make split second decisions that can have far reaching consequences on the fates of the characters. While Supermassive hasn’t quite managed to be as successful with subsequent releases, Until Dawn stands out as one of the best examples of interactive cinema to date.
7. Resident Evil VII
A true return to form for a series that had long since lost its way, Resident Evil VII is hands down my favorite game in the franchise. While I do feel that 4 was a very a solid entry, it definitely paved the way for many missteps in the quintessential survival horror franchise, With absolute disasters like Resident Evil 5 and 6 following, the series moved further and further into action-horror, leaving its roots behind. VII did a complete 180 and following along the trend popularized by Amnesia and Outlast, Capcom delivered a truly gripping experience that stands head and shoulders above its peers.
6. Amnesia: Rebirth
The newest game on the list, having only released a week or so ago, Amnesia: Rebirth is the latest offering from the masters of video game horror. While the game is more peaks and valleys versus its more overall consistent predecessor, Rebirth’s peaks are absolutely terrifying and among the best scares Frictional has ever given us.
5. Penumbra: Black Plague
While most people became familiar with Frictional off of the success of Amnesia, us OGs remember them from the phenomenal Penumbra trilogy. While Overture’s use of combat lessened the scares and Requiem’s focus entirely on problem solving lacked scares all together, Black Plague struck a perfect balance and brought about the run and hide gameplay Frictional would come to be known for. With perhaps the best (at least until SOMA) story in one of Frictional’s games and some heavy Lovecraft influences, Penumbra: Black Plague may come across as a bit dated now but is absolutely worth your time.
4. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
While I do hold Penumbra in high regard, there is a reason that Amnesia is the game that really pushed Frictional Games into the spotlight. Releasing just as the streamer/Let’s Play craze was gaining traction, the over the top reactions of men screaming at the screen drove Amnesia into an indie gaming juggernaut and started the trend that would revolutionize horror gaming for years to come.
3. Dead Space
One of my all time favorite gaming memories was sitting down with the developer’s of Dead Space at San Diego Comic Con and getting to play through a section of an upcoming game that I was absolutely hyped for. It was a taste of what gaming journalists got to do on a regular basis, it was really sort of surreal. While I am not at all a fan of the direction the franchise went with its sequels (from shoe-horned in multiplayer to going full on action-horror ala the later Resident Evil releases), that first game was *chef’s kiss*. One of the most atmospheric games I have ever played, with inspiration pulled from some of my all time favorite horror films (The Thing, Event Horizon, Alien) as well as a dose of H.P. Lovecraft, Dead Space is the absolute peak of more traditional survival horror games.
And the “Twinkle, Twinkle” trailer is still hands down my favorite game trailer of all time.
While it doesn’t quite take the number one spot, Konami’s ill fated Playable Teaser (P.T.) for the canceled Silent Hills is by far the scariest game on this list. It’s probably the scariest gaming experience I have ever had. I am no stranger to scary walkthroughs, my love for Halloween Haunt is well documented and P.T. really does a great job of emulating that sort of experience. Even I found myself feeling a bit uneasy playing this one with the lights off and the headphones on.
What more can I say about Frictional Games’ magnum opus that I haven’t already? A brilliantly told story that culminates in one of the biggest gut punch endings of all time, complete existential horror that forces you to face questions you may have not asked before, SOMA is horrifying perfection in gaming form. If you haven’t experienced this masterpiece, go do it.
And that will do it folks, hope you all enjoyed this quick look at some of the best in horror that gaming has to offer. Have a fun and safe Halloween, watch some scary movies play some spooky games. But most of all, as always, be good people.