Ok then let’s continue the rundown of my favourite horror games then shall we? As I often say in these lists I have a strict rule of having had to play the actual game and not just pretend I love a game because very other list does. That means some classics like Eternal Darkness and Penumbra won’t be on here….because I never played them. Also this is obviously my opinion and I’m a weird, nostalgic guy so I have attachment to some rubbish games that I hold dear to my heart. Just know that get honesty and something a little different in these lists. With that said, please enjoy……
As with most of the Lucasfilm/Lucasarts games of the 80s and 90s Maniac Mansion is a classic point and click adventure with a tonne of sardonic humour and clever puzzles. A sentient meteor is controlling your girlfriend’s mind and it’s up to you to save her. One of the first games to use cutscenes and they were way ahead of anything of that time and it rightly earned it’s place as a pioneer in the evolution of the adventure game.
Whenever something comes along that is intensely scary, word spreads like wild fire and it becomes a case of “you’ve got to play this it’s mental!”. It’s more of a dare or a test than an enjoyable experience but it sure is effective. The inevitable backlash came because it was jump scare heavy but I’m in the minority of horror fans who understands the importance, relevance and need for jump scares at times if the context is right. Atmosphere is great and builds tension but when you know something is going to happen that also builds tension. There are different kinds of horror, some effective and some not….yes this is a house of horrors jump scare fest but they rarely feel forced and it’s for a reason. A classic example of terrible and pointless jump scares is the recent Blumhouse production Sinister 2, in Outlast it works perfectly and it’s a brutal assault on the senses.
34.Dead Space 2-2011
Much like the Alien franchise, the first is an atmospheric and incredibly claustrophobic fright fest and the sequel ramps everything up and turns it into an action horror with guns going off every two seconds and aliens flying at you from every angle. It’s insanely intense but loses the atmospheric dread of the first in the long run though. That said it’s nice to have both games so we get those differences.
After the unmitigated disaster that was Aliens:Colonial Marines, fans of the Alien series needed a good game to lift the crushing apathy that had set in. Along came Isolation and it was pretty much every fan of the original movies’ dream. A claustrophobic nightmare in which a single Xenomorph is loose on the spaceship you inhabit. If you’re looking for the action of the second game with loads of aliens and guns blasting them to pieces then you’re in the wrong place. This is sheer nerve shredding terror and survival in which you play Ellen Ripley’s daughter, trying to find out what happened to her mother. It got mixed reviews….the negative ones often coming from the same sites that complained that there isn’t a game like this on the market…..go figure.
32.Alone In The Dark:The New Nightmare-2001
What an underappreciated wee gem this is. The Alone In The Dark series is often credited with helping mold survival horror into what it became but the earlier games had aged terribly and the genre had moved on without it. Then along came New Nightmare, at the tail end of the ps1’s life and it shows with the hardware being pushed hard and the graphical output is quite stunning for ps1. The Dreamcast and ps2 also got ports. Great atmosphere and puzzle solving along with interesting monster designs.
31 (Tied).The House Of The Dead-1996
I don’t think anyone around my age will forget the first time they saw this at an arcade. In a sea of noise and flashing lights this scary little machine called out to me as I was already a huge fan of lightgun games but seeing zombies being blown to pieces was mouth watering. It was also incredibly hard and I was poor so I probably got about 20 seconds of gameplay before I was killed so I had to watch other folk play it to see past the first stage……
31 (Tied). The House Of The Dead 2-1998
Then the sequel ramped things up, refining the shooting and tidied up the graphics. The main thing House Of The Dead is remembered for is the hilariously crap voice acting though which adds an insane amount of retro charm. It’s worse than the original resident evil in terms of B movie nonsense which is fantastic.
31 (Tied). The House Of The Dead: Overkill-Extended Cut-2013
After a few other games in the series experimenting with new guns like a shotgun and an uzi the series started to feel a bit stale and light gun games were falling out of fashion with the demise of arcades. Up stepped overkill to fully embrace the B movie style the series had but turning everything waaayyy up to create a deliberate grindhouse aesthetic with overt racism, sexism and gross out splatter violence that winks to camera in a crazy display of balls.
30.Dino Crisis 2-2000
The series that was sadly and patronisingly brushed aside as “Resident Evil with dinosaurs” like that’s some sort of bad thing!. The first game and the series as a whole was created by the legendary Shinji Mikami who did indeed also create Resident Evil. The first game is so infuriating, the first half is amazing and the concept is superb but the latter half becomes a mission in avoiding tedium. Find a key for this door….now figure out 35 passwords for said door…..now rub your arse against the door…..LET ME THROUGH THE DAMN DOOR!. Anyway after the almost brilliant start to the series we moved on to Dino Crisis 2, this time directed by Shu Takumi who would later go on to create the amazing Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney series. Out went the brains of the first game and in came a mindless action game with massive guns and swarms of dinosaurs attacking you from all angles as you commandeer tanks and ships!. Sounds dumbed down and terrible eh…..wait did you hear what I said? Read that back and tell me it doesn’t sound awesome. A perfect example of mindless fun still being fun. Ignore the third entry in the series….it pretty much killed the franchise.
Choose your own adventure style games are pretty divisive but I love the majority of them. Here we have a high budget love letter to slasher and monster movies and it’s an absolute hit. The gorgeous motion capture of actors like Hayden Panettiere and the fella from Mr Robot is stunning and adds to the immersion. Any character can die depending on the choices you make and the whole butterfly effect chaos theory running through the game is pretty random so seemingly innocuous decisions may have catastrophic ramifications down the line. This means everyone’s story is different. After playing this I watched my fiance play the whole 10 or so hours of it because I wanted to watch how her story unfolded. I ended with a feeble one survivor……I was doing well until a bit where I had to keep the controller perfectly still but I needed to sneeze so I was holding on for dear life. I then twitched which cause two of the characters and a dog to die right at the end……..heartbroken.
28.Silent Hill 3-2003
The following trailer is an example of what Akira Yamaoka’s music brought to the Silent Hill series. Not the kind o music you’d expect from horror media but it fits so perfectly and plays absolute havoc with your psyche as you play through these games. Morose and nihilistic thoughts permeate your mindspace as this beautifully melancholic rock music juxtaposes with the horrors and nightmare fuel on the screen. It’s genius and I got the pleasure of seeing him perform live here in Scotland a couple of years back. Anyway, Silent Hill 3 is great but I haven’t spent as much time with it as I have the first two but it’s still full of the great atmosphere and psychological terror the series is known for.
27.Amnesia:The Dark Descent-2010
Another one of those games that succeeded through word of mouth. Like when I was a kid and fellow horror fans would talk in the playground saying “you’ve got to see this movie, it’s mental” Amnesia was one of those games where horror fans would be telling others that “you have to play this mate….it’s terrifying”. I don’t hang around playgrounds anymore…..I promise. This got the reputation at the time of being the scariest game of all time and although that’s subjective, if you let yourself get lost in it’s atmosphere it’s certainly a terrifying experience. It’s plot is not exactly deep but it is interesting if you are willing to read the exposition letters you pick up on the way as your character begins to patch his memory back together.
26 (Tied). The Darkness-2007
Based on th Top Cow comic of the same name, The Darkness was a surprise hit with great storytelling, inventive gameplay and a surprising amount of heart. You play Jackie Estacado (played by Oz’s Kirk Acevedo) who inherits a powerful demon pal and is able to control demonic creatures to aide him in his violent assault of the mobsters who are out to get him. Controlling the demon limbs along with standard gun play is a lot of fun and it was very innovative for it’s time. The relationship between Jackie and his girlfriend Jenny is really sweet and leads to some emotional moments.
26 (Tied). The Darkness 2-2012
The sequel got rid of the exploring the original had and instead went for an adrenaline rush of non stop action. The refined combat and tightened control of the demons made the action so satisfying, using the tentacles to tear the bad guys apart while your little punk demon buddy pisses on their corpses never gets old. It’s a revenge tale with Jackie literally going to hell in the name of love.
25.Duke Nukem 3d-1996
My close friend Rick had this on pc back in the day and any time I was round at his I was blown away by the in your face violence and humour the game had. A loving tribute to 80s meathead action movies with one liners and visual gags reminiscent of the heady Arnie days. Several sequels have tried to emulate the feel and humour of this classic but it’s very much of it’s time and nothing has managed to get the tongue in cheek style right as Duke himself has become a sad relic of days gone by. It could work with writers who actually understand the ridiculousness of the themes. Duke is a big goof, stop trying to make him actually cool!…..Shout out to the amazing soundtrack.
This first person action game focuses a lot less on guns than most first person action games and the combat is melee based where you find anything you can and bash your enemies with it. It adds to the horror as you don’t have the security of a firearm, just planks and crowbars etc as psychos charge you. The detective side of things is a nice change in the genre where you have to use your camera for clues as to what is going on. A surprisingly terrifying game with fantastic atmosphere.
Trapped on the Ishimura, a spaceship full of necromorphs (horrendous, monstrous aliens) Isaac Clarke, with the help of his colleagues guiding him through the ship, must repair the ship and get it functional so they can leave. It’s a terrifying game that became a huge hit and spawned two sequels and an anime. Video game logic suggests you aim for the head of any monsters, zombies etc but with the necromorphs you must take out their limbs to stop them. An intense experience.
22.Doom 2: Hell On Earth-1994
What a massive pop culture phenomenon Doom was when it came out. Obviously there was the predictable “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” outcry about the violence but in a positive light every gamer wanted to get their hands on the game. It really upped the game for FPS players and became the absolute master of the genre. Doom 2 was more of the same but bigger and better as we head into hell to wipe out the evil demons because…we…actually I have absolutely no idea what it’s all about but it’s great fun.
The ps2 had two Forbidden Siren games and they were terrifying and bizarre but the gameplay mechanics were such a nuisance it really was a lesson in frustration. This game kind of merges the two ps2 games and refines it for the ps3 generation. I first came across this series when I bumped into my friend Steve after not having seen him in a few years. He said we should go to his because he had this new Japanese horror game that I would love. He was right, imagine all three Siren games are merged into this spot on the list. The atmosphere is incredible and the “sight jacking” gimmick where you can see through the enemies eyes is an interesting touch. Technically this game shouldn’t be anywhere near this high on the list but my love for J-horror and how immersed I got in this terrifying game makes it special for me.
20 (Tied). Bioshock-2007
Who could forget the first time we saw the underwater city of Rapture?. Who could forget the first time we saw the Big Daddy and had to make a decision regarding the wee girls?. Who could forget the “would you kindly?” twist?. That surely explains what an important and impressive game this is. Beautifully designed and a pleasure to play through the well told and memorable story.
20 (Tied). Bioshock Infinite-2012
The third game in the series had a completely different, almost Disney like aesthetic and instead of a stunning underwater locale we head up to a city built in the clouds. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The story and it’s supposedly super intelligent ending were hyped beyond anything I’ve seen in games for a long time and although the story is very good the hype as a little silly with a million youtube commentators (ugh) explaining the ending for us simpletons. A lot of people were underwhelmed because the hype seemed to suggest earth shattering gameplay but it was standard fps fare. What did set it apart was it’s visuals and intriguing story.
19.The Evil Within-2014
A hugely divisive game from the godfather of survival horror Shinji Mikami, creator of Resident Evil. A return to survival horror with a mix of stealth and weaponry that can be upgraded but ammo can be scarce so you’re not going to smash your way through this game without an issue. There was a part on this game where I was fighting a boss and was low on ammo so I had to run from him while desperately trying to pick up ammo from the corpses of my fallen foes. He stalked me and my health got lower and lower until I finally managed to grab a few stray bullets and put him down just as my health was about to be down to zero. This is what survival horror is all about and it’s why I loved the game. Criticism was thrown at Mikami for a series of knock of cliches…there’s a Sadako from Ringu knock off, a Pyramid Head knock off, Resident Evil knock offs and more but I don’t care. I saw it more as a greatest hits homage and enjoyed almost every minute of the game. It may not reinvent the wheel….but last time I checked wheels can work just fine without any tinkering.
We play as Jill Valentine from the first Resi here and she’s an awesome character so we’re off to a good start. The third Resi game on ps1 was a cracker and mostly more of the same kind of action on the streets that Resi 2 brought us. The difference this time is a that a giant tyrant like monster called Nemesis is stalking you and turns up at several points in the game to try and crush you. It adds a cool sense of dread to the game but it didn’t quite have the effect on me that the first two did. That said it’s a fantastic game and the ps1 trilogy all compliment each other brilliantly.
17.Robocop Versus The Terminator (Sega megadrive version)-1994
Well….The Terminator is a horror movie so it counts. Any chance to chat about this game is cool as it was huge for me as a kid. This hyper violent shooter is based on the comic by Frank Miller and has Robocop clomping through the streets of Detroit pulverising street punks (why always punks?….what did we do?) and Terminators on his way to shutting down OCP and Skynet. We even get a boss fight with my boy ED209 which is cool. One of the few occasions where the megadrive game is far better than the snes one as the Nintendo version is meh. I remember first seeing this with my buddy Ewan as we watched a late night, not for kids (aye right) version of the Gamesmaster tv show and with all the blood and guts on show we had to get our grubby little hands on it.
Part two is done and part three will bring us the best of the best. I hope you enjoyed this look at some of my favourite horror games. Maybe there’s some you are convinced to give a go, maybe there are some you can’t believe I’ve put in here!. Either way give me a shout and let me know @swing_kinker