As you may have been able to tell from several of my lists I am a massive horror fan. From novels to comics, to films, to tv show and of course here we have the games. Horror and games go together like pizza and tuna (that’s well by the way give it a chance) as the immersion of being in control of a game gives the player the feeling that they are in danger and can get completely lost in the atmosphere of a good game. So what are my favourites? Let’s have a looskie.
68. Nightmare Creatures-1997
A monster kids’ dream as this hack n slash adventure set in 19th century London draws upon all sorts of gothic staples for it’s aesthetics. Monsters, Victorian architecture, mad scientists and occult meddlers contribute to a fun time although admittedly it hasn’t aged particularly well as it was the early days of 3d. The Dark Souls/Bloodborne games owe a lot to this.
67.The Ring:Terror’s Realm-2000
Ok…so this is a pretty poor game, one of the worst on the Dreamcast. I can accept that but as a teenager who was obsessed with the movie it was a game I gave a lot of leeway to and did manage to get some enjoyment out of it. I was so hungry for lore in the Ringu universe that I ate it all up and managed to put aside any gripes I had with the mechanics of the game.
A genuinely scary and sadly forgotten 3rd person action game set in an American prison. You’re on death row for the murder of your family although you protest your innocence. An earthquake hits and seems to unleash hell with all sorts of monsters and supernatural shenanigans busting loose. The children screaming over radio static is a truly haunting and memorable piece of nightmare fuel.
My close buddy Steve had this and we would often fire round to his house for a terrifying playthrough of this notoriously difficult first person shooter. The face-hugger clinging onto the screen is something that stays with you that’s for sure. A very solid fps for it’s time and a pulse raising adrenaline ride.
64.Clive Barker’s Jericho-2007
An ambitious game that didn’t quite pull off what it was going for with some broken mechanics and a terrible, abrupt ending. That said, the atmosphere and enemy design is fantastic as you’d expect from the mind of one of my favourite authors Clive Barker. The squad based mechanics were brave but didn’t quite work but if you can enjoy it for it’s dark and intense atmosphere then you’ll definitely get lost in it’s creepy world.
63.Rule Of Rose-2006
An incredibly creepy period horror piece in which a young woman finds herself trapped in 1930s England in a dream like like state where little girls rule everything. There was a call for the game to be banned by many due to the themes of sexuality and violence involving the young girls and the psychological nature of the story is indeed disturbing. The gameplay itself ….is terrible sadly with beyond clunky combat and slow paced movement but it’s another one of those that if you can get past that and enjoy the story and atmosphere then you’ll enjoy it but it’s totally understandable why this got a pretty bad reception.
62.Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut-2012
I stumbled across this wee gem for a couple of quid during a psn sale and what an atmospheric experience it is. There’s a million indie games out there utilizing the retro 2d aesthetic and you have to sieve through the poop to find the nuggets of gold……I regret that sentence already. What a nugget this is too, a post apocalyptic tale in which you seem to be the only human alive after an infection has turned everyone into aggressive monsters. The atmosphere, particularly as you make your way to the basement is incredibly intense for a game so retro and simple.
61.A Nightmare On Elm Street-1989
Whilst certain youtubers make their money on being “angry” or “irate” and basically slagging everything off, I prefer to try and look for the positive in things where possible and it’s possible here. The only reason I reference them is that a lot of younger readers will probably only know of this game through their famous videos lambasting it. Granted it’s not an amazing game by any stretch of the imagination but it’s a fine platformer that requires hard work to get good at. Plus you know…..it’s an Elm Street game…..win win.
I remember playing this first as a youngster and not having a clue what to do, it was unlike anything I had ever played before but I was mesmerized by the graphics and animation. It took me quite some time to make any progress and what opens up is a cool story told without words and I’ll never forget the intro level. So iconic but horror might be pushing it as it’s more of a sci fi adventure game but there are definitely horror elements in there. Horror is what you make of it.
It’s quite something when Grand Theft Auto isn’t the most controversial game series you developed and that’s where Manhunt comes in. An insanely mean spirited and violent game that caused uproar on it’s release and even got blamed for a murder in England (ahh that old chestnut). You play a criminal set for capital punishment but wake up after the supposed deed with a voice in your ear (played by Dundee’s own Brian Cox) guiding you through a maze of violent gangs out to kill you in an underground snuff film. You get more points and audience approval for the more creative and disturbing ways you dispatch your foes. Anyone who has played this will never forget Pigsy….terrifying Pigsy. The faux outrage from Gamespot was hilarious in their video review from the time, check it out.
The sequel to American Mckee’s Alice, a cult hit from 2000 got a huge budget and a fair bit of hype surrounding it’s release. Unfortunately it received mixed reviews which shows the general stupidity of most reviewers….yes I know opinions and all that but meh….idiots. From the absolutely stunning aesthetics and world design to the dark plot, this was an underappreciated cracker.
57.Friday The 13th-1989
Pretty much just see see the Elm Street entry for this too. Savaged by youtubers, it sure is easy to get fans with all that negativity, harder to be creative and fun when talking about things in a positive light eh?. You have to guide camp counselors through a series of challenges to find Jason and kill him before he wipes your friends out.
A typically batshit insane experience from Atlus games, makers of the excellent Persona series in which you play a guy in a long term relationship who becomes infatuated by an insanely flirtatious young woman. During the day time it’s a social simulator but at night time we delve into a nightmare and it becomes a puzzle game in which giant fetus monsters and other abominations chase you. It received very mixed reviews with some people just not getting it at all which is understandable and others who were totally engrossed like me.
55.Super Castlevania 4-1991
No doubt a lot of folk will be thinking this would have been much higher but in all honesty I absolutely suck at it for some reason. This was one I used to play at my neighbours a lot….or more accurately I’d watch him play it as I would ruin everything if the controller was handed to me. The classic horror style kept me trying though with Dracula, Medusa etc making it a fantastic theme for a game. Cracking music too.
Jrpg masters Square had a go at horror and used it as a sequel to the 1995 novel of the same name by Hideaka Sena. An incredible mature story with sexual and gory overtones about virus spreading monsters wiping out humans through spontaneous combustion. The opening scene at the opera is stunning and one of the best intros of it’s time.
53..Silent Hill:The Room-2004
One of….actually probably my favourite trailer of all time for a game. The fourth game in the Silent Hill series is the misunderstood black sheep of the family and I really wish more people gave it a chance because it’s great. The concept of mainly being locked in your flat and only escaping to a weird dimension through a hole in the wall put people off due to the more free roaming nature of the first three games but I thought it was a great idea. The room succumbing to paranormal goings on as the game proceeds and the enemy designs on the other side of the wall are frankly genius. Great story too.
52.Twisted Metal: Black-2001
The first couple of Twisted Metal games on the ps1 were something of a phenomenon around my way with groups of people getting together and having a great time. Weaponized vehicles racing around shooting the hell out of each other was so much fun. This game still had the same kind of mechanics but seemed a lot darker and more serious with a much better single player campaign. The mysterious and Machiavellian Calypso has set up his Twisted Metal tournament, promising anything imaginable for the winner with a group of misfit racers answering the call.
A reboot of the old side scrolling beat em up tribute to the splatterpunk genre of fiction. A b movie gore fest about love, revenge and ripping spleens out of demon’s arseholes. The combat is clunky and repetitive but I come from age of the arcade beat em up where every game was super repetitive and we didn’t care as long as it was fun…..and it’s fun.
50.Zombies Ate My Neighbours-1993
A loving homage to all things horror from giant baby kaiju to mummys to Jason Voorhees knock offs to the titular zombies. I think this was the first game I actually remember anticipating coming out and getting it the week of release. Me an my neighbour were reading the magazines like Gamesmaster and looking at the stills hyping ourselves up about what it was like. Then the day it was released we went from school to the swap shop and spent our xmas money on it. Like many games of the time it was way too difficult for my underdeveloped dexterity to cope with. Didn’t stop me having a blast…..surprisingly scary too for a fun, colourful game.
David Cage and Quantic Dream’s games are always incredibly divisive with their hyper cinematic gameplay and branching storylines…..and the dead eyed sex scenes they always seem to have. The ps2 was pushed pretty hard here and later games like Heavy Rain on the ps3 played a lot smoother and worked better but Fahrenheit has a charm and the effort put into making something that plays like an interactive movie is clear to see. A blueprint for the David Cage projects to come.
It got far less fanfare than it’s predecessor but I had a really good time with this intense sequel. It’s less of a detective game than the first with less focus on the cool discovery elements but as a horror fps it’s incredibly effective. Oh and anyone who has played it will remember….in fact they’ll never forget the WALRUS-BEAR!!!
The chronology of Clock Tower is a mess. This is the first game released in the west and it’s just called Clock Tower but it’s actually Clock Tower 2 in Japan and a sequel, the Japanese original was then released later on the ps1…..Anyway it’s a point and click survival horror in which you have to avoid a creepy lad chasing after you with giant scissors and find the secret of his existence.
I’m actually mixing both the snes game from 1993 and the megadrive game from 1992 as they are both very similar but with enough differentials to stand them apart. They are both side scrolling shooters with the snes game being more true to the locales of the movie and more adventure and puzzle based whereas the Sega game is more of an arcade style shooter. Between the two of them they make for one very solid Alien 3 experience.
45.Fear Effect 2:Retro Helix-2001
I could be wrong but the Fear Effect games were the first games I remember having cell shaded graphics, a couple of years later it would be common place. Right at the end of the ps1’s life this sci-fi thriller came out and caused a fair bit of controversy with it’s suggestive lesbian overtones and violent death scenes. Horror might be pushing it a little bit but I think it belongs here. The cyberpunk setting, puzzle solving and ability to control four characters at different points of the story make for an ambitious game that has held up surprisingly well
One of those mid 90s point and click games with a mix of live actors interacting with pre-rendered backgrounds that were so popular at the time, Phantasmagoria is infamous for it’s insane amounts of practical effects gore in it’s death scenes. Game designer Roberta Williams was something of an innovator in the field and wanted to make a splatterpunk game unlike anything that had been made before. Still shocking and memorable today.
43 (Tied).Deadly Premonition:Director’s Cut-2010
This will probably be the most divisive game on the list as it’s one of the most divisive games of the last generation. A Japanese survival horror game heavily influenced by Twin Peaks and David Lynch in general with some of the most deliberately bizarre storytelling ever seen in a game. Dodgy graphics, stilted animation and clumsy combat quite rightly put people off but it’s one of those games that if you can see past that and get hooked on the story and atmosphere then you’ll fall in love with it. Truly nuts.
43 (Tied). Alan Wake-2010
Speaking of games heavily influenced by Twin Peaks and David Lynch, here we have Alan Wake where you play a famous author who goes on holiday with his wife to a remote and seemingly peaceful town. Things go drastically wrong when his wife goes missing and Alan enters a nightmare in which he must fight off supernatural beings with his torch and other forms of light. The plot is engrossing but at times tries too hard to do the confusing Lynch nonsense and ends up just being ….nonsense without that Lynch genius to back it up. The ending in particular is horrible but all in all the atmosphere is superb and for the most part the story is great. I really enjoyed my time with this solid psychological thriller.
42 (Tied). Resistance:Fall Of Man-2006
Insomniac games, known for the utterly fantastic Ratchet And Clank games and the upcoming Spider-man ps4 game delivered a sci-fi horror fps in the very early days of the ps3 and it rocked. When I first got my ps3 I played this a lot with my wee step bro in split screen and we had a blast. It’s pretty old school in terms of the difficulty and lack of cover mechanics and the alternate history plotline in which England is overrun with aliens in the early 50s is very reminiscent of early fps classics.
42 (Tied). Resistance 2-2008
As you’d expect with a sequel that was made a couple of year into a console’s life Resistance 2 is slicker and more polished than the first game but I’ve put them both in the same spot because they compliment each other so well. While the second is indeed better looking, the first’s charm lay in it’s grimy and dystopian aesthetic. I didn’t play enough of the third game to add it to the list but I really enjoyed what I did play so it would have been nice to be able to put the whole trilogy up together.
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As you’d expect from the folks who brought you the Amnesia games, Soma is an incredibly atmospheric and claustrophobic experience in which you play a confused protagonist in an underwater facility filled with robot workers and with weird things going on it’s up to you to figure out what’s going on. It ends up being an incredibly deep, existential examination of human life.
Splatterhouse 1 was obviously the original and was a lot of fun, Splatterhouse 2 improved on 1 without changing too much and Splatterhouse 3 bravely tried a whole load of new things but became way too hard and confusing so 2 had the perfect balance of the 3. Gory sidescrolling violence with a guy wearing a sentient mask trying to save the love of his life from evil monsters and abominations that could have come from the mind of Clive Barker. Evil, spewing fetuses and blobby masses chase you around a haunted house…what’s not to love?.
This being so low (it’s still pretty damn high) on my list is no doubt blasphemous to some as this is considered to be an all time classic which it is. Like other games I’ve mentioned though I sucked at it. I was ten when it came out and the branching paths and puzzles were too much for my stupid brain to understand. I played it a while ago and appreciated it a lot more, it’s fantastic. The minimalist music is terrifying as is the alien atmosphere and that’s where it is at it’s strongest. If I had been a teen when this came out it would have left a massive impact with me I have no doubt about that.
38 (Tied). Metro 2033-2010
An exceptionally bleak game based on an exceptionally bleak novel by Russian novelist Dmitry Glukhovsky in which humans have been driven underground by an alien race known as the dark ones. They live in the subway systems and occasionally brave the outside world with their gas masks to scavenge for resources. Played in an fps style, the atmosphere is so intense that every encounter with a monster is terrifying. The growing tension and violence between the humans means that life underground is just as dangerous.
38 (Tied). Metro Last Light-2013
…..and here we have the sequel. The graphical issues have been tweaked, the combat is a little slicker but all in all it’s more of the same in a good way. Again we have an incredible atmosphere and a tightly plotted and intriguing story. It’s one of those worlds you feel a part of when you are playing in it. It’s lived in, not hollow and you are a part of these peoples lives and struggles.
37.Resident Evil 0-2002
The Nintendo Gamecube got two exclusive Resident Evil games which was incredibly random at the time Both of them were excellent and are now available in HD remastered form on the current consoles which is well worth checking out. This prequel leads into the first game’s events and while that leaves a whole tonne of plot holes it’s still a great game despite being something of the black sheep in the main Resi series.
Ok that’s part one done so check back in a few days for the rest of the list. Hopefully you enjoyed reading it even if you disagree but I’d love to hear your thoughts either way so hit me up @swing_kinker