Each year as October 31st nears, the interwebs abound with “Scariest Movies” lists. And while I love me some scary movies, I thought I’d spend this Halloween post focusing on a lesser-mainstream way of entertaining yourself with thrills and chills. So, in the name of all things spooky-ooky, here’s my little list of 5 of the scariest video games that will have the single player in you screaming for more.
Silent Hill 2
When I purchased my first Xbox, I bought two games to go with it. One of them was Superman: The Man of Steel, and it was so craptacular that it could’ve turned me off of Xbox for good. Luckily, the other game I bought was Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams, and that game more than made up for the failings of the last son of Krypton, and instantly turned me into a Xbox fan for life.
I knew nothing about Silent Hill 2 (or the “survival horror” genre in general) but the box art caught my eye and being a horror movie fan, the synopsis on the back reeled me in. You play as James Sunderland, a man who receives a letter from his wife stating that she is waiting for him in the town of Silent Hill. Only problem is James’ wife has been dead and buried for quite a while now…or has she? This sets off James’ journey through the psychological and physical terrors that abound in the deserted and deadly hamlet of Silent Hill. Before this game, I never thought I could get scared playing a video game – but I quickly learned otherwise, and many a late night playing session would have me nervously checking over my shoulder just to make sure there weren’t any sketchy abominations creeping up behind me.
Fatal Frame and Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly
The Fatal Frame games seem to have clear aim – to subject the player to a continuously mounting feeling of dread and terror that doesn’t let up until the game is shut off. Both games involve cursed and haunted locales in Japan (the go-to country for all your cursed haunting needs) – a house in the first game and a secluded village in the second – but it’s the game mechanics that’s the clincher. Attacked and tormented by malevolent spirits, your only weapon is the mystical Camera Obscura – which you can use with special film to weaken and destroy ghosts…provided you can snap their picture at the precise moment that causes maximum damage. When you’re not fighting for your life, you are trying to unravel mysteries (concerning a missing brother in FF1 and cursed twins in FF2) that just become more chilling with each new clue you uncover. With imagery and themes that stay with you long after the game is done, the Fatal Frame games are picture-perfect examples of survival horror.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Originally one of the launch games for the Xbox 360, Condemned isn’t a survival horror game per se, but that doesn’t stop it from containing some of the most pants-wettingest moments in video game history. Very much in the vein of cinematic thrillers like Silence of the Lambs and Se7en, you play as an FBI agent framed for murder. The only way to clear your name is by tracking down a number of serial killers who hold the clue to who set you up. Creepy environments abound in this atmospheric game – most notably in a sequence set in a deserted shopping mall where there’s something just a little off about all of the mannequins…
Dead Space could probably best be described as a video game mash-up of Alien and Event Horizon. You play Isaac Clarke, a ship’s system engineer in year 2508, charged with responding to a distress call put out by mining ship. Once aboard the disabled ship, you discover that the crew has been slaughtered – and are now being reanimated by some sort of alien infestation as grotesque creatures called Necromorphs.
Making your way through the deserted decks, you find that the creatures can jump out at you from literally anywhere, so every trip down a deserted hall turns into a tense journey of trepidation. And to make matters worse, you can just shoot blindly at the creatures til they die, oooh no. You have to employ what the game calls “strategic dismemberment” – meaning that unless you actually blast off the limbs of the creatures, they will keep coming after you in their relentless pursuit of making you one of their own. However, the game does give you the ability to curb stomp the creatures once they are taken down, and believe me, after getting the crap scared out of you for the umpteenth time by some huge creepy crawly, there’s nothing more cathartic then getting your stomp on, right on their crunchy, squishy heads.
Happy Halloween, everyone!