Scary games are kinda like that bad boyfriend or girlfriend you had in high school. You are drawn to them in the beginning, date them a few times and usually have a good time until that one captivating scenario where you are absolutely shocked out of your gourd. Then you stop seeing them but something brings you back because deep inside you actually like it. Scary games follow the same path, you keep playing and playing the game until that big scare and then you stop playing but are drawn back by that very same reason.
So, when the site owner asked me to do a special-themed video game column for the month of October, my mind immediately went to a list of scary games. But where would I start? I could simply tell you that Barbie Horse Adventures: Riding Camp is the scariest game ever and you might believe me. I mean those horses will trample you! Instead, I had to come up with a list that would not only contain some personal choices but also some universally accepted scare games that frightened even the harshest critics.
When I was done with the list, I had assembled thirteen of the scariest games on record. I tried to blend some older classics with some of the gorefests that are populating the newer consoles. This is by no means a complete list and if I forgot your favorite, I apologize in advance. However, I certainly invite anybody to place comments below of their favorite game, regardless if it is on the list or not.
(Please note: There are spoilers all over this thing, warning you now if you have never played or beaten some of these games).
Without further adieu:
*THE SCARIEST GAMES OF ALL TIME!!!!!!
*- as determined by your favorite gaming columnist: Kedrix.
Doom (PC, PS1, 3DO, SNES, Xbox Live Arcade, etc)
On more platforms than any of our other titles, this was probably the first game I can remember as a teenager that truly scared me. We all know the story, space marine stationed on the planet Mars when something goes horribly wrong in the land of military experiments. After that, it is spending the next three episodes in ID’s version of Hell fighting more demons that most of us care to think about.
What made this game scary had to be those darn pigs. Most of us referred to them as pinkies or just plain demons. I referred to them as pigs because of the awful sound they made when you think they were right around the corner. That snorting sound often followed me into my sleep and I still hear it in my head until this day. Another memorable event was the ending where after the third episode you are brought back to Earth and the only thing you see is a burning city and a bunny’s head impaled on a stake. Who kills a bunny and then puts their head on a stake? I’m not sure I want to know.
Silent Hill 2 (PS2, Xbox, PC)
You are James Sunderland and you just have received a letter from your wife and she wants to meet you in your “special place”. Two problems, your wife has been dead for three years and that special place is Silent Hill. Seriously, if one of your loved ones said meet me in Silent Hill, alive or dead, I’m thinking of sending a postcard that reads “Sorry, catch ya next time”.
There were a variety of sadistic creatures that always seemed to pop up at the worst times. Mannequins had to be near the top of the list which could be described as living sewing dummies but with no heads or arms. In plain sight, they stand still, until you get close enough to look at them. At that point, you are then screaming and need a change of pants. The whole Maria/Mary plotline with Maria resurrecting about forty million times isn’t exactly heartwarming either.
F.E.A.R (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
F.E.A.R or also known as First Encounter Assault Recon is an elite special forces team that works with the paranormal. In this particular circumstance, they have been sent in to stop a disturbance that appears as an eight year old girl wearing a red dress and a blank face with long black hair. Her name is Alma. Your character might have super human reflexes but you will need a super human set of nerves before it is all over.
What made this game scary wasn’t any sort of creatures, but it was the main protagonist: Alma. The game was designed like a Japanese horror movie where you never really saw Alma until the end but she was always there. She could be in the corner of your eye & standing just off in the distance near a window. Then you turn to look and she’s suddenly gone. Her laughter usually was a sign of impending doom.
Now that we have had three honorable mentions, let’s proceed to the top ten.
10. Koudelka (PS1)
A personal favorite, Koudelka wasn’t your conventional rpg. The plot had a young gypsy girl, an adventurer and a bishop arrive at a monastery to uncover a horrible mystery. Apparently, a woman had died named Ellaine. Her husband Patrick & an old man named Ogden want to bring her back from the dead. So they find this parchment that describes how. It included many ingredients and mostly a whole heaping of fresh dead bodies. Well, her body was eventually resurrected (after 200 bodies were poured into this cauldron) but it wasn’t her. She had become a monster and what of all of those innocents? They came back to life to as ghosts, spirits and zombies.
The game had a Gothic horror flavor and included the idea that any weapon could break given the right enemy and overuse. The problem was that it was always at the wrong time. Creatures were often grotesque and the scares would come sudden as you unraveled the true nature of the mystery. This title also leads to the Shadow Hearts series of games but few people remember this epic 4-cd game on the first Playstation.
9. Phantasmagoria (PC, Saturn)
An old pc favorite for many, this game was banned in a few countries and many retail outlets simply refused to carry the game. You are playing a writer named Adrienne Delaney who along with her husband has just bought a huge mansion. However, one of the previous owners was a famous magician. A famous magician possessed by a demon that murdered his wives. Now that demon has been released, it takes over your husband. The rest of the game is spent unraveling the mysteries of those killings and escaping from your very own husband.
Spanning seven cds, this game had a tremendous amount of scary full motion videos but perhaps the most un-nerving moments was how Zoltan killed his various wives. Hortencia was murdered with gardening tools and Victoria was killed when her head was slammed through a wine bottle and it went right through her eye. The worst? Regina who is forced to eat animal entrails through a funnel. At this point, she chokes and dies. I think I’m about to lose my lunch.
8. Fatal Frame (PS2, Xbox)
Another game that doesn’t really get enough recognition, Fatal Frame puts you over the edge. Here, you are playing Miku Hinasaki (except for the intro chapter where you play the brother) who goes to the Himuro Mansion to search for her older brother, Mafuyu. The mansion is also supposedly haunted. You spend the next four chapters (called “Nights”) trying to find your lost brother.
The game doesn’t give you much to defend yourself with. In fact, all it gives you is a swift pair or legs and a camera. Yes, a camera which does have the power to damage and capture spirits. However, there is only so much “film” in the camera. The game gives a feeling of hopelessness and you only wonder if the next corner will be your last. The worst part is that it is based on an actual haunted mansion in Japan. Remind me not to visit.
7. Clock Tower (SNES, PS1, PC)
Point and click games don’t usually scream scary but Clock Tower was just different. You play Jennifer, an orphan adopted by Mr. Barrows but when she gets to the mansion, things start to be quite unpleasant. It’s only when you start exploring the mansion, looking for your also adopted friends that you come upon the true horror of the game: Bobby Barrows, the Scissorman. Bobby Barrows is just a boy, but he remains your private stalker for the entire game.
If you find yourself in confrontation with ole scissorboy, you find yourself in a panic phase where you must repeatedly strike the panic button to engage with the attacker. If you don’t do it quick enough or have low health, you die. Her health also shows her fear level. Blue is normal, and Yellow/Orange are a little worse but Red is full blown panic. Furthermore, in Red mode you are more likely to trip over your own feet which only make it worse as Bobby starts to close in.
6. System Shock 2 (PC)
My memories start to shift back to the very first System Shock and how I thought they could do so much more with the game. Then they went back and did System Shock 2, I stopped asking. A rescue team has been sent to the surface of Tau Ceti V. However, there they found some strange eggs. The eggs infect the rescue team and eventually take over the neighboring ships. You are a solider who awakes from a cryo-tube. But you have amnesia and no memory of the incident.
As you start to explore the ship, you run into these infected team members who seem normal at first but start to evolve into disgusting creatures. The game also makes use of the Thief engine which means that you must use stealth or else face a potential ambush. One had to choose their battles wisely or else you would end up with a bunch of infectees in your face. If only we could get a console sequel of this fine game.
5. Bioshock (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
Bioshock actually got a lot of inspiration from System Shock 2 and included a lot of the same stealth movement schemes. You play Jack who must fight his way through the Rapture. What’s Rapture? Only an underwater dystopian society. This was a society where people wanted to enhance their bodies with superhuman qualities. This was done through ADAM or stem cells that were taken from an unknown species of sea slug. Sea slugs are never a good recipe for human growth.
Anyway, it was found that ADAM could be mass-produced by implanting the slugs into stomachs of young girls. Welcome to the fold, the Little Sisters. Eventually corruption took over and these Little Sisters would wander the city and extract ADAM from the dead, recycling it into raw ADAM in their bellies. But that was only the beginning of the fiendish plot.
The Little Sisters needed protectors, so a scientist created a monster to suit the purpose. Big Daddies were enhanced and controlled humans in armored diving suits and incredibly hard to kill. The game has such rich and gorgeous graphics but then those same graphics is what makes the game so frightening. Bioshock did so well that we can expect a sequel next February. Your character? The first Big Daddy.
4. Dead Space (PC, Xbox 360, PS3)
Dead Space is only about a year old now, but zooms ahead of many of the titles on this list. Your character is Issac Clarke who is nothing but a lowly engineer. You must fight your way through a ship that has become infested with creatures known as Necromorphs. These creatures are human corpses transformed and reanimated by an alien organism. Furthermore, these Necromorphs can only be dealt with in a very special way: dismemberment.
But you can’t just go hacking legs and arms off. Oh no, you must have a strategy in place. Furthermore, you are given a gun which is kinda like a nailgun and an electric saw. See cutting off legs and arms won’t always work, heck even attacking the head might not work. You have to figure where the creature is vulnerable and work from there.
The lighting doesn’t help either. As you move through the shadows looking for your next target, you are soon reminded that lights play tricks with your eyes and you won’t always see that next ambush coming right towards you. Put this together with a real-time interface that keeps the fight alive even when you are trying to switch weapons (there is a pause and save menu thankfully) and you are in for a horrible but wonderful time.
3. Condemned: Criminal Origins (Xbox 360, PC)
Condemned was one of the first games I ever bought for my Xbox 360. I had no idea what it was about at the time. Heck, I bought the game for under $20 and the strategy guide for a penny. I wasn’t expecting much. However, what I got was a very rich and scary game. I still get chills thinking about it.
Condemned is about Ethan Thomas, an SCU investigator who has very special instincts & durability. He arrives at a scene of a dead woman. Soon, they realize the suspect is still nearby and decide to investigate. Eventually Ethan catches up with the man and the guy tries to convince him that they are on the same side. Then Ethan’s colleagues enter the room and the man shoots them with Ethan’s gun and shoves poor Ethan out the window.
As luck would have it, Ethan wakes up the next day and finds out he is wanted for murder. He then realizes he has to prove his innocence. The main villain is Serial Killer X who actually kills other serial killers using their own methods.
The creepiness had to do with the environment and the combat engine. The environment found you in ratted out buildings and dark tunnels full of creepies. Fighting them was a totally different animal. You simply had to go after them with whatever you could find, a lead pipe, a bat, or a crowbar if you were lucky. Furthermore, if you did find a gun it would usually be in the hands of someone else and you had better kill that person quick so that they don’t empty all of the ammo before you can use it.
2. Resident Evil (PS1, Gamecube, Wii, Saturn, PC)
Well you knew that some game in the Resident Evil series was going to show up in this countdown. Heck, I could have been super lazy and included 3 or 4 of them, but once I thought about it, I realized that the original was indeed one of the scariest and best ever. We all know that this game alone spawned sequels, remakes and quite a few movies starring a voluptuous Mila Jovovovich. Another one is coming soon.
The first Resident Evil was legendary because while it wasn’t the first survival horror game, it was the one that spawned a million more. You are a member of a law enforcement task force (either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine) who find themselves in a mysterious mansion in the middle of the woods. It seems that Bravo Team was sent in ahead of you to investigate a series of murders which had cannibalistic implementations. In other words, there are zombies at a foot and you need to stop them.
However, in order to get through the game you must uncover clues and solve puzzles all while fighting zombies that simply seem to spring up from everywhere. Not to mention possibly the scariest moment ever when zombie dogs decide to jump through a frigging window at you. The GameCube remake did the original one better by providing better graphics, gameplay and even harder modes to play with. As if we needed a prettier game to keep us awake at night.
So that brings us to the scariest game of all time (in my opinion):
1.Silent Hill (PS1)
Sure Silent Hill 2 was better in the graphics and presentation department, but the original always had a way of building the better scare. Harry Mason and his daughter Cheryl were driving to the town of Silent Hill for a well rested vacation(seriously, I would like to see that brochure, how could you possibly sell Silent Hill as a family vacation spot?). Suddenly, a figure appears in the middle of the road. Harry avoids the figure and crashes.
He wakes up and realizes Cheryl is missing. So he takes off to the nearest town, Silent Hill. He is in the middle of Silent Hill searching for his lost daughter Cheryl. It sounds like a normal adventure except for the fact that you can’t make anything out due the ridiculously thick fog that populates much of the game. The night time air probably doesn’t help things either.
My first experience was like many who attempted to play Silent Hill. I got the game home late one night and proceeded to place it in my PS1. I get the game, watch the opening cut scene. Then there is the part, where Harry suddenly sees what he thinks is his daughter and chases her down to an alleyway. He keeps turning corners of the alleyway, it gets darker. Then it gets a little creepier, and the alleyway is transformed into something out of a gruesome murder scene with rust and blood covering the walls and an air raid siren blaring above.
But what do you do? You keep going! Before you know it, the darkness gives way to strange monsters overcoming you and you start to hear screams except that they are your own as you switch the game off. A week passes, sometimes more before booting up the game again where you find yourself in a cafe. But just as you settle down and ready to get into the story again, the broken radio goes to static and a flying demon comes through a window to attack you, you decide that maybe you weren’t cut out for this mess.
Most of us come back and a few even get the nerves to actually complete the game. Somewhere between the nurse zombies, devil dogs and oh that almost-invisible baby in the school, we find a game that attacks our psyche in ways that we thought wasn’t possible. There is a re-imaging of Silent Hill coming next year entitled Shattered Memories for the Wii, PSP and Playstation 2. Among other things, they are removing the combat. It’s probably for the best, our nerves were shot anyway.
I hope you have enjoyed this special column, feel free to send your comments as well as your agreements and disagreements. Thank you for reading and remember one thing: If somebody invites you to Silent Hill, don’t go. I don’t care if they are offering a vacation home, a chance to see a loved one or bags of cash. It’s not worth it and blood stains are murder on a washing machine. This has been a public service announcement of the Kedrix network. Thank you for reading.