Horror is one of the more popular game genres and for good reason. Everyone loves to be scared sometime, don’t they? The opportunities for game devs to create interesting stories as well as amazing ways to mess with people have always been endless in the horror realm. So I have scoured the wide history of gaming and I submit to you this top ten list of the games that do this in astonishing ways. These games not just bring an unsettling amount of terror to the table, or did upon release, but also present an unforgettable story. Here are the Top Ten Horror Games at this point in gaming.
10 - The 7th Guest
This is an ancient computer game from days of old, 1993 to be precise. Played on PC and, as I learned today, Philips CD-i. It was a combination of animation and live action and is an amazing throwback. This was a game I played over and over with my mom and it will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s surprisingly violent for the time and, while it may seem cheesy, it’s right there with classics like Night Trap, but instead of being a strange panty raid, it’s interactive Clue. Games such as this and The 11th Hour can still be found on Steam, even, so go give them a try!
9 - S.C.P. Containment Breach
Now this one goes down the internet rabbit hole a little bit… but trust me. S.C.P. stands for Secure, Contain, Protect, and originally started off as a creepypasta but grew to be something all its own. Now there are several S.C.P.s, creatures or items that are cursed in some way or another that have all been collected in one location, and that is the premise of this game. The S.C.P.s are out, and you have to survive. The game is surprisingly free and can be downloaded at http://www.scpcbgame.com/ , and while the graphics aren’t the best, the game can pack a surprising punch. This is just proof of what the internet can create in this day and age.
8 - The Evil Within
In the modern era of horror games, sometimes it feels that ideas are constantly recycled or sometimes clung to and beaten to death. The Evil Within took an idea that has shown up in other games and media, an insane asylum where the inmates have gotten out, and twisted it. Not only do you spend the game unclear as to what’s real and what isn’t, even at the end you’re not sure you ever even escaped.
7 - F.E.A.R.
This game series, talking mainly games 1, 2, and 3, left a mark on those of us who played it, as we will never forget that disturbing little girl with her long black hair and red dress. Alma was a man-made monster who could give Resident Evil 7’s Eveline an absolute run for her money, and she was never more nightmarish than when she was in her child form just appearing behind you. And the story for the game series where your character is never gifted a name is incredibly interesting as you discover just what happened to Alma. Story is important.
6 - Outlast
While definitely not the first in the survival horror genre, Outlast definitely left its mark when the game revealed to you that you would have to survive it unarmed. No gun, only a camera, you must make your way through a psychiatric hospital where something has gone very wrong. Just as the title tells you, you simply have to outlast. Worst of all, possibly, is that it’s all first person. At least you have night vision, so I hope you like the color green!
5 - Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
This classic from the GameCube era was so creative that I’ve still never really seen a game quite like it since, though I have seen games pull similar tricks. For example, in Metal Gear Solid, Psycho Mantis appears to read your memory card? Well Eternal Darkness takes it one step further. If your insanity level in the game goes too high, it appears to start to affect your GameCube, as your game save data seems to erase, and your system may even appear to crash. Or your character might just start screaming and then her head might fall into her hands. Man this game was fun!
4 - Five Nights at Freddy’s
No one saw this one coming, or going where it has at this point. An entire series, and even a movie in the works. Holy shit, there’s just nothing else to say. Though one does have to give credit where credit is due, Scott Cawthon took an idea that sounds absurd and made it work. You’re a security guard paid to watch animatronics that may or may not be possessed. He placed the perfect amount of mystery and intrigue behind the games both literally with mini-games hidden around and figuratively, that people are still trying to piece everything together. Honestly, the man’s a genius.
3 - Clock Tower Series
An old game series that fell by the wayside quite some time ago, this series focused on having no weapons, very similar to series such as Fatal Frame. Similar to Eternal Darkness, you had a fear meter to pay attention to. Get too scared, and you won’t be able to move. Or worse yet, your character may even do something stupid. You may occasionally get holy water as a brief weapon, but that’s it. Not even a camera to protect you in this one, and that obstacle makes it even more frightening when you have to escape a madman with giant scissors.
2 - Resident Evil
The late 90’s were when survival horror really came into being. There were two game series that made their mark in the series, one following more of a combat system than the other. Resident Evil scarred so many gamers as the first game to really give us a face to face confrontation with a zombie. While there was enough ammo to survive the game, it was hard to find and the saving system made it even more challenging. This game set a precedent that still exists today, it would be great to return to it.
1 - Silent Hill
Where Resident Evil set the precedent, Silent Hill raised the bar. Now you’re trapped in a town that transitions between standard foggy Silent Hill and Silent Hell, Trent Reznor's dream recording studio. This place is full of blood, guts, rusted metal, and monsters, and the only warning you have before the transition is one of the most haunting sounds in the world, an air raid siren. Many of us have never heard this sound in context, which might actually make it even more eerie. And possibly what really drives this game to the level that makes it number one is that Silent Hill has been argued to be a representation of purgatory. This place is so mysterious and so unsettling that it just stays with you.
There have been a ton of great horror games, so many I really stared at my pile of games to decide just what I thought should go on the list and go where. There are honorable mentions of course, such as Alien: Isolation, Dead Space, and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. I would love to see a game dethrone Silent Hill someday, though, as I think horror game fans are always hoping for something to really knock us on our ass. Something with substance and scare, not just jump scares or gore. Failed projects such as Silent Hills and Allison Road perhaps could have been contenders. Hopefully something soon will really give us a nice challenge with great puzzles as well as a wonderful story and an intense atmosphere.