The will likely be spoilers, but should I talk about something super new I'll warn ya. But consider this a pre-emptive warning! You're WARNED!

Monday, January 3, 2011

horror video games

I love horror movies and I love video games. It should be obvious, then, that I love any combination of the two; I've played some games past the point of frustration just because they were supposed to be scary (the original Alone in the Dark's okay, we can all admit it). Likewise, I've found perverse enjoyment in some atrocious horror films with gaming themes (yes, I'm referring to Stay Alive...just don't tell anyone).

I've talked about scary-flavored games plenty of times over at my other home, Final Girl; however, if you haven't been reading it for the past half-decade (and why would you, amirite?), then perhaps these little lists have gone without your notice. In the interests of convenience, history, humanity, and posting about things I dig, then, I'm gonna re-post all this old stuff about some of my favorite horror games here in one place...and even add a couple of new entries. GASP!

ALIEN 3 (Super Nintendo)

I don't really understand all the hatred people seem to have for the movie Alien 3. I saw it at the theatre twice and while it's a strange place to go after Aliens- and YES they shouldn't have casually killed ogg Newt and what's-his-name like that- I dig it (the fourth film in the series, Alien Resurrection, is another matter entirely). The pixelated counterpart, Alien 3 for the Super Nintendo system, is an absolute blast. You've got to guide Ripley through a series of varying environments (tunnels, exteriors, factories, etc) and accomplish different goals to complete missions. On one mission, you'll rescue prisoners that are all gunked-up with alien goo, while on another you'll have to clean all the alien eggs out of a hallway and weld the doors shut, and so on. For a 16-bit game, the graphics are fantastic. The action is intense- there's nothing like a room full of face-huggers to get your heart racing.

DOOM 3 (PC, Xbox)

I think I read on The Internet somewhere that people don't like Doom 3. I don't understand why, as I love it...hell, it's the first game I got when I got a good old-fashioned Xbox. What's not to love? It looks great and it plays great (this from someone who's pretty uncoordinated when it comes to first-person shooters). The plot (something something space marines something portal to hell something demons) is light, granted, but it's secondary to the action. When things go wrong in Doom 3, they really go wrong, and you've got to shoot, pummel, and chainsaw your way through hordes of demons and demonized space marines, often in the dark. During one part of this game, you're led through a labyrinthine area of a lab by a scientist. There are power fluctuations or surges or something and the lights are out. Eventually, the surges short out your flashlight as the single beam of light fades, you see something leap out of the darkness and kill the scientist- then everything goes black. Absolutely terrifying. Stupid Internet.


The Fatal Frame series is very, very Japanese, if you get my drift. Like your typical J-horror flick, it's long on atmosphere, longer on black hair, and short on a linear plot. Armed with a special ghost-capturing camera as your only weapon, you run around haunted houses trying to solve a mystery. If you're willing to give yourself over to the game, you'll likely get goosebumps on top of goosebumps- the game is that chilling. That Ray Parker, Jr thinks he's so big- I'd like to see him go up against a vengeful spirit in some dojo in the middle of the woods! My only gripe about these games is the battle system; the camera is very clever and very unique, but it's also clumsy. As I noted, I'm pretty uncoordinated at times, but more often than not I found myself wasting film taking pictures of the ceiling or floor while ghosts were attacking me relentlessly. The scares more than make up for this complaint, however. The second entry in the series, Crimson Butterfly, is perhaps the best.

RESIDENT EVIL (refer to chart found here for platforms)

Stick around here a while and you'll hear plenty of Resident Evil talk, my friends, because I effing love that series. The name of this blog may have even indicated as much. But in a list of my favorite horror games, I can't NOT mention the Rezzies. Yes, we're so intimate that we have irritating pet names for each other, though I can't print in polite company what Resident Evil calls me.

But! A post about the series is for another day; here, I'm just fixin' to talk about the ones I like best. My mostest favoritest, I think, is the GameCube remake of the very first Resident Evil. First of all: I love my GameCube. I'll talk about it more when I continue my positively fascinating history with video games...but suffice it to say, I find that the oft-maligned system kicks all kinds of ass. All kinds! For you mathemagicians out there, I posit: Resident Evil is proof of this.

The graphics in the remake are simply amazing, from the little puffs of dirt that rise when you run over an old, dusty wooden floor to the little puffs of stinky zombie breath blown in your face, it's really a beautiful game to behold. The basic plot of the original game remains intact- members of S.T.A.R.S. are investigating a series of "cannibal murders" and end up in a dilapidated mansion in the woods, confronted by zombies and various other horrors- but there are new subplots and enough new material to give a Resident Evil veteran plenty fresh thrills. This game is downright scary, there's no doubt about it. The first time a zombie that I killed- I know I killed it 'cause the puddle of blood oozed out from under him!- jumped up and started running after me, I nearly crapped my pants. Then I made out with my GameCube.

And then there's Resident Evil 4, which was born on the 'Cube but ported over to Playstation 2 (so you have no excuses not to play it- unless you only have some variation on the Xbox, or something much older, or perhaps you don't even play video games...I suppose those are good excuses) and changed the gameplay of the series. Gone was the awkward 3rd-person view; in its place, a weird over-the-shoulder 3rd/1st hybrid. Gone, too, were the straight-up zombies that were Resident Evil's hallmark, replaced by crazed cultists known as Los Ganados. Sometimes change is a good thing, though, and Resident Evil 4 is widely considered to be the best overall game in the series. It's a huge game- I don't even know how many hours I've spent playing it, and I loved every minute of it. And hell, you know any game that's got a dude with a sack on his head wielding a chainsaw is A-OK by me.

And then there's Resident Evil 2 and Code Veronica...oh, I could talk about Rezzies all day.

SILENT HILL (refer to chart found here for platforms)

I could also talk about Silent Hill all day, although truth be told...well, I'm a sucker for the series and so I'll play anything SH that exists, but I think it may have had its time in the sun. I shouldn't say that, I KNOW. But...latter entries are fun, but they just seem like pale imitations of the earliest forays into Silent Hill. Maybe it's just familiarity breeding meh, but they're just not terribly scary anymore. Something's missing.

Silent Hill 2 and 3, though...dem's my jams. I can't decide which I like better, although 2 has the best story out of any SH games. Some scary shit, that. Oh, Silent Hill...I'm sorry I said those things. You may no longer be the Silent Hill of my yoot, but I love you. For realsies.


I don't know why I keep buying Clock Tower games. I play them a bit, I get frustrated and/or get nowhere, I trade them in for something else. Oh wait, I know why- there are crazy dudes with big pointy things (by "things" I mean "knives and scissors", ya perv) chasing you around. The best part about the game is the fact that you can actually hide from the crazy dudes- hiding in the broom closet while a crazy dude hunts for you, walking by slowly as his giant scissors go shhhhing! shhhhing! is an awesome experience. Actually playing Clock Tower, however, is not. The controls are clumsy, the crazy dudes can't be killed (or really even stopped for any length of time), and the "puzzles" are nonsensical and frustrating. That's it, Clock that mystery girl who made Michael Jackson cry, you're outta my life!


The skies rain blood and everyone in town goes homicidal cuckoo-nutso. You, however, are still quite normal and you have to escape. The evil townies want you to die and do everything they can to kill you: they'll stab you, they'll shoot you, they'll throw things at you. They're just plain mean! Mean and crazy! This game is pretty spooky, and you've got the ability to "sight-jack" in your arsenal. This means that for short periods of time you can see things through the eyes of the evil townies. A cool gimmick, but not just a gimmick- this is your only means of locating the evil townies in their proximity to you- and your only real means of escape is the use of stealth. I wanted this game to be awesome. I really, really did. But sweet jebus, it was difficult- or I found it to be difficult, anyway. I'm really bad at being stealthy when games require it. Some jerk would hear a leaf rustle under my foot and shoot me from a rooftop, or I'd come around the corner and get stabbed in the face. Ultimately, the difficulty level (or my stupid, noisy, lumbering self) got in the way of my enjoyment and Siren went bye-bye.

DEAD RISING (Xbox 360)

Once upon a time, I reviewed Dead Rising. There is now also Dead Rising 2, which is more of the kill the zombies sameness with some tweaks. If I have to tell you that killing hordes and hordes of zombies, wackadoos, and wackadoo-ier wackadoos is fun and creepy, then you must be a moron. No offense...but come on.

LEFT 4 DEAD (Xbox 360, PC)

I love the chaos of Dead Rising, but I love this first-person shooter even more. See, what Dead Rising is to George Romero, Left 4 Dead is to Zach Snyder. These walking dead aren't walking at all- they're running really fast because they want to eat your face. There are hundreds and hundreds of them, along with "special" zombies, upgraded with all sorts of new ways to kill you. My favorite is the Witch, the goth-looking chick who sits around in her underwear, crying...until you get too close, and then she's up and clawing your eyes out in a flash. Reminds me of college!

DEAD SPACE (PC, Xbox 360)

First of all, Dead Space 2 will be out for Xbox 360 and PS3 in a matter of days and I am excited about it. Okay, it's out in a matter of weeks, but as a week comprises days, my point stands. Second of all, if I'm excited about it, you can rightfully deduce that I love Dead Space. And why wouldn't I? This game is like Resident Evil meets Event Horizon, and it's absolutely one of the scariest games in the history of the history of ever- yes, it's that scary. You've got to repair your disabled ship while fighting off mutated crewmembers- of course there's an alien flu bug goin' 'round. Standard stuff, eh? Well, Dead Space utilizes sound and light like no other game since Silent Hill, and it's downright terrifying, to the point where I hit 'pause' on more than one occasion just so I wouldn't have to continue on into a pitch-black hallway where something was moaning. The score sounds straight outta Kubrick's The Shining, and it helps sink you into a never-ending state of heebie jeebies.


While it wasn't a major hit sales-wise, this oldie but goodie GameCube release is a favorite amongst nerds in the know. Explore the mansion that belonged to your recently-deceased grandfather as you try to unravel the mystery of his death. Find chapters from the "Tome of Eternal Darkness" and engage in a little time-travel...and then Eternal Darkness really starts fucking with you via the "sanity meter". The more scary stuff Alexandra encounters, the nuttier she gets...and the nuttier you'll get. You'll be in the middle of a boss battle when suddenly your controller no longer works...or the game cuts to the title screen...or Alexandra ends up on the ceiling- the game really messes with your head as a player. There's nothing else like it. Hey, now you're a nerd in the know!


Here's another game that got little attention, but horror fans should definitely bust out their PS2s and give it a whirl. At the start of Haunting Ground, you wake up in a cage (!!!) on the grounds of Castle Belli, and you've got to figure out what the eff is going on and how you can escape. Eventually you team up with a white German Shepherd named Hewie to solve puzzles and defend yourself as you search for a way out. What sets Haunting Ground apart from other survival horror games is that your character wields no weapons...just about all you can do when confronted by an enemy is run and try to find a good hiding spot- sort of like Clock Tower done right. Sometimes these hiding spots work, and sometimes they don't...but you can never use the same place twice. It's incredibly tense to be crouched behind a curtain while someone is in the room, actively looking in all the corners for you. While there's definitely too much backtracking (and man oh man does the story get a bit perverse), Haunting Ground boasts one of the greatest, scariest video game villains ever in Daniella, the creepy-ass maid (pictured above). I'd say they should stick her in a movie, but we all know how movies based on games tend to go...


Did you know that there's a video game set right after the events of John Carpenter's The Thing? There is, and it's pretty good- so you PS2 and Xbox owners should get all up on that shit. You can imagine how the game goes: after contact is lost with MacReady and company, the military sends teams to investigate...alien parasite hijinks ensue. While you've got to battle the creepy-crawlies, you've also got to battle the rising worries of your teammates as they become increasingly paranoid: no one trusts anyone. Dudes get scared and they kill themselves, or they try to kill you. You may have an infected teammate in your party. It's a lot like the game, except no one wears weird, giant sideways cowboy hats- and that's a pity.

F.E.A.R. (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)

F.E.A.R. has become a veritable franchise over the years; the forthcoming F.E.A.R. 3 will boast the talents of horror heavyweights John Carpenter and Steve Niles, so that ought to tell you something about it. As for me, I've only played the first game in the series and while I liked it well-enough, I didn't fall in love. It's a first-person shooter that's more action-y than horror-y to me, which is certainly fine. I look at the picture above, though, and I think to myself "Stacie, you're a jerk. Try it again. Undoubtedly the reason you thought it was only okay is undoubtedly your problem, not the game's." So, we'll see. There are a lot of games on my Someday Second Chance List, and this is one of 'em.

ALAN WAKE (Xbox 360)

I recently talked a bit about Alan Wake in my little year-end wrap-up, but this sleeper hit is worth mentioning again. In the end it may be more "thriller" than "horror", if one wants to split hairs (as, obviously, I do), but there's no denying that walking around the dark woods with naught but a flashlight while evil-encrusted psychos bearing fishing hooks chase you is GD scary.

So there you go, horror + video games- two great tastes that something something. I hope to amend this list until I can no longer hold controllers in my wizened, arthritic claws!

Actually, I take that back as "wizened, arthritic claws" sound like a real drag to have. How about...I hope to amend this list forever.

Look, I'm amending it already! In the interests of making this post more of a real horror-flavored video games list and not simply a horror-flavored video games I love list, here are some know, horror-flavored video games which may be of interest.

Stuff I've played, felt only okay about in the end:
  • Condemned: Criminal Origins/Condemned 2
  • Alone in the Dark (they were all okay except the first one, which, as I noted, sucks)
  • Indigo Prophecy
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • D/D2
  • Still Life
Stuff I've played that pretty much stunk:
Stuff I've yet to play, but I oh so very much would like to:
  • Metro 2033
  • Rule of Rose
  • Dementium
  • System Shock
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent
  • Saw
Stuff I've played, but I honestly don't remember much at all:
  • Parasite Eve/Parasite Eve II

Stuff I'm currently playing:
  • Deadly Premonition


EerieErik (Drunketh) said...

Resident Evil 4 is so addictive. I played it forever. When I started playing RE5 I thought it was nuts that you couldn't pause to change guns and just had to arrange and do it all during gameplay and fights. Now that I revisited RE4 a couple years later, I can't believe how long it takes to change guns. Heh.

Stacie Ponder said...

I liked RE 5, but it's toward the bottom of the series list for me (except that DLC Lost in Nightmares or whatever it was called, with Jill and Christ together) was pretty, but I want them to go back to horror and move away from the action. RE 4 was a great mix. WHY CAN'T THEY JUST DO WHAT I WANT.

Strange Kid said...

Definitely a great list here and I agree that RE4 is one of THE best horror/action games ever. The formula was perfect (with exception to the parts where you had to guard that blonde headed ninny). Can't wait to see what's next.

Also, Splatterhouse is worthy of mention. Though it may not be everyone's cup of tea, who really doesn't want to tear off a monster's head before pulling his innards through his anus? :)

Stacie Ponder said...

Splatterhouse! Forgot that one (uh, obviously). Never played the original, but I've been eyeing news about the new one with interest...

TheGirlWhoLovesHorror said...

OMFG, Resident Evil 4 is the greatest game on this good Earth. I don't even remember how many times I played it all the way through and still loved every effing minute of it.

And then I got my PS3 and couldn't play it anymore. I died a little inside. But RE5 is a good enough replacement and I love that one too.

The Saw game is alright but VERY repetitive with all the puzzle solving and shit.

Dave M said...

I hang my head in shame for having not played Dead Space yet. I shall rectify that later today, however, based upon your droolings above :-)

Also re: Silent Hill - Agreed on 2 and 3, although 3 always has a special place in my heart. Heart magic and light sabre FTW! But oh that freaking Morley Mansion. I had to buy a new controller after that one.

Stacie Ponder said...

I put off playing Dead Space for a long time. It just seemed like a shooter with horror flavorings, which I suppose it is...but it's really well done and REALLY scary. I recommend turning up the sound and turning off the lights!

Kensington said...

Jill finds Christ in one of the DLC chapters of Resident Evil 5!?!

Now that isa new direction!

Stacie Ponder said...

Ha!!! Good catch.

Yes, she finds Christ. They're trying to tap into a new market.

Corey said...

I love this list so much. A large chunk of the games you listed are some of my most favorite games.

Agreed on SH 2 and 3 being tied--I love the SH 2 storyline, but Heather Mason is the HBIC. So I normally side with 3.

I've had Rule of Rose since the day it came out...and I've yet to play more than 30 minutes worth. I need to rectify that.

Also, Haunting Ground? I literally had a panic attack every five minutes in that game. I thought I was going to die. Just thinking about it give me chest painsssss.

You've now convinced me to play Dead Space, though.

Chris H said...

I really didn't like Doom 3, mainly because to me, it wasn't Doom. Whereas in Doom, you just navigated through one big room (or in hell) and in order to get the the other end, you had to exterminate every single demon you can find in a huge splatterfest. But Doom 3 not only stayed in a sterile, boring science lab for the whole game and you never got to go to hell, but every room was the same; you'd go into the room, the lights would cut off and a demon would spawn unfairly behind you, and because you can't use the gun and torch in conjunction with each other, most of the time, you can't see the enemies (or the beautiful graphics), and to kill them, you almost always have to pump thousand of bullets into the darkness and hope for the best. It got on my bloody nerves.

Anonymous said...

Great post Stacie! I have played all the RE's and 1 is still my favorite. It was just so effing hard - at least for me. I never had enough shit left at the end to be able to win and I'd have to start over. Also loved 4. I think i played through at least 4 times. 5 is meh, ok, not great. 2 and 3 are just a blur.
Silent Hill games were too slow for me. I really need to try Dead Space.

Chris Otto said...

Great, great post. Ever hear of or play a 1997 PC game called "Realms of the Haunting"? ... It still ranks as one of the best horror games I've ever played. Mostly a first-person shooter with some elements of point-and-click. Plus FMV cutscenes. It's a little, forgotten gem that got a lot right in terms of spooky atmospherics and ambiance.

dementia13 said...

IIRC, the big complaint about Doom 3 was that it was too dark to see anything. Maybe it worked better on a console, but at the time the game's lighting engine was so advanced that they had to leave everything dark just so it could run on users' PCs. At times that made it scarier, but at others it's a pain in the neck, and at any rate it's a waste of some very realistic lighting effects. I personally enjoyed the game, but never finished it. I also never finished The Thing: at some point, I got tired of running around in the snow, trying to find the next level. Then spring rolled around, and it's just not the same to play when it's warm out. Then I moved back to Lauderdale...fat chance of that game ever getting finished. Especially when there's Lauderdale stuff to do.

Stacie Ponder said...

@Chris- I've never heard of that game, no! Hmm. Sounds like it deserved more attention. Ahh, the mid-90s FMV craze...good times! :D

@dementia- That's probably the difference, console to PC. I remember the game being dark, but never so much that it was problematic. And The Thing...I never finished it either. I get so far and then the difficulty shoots way up and I end up with no ammo and/or first aid kits and a zillion monsters kill me. I've started the game numerous times and I always poop out around the same time. It's frustrating. Could be a GREAT game if someone made it now, though...

Thomas Dukenfield said...

My fave horror game is definitely Resident Evil 2 (for obvious reasons already stated), but honorable mention goes to the Commodore 64 Aliens game. I haven't played it in forever, but I remember it being somewhat comparable to Alien 3 in terms of gameplay. Giger designed aliens coming after you is creepy in any and all media.

My first horror game was Forbidden Forests on C64, which is a guy shooting arrows at monsters, and it was filled with actual gore, despite being made in like 1982. Not really that scary, though, considering how crude the graphic were.

Another shout out to the original three Splatterhouse games, although the controls were sorta herky jerky.

Friday the 13th on NES was kinda creepy but also totally terrible as a game.

Just some that come to mind.