After my article on what constitutes true horror, the fact that I’m a bit of a horror nerd has been exposed. My shelves are lined with horror games, both obscure and mainstream, and my coworkers are pretty tired of my rants when they mention games they think are scary. My apologies to them and to you, my lovelies, but horror is just my jam. Games that many gamers find terrifying don’t get to me. For example, Amnesia, Outlast, and Five Night’s at Freddy’s are certainly good games, and I’ve had fun with them, but they just don’t scare me. My consoles and PC live in a state of perpetual Halloween, so it was inevitable that the question came up: “OK, you know-it-all wanker, what’s the scariest games that you’ve ever played?”
I deserve that and I am sure I will deserve all of the eye-rolling and snorting from you dear readers. With my tail between my legs, I present the top ten games that managed to scare me:
1. The Fatal Frame Series (Various)
Yes, we’re starting off on a fairly well-known series that, surprisingly, doesn’t get as much credit as it should. The series features Japanese-style horror in which innocent characters transverse dangerous areas that are filled to the brim with angry spirits. Their only defense is the camera obscura, the only way to fight off said spirits is by snapping their picture.
Why it scared me: Fatal Frame sounds like a silly setup, right? The thing is, it was one of the best games to implement that “helpless” feeling that many games strive for. Camera film is limited, spirits can materialize at random in areas that you swear are safe, and every tiny noise or room made my chest hurt. The sound design is incredible in Fatal Frame. Whispers, thuds, scratching, all of which earned an actual whimper from me, even after multiple playthroughs. The spirits themselves are terrifying, implementing that distinctive Japanese horror style in their designs. The otherwordly way that they move is insanely detailed and just adds to the overall atmosphere – and that is what Fatal Frame is – survival-horror atmosphere upped to an extreme degree. It traumatized me as a kid, it made me cry as an adult, and it made my jaded little sister beg me to turn the game off.
2. SCP Containment Breach (PC)
Do you hate me yet? Yes, this free-to-download indie game about creepy-pasta meets X-Files scared me witless.
Why it scared me: You know the Weeping Angels in Dr. Who? Because that. The main antagonist, SCP-173 aka “The Sculpture” is essentially this concept. The bastard can only get close to you when you are not looking at it. This seems simple, right? Well, the game features a demonic mechanic that forces the player to blink when a timer runs out. If you are not far enough, SCP-173 will break your scraggly little neck. The game essentially full of cheap jump-scares, sure, but this is one instance where jump-scares are effective and they never got old for me. You know what’s even better than being locked in a warehouse with that? How about a ton more cryptid style horrors that randomly appear? Fancy the idea of a tall, pale naked man with a vast mouth screaming not to look at him and then ripping your face off if you do? How about a shadowy corpse that sends you to another dimension with the intent of “tenderizing” you for consumption. This game is sadistic, it scares the little girl out of me, and I love it.
3. Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube)
I know, I know, I’ve gone on about this, so I’ll keep it brief.
Why it scared me: The environment, the monsters, the loneliness, the soundtrack, everything was terrifying. There are plenty of Resident Evil titles that are scary and that I consider scary. The big issue for me is that I found many of them a lot more sad, and sadness trumps terror every time when it comes to me. If you’re wondering why I didn’t think Five Nights at Freddy’s was scary, there’s your answer; dead kids make me sad. Lisa Trevor makes me cry, Sherry’s dad screaming for her and begging for help makes me sad and even Alfred Ashford crying upon seeing his twin awaken made me sad. While Resi 4 did have a moment at the end that made me tear up, it managed to keep me more scared than weepy.
4. System Shock 2 (PC)
Back when this game was released, there weren’t a lot of science-fiction based horror games around at the time. Naturally, when System Shock 2 arrived, I played it with the expectation that it’d be a fun little romp. I am become regret.
Why it scared me: Atmosphere. Pure, sullen, terrifying atmosphere, with a story that made my stomach churn, plus an insane AI taunting me the entire time. SHODAN is one of the best video game characters I’ve ever encountered. Years later, I like to think of her as GladOS’ badass grandma that the Aperture Science team doesn’t want to visit. Just hearing that crackling, taunting voice made me paralysed with terror. Steam recently re-released this awesome game and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a good scare, or who is constipated.
5. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (PC)
Like the idea of an evil machine torturing you while you attempt to survive? How about an evil machine that’s kept you and a few others alive for the SOLE PURPOSE of torturing you?
Why it scared me: Based on a short story of the same name, the game takes players into the sadistic world of a handful of survivors, and gradually unfolds their guilty stories. This game is a psychological/survivor horror game that brings about extremely disturbing thoughts and imagery. The hopelessness and ugliness of humanity still haunts me.
6. Haunting Ground (PS2)
Oh, hey, a Capcom game featuring rape, cannibalism and murder. Neat!
Why it scared me: This is one of the first games I ever played where it was the characters that winded up making me nearly pee myself. The performance of Daniella alone almost gave me a panic attack. Her twitching, rattling, eerie presence coupled with the Clock Tower style of needing to run away, solve puzzles and hide from enemies had me permanently on edge. The game even featured several different endings depending on how the player handled things. If I could go the rest of my life without a crazed Homunculus preparing to shiv my lady-parts, I would be very happy.
7. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (Gamecube)
I am a big fan of H.P Lovecraft. I am also terrified of malevolent sea beasts. I am sure you can gather what went wrong here.
Why it scared me: This is probably the first game I played that implemented a “sanity meter” mechanic, as well as traversing through multiple time periods while players faced off against Eldritch horrors. The story, the environment, all of it culminated into the dread-filled game that left me hiding under the covers and considering burying my Lovecraft book collection.
8. The Suffering: Ties That Bind (PS2, Xbox, PC)
Now, here’s an odd entry. The Suffering is a game that is sort of Silent Hill meets GTA. Sounds silly, I know.
Why it scared me: I have a great deal of respect for psychological horror. It’s very difficult to pull off, and in the case of a violent criminal, even harder. Torque, a man who has received life for murdering his family, finds himself tossed into a version of Alcatraz gone to Hell. Each monster represents a varying form of torture, crime or pain, while the story shows you the bloody history of Torque’s muddled past. It is the representation of the monsters, two in particular, that kept me up at night. I hate to say it, but a baby-faced monster with tentacles protruding from his trench-coat that are literally dead prostitutes is godamned horrifying.
9. Among The Sleep (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
This game harkens back to all of my childhood fears.
Why it scared me: I’m a big believer that keeping the “monster” a mystery tends to work in favor of the story and tension. Among The Sleep does this Alice in Wonderland style majesty with mysterious forces that are after you. You play as a baby. Mysterious, malevolent monsters, a missing mother and that level of helplessness was almost too much to bare for me.
10. White Day: A Labyrinth Called School (PC)
My kudos to you if you know what this game even is, or have heard of it. A Korean developed game, White Day is all about a sort of Valentine’s Day tradition gone horribly wrong.
Why it scared me: Want to know a funny bit of trivia? This game was so scary that the devs had to release patches so people could finish it. I went in like a cocky little shite, determined to prove my horror-mettle and, by god, this game lives up to its reputation. Every single tiny thing about it is downright disturbing. I even had to check with my horror-hardened friends just to make sure I hadn’t psyched myself out, and I’ve never seen a grown man cry before then. For those who are curious, or masochistic, the game can still be scrounged off of the dark side of the internet. You’ll more than likely have to emulate Korean PC standards or find a modded version, but the experience is worth it. Traumatizing, but worth it.
And there you have it; my shame, tears and cowering displayed proudly for all to mock. In all seriousness, I’d recommend any of these games to a horror fan or to people looking for a good scare. I’d also love to know what games scared you lovelies witless, if you’re willing to share. Thanks for joining me! Now, I must go to my happy place under the covers.