Greetings, boils and ghouls, this incredibly archaic introduction is brought to you by The DVCast.
In fact, this particular post is written by none other than Zachary Walton, the self-proclaimed horror master of the group. Since Stephen is too scared to tackle the task, I have taken it upon myself to create a list of the scary games you can play during Halloween this year.
To be included, the game must follow these strict standards:
1. It must have been released in the last two years. That means no perennial classics like Resident Evil will be on this list. You all know Resident Evil is a classic horror game, so why bother?
2. The game must be scary. Of course, scary is strictly subjective. Take Stephen for instance - he’s scared of awesome things. Those scarecrow things in Thief: Deadly Shadows? They’re super cool! This list will be comprised of titles that I think are scary.
3. Special consideration will be given to games that might not be scary, but rather exude pure malice in their design. These are games that don’t intend to scare, but can be extremely nerve wracking in their design.
(As an aside, it should be noted that these titles are not in any order whatsoever. They are all quality titles and deserve your time. Don’t take their placement on the list as a sign of their respective quality.)
Now that we have that out of the way - let’s dive in!
Silent Hill Downpour (Xbox 360/PS3)
Resident Evil and Silent Hill both received a main series entry in their respective franchises this year. Resident Evil 6 isn’t as bad as some critics would have you believe, but it is not scary. Silent Hill Downpour on the other hand is a major rebound after the last few titles failed to live up to the series’ pedigree.
Downpour casts you in the shoes of Murphy, a convict with a troubled past. He’s the perfect candidate for interment at Silent Hill. As you make your way through the famous town, much of Murphy’s history is dug up through excellently crafted areas and, in a first for the series, side quests. It’s a shocking, and often times depressing, journey through the psyche of a man who lost everything and gave up his humanity in return for solace in nothingness.
Lone Survivor (PC)
Speaking of Silent Hill, Lone Survivor could be considered its 2D doppelganger. It even lifts some of its sound effects straight out of Konami’s horror series. Much like the previous entry, Lone Survivor is all about psychological horror. It puts player in the role of a nameless character who is the only survivor amid what appears to a viral outbreak that turned the populace into flesh-eating zombies. Think I Am Legend, but far more disturbing.
The game is a side scrolling 2D adventure game with limited combat. That doesn’t make the game any less threatening though. The enemies that are present can easily spot the player and will make short work of the player’s character if they’re not too careful. The player also “dies” if they run out of ammo. It forces one to think creatively and avoid confrontation if at all possible. It makes every encounter, even with the weaker enemy varieties, incredibly tense.
Corpse Party (PSP/Playable on PS Vita)
The next entry on this list is a bit different from the rest. Corpse Party is a Japanese adventure game that looks like it was made in RPG Maker. The visuals are incredibly basic, even more so than Lone Survivor, but it’s by far one of the more terrifying games to be included on this list.
The key to Corpse Party’s success is its use of audio. This is the kind of game that requires headphones as the audio moves within your head. It creates the illusion that the player is really inside the haunted schoolhouse. The interweaving stories that take place over five chapters also serve to alleviate the pain of having to sit through some particularly awful visuals.
A fair bit of warning here - the game is incredibly graphic. There are CG stills throughout the game for important scenes which include the brutal murder of high school-age children. I don’t want to spoil these scenes, but they are some of the most disturbing I’ve ever seen in a game. I’m actually kind of glad they aren’t animated.
The player awakens in a darkened house. Why are they there? What’s going on? These are the questions that the player must ask themselves as they venture through the highly stylized 2D environments of Home.
Home is an indie horror project created by one person - Benjamin Rivers. He did all the art, programming, writing, etc. This is one of those personal pet projects that lots of love was poured into and it’s obviously shows. It’s one of the most stylish 2D games to hit the indie scene with expressive pixels forming the landscape that the player wanders as they search for answers.
The big theme in Home is choice. Everything is decided by the player through simple yes or no answers. Are you going to pick up that gun? Are you going to open that door? Every choice has a consequence somewhere down the line as the player slowly realizes the true horror behind their actions. A word of warning: the game is super ambiguous and the non-ending may turn off some players.
The Binding of Isaac (PC)
Remember how I said in the rules that some games may not be “scary,” but rather exude malice in their design? The Binding of Isaac is one of those games. Much like Super Meat Boy before it, The Binding of Isaac hates you. It will do everything in its power to belittle and destroy what little self-esteem the player had left.
Beyond the game design, I think the game could be classified as fitting nicely into the horror genre due to the varied, and often times grotesque, enemy design. Many of the boss monsters are pus or acid spewing monsters that look like they’re straight out of a Lovecraftian nightmares. Scary? Not really. Unsettling? You bet.
I’m not going to lie - Anna is my favorite of the list. If it was numbered, Anna would be number one. It’s an extraordinary first-person adventure game set in a dark sawmill where the supernatural comes alive. You can feel the presence of something malicious, but it never truly manifests itself until you least expect it. It’s the kind of game that uses its atmosphere to the very best of its ability.
Anna, much like Home, is very ambiguous. It may be a detriment to some players in Home, but I bet that many players will come to appreciate the ambiguity in Anna’s design. It doesn’t use it to make the player confused, but rather uses it to further stir their curiosity for repeat playthroughs. There are multiple endings, and the game constantly hints at this. There’s more to be done and seen in the solitary sawmill in the middle of the woods. It just waits for the player to find it.
And... that’s it. I can’t add anymore games to this list, even if I wanted to, thanks to the rules imposed by myself. I would like to ask any and all readers to add their own favorite horror games in the comments. My rules do not apply to you so bust out that recommendation for “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.”