Let’s face it, we all have a strange fascination with horror. Whether it be a simple ghost story or a horrific being who enjoys ripping people’s heads off, we always manage to get sucked into the story, and are genuinely intrigued by the unexplainable and demented.
There have been some cracking horror games over the years, some that would make you cower behind the sofa, and some that would make you exclaim “I’ve had scarier times on the toilet!”. This bonus episode of The Vault is a selection of chillers which fall firmly into the first category. Be warned, there are a few gentle spoilers in this list, so if you haven’t played the games, we might recommend just reading the title.
5: Fatal Frame – Project Zero (Tecmo, 2002)
I remember buying this game for the PlayStation 2 and to be honest, I wasn’t really prepared for what I had got myself into. Fatal Frame is a very dark game with an interesting premise. You play the role of a Japanese girl called Miku, who goes searching for her missing brother in a creepy mansion situated in the forested hills of Japan. After searching high and low, she finds no sign of him, instead discovering her mother’s old camera that her brother had been carrying. She then finds herself trapped in the mansion and starts looking for a way out whilst continuing her search for her brother.
This is about the time that everything starts to go downhill. Miku is attacked by a horrible looking ghost, but fortunately the camera she found is actually a weapon, meaning that the only thing that will keep her alive is taking photos of the ghosts. Capturing the ghosts on film is great fun, but the game never makes it easy for you, ensuring that there are several moments where you might want to keep a change of underwear handy.
I lost count the number of times I would spend looking through the camera lens searching for ghouls, before needing someone to peel me off the ceiling as the ghost popped up right in front of me. This game is beautifully detailed, and the design of the ghosts is outstanding. Here’s hoping that a worthy remake is in the works.
4: Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996)
This is the first scary game I ever played, and I would consider to be a major trend setter amongst survival horror games. Its legacy continues today, and countless subsequent titles have mimcked its gameplay and style. The opening movie scared me a lot, although looking back on it now, it was actually quite cheesy. However, the first time you see a zombie in THAT legendary scene is still an absolute jaw dropper which can instill a great amount of fear.
Although the Tyrant is a particularly horrible monster, the scariest parts of the game are either when zombie dogs burst through some windows in a small courtyard which you would naturally assume is safe, or the first encounter with a Hunter. This incident is preceded by a video which makes you incredibly nervous about what was to come, because the slow-moving man frog it seems to show is disturbingly ambiguous. After your sniggering subsides and you prepare to fire at what you think is a sluggish enemy with your 9mm pistol, the little bastard jumps at you with incredible speed and whips your head clean off. At the time, I jumped with fear to the point that I ended up wearing my ceiling light shade as a fetching hat.
For its time, Resident Evil was both cutting edge and original, making it an absolute pleasure to play.
3: F.E.A.R. (Monolith Productions, Day One Studios, 2005)
There are not that many FPS horror games out there, but out of all of them, F.E.A.R. is definitely the scariest. The game loved to dish out a fair bit of tension, with corridors that suddenly burst into flames and horrible corpses that flew at you out of nowhere. Scariest of all is the little girl Alma, who would flash up for about half a second, making you think that she has taken over your Xbox and is about to jump out your TV and rip your eyes out. When I watched The Ring in the cinema, I found it disturbing, scary and horrible, and Alma was obviously based on the girl from that film.
For me, the scariest bit was in a corridor in the final level. You find some double doors that you can’t get through, and whilst you’re trying to find a way to open them, the screen suddenly goes black. First of all, you think you’ve finished the level, but then the doors show up again and you realise you are still in control. Then, the screen goes black again, but you turn around to find Alma standing millimeters from you before lunging at you wildly.
I had major trouble sleeping after that, but the icing on the cake was the ending. Obviously I don’t want to spoil the ending for you but I can guarantee that it will most definitely make you shit kittens!
2: Dead Space (EA Redwood Shores, 2008)
Claustrophobic, dark, filled with hideous monsters and the sense that you will never, EVER escape. These are all the makings of a very scary game, and Dead Space definitely has the lot. Playing this on your own in the dark,with the surround sound up loud gives the horror that you experience even greater power. Although gore doesn’t necessarily make a game scary, Dead Space uses it very well to give added effect. Along with the small dark corridors, the huge build up of tension as you progress is compounded by the pant-messingly scary necromorphs. They are hideous to look at and although slow at first, eventually move at blistering speed, meaning that you sometimes have to think very fast, especially when they jump out at you.
The whole storyline is very creepy, and in true horror story fashion, everything always goes dramatically wrong very quickly whilst hero Isaac Clarke is trying to escape the striken mining vessel the Ishimura. Just when you think you are going to get out alive, BLAM, guess again! The end boss is a cracker, and gives you the feeling of desperately trying to cling on to dear life. Then, when it’s all over and you think you’ve escaped, the final shocker pops up to give you that last pant fill, making you realise that Isaac’s story is by no means over.
1: Silent Hill 2 (Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, 2001)
This has to be the scariest game I have ever played. The first Silent Hill was brilliant and, as we all know, sometimes sequels can be disappointing. However, this was not the case with Silent Hill 2. This was the first Silent Hill title to hit the PlayStation 2 and it was a great improvement on the already brilliant original. The dark corridors and rooms, force you to use a torch, but this in turn alerts the enemies to your presence. This mechanic was a stroke of genius, making you choose between being safe yet unable to see, or having a light which turns you into a walking target for enemies.
Further to this, the static from the radio increases when you approach the enemies, which adds to the fear. Then, when you venture outside, the thick fog gives you another problem. Is that figure coming towards you human or a contorted disfigured monster ready to rip your limbs off and beat you to death with them? Also, no-one who has played this game could ever forget Pyramid Head, the sword-wielding monster that stalks you relentlessly throughout the game. If that wasn’t enough, the whole world would sometimes morph into something resembling hell on Earth!
The storyline is both brilliant and intense, and it gives the player the feeling that every step they took to reach the final objective would take them further away from unraveling the mysteries of Silent Hill. To make the whole thing even more scary, the musical score was extremely strange, and assisted in shredding your nerves to pieces. The gameplay, although very similar to Resident Evil, is very easy to use, though when under pressure it made you panic and you’d end up juggling the controls like some kind of stupid clown act. All in all, I believe that this game was scarier than a mad drooling demon scooping the brains out of your head with a dessert spoon and using your tongue to paint the walls of hell with your blood.