by Jennifer Cailheros-Martin
Halloween is here, my favourite time of year, so it’s time to count down the ten pieces of software that spook and startle us! Let’s gooooooo! (That’s like a ghost saying booooo but it’s the word go, you see)
10. Yume Nikki (2004, PC)
A cult classic that made its name circulating around online through the 2000s, Yume Nikki is the rarest of beasts — a good RPG Maker game. But its haunting, surreal visual style and non-traditional, non-linear gameplay style make it a truly original experience, and a haunting meditation on loneliness, nightmare, and suicide.
9. Bloodborne (2015, Multi-Platform)
The Lovecraftian-themed entry in the Demon Souls/Dark Souls series of games is certainly the spookiest, a game full of both grotesque demonic imagery and chillingly empty townscapes that were once full of people. The game’s soundtrack contributes to this as well, haunting soundscapes of screams, cries, and rattling.
8. Friday The 13th: The Game (2017, Multi-Platform)
Okay, maybe it’s not as scary as your Silents Hill or Residents Evil, but this game came along and made multi-player scary, and that’s no mean feat! There’s something immensely satisfying as finally playing as Jason with his near-godlike powers and mowing down teens in multiplayer combat, and there’s something genuinely terrifying about being helpless to Jason’s abilities as one of the screaming Crystal Lake teens.
7. Alien 3 (1992, Sega Genesis)
We’ve written about this gem of a licensed game in the past, and its tense atmosphere and bursts of quick horror still make it a terrifying, dark experience in 2018. Probe’s game is not only one of the finest games in the Alien franchise (but not the finest, as we will soon see), it’s a fine precursor to the survivor horror genre.
6. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002, Nintendo GameCube)
Gimmicky as its “sanity effects” may seem now (the screen is full of bugs! your controller is unplugged! the screen won’t stop zooming in!), Eternal Darkness found a way to make them genuinely work within the game. With Eternal Darkness and the truly fantastic Resident Evil games of the generation, the kid-friendly Gamecube shocked by becoming the premiere horror console of its generation.
5. Alien: Isolation (2014, Various Platforms)
Now here’s an Alien game that gets absolutely everything right — the isolation (it’s in the title after all), the horror, the quick shocks, the bursts of violence, the cunning, the strategy. After some horrible dog’s breakfast titles like Aliens: Colonel Marines, we finally got the Alien game for the 21st century we deserved.
4. System Shock 2 (1999, PC)
Ken Levine’s startling sci-fi survivor horror shooter is remarkable not only for how it builds on and develops the pretty good original, making its interface less clunky and integrating stronger shooter mechanics, but for just how frigging scary it is to play today. Terri Brosius’ performance as the villainous sentient AI SHODAN, who taunts you the whole way, remains one of the most chilling video game vocal performances of all times. Truly a fantastic example of the genre.
3. Resident Evil Remake (2002, Nintendo Gamecube)
The original Resident Evil is far from a bad game — a bit of a 90s campfest sure, with some enormously awful voice acting and outrageously bad FMV. But the decision to remake it as a stylish, genuine creepfest for the next generation was enormously sound. The meticulously crafted painted backgrounds and eerie, German expressionist-evoking static shots make Resident Evil feel real, and really scary.
2. Silent Hill 2 (2001, PlayStation 2)
There is no horror game more iconic than the fog-filled dread of Silent Hill 2, and there is no horror game villain more iconic than the silent, enormous sword-wielding monstrosity that is Pyramid Head. The series has had its ups and downs, but of its core games none capture the feeling of all-encompassing dread, mystery, and unsureness quite like Silent Hill 2. This is a horror game that makes you ask more questions about your protagonist than about the horrific world around him.
1. P.T. (2014, PlayStation 4)
I am one of the lucky ones — someone who was able to play Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece of short-form video game horror P.T. before Konami unceremoniously removed all traces of it from the internet.
Designed as a proof of concept and playable demo for their planned Silent Hill reboot, P.T. is truly something else. In true Kojima fashion, the game makes incredible use of its control schematics and game mechanics to enhance the horror, making you feel disoriented and afraid. It’s a short run, but multiple playthroughs reveal the cruel, capricious, random nature of its terrifying villain Lisa.
Who knows if Del Toro and Kojima could have stuck the landing on a full Silent Hill game (after all, Kojima doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to…wrapping stuff up), but Konami’s inability to see this masterpiece for what it is is a sad reflection on what that company has turned into.