The best horror video games

By Cory J. Willey

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Every gamer has been there, clinging to their controller, hands clammy from terror as they hesitantly crawl down a corridor. Their eyes begrudgingly glued to the screen as they await the next jump-scare that will send them cowering behind the couch, only to return to face the horror once again. Video games provide a unique experience to horror entertainment, as the audience gets the opportunity to become part of the story and interact with the terrifying tale being told. The best horror video games not only provide truly horrifying worlds for the player to explore, but they force gamers to become invested in the characters, experiencing their fear through a connection that is exclusive to the medium.

Games such as “Resident Evil” and Silent Hill paved the way for the genre today. These rival survival horror series have focused on psychologically terrorizing players since the beginning. Both feature limited supplies, powerful enemies and looming boss battles that force the player to use their resources sparingly. Each encounter with an enemy could be your last.

The early installments of both of these series also did a great job of controlling camera angles, giving them a movie-like quality of drawing your attention to something on the screen only to have a monster or zombie burst in and attack you seemingly from nowhere. The ambiance created in these games is what will really set you on edge. There is nothing creepier than stepping into a new area to the sounds of rustling in the darkness as foreboding music begins to play. Interesting stories and challenging puzzles make the early games of both series so much fun to play, even if they will be the cause of quite a few sleepless nights.

“BioShock” is a more modern example of a game with a powerful and terrifying atmosphere about it. This first-person action game takes place in the sunken city of Rapture. What was supposed to be an underwater utopia for the privileged has turned into a wasteland infested by mutated forms of its inhabitants. The dystopian city is also home to a couple of the most interesting and dread-inducing enemies in recent video games: Big Daddies and Little Sisters. These formidable foes have an interesting relationship, both with one another and the world itself. “BioShock” provides gamers with one of the most engaging stories of this console generation and delivers many truly horrifying moments.

Another first-person action game from this generation that is guaranteed to leave you shaking is “Condemned: Criminal Origins.” In this game, the player takes control of Ethan Thomas, an FBI agent who is tasked with hunting down deadly serial killers. Much of this game takes place in dark, broken down buildings and alleyways populated with genuinely intelligent and downright diabolical enemies. Supplies are limited and this game forces the player to deal with enemies primarily through expertly crafted melee combat. The slow and realistic combat system ramps up the horror as serial killers and criminals come at you from the shadows when you are at your most vulnerable. This game is out to get into your head and it succeeds. There are countless moments in which this game makes the player believe they’re in control, only to snatch that feeling away and make them feel completely powerless. It’s an unrelenting and surprising game that every gamer with a love for horror should play.

“Amnesia,” a downloadable PC title, is famous for its terrifying gameplay and is one of the most immersive experiences in the horror genre. Unlike many of the aforementioned games, “Amnesia” offers no way for the player to fight back. You are thrown into this world with nothing more than a lantern. When confronted by an enemy all you can do is run and hide. This weakness of the player makes every second of this game scary in every sense of the word. Enemies are relentless and the mysterious story will leave you confused, engaged and horrified from start to finish. The only way to keep your sanity and continue through the game is to solve increasingly difficult puzzles; otherwise you will slip into the darkness.

Another downloadable PC title, “Slender,” builds upon the modern myth of Slender Man, the faceless, exquisitely dressed, shape-shifting demon who preys upon children. The player, armed only with a flashlight (which never seems to have enough batteries) and the ability to jog for a short amount of time, is tasked with collecting eight pages scattered throughout a dark forest. With each page Slender Man becomes more and more aggressive. He could be lurking around any corner. You may catch a glimpse of him at the end of your flashlight’s beam, but when you take a closer look he has disappeared. You turn only to discover he is directly behind you, and you’ve just walked straight into his waiting arms. “Slender” is as fun as it is nightmarish. It’s free and will run on just about any machine so the only thing separating you and “Slender” is a small download and your own cowardice.



Cory Willey can be reached at [email protected]