During those dark frigid nights, a few titles come to mind when one considers the scope of the horror genre. For the past two decades, companies like Konami and Capcom have released some of the greatest titles for the genre, with each new release pushing the boundaries of what the video game medium can achieve as an art form. Here is a list of the top 5 titles to play if you are in the mood for terror; from quick scares to deep-lying gameplay.
A multiplatform release, The Evil Within was single-handedly the scariest game of 2014. Featuring a mismatch of neo-gothic locations, Victorian-era décor, and a classical anti-hero protagonist in the form of Sebastian Castellanos, Bethesda gave fans of the genre all the ingredients inherent to a worthy horror formula. Throughout the game, the protagonist is able to make use of the items he finds. Each in-game item helps Castellanos progress from one act of the story to the other. What’s even more interesting is the way developers implemented the safe zones in the game’s core design. Normally in the survival horror genre, there are rooms where your character can store items and take a break from the action of story’s gameplay. Such examples of this can be found in games such as Resident Evil, where the character finds a typewriter in a safe house for which he/she can save their progress or store items for later use. But in The Evil Within, this safe haven is actually housed within the decaying walls of a mental asylum and is only accessible through the dirt-stained mirrors strung along the walls of the institution. Hence, making for a much more intense and exhilarating horror experience. The Evil Within bombards viewers with unimaginable visuals that strike at the core of what gore truly is. A title not to miss, The Evil Within is a must play for devotees of the horror genre and for general gamers alike.
A multiplatform release, Dead Space epitomized the claustrophobic survival horror setting. Similar stylistically to the Aliens franchise, the above title gave players a feeling of terror like no other. Set on a mining facility in space during the 26th century, Dead Space features protagonist Isaac Clarke, an engineer who is confined to a ship bereft with flesh-eating aliens called necromorphs. Being an engineer, Clarke’s main weapons of choice are mining tools for which he uses to cut off the limbs of each necromorph. This “strategic dismemberment” mechanism becomes a mainstay of the series, and it helps differentiate it from other games within the genre. As the story progresses, Clarke eventually finds out the true origins of the necromorph species, and how they came to overrun the mining ship the USG Ishimura. In hindsight, Dead Space has become a faint glimpse at what the studio could have done on modern consoles, especially now that EA has officially announced the dissolution of Visceral Games.
Eternal Darkness (2002)
A Gamecube exclusive upon release, Eternal Darkness was the spiritual successor to Shadow of the Eternals. A title that features non-linear progression, multiple locations and timelines, and a plethora of protagonists, Eternal Darkness was a standout title for its time. Featuring a sanity effects meter mechanism, this Gamecube exclusive effectively plays on the emotions of its viewers in a way that its contemporaries could only dream of at the time. Constantly breaking the fourth wall, Eternal Darkness connects different points in history, from the ancient Roman empire to modern day France, into a maddening cohesive whole. Silicon Knights, the company behind this horror gem, begins the diegetic elements of the game in the typical horror setting of a Rhode Island mansion. From there, the plot elements of the story unfold as the protagonist, Alexandra Roivas, a University student finds herself roaming halls of her grandfather’s mansion looking for clues to solve his murder. Partially a mystery and a thriller, Eternal Darkness plays like a really good B-movie, on a console that was not known for its survival horror library.
Resident Evil 2 (1998)
Considered the greatest survival horror game of all time, Resident Evil 2 is a title that definitely lives up to the hype that surrounded its initial release on the PlayStation 1 back in 1998. Set two months after the events that took place in the original, RE 2 is set in the fictional Midwestern town of Raccoon City following an outbreak of the T-Virus. From the outset, players can choose from two main characters: Leon Kennedy, a police officer, and Claire Redfield, sister of the first entry’s hero Chris Redfield. Each character gives the player a different gaming experience that renders the title a high degree of replay value. Resident Evil 2 employs a visual style that uses prefixed backgrounds, polygonal character sprites, and a deep-lying puzzle system that have given fanboys to this day something to hope for in a remake. Furthermore, RE 2 also had some decent voice acting for its time that was something that set it completely apart from its laughable predecessor. Almost two decades old, the second entry in the Resident Evil series is considered to the best in the franchise and far exceeded its mediocre roots.
Silent Hill (1999)
Konami’s answer to Resident Evil, Silent Hill stands out among its contemporaries for its neo-gothic design and noir style lighting. Created by Keiichiro Toyama, Silent Hill is an atmospheric trip through the fractured mind of its protagonist Harry Mason, as he desperately searches for his missing daughter through the malevolent town of Silent Hill. Throughout his journey, Mason must uncover the mystery behind the town’s possession while implementing various tools he acquires on his journey. One of these items in particular that becomes fundamental to the protagonist’s survival is a flashlight and radio. The flashlight serves as the game’s only source of illumination and everything is revealed through its guise whereas the radio serves as Mason’s head’s up display for oncoming enemies. All of Mason’s vital are viewed through a separate on display screen which gives the game a more realistic, almost humanistic, view on the character’s plight. Silent Hill’s eerie atmosphere is further enhanced by the frigid temperatures and snow-filled fields of the town’s setting. Toyama wanted a counterpoint to Resident Evil’s monopoly over the survival horror genre and he definitely achieved it with this PS1 masterpiece.
With the terror that certain video games can evoke, fans should think back on all the titles that have served as the foundation for what has become the modern horror genre. As the years go on and these older titles fade into memory, their legacies should not be undermined when considering how influential they have become on modern gaming.
Within this safe haven is actually housed within the decaying walls of a mental asylum and is only accessible through the dirt-stained mirrors strung along the walls of the institution. Hence, making for a much more intense and exhilarating horror experience. The Evil Within bombards viewers with unimaginable visuals that strike at the core of what gore truly is. A title not to miss, The Evil Within is a must play for devotees of the horror genre and for general gamers alike.
Anthony Frisina is a graduate of the City University of New York-Brooklyn College with a BA in Political Science with a minor in Psychology. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Anthony went on to attend Brooklyn College's Film Academy and Writer's workshop program, achieving an interdisciplinary degree in Screenwriting and Film theory in the Fine Arts. Transforming his love for classic American cinema, Anthony went on to adapt a number of his own works into different mediums, including his well-received Western novel The Regulator. Anthony likes to spend his free time writing articles for magazines and periodicals that cover a wide range of topics, from science fiction to popular culture. As a screenwriter, Anthony has had his screenplays featured at numerous spec script writing competitions across the country where he one day hopes to write the next great American film.