On my Facebook page my friends and I were discussing the scariest games we'd ever played. Here's my personal Top Ten. No order. And if you don't see something legendary like Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, System Shock... again: games I have played. (And yes, I realize I am pathetic, and must play more of them.)
- Doom II (a lot of platforms)
I'm giving the nod to the second game as opposed to the third; I found its reliance on jump scares dated. Back in the day though, running back to that red door only to find the lever we pulled flooded the room with imps and robot spiders was a thrill a minute. Lest we forget, Doom was the first game that truly put us in the mazes we bumbled through, as we went mano y legionos with the zombified Marines, the sacrificed corpses, and the cybernetically-enhanced demons from Hell.
Greatest Moment: One word: Cyberdemon.
- Resident Evil (PSOne)
Go ahead. Remind me how the Master Of Unlocking almost became a Jill Sandwich. ("He's sleeping with the ultimate failure" is my personal favorite line.) Remind me also how the save system was for shit, and how the game TOTALLY ripped off Alone In The Dark. I'll remind you of when the zombie dogs first made their appeara- oh, I don't have to; you remember when your head hit the ceiling.
Greatest moment: After blowing up the enormous Plant 42, you walk proudly from the greenhouse back to the mansion- across the swimming pool, through the apiary, and into the hallway, with a shotgun and millions of shells making you invincible. Then the game cuts to a POV movie of something that ISN'T a shotgunnable zombie trailing you at breathtaking speed...
- Decay (XBOX360)
...Well, this guy certainly woke up on the wrong end of the noose. One of the best reasons to give the indie games on XBOX Live a shot, Shining Gate Software's four-part budget title lets you point-and-click your way to the answers behind your attempted suicide while a serial killer and a naked doll give chase. A claustrophobic world of dilapidated tenement housing is made even bleaker by a terrific score (yours for free if you beat the game!) along with puzzles that separate the wheat from the chaff.
Greatest Moment: Solving the ball puzzle in Part 4. Seriously, Shining Gate: you had us all cursing your name.
- Clock Tower (PSOne)
Yeah, RE made all the press and sold a million copies, but it's the shenanigans of Scissorman that actually made me terrified to sit down to play. This point-and-click seems passive, until the serial killer pops out of a box and gives chase. The interface meant Jennifer and Helen half-heartedly jogged away from those twin blades of death, and stopped running once they reached the cursor destination, so you had to hit the button again, and you probably hit it too much because the damned scissors are BEHIND YOU, and Helen is now WALKING because the button TOGGLES JOGGING...
Greatest Moment: The realization that your only method of battling Scissorman is to evade him, and hope he doesn't fricking FIND you behind the dressing screen...
- Left 4 Dead 2 (XBOX360, PC)
Four survivors take up arms and battle their way through legions of the running dead. While the "stay together" motif is welcome (and heavily enforced), it's the Versus mode of this game that makes L4D2 shine- letting human players take the roles of Smokers, Hunters, and other unique mutations. It's one thing to stand in a doorway and chainsaw the living dead as they mindlessly rush you- it's another to dash for a saferoom while a super-powered infectee who thinks like you do is on your heels. You'll learn the difference between the idle zombie growl and the I SEE YOU zombie growl quickly enough; making Left 4 Dead 2 fully deserve its place on any Best Horror Games list.
Greatest Moment: Performing your first kill as an Infected, and laughing in a way you'll regret later.
- Manhunt (PS2, XBOX, PC)
The I Spit On Your Grave of video games. They've got cleavers and assault rifles. You have a plastic bag. And... oh shit, is somebody recording you killing these guys? The white supremacists and asylum maniacs opposing you can all go toe-to-toe with your death row protagonist, and they're cohesive fighting forces that come running when they hear gunshots and rally when they discover corpses. As you hide in shadows and kill from behind- because this is a Manhunt, you realize- you dread every step you take, and do things you aren't proud of. That's horror in my book.
Greatest Moment: The final scene, Deliverance, where you face your greatest enemy yet. Yes, he's naked.
- Slender (PC)
I've been avoiding player commentary for all these videos up until now, since this guy's thoughts are EVERYONE'S thoughts upon playing this game. The story? Story, shmory! GREAT horror NEEDS no stinkin' explanation! Find eight pages in the dark woods before Slenderman finds you. Or you find HIM! Staring is lethal! I know: how about you start downloading this game right now so after you finish reading all this, you can sit down and poo yourself.
Greatest Moment: The fact that this game is free.
- Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly (PS2, XBOX)
Mmmmm. Evil Japanese spirits. Make all the jokes about fighting ghosts by snapping their picture as you want: strategy demands that you wait for the right moment to shoot in order to maximize damage.This means allowing these murderous J-horrors to approach as you watch them through the viewfinder. With contorted drowned women all over the place, this game is right up there in the scariest ones yet.
Greatest Moment. I left the game to idle while I fixed myself a snack. Didn't pause it- no need, I cleared the room. Five minutes later an anguished yell beckoned from my television, and a WOMAN WITH A BROKEN SPINE FELL OFF THE CEILING HOLY SHITBALLS
- Silent Hill 2 (PS2, XBOX)
"Oh, you thought Silent Hill was scary?" muttered an irate Capcom. "Here's Resident Evil 3: Nemesis where a giant mutant with tentacles and a rocket launcher chases you all over the place! NOTHING'S scarier than THAT! Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, Konami!" "Hello Capcom, this is Konami. We have made Silent Hill 2. It has bondage demons, deformed nurses with scalpels and short skirts, and this guy Pyramid Head who rapes the Dolls of photographer Hans Bellmer. We have hand-rolled Resident Evil 3 and put it in a bong. Do you want a hit?"
Greatest Moment: Oh... this isn't leaving your mind anytime soon.
- Condemned: Criminal Origins (XBOX360, PC)
If you like the grit and unease of Manhunt but find it turns you into too much of a bastard, the urban sickness of Condemned is for you. As a disgraced FBI agent framed for murder by the diabolical Serial Killer X, you take to the sewers and the subways, ripping debris off the walls as weapons against junkies and beggars- all of whom have turned into belligerent psychopaths. Intelligent enemies, forensics, and grim urban decay mean this game was unfairly ignored.
Greatest Moment: Using ultraviolet light to read the insane tracts that leave you through SKX's house.
Please tell me what I've missed. Seriously. I want MORE of these games.