Horror video games are scarier than horror movies. I’ll stand by that statement till the day I die. A horror movie can be scary, I’m not saying that it can’t be, but nothing beats being in the role of someone in those terrifying circumstances.
I mean, would you rather watch a character run away from a monster or would you rather be that character as he/she flees?
It’s bone-chilling, sweat-inducing, shiver-inspiring, and scream-splitting terror.
So even though it is broad daylight and the sun is shining through the window as I write this, I’m going to scare myself by telling you guys my top 5 favorite horror games.
5. Layers of Fear
Layers of Fear is not a particularly good or memorable horror game. There are others that outclass it by a long shot. Layers of Fear relies too much on jump scares, and a sense of player agency is missing. You feel as if you’re on a set path you can’t stray from, which makes the creepiness feel forced and manufactured. (And in a horror video game, you really want to mask that sensation.) You play as a renowned painter who has fallen on hard times. He has been ruined by his own arrogance and the disintegration of his family. Alone with his thoughts and a grotesque, new work-in-progress, he must roam through his dilapidated house as paintings fling themselves from their frames, wallpaper melts, and porcelain dolls scamper around corners from just outside his field of vision. Typical horror fare. I played the game once and then forgot about it. However, I made the mistake of getting my sister to play it while I watched years later. She screamed at every loud noise, flinched at every sudden motion, and shrieked at the smallest change in scenery. I got traumatized by this game because of her reactions to it. At one point, she threw the controller in fright directly at my face. I had a bruise for a week.
4. Slender: The Arrival
This game got a spot on this list because it was the first horror video game I ever played. And by played, I mean I cowered behind some friends while they played the majority of the game. My sister and I are friends with the Twins. They’re two of the coolest people I know, Robert and Emmanuel. When they bought Slender: The Arrival, they invited me and my sister over to play it with them. They turned all the lights off in their bedroom, raised the volume on their speakers, and began to play. It was terrifying. The atmosphere of the game is top-notch creepiness. What scares you the most in the game is your own sense of dread. You do half the work of scaring yourself. You play as a young woman named Lauren, desperately combing the woods and an abandoned mine in search of her friend. The infamous Slender Man haunts her every step. (For a synopsis of the latest Slender Man movie, be sure to check out my post here!)
The plot of Outlast alone would be enough to scare anybody. You play as Miles Upshur, a reporter who is investigating strange experiments at an insane asylum. Several of the inmates are out to get you once you’re trapped inside, and you have to race your way out while hounded by deformed crazy people. You’re equipped only with a camera which has a night-vision setting. This setting is what gives the game its sense of horror as you move along, even while nothing happens. The quality of the video makes you wait for scary things to jump out at you. And when things do jump out at you, they are delightfully unexpected. Outlast is a game that made me appreciate jump scares.
Soma was made by Frictional Games, and it is one of my favorite games period. Its environment is unique in that the game takes place in an underwater facility after a meteor has crashed into the Earth and decimated the human population on the surface. The reason I like this game so much for itself is because the story is fantastic. It’s an intellectual puzzler of a plot, and there’s nothing I like more than a horror story that has roots in philosophy. This is the one game on this list I would recommend to anybody who has a love for video games in general. It’s great, and I wish more people knew about it. I feel like it flew under the radar when it first released in 2015.
1. Alien: Isolation
The suspense of the gameplay is what gives Alien: Isolation its power. Admittedly, the game runs far longer than it should, with a play-time of about 15 hours, which can potentially stretch a lot longer if you take your time. However, the AI of the Alien is superb. It’s masterful. Whenever it is present, you can feel the terror of having a Xenomorph in the same room with you. The Alien series has always terrified me (as seen in this post I wrote about the Alien specifically), and this game paid tribute to the beginnings of the franchise. You can’t kill the Alien, even if you have your pistol equipped. The closest thing you have to a weapon against it is the flamethrower, and all that does is temporarily scare it off. It always comes back. It dogs your character, Amanda Ripley, as she explores Sevastopol Station looking for information as to the location of her missing mother, the renowned Ellen Ripley. The tension the Alien inspires whenever it is present made me sweat buckets. You never feel secure. I could not play this game for more than 20 minutes at a time. Otherwise the stress would make me shake. I played this game with a friend of mine in order to survive the experience. We passed the controller off every time it got to be too much.