Halloween is a great time to reminisce on the spooky and the disturbed. For many of us, we all have that one movie or that one video game that will always evoke fear into us. However, games have always seemed scarier to movies because they are interactive and the fear lasts longer that what many movies do.
So we've gathered our gaming staff and we've asked them one simple question. What's the scariest game you've ever played, and why?
Jez's scariest game - Silent Hill
The scariest video game I've ever played, without a slither of doubt, is Silent Hill. For me, the four earliest titles on the Playstation 1 and 2 delivered an experience that has yet to be challenged by modern horror games.
Silent Hill is the tale of an eponymous American town lost to an esoteric cult's insane rituals, ancient and evil deities, and violent, tortured spirits. Even back when Resident Evil was at its peak, Silent Hill trounced it with a brand of unpredictable supernatural horror that relied on pounding atmospheric terror and razor sharp aesthetics rather than jump scares.
Although today's audience may find the PS1 era's blocky visuals too retro to be intimidating, at the time, few games were as chillingly detailed as Silent Hill 1. Team Silent weaved low draw distance into the game's plot, blanketing Silent Hill's deserted urban areas in apocalyptic fog – an aspect that has become iconic. Akira Yamaoka's famed discordant industrial score is timeless in its purpose provoking a phobic response years after I'd decided I was done with the franchise.
Silent Hill sits in the survival horror genre, providing a fixed amount of ammo and health restoring vials and medkits. Modern horror games forego the ability to attack to invoke a sense of vulnerability, Silent Hill does it by forcing you to scavenge for weaponry, often reducing you to desperate swings of makeshift melee weapons. The game's enemies were vicious distortions of human shapes, shambling into the glow of your weak flashlight. Despite only playing each game a few times, I find them to be among the most memorable. Abandoned school halls filled with childish revenants, desecrated hospitals staffed by twisted nurses, boss fights that reached into H.P. Lovecraft's darkest fantasies for inspiration, Robbie the Rabbit's vacant, blood stained stare. Of course, you can't mention Silent Hill without citing Pyramid Head, who's alien angles and stained meat cleaver have become monolithic in video game culture.
As a kid, I couldn't play the game with the sound on, generally opting for BBC's Radio 1 to take the jagged edge off. As a result, songs from the turn of the millennium; Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Christina Aguilera, Eminem, bizarrely evoke memories of Silent Hill. I'm not sure whether to be more disturbed by the game or my tween music tastes.
For me, Silent Hill was simply terrifying. It's as if Team Silent tailored the game for my deepest personal phobias. The Evil Within, Amnesia, Outlast, and other recent horror games just fail to fill me with the same primal dread.
Unfortunately, Silent Hill as a franchise declined with age. The last game with Team Silent at the helm was Silent Hill 4; subsequent games were handled by Western third-party studios who frankly didn't understand the Silent Hill mission. Fans enjoyed a flicker of hope in the form of P.T., a recent Silent Hills teaser, developed by Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear fame. Sadly, Konami canceled the project for reasons unknown, with most pointing towards strife between the corporation and Kojima. The high profile cancelation has probably reduced the chances of the franchise's revival to zero.
Konami launched a Silent Hill HD Collection for the Xbox 360. Sadly, Silent Hill HD Collection for X360 was riddled with bugs at launch, and Konami declined to issue patches. The only way to play these classics properly is via PSN, eBay or emulator. If you're a horror fan who hasn't played them, and you're able to get your hands on them, Silent Hill is a quintessential Halloween game night staple.
Jonathan's scariest game - Dead Space
The scariest game that I've ever played is the original Dead Space. No other game has made me creep around every single corner, anticipating sudden death.
Dead Space takes place exactly where the title hints, in space. You play as Isaac Clarke, who has traveled to a mining ship that has sent out a distress signal for help. Once you reach the USG Ishimura it looks as though everyone has decided to abandon the ship for some odd reason.
Withing minutes, you being to realize that no one has left the ship and instead everyone on it has been killed by these strange zombie/alien hybrids called Necropmorphs.
What made Dead Space scary for me was the fact that it was a survival horror game. This means that ammo is very scarce and you must rely on finding health kits to replenish your health. But the thing about Dead Space is that they decided to amplify the 'survival' part by added a neat feature that held a lot of consequences if it wasn't performed correctly.
This feature is called dismemberment. With dismemberment, you couldn't just fire shots at a Necromorph and expect it to die because quite frankly the things were too fast so you wouldn't have a chance to fire enough bullets at it in order to kill it. Instead, you had to be smart about it and shoot off one of its legs to slow it down and then start gunning for the head. Take both legs off and next thing you know it's slowly crawling towards you.
Because of dismemberment, you basically had to make each and every bullet count, especially since ammo was scarce. Miss a couple of shots and you'd find yourself running from a Necromporh searching the darkest corners of the ship to find a couple of bullets to finish the job.
What also gave me nightmares about Dead Space was the blood-thirsty Necromorphs themselves. They were creepy looking, fast, and damn were they smart. You'd think you were slick and run and hide inside of a room from a Necromorph, and next thing you know, the sucker would be crawling through the vents to get inside the room where you are. The first time I found this out I pretty much had to take a break from the game for an hour or so.
All this being said, what truly makes a scary game 'scary' is the atmosphere along with pacing. You can have jumpscares all day long but if you don't find the perfect atmosphere to represent the game then the game will fail in just about every way.
Dead Space, to me, epitomizes the horror genre atmosphere. I've never felt so alone and vulnerable in a game before. Something about knowing that you're the only living person on the ship and you're on a ship full of deranged creatures is what really sends the chills down my spine. This feeling along with the Necromorphs being able to hide and scare you from just about any direction will keep you at the edge of your seat.
Unfortunately, EA made two more Dead Space games that ended up being horror-action games that killed the atmosphere that the first gave. The original is a gold standard when it comes to survival horror games that I still try to get my friends that have never experienced it before to play it. Speaking of which, you should do the same.
If you like horror games that have a great story that's easy to follow all the while being tormented then Dead Space is for you. Let's hope that it ends up in the Xbox's backward compatibility catalog so that more people can enjoy it.
Paul's scariest game - Slender: The Arrival
Scary games work well for me in general. But Slender: The Arrival is the first game I've played in which things are just about hopeless for the player.
The Slenderman chases you through a variety of levels. All you can do is run and hope he doesn't randomly catch up with you, sending you back to the start of the level. You can only run a short distance before getting tired, at which point you're a sitting duck. No weapons, no defense - you're screwed.
Slender: The Arrival is a low budget game, so it's not the prettiest Xbox One title on the block. But the low-fi visuals don't get in the way of the horror. The actual thing(s) chasing you look plenty creepy, and they don't just want to kill you. The sound also drives home the horror; it puts me on edge the whole time I play.
As you progress through the game, bits of the story start to become clear. You'll find out what happens to the people who Slender catches - those poor souls. It's interesting and feels like a modern found footage horror movie. Slender: The Arrival is not a perfect game, but it's perfectly creepy and you won't find many other games like it on consoles.
Don't miss our full Slender: The Arrival review!
See our Six Spooky Games for Xbox One for more frightening recommendations!
What games have scared you guys the most?