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Friday Fun: The scariest video games we've ever played

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.

Silent Hill

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.

Silent Hill HD Collection for Xbox 360 from Amazon.com (opens in new tab)

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.

Dead Space

Dead Space (Image credit: EA)

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.

Dead Space for Xbox 360 from Amazon.com (opens in new tab)

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

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?

85 Comments
  • Spot on silent Hill all day Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Kicking it old school and going with Splatterhouse. You control Jason from Friday the 13th and your girlfriend is possessed by the devil. Freaky!
  • Pretty sure it wasn't actually Jason.
  • But Rick did look like him!
  • I remember that game too. Yup it was creepy.
  • Clockwork orange and Friday the 13th on Nintendo. Course I was a kid but still they were good games at the time
  • Love the scary games. Silent Hill and Dead Space will all be back.
  • Let's hope so man. Both franchises have no news whatsoever on something new coming along.
  • Condemned: Criminal Origins is a very scary game even though it isn't necessarily a horror game.
  • One of my close friends always raves about this game but I've never played it. May give it a chance if it gets the back-compat treatment.
  • I think it was a Xbox 360 launch title.
  • Do it!
  • It is a fantastic game, I highly recommend playing it.
  • Very good game!
  • Dead Space 1&2 ftw.
  • That Silent Hills game could've been a classic.. But of course they have to dangle it in front of our faces and yank it away.
  • Was gutted :(
  • Alien vs Predator for the Atari Jaguar. Great game for the time. When an Alien sneaks up behind you and screeches... priceless.
  • Scarier still when you realise how much money you paid for a Jaguar and there's only this and Tempest 2000 that are the only decent games for it. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • F.E.A.R
  • F.E.A.R. is definitely up there!
  • +1
  • Yes
  • Who the hell downvotes FEAR??? Idiots....
  • Try Fatal frame series. scariest game ever
  • Silent Hill Homecoming and Downpour were much better than critics would have you believe. Really, they just needed a bit more bug testing (Konami)
  • I liked Downpour a lot, but the actual monster designs were disappointing.
  • OMG, Paul, you should take a second look at them. Their detail is so meticulous. The bats, which represent paranoia in prison, actually nervously check behind their shoulders and act paranoid when you're not near.
  • I thought Homecoming was underrated too but it just paled in comparison to the older games imo. I still need to try Downpour. I think I'll pick it up based on your recommendation.
  • As I don't play these types of games really, or even watch horror movies, I did play and enjoyed silent hill. To me that def had its moments in it.
  • I know Doom3 took shit for the flashlight thing, but damn, it made for some legit jumps. Bioshock was a balanced, but had some great creep out sequences.
  • I loved Doom 3, totallllllllly underrated imo
  • Doom 3 is the best scare I've played on PC. The era of it and HL2 need an awakening.
  • No Alan Wake?
  • was creepy but definitely wasn't the creepiest
  • I enjoyed Alan Wake. My favorite. Scary, not the scariest but most gripping.
  • Just picked up Sleder The Arrival for just over AUD $6 Can't wait to play it.   Alien Isolation is also creepy. Dead Space, yep. Doom 3 back in the day had some moments (but not many)
  • The original Doom, Doom 3, Bioshock, and Bioshock's precursor, System Shock 2. Each had its moments. It probably took me one hour to get thru what should have been the first 10 minutes of Rapture.
  • Outlast by far
  • I'm surprised there was no mention of outlast. That's a scary game!
  • We could only pick three games; this isn't a comprehensive list by any means.
  • Video have never scared me until Condemned the original..in Dolby 5.1 OMG...drop your pad scary.
  • Agreed,scariest game of all time
  • That level with the mannequins though...
  • I agree with Silent Hill. I haven't played the other 2. For me it was the first time I ran into the Flood during Halo. Yikes!    
  • Omg yes. What a fantastic scare!
  • Penumbra, Amnesia, Condemned and Call of Cthulhu scared the shit out of me. edit: Cyrostasis and Alan Wake was good horror titles, too.
  • What about Outlast?? It scared the hell out of me...
  • F.E.A.R. I couldn't even finish it, dead space? Lol the monsters were so stupid that it made me laugh, but yea it can be thrilling, I'm still on dead space 2
  • Thief 3's Cradle level. I had to stop several times from being too creeped out.
  • Theif 2's Prison level was good too....and the level before that too in the mine shaft....Actually thief 1 also was a little scary.
  • Silent hill cause of the opposite of jump scare, stuff would creep up on you, even with you seeing and hearing it.
  • My favorite was Undying on PC and that's how I got my gamertag sCythE as that was the best weapon to chop the heads off of the ghosts that troubled me.
  • Homeworld Cataclysm was scary with the "Beast" I remember the first Doom freaking me out too, especially the pitch dark levels.
  • OMG yea, when it took over the part of the ship, and they were all freaking out, and nobody knew what was going on, and slowly it came out that it was this evil force....that was pretty cool.
  • BY FAR, the scariest game I've played was the first Condemned. Holy shit!
  • Definitely the original Doom for me. Wasn't anything like it in it's time and there was some jump out of your seat moments. Cutting edge graphics and sound in it's day that paved the way for todays games. Awesome game in the dark while you were alone.
  • Fatal Frame 3, Resident Evil 3, Silent Hill 4 The Room.
    The new games aren't scary at all
  • F.E.A.R was a great scary game... I recommend it... Dead Space as well. 
  • Really, I'm surprised not many people find this game scary.
  • Resident evil 1, but when i played that was i around 11 :-) and for pc was it phantasmangoria ('o')
  • Another vote for Condemned: Criminal Origins. X360 launch title.
  • Silent Hill 2 and Clive Barker's Undying. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • And more recently Until Dawn. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Old school Rescue on Fractalus. 'Stomp, stomp, stomp . . .knock knock' or 'stomp, stomp, stomp . . . aaaarrrrgggghhhh!' :D
  • Outlast, Deadspace 1 and 2 and, most recently, Alien: Isolation.
  • I liked Alan Wake. Not really scary, but creepy and tense. Silent Hill and Resident Evil were too predictable imho. Evil within and Outlast were pretty badass.
  • Half Life: The first instance of a headcrab jumping on u is unforgettable. Thief Deadly Shadows: Shalebridge cradle level has the spookiest atmosphere. Bioshock: Don't remember the level, but there's this instance where u pull a lever to fill the whole room with fog/smoke & u turn around to find this splicer doc standing right behind u. System Shock 2, Clive Barkers Undying, F.E.A.R.
  • In the same vein as Half Life, the original PC Aliens vs Predator game. Those facehuggers were brutal, and insta kill. As soon as I hear one I would go ballistic trying to find it.
  • Alien Isolation all day long. I remember hiding in one of the cupboards as the Alien was prowling around outside, I was literally holding my breathe, I had the Kinect feedback enabled and my misses decided to sneeze right as the Alien walked by the door, a few seconds went by, nothing...phew...then BOOM! The Alien ripped me a new one lol! Must play for horror fans!
  • Alan Wake and Dead Space are my winners. Both were fantastic at setting up story and atmosphere like no other.
  • Oh and moments in Bioshock. The MANNEQUINS!!!
  • No F.E.A.R.?
  • I used to find those "No Fear" shirts very amusing back in my high school days.
  • And the car and truck window decals, heh.
  • F.E.A.R and Call of Cthulhu were pretty scary for me. Used to play them in the dark with 5.1 surround.
  • Alan Wake was scary for me...couldn't play for more than an hour at a time...
  • I loved Alan Wake, I'm surprised I didn't see Amnesia here. I haven't played it but I heard it is scary.
  • Alien on the ZX Spectrum. It was a very tense game, great atmosphere considering the age of the game.
  • Alan Wake on Xbox, and an oldie:  7th Guest on my Atari 800.
  • Alan Wake second that! Great game
  • I remember the first time I played Hexen. I was 8 years old and it was at about 11pm, in a dark room with the sound up to 11. Scared the crap out of me. Man those were the days...
  • Back in the summer of 1998 I bought my first video game. It was the original 'Unreal' and played in the dark with headphones on - BOO! It was scary stuff. I still just love that game. It is a really beautiful game to look at and the sound track is so gorgeous it gives me goosebumps (the good kind).
  • system shock 2, the atmosphere was terrorfying one of the few games to freak me out.
  • F.E.A.R.>>>>Dead Space...