I know it’s a little late to talk about horror video games since Halloween is over but it’s something that’s been on my mind lately. That’s because last week, I kind of binged on the genre. My brother has amassed a large library of video games over the years and I was feeling rather adventurous so I asked him if we could go on a horror video game marathon over the long weekend. It was fun to relive all the scares and terrifying moments that frightened me as a child. We also got to play a few games that I never really got to see growing up as they were buried deep under a pile of games he didn’t play before.
So, after a three day (and night) spree of playing various horror games, it was the thing that still running through my mind. Most especially the ones that really stood out to me both during that long gaming marathon and from my past. However, since everyone knows about how the Resident Evil and Silent Hill franchises have pioneered the horror video game genre, I decided to challenge myself and list down the really good ones that don’t belong to those series of games!
Clock Tower (Nintendo Super Famicom)
There were horror games way back during the 16-bit games… that could considered to be legitimately scary? Apparently, yes!
My brother doesn’t actually have a legitimate copy of SNES version of Clock Tower. He does, however, have a fan translated version we had to play via emulator on a PC. And it’s a wonder why no one has bothered to get the rights and re-release it on PSN or Steam! Even if it’s a game straight from the 16-bit generation, the scares are still effective. You play as Jennifer, an orphan who has just been recently adopted by Simon Barrows. You move in with five other orphans and soon your adopted sisters and you are being hunted down by a psychopath known as the Scissorman.
What makes the game effective in the scaring department is how helpless Jennifer is. She has no real way of fighting the Scissorman and all she can do is just hide and hope the killer doesn’t find her. You can feel the panic set it when you hear the audible Scissorman tune, signalling that he’s on the hunt for you. You then have to scramble and look for a hiding space or run away from the location he’s about to pop into. The game is kind of slow as it’s a point-and-click adventure game which probably factored into the decision to not port the game to Western audiences. But it’s the slowness that actually makes it better!
Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly (Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox)
If there should be a third series that helped Resident Evil and Silent Hill launch the survival horror genre, it has to be Fatal Frame. And the second game of the franchise is probably the best one.
You play as Mio, who is looking for her twin sister, Mayu, who has wandered into an abandoned village. The two then become entangled in a ghostly ritual wherein one of the twins will have to die. You then embark on a quest to save your sister with only the Camera Obscura, a magical camera that can damage ghosts and demons, as your only weapon.
Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It came out when survival horror was just reaching its peak of popularity. Also, a new found interest in Japanese horror films like Ring and The Grudge thanks to a bevy of Western remakes. It also didn’t hurt that the game succeeded in what made the first game great: the claustrophobic and grim atmosphere. As you are fighting ghosts, they can come from anywhere, even through the floor and walls so you’re never really safe. Also, the best way to get the most damage is to photograph the ghost really close and just before they attack, which can be really nerve wracking to say the least!
P.T. (Sony PlayStation 4)
Hey, it’s technically not part of Silent Hill anymore, is it?
Leave it to Konami to spoil a good thing! They had a huge hit on their hands but they just blew it when they let go of Hideo Kojima because of their greed and arrogance. If PT was anything like what the supposed Silent Hills game was going to be like, they would’ve made millions easily. Now, they can’t even try to capitalize on the fervor PT got because Resident Evil 7: Biohazard already pretty much perfected the first person horror game for consoles.
If you were one of the lucky ones who managed to download PT when it was available and before Konami, in their infinite wisdom, pulled it off the PSN Store, you know how good the experience was walking through that repeating hallway in that one house. It was a blast trying to figure out what to do next in order to progress and then get creeped out by all of the disgusting changes and things you would find each and every time you re-enter that one hallway. It really makes me wonder what Kojima was going to do with the actual game. But I guess we’ll never know, will we?
Parasite Eve (Sony PlayStation 1)
Maybe not the scariest game on this list… but this is more of a personal, nostalgic fave than anything else.
You play as Aya Brea, a New York police officer. She visits an opera when, all of a sudden the entire audience spontaneously combusts except for you and the actress on state. The actress calls herself Eve and she will give birth to the Ultimate Being. As the only one that can get close to Eve without burning, it’s up to you to stop her before her plan unfurls.
Parasite Eve was one of the earliest game I can remember watching my brother play. I can vaguely recall being afraid of the mutated rats because, well, they’re mutated rats and I was around four years old or something. Then again, I think I was also afraid of most of the CGI cutscenes because they did look freaky looking. Even the human characters looked frightening to me! Looking back at the game now, I guess the scary looking human characters weren’t intentional but just how CGI looked then! Even so, Parasite Eve still holds a place in my heart for being one of the first video games I do remember actually watching my brother play all the way though.
D (Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation)
If there was a game that was short and sweet but still scary, that would be this game.
D puts you in the shoes of Laura Harris, the daughter of a well respected doctor. Her father seemingly goes mad and murders most of the people in the hospital he’s working at. The police summon Laura in the hopes of talking her father down. However, things do seem more than it seems as you explore the depths of the hospital and try to figure out why your father is behaving this way.
D was one game that I didn’t like as a child because there wasn’t a whole lot of game. It was just you going through room after room and solving innane puzzles. There isn’t any combat to speak of nor any real “monsters” for that matter. However, after playing the game again during last week’s horror video game marathon, I found a new appreciation for the creepy atmosphere and slow pace of D. The game is incredibly short and you can finish it in one sitting… scratch that. You have to finish it in one sitting. You only have 2 hours of real time to get to the end and there is no way to save or pause the game! That’s really genius! And since the tone is so oppressive in making everything feel so slow moving, it can get really tense.
What other horror games that aren’t from Resident Evil or Silent Hill that you really love? Let me know in the comments section below!