It’s Halloween! I’ve come to realise that actually we as a society gave up on Halloween years ago. Gone are the days when you’d retreat to the back of the house so that kids wouldn’t see the lights on, gone are the days when kids would actually bother to dress up and come to your house saying ‘trick or treat’ while thinking desperately to themselves ‘what the hell are we going to do if they don’t give us some sweets?’ Instead Halloween seems to have joined the ranks of ‘School Disco’ or ‘Traffic Light Night’ as another excuse for students/adults to dress up and get unattractively drunk. In the meantime, gamers everywhere will use it as an excuse to turn off the lights and play creepy, survival horrors and this is really just a rambling introduction for the obligatory ‘scary game’ post in honour of the occasion.
#10 Nacht Der Untoten
(Call of Duty: World at War)
Call of Duty: World at War introduced the Nazi Zombie online multiplayer mini games to the series. In this, the first installment, you and up to three other players have to defend a small bunker against increasing hoards of Nazi zombies. The bunker consisted of two ground floor rooms and an upstairs which could be unlocked as you gain more points which in turn allows you access to bigger guns.
There is nothing particularly scary about Nazi Zombies shambling towards you, especially in the early stages of the game when you have just a handful of very slow foes trying to break through your easily defensible boarded over windows. But as the zombies increase in speed, number and ferocity you start to fall back. First one of you desperately unlocks the back room then before you know it you’re forced into a corner, upstairs, trying to res your fallen comrades while they scream ‘behind you!’ while swarms of the buggers take you down. It’s a freaking tense and terrifying moment.
#9 The Dunwich Building
Fallout 3 is the perfect setting for some creepy shit. Considering the entire worldmap is a post-apocalyptic wasteland littered with skeletons it’s not surprising that occasionally you come across a location which is the wrong side of batshit insane. Unsurprisingly this is found in the H.P Lovecraft inspired ‘Dunwich Building’ a rather large manufacturing building for drilling tools.
As well as the usual smattering of skeletons one would expect from a nuclear holocaust, the Dunwich Building has whole new levels of creepy. The more you explore the building the darker it becomes, on top of this you come across the occasional blood spattered walls, objects moving of their own accord and you hallucinate! Huzzah! If your experience wasn’t freaky enough, you find audio logs and diaries relating to the last poor sod who entered the building and you can listen to his slow descent into madness. It is one of the more atmospheric moments in the game that builds up some suspense without relying on cheap scares.
#8 Head Banging Survivor
The Dead Space series have quite a lot of scary moments in them, they are very scary games. Set in space, in the future, the first Dead Space is a survival horror that sees you investigating a distress call aboard the USG Ishimura which seems to be largely abandoned except for the mass infestation of terrifying monsters that stalk you at every turn. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as some of the crew have survived the terrible goings on. Happy days!
Or not. The survivors are generally badly affected by the occurrences of the various outbreaks. This is personified in the head banging survivor. You approach him, having heard a loud banging and notice that his organs are conspicuously missing, he’s drenched in blood and he is repeatedly banging his head against the wall. As you do. It’s a truly creepy moment as you approach, wondering if he’s going to turn to you and try and replace his missing organs with yours, only for him to hit his head until he dies. Nice.
#7 The Mannequins
(Condemned: Criminal Origins)
Survival horror Condemned: Criminal Origins has you trying to track down a serial killer who tortures his victims until they break and commit suicide. Charming. While there are a lot of cheap scares that rely on loud bangs when you least expect them, there are also atmospheric moments which draw you in and freak you the hell out.
Enter: Bart’s Department Store which is less a department store and more a crack den. If the ruined, dark and generally messed up large open space isn’t creepy enough for you the crazed, mutated addicts have taken to dressing up as mannequins, because mannequins aren’t scary at all! If drug addicts posing as mannequins doesn’t creep you out, you’ll be pleased to know you start hallucinating. In true ‘weeping angel’ style you see a selection of male mannequins, but every time you look away they follow you…everywhere.
#6 The Sewers
Like Dead Space, Silent Hill has a plethora of terrifying moments to choose from, among them some of the defining moments of the survival horror genre. An often forgotten moment that had us changing our underwear, comes towards the end of the first game when you are dispatched to the sewers.
Having explored the overground world of Silent Hill and fought off the demonic hoards you have to progress underground, because enclosed spaces and horrific monsters often mix. Having relied on a radio to alert you to approaching enemies, suddenly the radio doesn’t work. Except you don’t know that. And you don’t find that out until the first monster attacks you. From above.
The first time it happened my controller was on the other side of the room before I realised I’d thrown it. After shooting wildly in the hopes of hitting something, you then have to traverse an entire area with no way of detecting these stealthy creatures except a quiet clicking noise, which can also be dismissed as dripping water, what with it being a sewer.
#5 The Flooded Basement
Bioshock takes place in the under water city of Rapture. Initially an utopian paradise everything goes tits up when the inhabitants start messing with their genetic structure by injecting various forms of superpowers in a bottle, into their bodies. While this has the positive effect of fantastical superpowers, it has the downside of insanity. This in turn makes for a number of creepy moments overhearing the deranged ramblings of the mad residents.
If you were to wander down into the basement of the Fort Frolic area you would come across one of the scarier moments in the game. The basement is flooded and entirely open. Because of the sheer size of the room you cannot possibly keep it all in view while you cross it. Each time part of the room moves out of view the lights flicker and motionless plaster casts of splicers appear. They do not attack you, they won’t move, they’re just there. But every time you move out of view, more appear and they all change positions. Very unsettling.
Haunting Ground is a survival horror in the same vein as the Clocktower series. In these games you take on the role of a defenceless, helpless and generally completely useless teenage girl who spends her time running away from an array of homicidal maniacs or, alternatively, going insane and running into walls instead. Of all the characters that seem hell bent on splattering bits of you all over the wall, none are more terrifying than mild mannered maid; Daniella.
Why so terrifying, I assume you’ve cried out after seeing the picture of her licking a glass shard and thinking it completely normal.
Daniella comes after you with no more ferocity than any of your other pursuers. Yet her motivation is what distinguishes her from the other maniacs in the game. You meet Daniella when she feeds you soup, probably made from your dead mother’s hair which is also drugged. While you eat she regales you with tales of how she cannot feel pain or pleasure which is why she has ripped out her own fingernails. After collapsing in your bed Daniella’s intentions become clear as she molests you. When you wake, she smashes her head repeatedly into the nearby window until it breaks and she comes after you with a glass shard with the aim of cutting out your womb and using it to become a ‘real’ woman.
(Project Zero 2)
Another series from which we could have our pick of moments that left us wondering whether we might as well just scrap the gaming chair and replace it with a commode. Project Zero, or Fatal Frame depending on which side of the pond you happen to live, follows the vein of pitting a completely helpless character against legions of hostile enemies. In this instance ghosts that can only be repelled through the use of an ancient camera.
Sae Kurosawa is the second game’s antagonist, a fifteen year old girl who is hung and thrown into a hellish abyss to protect her village from an overflow of demonic energy. The ritual goes wrong and Sae returns, a little bit miffed and more than a little bit insane. Not content to slaughter the entire populace in revenge, Sae and the village are caught in an endless cycle which sees them relive the events of that night over and over again, while Sae, suitably blood soaked laughs. While Project Zero thrives on heart stopping, oh my God I’m going to die moments nothing quite sends you screaming from the room than the first time you come face to face with the Bloody Kimono herself.
#2 The Hospital
(Siren: Blood Curse)
Hospitals are a pretty standard setting for survival horrors, and the Silent Hill nurses are legendary. But none have struck chills into our spines more than Saiga hospital featured in Siren: Blood Curse.
Unlike a lot of survival horrors Siren: Blood Curse focuses largely on stealth gameplay. Instead of fighting the monsters you have to sneak around them, setting traps or distracting them in order to run past them. This is especially true when you’re playing as a ten year old child trying to escape the rather twisted hospital. In theory you duck past them looking for the exit, in practice you’ll find yourself hiding behind a hospital bed trying to pump yourself up enough to actually make a bolt for it. Mostly you’ll just sit tight and hope that for some reason the monsters will get bored and wander off so that you don’t have to deal with them.
#1 Slender Man
(Slender: The Eight Pages)
Free to download Indie game Slender: The Eight Pages takes its inspiration from the modern urban legend/meme of the Slender Man. This tall, featureless man in a suit apparently abducts children and first appeared on a Something Awful forum competition in 2009.
The gameplay is pretty simple. You’re in a forest, you need to pick up pages, eight of them in fact, as the title suggests. Unfortunately after you have found a couple of pages you are relentlessly stalked by the mysterious Slender Man. The game is exceptionally atmospheric, especially in the forest where the area looks the same and you find yourself running around in circles. And that’s before you run into Slender Man. Needless to say, as the sheer amount of reaction shots on youtube show, if he appears you drop everything and run. Usually screaming.