Hot chocolate, pumpkin spice lattes, obnoxious quantities of candy — I’m going to come out and say that fall is the greatest time of the year. It’s no surprise that there is a significant amount of video games out in the world that try to capitalize on the basic fears humans have. In honor of the quickly approaching Halloween holiday, I have composed a list of games I would consider to be chilling or have some fantastically horrifying tones.
AMNESIA: The Dark Descent
Last year, “Amnesia” became the big game in my household. We would sit around and watch as my roommate toiled through the hellish estate in an attempt to figure what the hell was going on. It wasn’t until I played it on my own that I saw how disturbing the actual story is. The player controls a man named Daniel who awakens in an eerie mansion. Like the title suggests, he is suffering from a case of amnesia — he can’t remember exactly what brought him to that house to begin with. As Daniel begins to piece things together, unnatural forces begin to make their presence known. It plays on human fear and the mind — players have no gun or weapon, and if they come across a monster or other horror, their only real option is to run and hide. Then there’s the ever-creeping darkness — if you run out of fuel for your lantern, you’re plunged into blackness. Daniel has a sanity meter to measure his psychological wellness. Staying in the dark for a prolonged period of time or looking at an enemy causes it to plummet and, eventually, end the game.
It’s more than just a scary story; it’s a mind game. You hear sounds as you play and as Daniel’s sanity decreases, the players are subjected to sights and sounds that may not be real. It’s weird, creepy and scary.
Imagine being stuck on a spaceship, more specifically a broken down mining vessel. It’s dark and you’re confined to your suit. Simple mining tools are your only defense. You board the ship and unexpectedly you’re confronted by copious amounts of blood. As you walk through the dark hallways you hear moaning and shuffling around you. Suddenly something falls behind you and you’re attacked by a Necromorph.
I will forever deem “Dead Space” the scariest game I’ve ever played, and it’s not only because I’m easily startled by things that jump out at me. It’s because Isaac, the protagonist in the game, is alone and trapped. As you play the game you realize that there’s something mentally wrong with Isaac, something is toying with his mind. What got me the most, however, is the setting. The vacuum of space is absolutely terrifying — put yourself in Isaac’s shoes. You only have your suit and a limited amount of oxygen. These monstrosities that are trying to kill you have you cornered and you have nowhere to run. Not only that, but occasionally there’s no real ambient sound, no soundtrack playing in the background. All you hear is Isaac’s breathing as he walks down a hallway, one lone flickering light in the distance. I took a lot of breaks while playing this game.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t know about this game — not many people do. It was created and released in Russia in 2005 and eventually released to English-speaking countries a year later. Feelings about “Pathologic” have always been a bit mixed — it was critically praised in Russia but received lukewarm reviews in the United States.
The storyline of the game revolves around a ruined town suffering from an unknown disease. You choose one of three possible characters to play as, each experiences the core storyline different ways in addition to the various outcomes you can get based on your decisions. From the start, players are told that they only have 12 in-game days to finish the story. If, by chance, you don’t finish a specific quest by the time the clock strikes midnight, the quest is failed and you must continue on.
It’s hard to talk about what makes “Pathologic” so alarming without giving away the main mystery of the game. I will tell you this though — there are three major landmarks within the town: the Polyhedron, the Abattoir and the Apiary. Depending on which character you choose to play, these buildings will tie into the story differently.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
It’s true, Harlan Ellison’s short story was turned into a computer game back in 1995. If you haven’t read the original story, I highly recommend you do, because it helps explain what is occurring and why. Players take control of five characters that are held captive and tortured by a supercomputer named AM, who previously destroyed the rest of humanity. The characters are dealing with some type of issue, whether it is psychological or that they committed past atrocities. Each character is trapped within his or her personal hell. If they can overcome the obstacles they face, they are promised the opportunity to try and destroy AM. Things are not as easy as they seem, as the game progresses the player is slowly shown why the characters are damaged and what had happened to them. It’s a true horror game — the tone is dark, the storyline deranged and the world’s appalling. The speech AM gives on its hate for mankind is legendary.
The Silent Hill Series
How could I make a list of horror games and not include “Silent Hill?” What’s great about the series is that everyone seems to have a specific “Silent Hill” that scared them the most. For me it was always “Silent Hill 2,” but I’ve heard a lot of stories regarding the first “Silent Hill.” The atmosphere and the monsters are what really make the series, and the town of Silent Hill shifts per person and per game. It has become a cornerstone in horror games. It’s a title that is easily recognizable, and I’m satisfied with ending my list with this franchise. If you haven’t played a “Silent Hill” game and like horror, I implore you to check out the beginning of the series. “Silent Hill” really kicked the door open for the current generation of horror games.
This is just a small taste of what is floating around out there. If you’re looking for a way to kill some time during this lovely fall season, pick up a horror game. I’d also love to hear any of your own personal game favorites that you thought should have been included, so shoot me an email. Until next time, happy hauntings.
Samantha Tighe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.