Good evening, boils and ghouls, to a beautiful and chilly October. How many of you have rituals for this hallowed autumn? With tomorrow being Halloween, some people like to carve a pumpkin and toast some seeds, while others want to turn on a horror movie to get the spooks going.
Like many of you, I love being scared. There have been some studies as to why humans enjoy the thrills and chills, chemicals bouncing around in our brains to the point where we want to laugh and scream. Margee Kerr Ph.D. studies the science behind fear and how it gets us going.
I am not going to talk about science. No, I am here to talk about the video games that give me the creepy heebeegeebees. These are the games that I replay through the years without a doubt, and still get the same feeling of fear now as when I first played them.
In the order, here are my ‘Top Seven Horror Games.’ Do keep in mind that these are my personal preferences - and everyone has their own ideas of what scares them.
#7 Alice: Madness Returns.
Everyone has heard of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll, but how many of you have ever seen McGee’s take on the classic tale? Back in the 2000s, McGee came out with a macabre video game version of the children's book where the players follow Alice through ‘Wonderland’ while she tries to get over the loss of her family and her sanity.
In Madness Returns, Alice believes she was the one that accidentally set the house on fire and killed her family. Throughout her travels, something tries to stop her from uncovering the truth. It's up to Alice, and the player, to discover what really happened that night, and maybe find justice for her lost family. The scares in Alice: Madness Returns lie more with Alice trying to figure out what is real and what is madness. As she goes through Wonderland, she finds that it has been tampered with from an outside force. The game demonstrates what lengths people will go to in order to hide their true colours.
What I cherish most about this game is the atmosphere and art. The graphics are phenomenal and well stylized. The mood of the game, the battle for truth, and the fear of the living is what always draws me to replay the game over and over again.
#6 Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Crimson Butterfly is a stand alone from previous Fatal Frame games. Two sisters, Mio and Mayu, want to visit their childhood get-away before new construction destroys the place.
The pair get lost and end up on the outskirts of the what they believe to be ‘The Forgotten Village.’ The twins must find a way to escape before they are made to repeat history. With only a camera as a defence, the game puts you on the edge with how powerless you are in the face of the dead.
The frights in Crimson Butterfly are intense, the atmosphere and the looming sense of dread hang over the whole game. As you and your sister wonder through the village, made to bear witness to how the town became lost in the first place.
The game is dripping with cultural heritage from Japan. Not only does it scream at the top of the hills about its love and respect for the afterlife, but the mastery of suspense and beautifully crafted jump-scares are phenomenal. If anyone has an enjoyment for Asian horror, this is the game for you.
#5 Corpse Party
Oh, Corpse Party, a game that is steeped in Japanese horror; it borders on stereotypical and yet is original and innovative. Don’t bother with the anime; after watching the first episode I could tell it was not going to hold a candle to the game. (Sadly, that is not news when it comes to video game adaptations.)
The game starts with a group of high school students telling ghost stories in their homeroom after dark, when an earthquake transforms the school into an old, decrepit place. Playing as each of the people trapped in this school you, the player, must choose how to get out. Can you save these kids from a fate worse than death?
Corpse Party is a unique game than from what other people are used to. It was originally made from the ‘RPG Maker software,’ a tool used for anyone to create a story for the public. Because of RPG Maker, a lot of indie titles have been made and each of them bringing their own unique take on horror.
Scares in Corpse Party lean towards the gory and unsightly, so those with weak stomachs should maybe look elsewhere for their scare enjoyment. The easiest way to tell if you will like Corpse Party is if you can watch the ‘Saw’ movies. With a profound mystery under it and the need to survive, each choice you make could greatly affect the outcome. Each time you play it feels like an exciting new playthrough.
#4 Silent Hill 2
A man receives a letter from his departed wife, telling him that she is waiting in the town of ‘Silent Hill.’ What else is there to do but to go and investigate? James Sunderland is on a quest to find his wife, Mary. Only to meet with strange characters in a town filled with feminine monsters... all but one monster, that is.
To tell you more about the story would be a disservice to the game. The scares in Silent Hill are a beautiful combination of psychological horror, mood, and story that turns the side characters into fully fleshed-out people. Everyone in this game is human, and because of this, the game has something no other Silent Hill has been able to do. When it comes to the game, it's all about symbolism; everything the game shows you has a reason for being there, and as you go through the game, all the puzzle pieces come together.
Some warnings for those faint of heart, Silent Hill 2 touches on some deep and dark subjects, such as: murder, lust, child molestation, rape, neglect, guilt, torture, and despair. The creators of the game went under the skin to give everyone a perspective on these weighty subjects, and this is one of the main reasons why I love the game so much.
Many people love Silent Hill 2, and call it a masterpiece. Others call it a perfect representation of clinical depression. The game always feels like it's going down deeper, and deeper into the darkness of humanity. It's one of those dark loving creations in the horror game genre that I can’t help but lose my mind over.
Ever wanted to go to an art museum? After this game, tell me if you still want to go. In this RPG Maker game, you follow a girl named Ib. Her parents have taken her to ‘Guertena Weiss' art museum. Here, Ib can look around at some of the masterworks of the late Guertena Weiss. As she goes around, people suddenly disappear and Ib is transported from the museum into a world filled with murderous art.
Ib, and two others you come across in this madhouse, try to figure out how they came to be here and how to find a way out. Dark, surreal, creepy, and minimalistic in its way, a lot of players relate Ib with another RPG Maker game, Witches House. Like few RPG Maker games, they don’t try to jump scare you, they don’t try to outright frighten you. They work to haunt you, to make you remember them later, to come back again, and again, to go through the feelings these games can give you.
As you go deeper into the unknown, the museum twists and turns around you, changing its form into something surreal, beckoning you deeper to uncover more. Paintings change and talk, inanimate statues move and hunt after you, puzzles that are sometimes timed, and endless corridors, to get lost in. The game is a wonderful place to explore and immerse yourself fully within the dark setting.
The setting opens you up to let your curiosity run, all while the game is playful and tries to be unique in its own way. You never honestly feel safe, but the game shows so much colour and creativity that I can’t help but fall in love with the game and play it again.
While we are on the subject of creative games, here is one I am pretty sure none of you would ever think would be scary. In your dreams, you are put into a puzzle game where you try to reach the top of a block grid. Easy, right? It does not sound that scary, does it? What if I told you that if you don’t reach the top before the last block falls, you die in real life?
This is the horror that our main character, Vincent, must go through. With hints of a curse, death, and commitment issues in his relationship, Vincent has to navigate through challenging times between his long-standing girlfriend, his friends, and another woman. The game itself is not what people would expect from a horror game, but while I was playing through it, I saw it as such.
The real horror is behind the pink-coloured story of lust, and love. Men affected by a curse, known as the “The Woman's Wrath“ we the players get to see how it changes them and how you can see it visibly warp them. That is the real horror of the game: scared people trying to survive are willing to do monstrous things. If you are looking for a mind-bending fright Catherine is your best bet.
Like with many other games on this list, I love this game for its creativity, stylized animation, its masterful use of music, and the subject matter. When I first got this game, I thought nothing about it other than the colour looked nice, and that it was on sale. Now, it has an honoured spot alongside games that I will always love and hold dear.
#1 Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
If you have gotten this far, that means you have passed a mountain of text to get to my number one pick. This game that I want to talk about is one I swore I would write about in this blog somewhere and somehow, and now I can.
Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines came out when true RPG’s were hitting their stride. Fallout was making big splashes in the gaming community, as well as hitting new levels of popularity.
Vampire the Masquerade (or VTM, as it is well known,) had its problems with the creation of the game. Rushed programming, a deadline far too close to have it correctly set up, and terrible work conditions, that killed Troika Games.
Now I am sure many of you are asking “why are you talking about a failed game?”
Well dear friends, this game, much like a vampire itself, gained a second life.
The fans, programmers, artist, and people who just love the game and lore, poured their efforts together to create patches (in-game fixes) that update even to this month. People working together to fix bugs, and bring content back to full potential. VTM is a game that, once mentioned, someone reinstalls it.
This game brings the horrors of vampires to life, as the undead, among other supernatural beings, run wild. Everyone has problems that you are made to fix, and everyone has secrets that they don’t want to let out. It’s a balance of survival, between elder vampires that seem to hold sway over whether or not you live or die that night. Being everyone's stooge, you are thrown into one mystery after another. Supernatural hijinks, and a horror level that even won acclaim from IGN for ‘Level of the Year.’ I can’t help but love this game, through all of its bugs and problems. There is a rich, and welcoming community that lets this undead video game to keep marching forward.
Hello reader, this is Jacky, a long time gamer and an admirer of the written word. As an Algonquin student, I have learned much in this program, and I can't wait to learn more. Here is hoping that it does not blow up in our face! Watch the train wreck as it happens in slowmo.