Wednesday, February 25th, 2009...11:55 am
The 10 Scariest Video Games Ever (Rated 18)
By Rassam Fakour-Zaker
Know Your Money Editor
Ever since Haunted House appeared on the Magnavox Odyssey back in 1972, many video game developers have been refining their dark arts in order to create games of increasing complexity and sophistication with one aim: to scare the crap out of us. Recent major releases such as F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin and the imminent Resident Evil 5 suggest that their diabolical digital designs show no signs of abating.
So whether you’re a “lights off, headphones on, come get some-shouting” hard-as-nails type or more of the “hear-the-spooky-voice-on-the-title-screen-and-scream-until-the-police-arrive” variety, it’s time to grab a spare pair of pants and take a look at the top 10 scariest video games thus far (beware: contains mild spoilers and scary words…)
10. Doom 3 (PC/Xbox, 2004/2005)
Upon release Doom 3 was criticised for its cheap scares. Which is well-justified considering its limited MO hinges almost entirely on hellish creatures jumping out at you from dark places. Nevertheless, the crude and repetitive scare tactics can’t detract from the creeping sense of claustrophobia and uneasiness emanating thoughout the game’s poorly-lit environments.
Crap your pants moment: Don’t know about you, but whenever I’m walking down a dark corridor in a demon-filled Martian base and a woman’s voice whispers: “they took my baby”… and then everything goes red… and then I hear a baby squealing in the distance, I tend to feel a little uneasy. Maybe it’s just me.
9. Dead Space (PC/PlayStation 3/Xbox 360, 2008)
Much like the Necromorphs that try to eat your face throughout the game, Dead Space resembles a reanimated corpse fashioned from the butchered parts of 20-odd years of sci-fi/horror movies (particularly Event Horizon) and video games (particularly System Shock). Having stolen the best parts, however, its lack of originality becomes rather easy to overlook.
Set aboard a massive spaceship filled with the aforementioned monsters and innumerable flickering light bulbs, Dead Space employs some wonderfully-immersive gameplay features (HUD-less view, real-time user interface), tense atmosphere and superb audio-visual elements to provide plenty of well-choreographed jumps.
Crap your pants moment: Dead Space’s somewhat repetitious use of scare tactics means that it is difficult to pick one defining scary moment. However, the game’s atmosphere is so well-realised that even innocuous sounds – such as the brief static blip that precedes incoming communications from your crew members – can give you a fright.
8. Sanitarium (PC, 1998)
Taking place in an insane asylum filled with wall-butting patients, Sanitarium puts you in the role of an amnesiac who must discover the truth about his identity and incarceration. Despite the clichéd premise, the mysteries of this little-known but much-loved “Point and Click” adventure unravel into a rich psychological horror experience that flits between the ominous gothic asylum, bleak flashbacks from the protagonist’s past and the nightmarish Freudian delusions of his troubled psyche.
Crap your pants moment: OK, not likely to make you soil yourself, but the second level – “Innocent Abandoned” – is probably the most unsettling. Set in a town peopled entirely by weird, deformed children a strange backstory is gradually revealed – little girl with no eyes: “Everything was fine… until Mother arrived”.
7. F.E.A.R. (PC/Xbox 360/PlayStation 3, 2005/2006/2007)
By plonking a Japanese horror-inspired malevolent little dead girl into an otherwise standard first-person shooter, F.E.A.R. managed to elicit some fairly effective scares. Alma, the girl in question, is central to the game’s plot and gameplay, popping up now and then to shit you up; and it is her menacing presence that gives the game a pleasingly dark and foreboding atmosphere.
Crap your pants moment: Has to be Alma suddenly appearing over you as you climb down a ladder, then as your heart rate recovers you’re treated to another startling apparition as you reach the bottom. Two scares for the price of one.
6. Siren: Blood Curse (PlayStation 3, 2008)
Originally released in 12 downloadable episodes, the grim and gritty Siren: Blood Curse is easily the scariest PS3 exclusive. The plot sees you take control of several different characters trapped in a zombie-infested Japanese village. With an emphasis on avoidance over confrontation much of the game is spent hiding, running and sneaking around the beautifully-realised and highly atmospheric village. The paucity of weapons creates a real feeling of vulnerability resulting in periods of nail-biting tension as you attempt to elude the undead creatures.
Crap your pants moment: The third, almost unbearably tense chapter which puts you in control of a young girl trapped in an abandoned hospital full of undead nurses with just a torch to aid your escape.
5. Resident Evil (PlayStation, 1996)
Resident Evil, the daddy of survival-horror, pioneered many of the genre’s dubious staple features including dodgy camera angles, awkward controls, puzzle-based progression, fiddly inventory management and shite movie spin-offs. Combine this with the idiosyncratic stop-and-shoot aiming system, terrible dialogue (“Here, take this lock pick. I’m sure that you, the master of unlocking, will make use of it”) and god-awful acting and it all sounds a bit rubbish. But despite – or, in some cases, because of – these features, RE was a truly nail-biting, captivating and entertaining experience.
Crap your pants moment: There’s only one real contender: those bastard dogs jumping through the window. One of the defining moments of the Resident Evil series and the survival-horror genre as a whole.
4. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (GameCube, 2002)
Eternal Darkness took those Resident Evil-esque elements (dodgy fixed camera, inventory-juggling etc) and added a unique and inventive gameplay system, a Sanity Metre, that measured the protagonists state of mind and altered play accordingly.
As your character(s) encounter the game’s monstrous apparitions, their growing insanity manifests itself in a number of ingenious ways. Bleeding walls and hallucinated enemies may be fairly tame, but some of the more devious insanity effects have you questioning your own actions and even the condition of your TV, giving the horror a more psychological flavour. Nintendo liked the system so much they actually patented video game insanity. Nutters.
Crap you pants moment: When a seemingly innocent, empty bathtub offers a sudden gory vision.
3. Project Zero/Fatal Frame (US) (PlayStation 2/Xbox, 2001)
Taking its visual cues from Japanese horror films, a story from Japanese folklore and the setting from an – ahem – “actual haunted house”, the first of the Project Zero/Fatal Frame series combined effective grainy visuals with a grisly and chilling plot to create a genuinely creepy experience.
Putting you in the sensible shoes of a young schoolgirl (it’s Japanese horror – what did you expect?) searching for her brother in the haunted Himuro mansion, your sole weapon is… a battered old camera – an odd choice maybe, but it’s as good as Proton Pack when it comes to offing ghosts.
Crap your pants moment: The room with the dolls is quite distressing. Especially for this guy.
2. Condemned: Criminal Origins (Xbox 360, 2005)
This impressive Xbox 360 launch title remains one of the platform’s most disturbing games. Eschewing the usual supernatural twaddle which inundates the genre (and ballsed-up the sequel), Condemned opts for a more realistic setting, with players battling inexplicably-homicidal vagrants while on the trail of a serial killer.
While it may be considered something of a PR disaster for the homeless, the guttural, visceral combat – usually of the hand-to-hand or rusty-pipe-to-face variety – and tense, unnerving exploration of various wretched and gloomy environments make it a genuinely unsettling treat for horror fans.
Crap your pants moment: Out of countless potential candidates, the most unnerving moment must go to the pediophobia-inducing abandoned shopping mall level in which the mannequins have a disconcerting tendency to follow you when your back is turned (which can be seen here). Enough to put you off shopping centres for life.
1. Silent Hill 2 (PlayStation 2, 2001)
Like Resident Evil, Silent Hill has had its share of duff sequels and pointless movie spin-offs (only one so far, thankfully); but it’s fair to say that the first three titles in the series make most others on this list look about as scary as your average Wii game. However, due to its unrelentingly tense and oppressive atmosphere and compelling narrative Silent Hill 2 has the edge over the others in the pant-soiling department. Oh, and because of one other significant factor…
Crap your pants moment: Manifestation of the protagonist’s psychological torment or whatever, there is no scarier character in video game history than the iconic, pointy-faced S&M freak with an oversized sword and a penchant for unconsensual monster-shagging known, imaginatively, as Pyramid Head.
To give the uninitiated an understanding of how pant-wettingly frightening this character is all you need to do is imagine something evil and scary – then picture something worse raping it: that’ll be him.
Let us know your definitive pad-in-hand shit-in-pants moments (horror-game-related stories only please, none about dodgy curries and all-night Call of Duty sessions)…