Between Uwe Boll and The Crow, I got to thinking about what were the best horror games ever made?
Now, I’m going to be strict here. First rule is it has to be classed as a Survival Horror – so Resident Evil 4, whilst amazing, is out. And secondly, PAL release, or I’d be harping on about Sweet Home, a survival horror on the NES and Clock Tower (which never got an official PAL release).
Sooo… with those conditions in place…
5. ObsCure (PS2/PC) – This was actually a really clever game. A team-based survival horror based loosely on the teenage slasher genre, with heavy overtones of Buffy the Vampire Slayer thrown in for good measure. It was visually very solid, had a thumping great soundtrack and a feature track by Sum41. But it was good – despite the low-budget stylings and occasionally dodgy voice acting, the story, the monsters, the whole game was actually tense and scary. Forget the sequel and go for the original – and best.
4. Resident Evil 2 (PS/Gamecube) – I adore Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, but it is too much of a self-parody. Unlike Resident Evil 2, which was an assured sequel to the great original, with better dialogue (barely) and the introduction of Ada “Yes Please” Wong. That said, as scary as the game is, let us not forget that this was an emergency rush-job, as the game meant to become Resident Evil 2 was sadly deemed to be deviating from the survival horror genre. That has become the infamous Resident Evil 1.5 – and I don’t care, as Resident Evil 2 is a true gem of the gaming world.
3. Silent Hill (or Silent Hill 2) – Silent Hill 2 wasn’t scary enough. The original really was. And it did throw in some jokes – alien abduction and some witty comments about religion – but the general feeling was one of menace and insanity, rather than the mental breakdown of SH2. It was slower, paced perfectly and really nicely put together. Of course, you can switch this with Silent Hill 2 is you so prefer – personally I didn’t find it scary, but if you did, no hard feelings here. It’s fine.
2. Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC) – Low budget it may have been, but there is no question that Amnesia was absolutely terrifying in places, with the sense of impending doom and latent menace at every available turn. Told in a totally deadpan way, with very clever physics and ideas, Amnesia was horror for the sake of horror – it was scary because that was the point. And few games deliver the terror quite this way. A very good, very solid horror game.
1. Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly (PS2) – And the big one. For me, this game isn’t just an example of horror at its best and most beautiful; it is a work of art, everything about it screams horror and menace, and yet remains narratively excellent, technically polished and deeply human, telling the stories of the ghosts that haunt the village. Whereas the previous examples all usually do one or two things – Crimson Butterfly does EVERYTHING. And in a curiously Japanese way too that is both delicate and riddled with their national ideas on young women. That the series never really bettered after this is sad, but this remains easily the best horror game you can buy – and with an HD version supposedly penciled in, I can only hope this utter marvel will fly off the shelves.