Let's Get Creepy
Halloween is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate All Hallows Eve than by sitting down with some of the scariest video games ever created? Zombies, demons, and all sorts of other deadly creatures have been scaring the piss out of gamers for years, and the gut-wrenching titles just keep getting better.
Read on as GamePro counts down the top 15 horror-themed games that play better in October, especially for those special gamers with a taste for the macabre.
15. Dead Space: Extraction (PS3, Wii)
You won't find many good, mature, horror games on Nintendo's family-friendly console, especially not games as good as Dead Space: Extraction. A side story in the main Dead Space continuum, Extraction is an on-rails shooter on par with the best of House of the Dead. And the update on PS3 takes the experience one step further by making it all look that much better, while still retaining motion controls using the PS Move.
You'll also find multiple story paths to explore in the game, adding a bit of replayability to what is normally a straightforward shoot-em-up affair. And the storytelling elevates Extraction's troubled characters far above the cookie-cutter tropes you find in most other shooters and horror titles. (And a version is available for iOS, too.)
14. Dead Rising 2 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
A perfect match for horror fans who aren't afraid of a little camp, Dead Rising 2 can, on occasion, have up to 7,000 zombies on screen at one time. You can combine just about anything to make a bizarre weapon -- the "Hail Mary" is a hand grenade duct taped to a football, the "Dynameat" is a stick of dynamite duct taped to a piece of meat, the "Paddlesaw" is two chainsaws duct taped to a kayak paddle, and the "Spiked Bat" is a baseball bat with nails hammered though it -- plus the plot is camp gold. Dead Rising 2 is a classic in the zombie-horror genre.
You play as a former motocross champion who's looking to help his daughter out after her zombified mom bit her. The only way to help her is to get your hands on the band-aid-on-a-bullet-wound medication Zombex -- which, if taken daily, prevents full zombification. But Zombex costs money, so you have to travel to a fictional casino town where you have an opportunity to make mad money on a reality show where people kill zombies. Nothing goes as planned, making Dead Rising 2 an amazingly enjoyable zombie-clusterf**k. It's as ludicrous as it is saturated with gore, always a perfect match for a zombie-horror game.
13. Condemned 2: Bloodshot (PS3, Xbox 360)
Condemned 2 is a unique game, and one that can defy classification: a first person survival horror action title with a knack for the supernatural. The amount of detail Monolith has built into Bloodshot will make you believe you're entering a separate, grisly, and unnatural world every time you pop in the disc. It's no understatement to say that the visuals in Bloodshot are astounding. You'll believe that you are Ethan Thomas as you walk the crime-infested streets of his city, battling his inner demons both figuratively and literally.
One thing that Monolith has always excelled at is creating unique and realistic environments in its games, and Condemned 2 is no exception. The world that Bloodshot takes place in is just as much a character as any drug-addled crook or corrupt special agent you'll encounter on Ethan's warped streets. From a twisted doll factory to a perverse magician's theater: this is the stuff that nightmares are made of.
12. F.E.A.R. 3
F.E.A.R. 3's opening level is a terrible representation of the rest of the game. While many video games begin with a strong first level designed to immediately grab your attention, F.E.A.R. 3's rust-covered Armacham penitentiary is as generic and lifeless as prison levels get. It's as if the level designers intentionally start you off with such a bland introduction to their game so that when you experience what it really has to offer, it hits you with all the force of a freight train.
Moreover, for a horror game, F.E.A.R. 3 is anything but just a bunch of dimly lit corridors and sepia-colored boiler rooms. The game's actually quite colorful, with each "Interval" featuring its own distinct color palette and aesthetic. For instance, the bridge mission features a lot of warm colors, which is amplified in the sky's mesmerizing blood-red storm clouds. This contrasts sharply with the airport mission's dark blues and cool colors.
11. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (PC)
H.P. Lovecraft was a master of horror, so it's no surprise that this retelling of his novella "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" makes for one of the best horror games out there: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. The game is steeped in the Cthulhu mythos, and it breaks with a number of game conventions: it has no HUD, and instead of a life bar, audio (your heartbreak and your breathing) and visual (the screen loses color) cues indicate how much health you have. This increases the game's suspense as your detective investigates a cult--and finds a thriving worship supernatural horror.
10. Dead Space 2 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Continuing the journey of Issac Clarke as he tries to figure out what's behind the mysterious menace from Dead Space's Marker, Dead Space 2 contains the same claustrophobic environments and freakish alien/zombie hybrids that made the original so effectively frightening. Unlike other third-person shooters, getting off headshots and blowing through as many enemies as you can is less important than tearing apart your monstrous foes limb by limb and conserving ammo; even without a head, these monsters can still chase after you.
The game works best when you're not fighting anything at all, when you're just exploring the eerily quiet space station. But that's because you know that an attack can come from anywhere. Monsters pop out of ducts without warning, and while you have some powerful weapons, ammo is still a precious commodity. Like a good horror movie, even making the "right" choices doesn't mean you'll be able to keep all your friends alive. Just keeping your own sanity is victory enough when the world (or space station, rather) is crumbling around you.
9. Deadly Premonition (Xbox 360)
Deadly Premonition is akin to a B-grade horror movie: The dialogue and controls are terrible, but that horribleness is what makes it so endlessly charming. Like Twin Peaks with zombies, you feel like you're playing through the horror version of a David Lynch television show. As FBI agent Francis York Morgan, you're tasked with investigating the murder of a young woman in the fictional all-American town of Greenvale. You get the survival horror aspects of a Resident Evil with bizarrely funny dialogue whenever you talk with your protagonist's alter ego Zach or any of the town's weird residents.
Our advice: turn the game to its lowest difficulty setting, brew up a pot of strong coffee, and just enjoy the quirky ride.
8. Dead Island (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Dead Island places you in the role of one of four survivors on an island paradise overrun by the undead. You must band together with your fellow survivors to keep alive and find a way off the island, employing a variety of improvised weapons along the way.
Dead Island is noteworthy for not just its survival-horror elements, but its RPG and FPS elements as well. As your character progresses throughout the story, certain skills will level up and become stronger, turning them from a frightened survivor into an unstoppable zombie slayer.
7. Dead Nation (PS3)
Dead Nation proves that Housemarque is a master of pacing. A park might be eerily quiet one moment, and overrun by zombies the next. Or maybe there will be nothing at all -- you can never be sure.
Dead Nation's grisly art style helps set the tone early on; and as the game progresses you will learn to fear the cries of certain monsters. True, you can always set off a car alarm and blow up a pack of zombies, but it won't be long before you start to run out of ammo. That's when the real horror begins...
6. Limbo (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Limbo doesn't beat you over the head with its story. The stark black-and-white world drops you into it's creepy depths, and all you know is you're chasing after a phantom girl who looks a lot like you (the game's description says it's your sister). Along the way you'll face platforming puzzles, spear-throwing phantoms, massive hairy spiders, and freakish parasitic worms. It's moody, understated, and almost as much fun to watch as it is to play.
As a horror game, things fall apart a bit near the end; Limbo's latter half focuses more on clever puzzles and less on expanding the sense of exploration and confusion that permeates the beginning, but the entire experience is short enough that we still recommend playing through the entire game. It's an understated experience that, even if it doesn't contain any cheap jump scares, still leaves you with plenty to contemplate after the credits roll.
5. Amnesia: The Dark Descent (PC)
Amnesia is an indie game that may look like a first-person shooter, but you won't find any weapons to protect you in what is one of the best horror games you'll ever play. The only defense you have against the dark creatures of Amnesia is the ability to run away and hide. As you plumb the depths of the game's dark corridors, slowly piecing together the story of how you got there in the first place, you'll have to balance your time in light and shadow. Your Sanity meter slowly dwindles away the longer you're out of the light, and when it dips too low, your character starts hallucinating. You'll move more slowly, imaginary bugs crawl across the screen; it gets freaky. But in the light, you're much easier for the game's evil creatures to spot and devour.
If you're looking for over-the-top gore, and a zombie-blasting good time, then Amnesia is not your game. But as a psychological thriller that's just as much about figuring out what's going on as it is about staying alive, Amnesia is the most effectively frightening game we've ever come across.
4. Dark Souls (PS3, Xbox 360)
From Software might not have set out to make a survival horror game when they created Dark Souls, but they've nevertheless succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Dark Souls (and its predecessor Demon's Souls) is one of the scariest games ever made.
Don't believe us? You will once you descend into the sewer for the first time, where vampiric blobs lurk on the ceiling and killer frogs curse away half your health. And that's to say nothing of the rickety Blighttown or the eerie New Londo. As it turns out, all a game needs to be scary is a great atmosphere and soul crushing difficulty.
3. Resident Evil 4 (PS3, Xbox 360)
Never mind the imagery -- Resident Evil 4's sound effects alone are terrifying. The growl of the chainsaw and the wet-sounding chitter of the Regenerator are guaranteed to have the hair on the back of your neck standing up. And these creatures are no less frightening when they actually appear.
Resident Evil 4 has a number of great moments, but the best may be the opening scene. Trapped in a macabre European village, Leon Kennedy is forced to hide in attics and behind houses as the populace tries to kill him. It's a masterfully designed level that's both open-ended and claustrophobic, and does well to set the tone for the rest of the game.
2. Left 4 Dead 2 (PC, Xbox 360, Mac)
The team-based survival horror multiplayer game was pretty much invented by Valve when they released Left 4 Dead. The premise of both games is simple: You and three of your friends must fight your way through hordes of zombies towards a safehouse or extraction point. But if you stray too far from your friends, you might be picked off by a "hunter" zombie or strangled by a "smoker" zombie. There are few games out there that make you rely upon your friends as much, or are as genuinely frightening.
With the sequel, you get a new set of locations in the Deep South, a new cast of characters, and the addition of melee weapons. Like all of Valve's games, Left 4 Dead 2 is best played on the PC. The DLC packs are all free for PC users and help flush out more of the story and the overlap between the events of Left 4 Dead 1 and 2.
1. BioShock (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Most people talk about BioShock as a blend of shooter and role-playing game. Which it is. But a secret lies in the halls of its underwater dystopia, Rapture: It's one of the best horror games in years.
Rapture is full of terrors. The crazed Splicers are out to slaughter you, and many are them decked out in their New Year's Eve masquerade regalia. The Little Sisters' habit of hanging around corpses to drain them of ADAM (the substance that grants you and Splicers their powers) would be creepy enough on their own, but the sea slugs in their gullets make them even more disturbing. And few things in gaming are as terrifying as the Big Daddy, a man sealed in a deep-sea diving suit, turned into a powerhouse of terror. The most distributed residents, though, might be those citizens of Rapture pulling the strings.
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