This weekend is Halloween and to celebrate the Game Fanatics’ staff is taking a moment to recall some of our favorite memories in horror games.
We’ll start with one of my favorite horror memories:
Resident Evil 4
When I think about horror games, my mind instantly goes to Resident Evil 4. It’s definitely not the entry most known for horror, but several moments in the game are incredible tense and sometimes legitimately scary.
Standing in a room of weird humanoid cadavers, you activate a switch and one of them falls to the ground. Now you know it’s out loose in the room and there’s this horrible breathing noise. A new enemy, a Regenerator, has just been introduced and you must fight to the death. These Regenerators can be taken out by shooting the parasites in their bodies that give off a heat signature but cannot be seen with the naked eye. This can be difficult to accomplish depending on where they are placed, leaving you a sitting duck if you aren’t careful. These guys are also big fans of chewing through Leon’s neck (which can be seen in the video above).
Even worse is the Regenerator variation named the Iron Maiden. The first time an Iron Maiden reached 10 feet across the room to impale Leon with its spikes, I was stunned. I didn’t think the Regenerators could get worse but Capcom had found a way. Not to mention that the game had all but morphed into an action movie by this point, but these enemies turned the genre right back to survival horror. It was completely unexpected and I loved it. These creatures really are two of the most unnerving things in the Resident Evil series and I’ll never forget them.
Silent Hill 4
Myles Gann: Silent Hill 4, to a lot of series enthusiasts, was both a departure from formula and the last stand for quality for this originator of psychological horror. While set primarily inside a demonic, unsettling apartment, outside areas showcase a new kind of terror and wonder with their open and traditionally other-world feel. Plus, you can work on your golf game by picking up a full set of clubs along the way.
Levity completely leaves the station when your character enters the nurse-infested hospital area. There’s one point in particular where you’re faced with a series of doors in a long hallway, which is a fairly standard layout for the series. Heading into one such door, the camera is intentionally faced towards the character and entrance, and as you enter the room a bit the camera flips to reveal a massive, grotesque head with a malformed eyeball twitching uncontrollably. This remains, to this day, the only series of events that caused me to toss a controller in the air in fright, and it’s a punctuation mark that will always be around in my survival-horror mental library.
Now, I realize that hate may be a strong word, but it’s true. Ghost Stories is just too brutal for me; there’s a feeling of helpless and despair that lingers throughout the air every time I’m forced to play the game. Ironically, this is what makes it appropriate for your Halloween gaming festivities.
The game is incredibly simple to play: players work together to defeat an ancient evil. They’ll move around the board, using abilities to their advantage as ghostly horrors continuously draw closer.
By continuously draw closer I mean that enemies will be breathing down your neck, waiting for you to make a mistake.
Ghost Stories can invoke memories of games such as Dark Souls in its unforgiving difficulty, which may turn some on to its challenge. In regards to the horror, though, the difficulty creates this tension that waits on every turn. Despite your best efforts, it feels like nothing is going to be good enough. You’re dreading your turn, not looking forward to it. It creates a genuine fear at times that isn’t often replicated in tabletop gaming.
The Evil Within
Alyssa Giles: My favorite horror moment that I can recall in recent memory is when I first picked up Bethesda’s The Evil Within. I was anticipating this game for many months and I was so excited to get my hands on it so that I could be scared out of my pants! I truly fell in love with the creepiness of this game when I encountered my least favorite monster in the game. Reborn Laura (A.K.A. “Spider Lady”) pops up at you in an unexpected way. As she spurted out of the ground covered in blood, I screamed at the top of my lungs and immediately darted for the exit. I was already at the end of the hallway when Sebastian states that he should run. Way ahead of you buddy!
It was an amazing jump scare and I was terrified the entire chase scene. I’m amazed that I didn’t have a heart attack. Once I was safe, I exited the game and didn’t play it again for about a week.
Nick Keogan: My favorite horror game moment was in the first F.E.A.R. There was a part where you back up to go down a ladder, but when you do, you see Alma (the creepy little girl). At that point I zoomed down the ladder as fast as possible because I didn’t expect to see her just then. However, when you get to the bottom of the ladder and turn to run, Paxton Fettel (the cannibal battalion leader) is standing right in front of you.
Holy cow! This was the first time a video game actually scared me. I mean the Alma part was pretty freaky, but I definitely was not expecting Paxton to be right there as well.
My favorite horror game though, has to be P.T., because seriously, the game is completely unpredictable. The suspense is unreal! It’s too bad we won’t see more than the demo, but the demo is the best horror game I’ve played.
Spec Ops: The Line
Alvaro Sanchez: While for many this game would just be an amazing shooter, to me it is one of the most terrifying horror games ever created. Most horror games deal with unknown entities and use gruesome yet unrelatable scenarios to scare the player. Spec Ops: The Line does none of that as it was not made to be a horror game but rather a shooter with an amazing story.
The deeds you are forced to do in the game are unnerving; having to kill refugees or former veterans that have simply lost their mind really puts your emotional fortitude to the test. The breaking point, however, is hearing the Radioman and his various announcements, knowing that there is nothing fantastical about your grotesque actions.
By understanding John Konrad, you understand that everything you are doing and witnessing is very close to reality and could very well happen to you as well. That is real horror, real terror: knowing that a video game is simply a representation of life. Spec Ops: The Line does not attempt to scare you, it simply attempts to delve into the human psyche. What really frightens me is that the human psyche is one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen and there is no way to escape it.
Halo: Combat Evolved
Richard Donaldson: The moment that turned me into a Halo and horror fanatic came just past halfway through Halo: Combat Evolved, as I sat alone in the dark and the Master Chief descended into a dark swamp on the surface of Installation 04.
This was the mission “343 Guilty Spark.” This was the introduction of The Flood.
From the first chapter title, “343 Guilty Spark” is a wild curveball from every mission prior. Up to this point, Halo: Combat Evolved is a colorful sci-fi action romp with big action set pieces that come quickly and often. “343 Guilty Spark” is not. It starts slow, without combat. You wander through the swamp until you find a small group of Grunts and Jackals running scared from a dark Forerunner structure. You go inside, and you go down, and down, and you find corpses of humans and Covenant alike around fires and makeshift barricades.
And then you open a door, and you activate the cinematic that changes Halo forever; the found footage recording off the helmet cam of UNSC Marine Private Jenkins. His team descends into the same structure as you, and finds the Covenant soldiers already dead. They go down, following the same corridors that you did, and then come to the same door you just went through. Inside they hear this ungodly squirming noise in the walls before all hell breaks loose and tiny spider-like monsters burst from the walls, covering the soldiers, and the footage goes dark.
The Master Chief looks around the room. There are no bodies. And then The Flood attack.
Spider-like monster Infection Forms blow open doors followed by humanoid Combat Forms with extra limbs and parasitic growths on their Elite and Marine bodies that rush you and ignore almost all gunfire you throw at them. They swarm for what feels like forever in an attempt to absorb you. The objective marker in the top left of your screen lights up as a pulsing synthetic soundtrack fills your ears, a hard change from the sweeping orchestras of before – “Escape!”
Not fight. Not win. Run for your life.
This was my first real experience with a horror sequence in a video game. A perfectly paced curveball that turned Halo: Combat Evolved from a blockbuster action shooter to a strange hybrid of horror-action that gave the game a gameplay shift and big narrative stakes. It is a descent into the darkness of an ancient world that sent me into cold sweats as I ran, lost and scared, in the night those many years ago.
I’ve been a fan of horror and Halo ever since.