Games can educate us, entertain us, and enlighten us in many ways. They are also often more capable than any poorly written Hollywood blockbuster in scaring the s*** out of us and these terrifying tales are a testament to the medium’s interactive experience. So, in honor of this most horrific of holidays, we here at EGM have compiled a list of our top five games, in no particular order, that have probably collectively taken a couple of years off our lives and forced us to change our pants on several occasions.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Released: 2005 – Xbox 360
How It Scared Us: As a launch game for the Xbox 360 back in 2005, Condemned: Criminal Origins continues to be one of my favorite on the console—and one of the most effective fright games ever made. The original Resident Evil and Silent hill had their moments, but Condemned sent my skin crawling on a number of occasions, deviously blending its decaying atmosphere and unsettling gameplay into a mighty creepy mix. The grimy city setting served its moody purpose in setting up the unease, but the encounters with the vagabonds are what set the game apart from the pack. Condemned chose to frame intimate, one-on-one style fights that often put you in close-quarter situations as the exceptionally convincing enemy scurried through the shadows. As frightening in their hiding as they were in their direct attacks, the enemy fed off the fear of anticipation.
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Released: PS2 – 2003
How It Scared Us: It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what it is about Japanese horror that makes it so unsettling creepy, but it’s that unexplainable quality that helped Fatal Frame 2 be as damned frightening as it was. Leading teenage twin sisters Mio and Mayu into a run-down moonlit Japanese village was something I already knew was a bad idea; then, of course, it all goes to hell as the girls must fend off ghosts—ghosts, mind you, that have had hundred of years to get thoroughly pissed off—using only a camera. The combination of locations, themes, spirits appearing out of nowhere, and that Japanese horror flair crafted an amazing survival horror experience that I still love to the day—not to mention one of the few games that I simply couldn’t finish in the dark.
–Eric L. Patterson
Released: PS1 – 1999
How It Scared Us: When I think of a scary game several come to mind, however only one has ever scared me to the point where I couldn’t bring myself to complete it, and that’s Silent Hill. Many consider the second game as one of the best in the series, but it was the game’s first outing which instilled terror in people worldwide. From the first moment when I was walking through a dark alley with only a flashlight to guide me the fear began to build. It’s obvious something is going to happen but the question is always when and what. The most memorable part of the game had to be near the beginning in the diner, the radio has gone static and it’s obvious something bad is about to happen. Then a giant pterodactyl bursts threw the window, making me waste every bullet I had on it and then run for my life. Now that’s fear!
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Released: Gamecube – 2002
How It Scared Us: Although many of Silicon Knights’ most recent endeavors have been lackluster at best, I remember the stirring they caused when they developed Eternal Darkness. You play as Alexandra Roivas and are attempting to get to the bottom of your grandfather’s mysterious murder. As you explore his mansion, you come across a tome made of skin and bone and by contacting it, you begin living demented flashbacks of previous owners. What made Eternal Darkness terrifying though was how some of the illusions that Alexandra would “see” as the tome took grip of her would be geared directly toward the gamer in the real world, like a TV volume bar turning the game’s sound off for 30 seconds or, the most frightening thing I’ve ever dealt with in games and had me swearing up a storm when I first saw it, a blue screen of death making me think my game had gone defective and all my data was lost.
Aliens vs Predator
Released: PC – 1999
How It Scared Us: One of the most impressive licensed-based games to hit the scene by it’s 1999 release, Rebellion’s Aliens versus Predator allowed the British developer to up the ante on their considerably creepy Jaguar game of the same name by utilizing the PC’s considerable hardware capabilities to create an atmosphere previous unimaginable in the Aliens universe. Countless games have inspired an untimely release of bodily fluids since, but few moments match playing as a colonial marine, watching your radar go from empty to slammed with aliens and back again just before a host of uglies descended from the darkness above without warning, inspiring a slew of expletives and bullets to fly towards the oncoming horde with record speed. As “holy s***” moments go, this one delivered in spades.
What is the scariest experience you’ve ever had with a game? Let us know in the comments below!