Alien Isolation was created to bring the fear back to horror games, with survival the only real objective. The makers did this by just having a single, unkillable alien to deal with, rather than other ‘shoot em up’ games we’ve become oh so familiar with in recent times.
First of all, the Alien is terrifying. The wealth of different cutscenes are gory and gruesome, as you’d expect from this genre, but the scariest thing about the Alien was when I couldn’t see it, when it was crawling in the air vents above, waiting for me to make a noise – before it would pounce. The Alien is also unpredictable, not fixed by AI constraints, learning from every encounter we had – making it an even more formidable foe.
The only thing that’s scarier than the Alien? The incredible audio soundtrack that accompanies the game. The attention to detail is incredible, every door opening or scream put me into a panic, where shall I hide?! The detail in the Alien’s tail scraping along the floor sent shivers down my spine, as I cowered in fear of being seen (and ultimately killed, as you can’t really defend yourself!).
You’ve not played anything scary till you’ve had a go at trying to outwit and outsmart the Alien in this game!
Words by Marcus Bridgland.
Before the sequels arrived to actionize the hell out of this series (with mixed results), there was the slower paced, dread filled franchise starter that nicely filled the void left behind after Resident Evil started to lose some of its mojo. Taking control of engineer Isaac Clarke, players battle their way through the stranded Ishimura starship fighting off the monstrous nercromorphs; terrifying creatures that are kind of a bit like a mix of Giger’s Xenomorphs and John Carpenters The Thing.
With a level of difficulty seldom seen in modern games and a scarcity of resources, Dead Space makes the player feel how all good survival-horror games should: powerless. The ingenious mechanic that dictates that your enemies can only be killed by the strategic dismemberment of their limbs also forces more trigger happy gamers into being conservative with their ammo so that there’s a real tension to every encounter.
Several of the scripted scares are orchestrated with distinct panache (that bloody ending) but where Dead Space really excels is in its atmosphere. Deservedly winning several awards for its lighting and sound design, the game expertly inflects every crevice of the stunningly realized environment with a genuine sense of threat and the unknown. Rarely has sound been so pivotal to a gaming experience but here it really does make all the difference. Keeping you constantly on guard, the various indecipherable noises never allow you to feel truly safe and even when you venture into the oxygen free expanses of space, the eerie silences take on their own unnerving menace.
Words by Harrison Abbott
Slender: Eight pages
If you’ve never heard of Slenderman, you’ve clearly be under hiding under an internet rock. The tall, dark and not so very handsome figure has become the frontman for the age of internet urban myths. Obviously, a number of spin-offs have popped up over the years; including several full-length fan-made films, but arguably none have been more popular than the game Slender: The Eight Pages.
Released and developed by Parsec Studios in June 2012, the game was an instant hit among Youtube lets-players. This mass coverage, along with it being free to download, meant that Slender became one of the biggest games of that summer.
It’s easy to see why the game was so popular; because damn is it scary.
The basic premise is that you’re tasked with finding eight pages scattered around the forest; seems easy enough. Except Slenderman is also there, and he’s coming after you. The company’s low-budget does wonders for the game’s atmosphere, as the cheap graphics only serve to intensify the uncanniness of the environment. But the best element, by far, is the exquisite sound design. The silence of the forest means that you can hear your every breath and footstep. As you collect more pages, the Slenderman begins catching up, to the point where you can hear his footsteps right behind you. The best and worst moments in the game are when you know, that if you turn around, he’ll be right there and once you’re caught, that’s it, game-over. So sit back, turn the lights off, put your headphones on full volume and get ready to scream.
Words by Alex Meehan
Five nights at Freddy’s
You’re the new night-guard at a Chuck E. Cheese-style restaurant called Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria. The catch? The main attraction, Freddy Fazbear and his mechanical bandmates, like to wander around at night. If they see you, they will kill you. Your only defence? Two security doors you can close at the touch of a button. But be careful, you only have a limited supply of power, and it has to last you till 6am!
This is the simple, yet ridiculously horrifying, premise to Five Nights at Freddy’s, where your only controls are to operate the security doors, turn on the lights in the hall, and watch the security cameras. This gives you a sense of dread and utter helplessness as Freddy and his friends get closer.
What really scares me about this game are the characters themselves. Just like the Weeping Angels in Doctor Who, you never see them move. Each time you check the security cameras, they will be in different rooms, staring menacingly into the camera like they know you’re watching them. Chica the Duck, in particular, has a set of facial expressions from the deepest pits of your nightmares.
So grab yourself a pillow, keep an eye on those security cameras, resist the urge to shut the doors immediately, and brace yourself for that final jump-scare…
Words by Natasha Raymond
Project Zero 2: Crimson Butterfly
Helplessness is the driving force of the Project Zero series’ unique brand of horror. Drawing on traditional Japanese folk tales, intermingled with a modern thirst for gore and plenty of jump scares, this game has the player dropping the controller and fleeing the room. Control alternates between identical twins Mio and Mayu who find themselves trapped in an abandoned village, armed with only a camera to defend themselves against the menagerie of ghouls and unholy creatures hell bent on sacrifice. The player unravels the village’s depraved history of religious cults and bloodthirsty ritual as they explore the dark winding houses and confront their inhabitants, trying to escape a seemingly inevitable doom as the past seeks to repeat itself. The constant tension of fight or flight and reliance on speed and precision with such an insubstantial weapon leaves the player feeling exposed and vulnerable, a far cry from the heavy weaponry of more recent releases. Survival is the ultimate goal, obstructed by emotional dependency, clashes between the leads, and the player’s (in)ability to continue, culminating in a bittersweet ending which remains with the player long after beating the game.
Words by Lois Saia
The Bioshock gaming franchise is my most adored out of the many games I have played. Whilst admittedly there exist scarier games (Outlast and Dead Space come to mind), Bioshock is scary as the world in which it is situated, the underwater Rapture, is such a dystopian society and is beautifully crafted. The artwork in the game is second to none and it is clear that the developers wanted to make this game feel as real as possible to immerse you in the horror of the game’s story. Horrifically maimed and drugged up splicers inhabit the city and frequently engage you in combat. The game twists and turns more times than a helter skelter and the conclusion is so shocking that it will leave a lasting impression on you. Bioshock is an unconventional horror game but is essential for any fans of the genre.
Words by Joe Gibson