I grew up watching horror movies, but as I got older I found they didn’t affect me the way they used too. Now it’s become a real challenge to find a horror that will actually scare me, even the highly rated ones such as The Babadook and It Follows have left me somewhat cold. Games though are the opposite.
A good horror game has me on the edge of my seat. And there are plenty of them. From the constant tension of P.T (the only game I’ve ever had to stop playing) to the jump scares of Until Dawn. Games at the opposite ends of the horror spectrum both have their desired effect. Making the player scared is not always an easy task, there are some high profile failures.
I’m not sure if you’d even consider Dead Space 3 part of the horror genre anymore, but following on from the original pant staining creepy original with this awful snow covered action sequel is something of a slap in the face to fans of the first two. Sadly the effect of EA trying to expand Dead Space’s reach with a more action focus alienated the series fans and in turn sales were terrible and it killed the series. There were moments in there where they tried to put in a few scares (monsters jumping out of the snow etc.), but the rest of the game was so subdued it did nothing. A sad way for the series to end.
You can also add Resident Evil into the same category as Dead Space, a series that that has long lost its identity with Resident Evil 6 being one of the most disappointing games I played last generation. An action focus completely diluting the fear of the originals. True, the same could be said of Resident Evil 4, but that still had an overbearing tension throughout. The section where you hide inside the house, triggering the arrival of a chainsaw wielding maniac is terrifying. You don’t know where he’ll come from, but you can hear the revving of the chainsaw getting closer and closer before he’s practically on top of you. Now that’s how you combine action and horror into a satisfying package.
Now I can’t write a post on horror games without a mention for one of my favourites, the oft-forgotten and underrated, Eternal Darkness. The highlight (for me at least) of the Gamecube’s early line up, and before developer Silicon Knights imploded, it tells an epic tale spanning hundreds of years. It’s also damn unnerving with a constant, creepy atmosphere and one of the best jump scares that has appeared in a game. Despite Denis Dyack’s attempts at getting a sequel off the ground, it looks like it’ll sadly never happen.
While at one time the horror genre almost seemed like it was a dying breed with a number of old horror series’ going more towards an action route with the bizarre notion from publishers that horror doesn’t sell. Now it seems stronger than ever, not only with big AAA titles (Alien Isolation, Until Dawn), but with smaller indie projects (Soma, Outlast). Horror is here to stay and I eagerly await the fear it brings.