Opinion: What’s The Scariest Game Of All Time? Here’s A (Not So) Scientific Analysis…
I love horror games. Absolutely love ‘em. So much so, in fact, that I often find myself enthusiastically asking friends, internet users and random passers-by in the street that most tantalizing of questions: which is the scariest game of all time?
In a bid to answer this once and for all, but lacking the scientific equipment necessary for a more objective study, I decided to hastily convene a panel of totally partial judges and – fueled by obscene amounts of pizza and Doritos – the three of us sat down last night, in almost total darkness and with the volume cranked up full, to play a selection of the most nerve-wracking experiences ever conveyed to the video game medium.
Here, complete with ‘Fear Ratings’ out of ten, is an overview of the teeth-chattering terror that ensued…
9pm – Resident Evil Remake
We kicked off with this absolutely tremendous survival-horror from the last gen: a Gamecube favourite that re-imagines the original classic with fresh fear and tension.
Once we got over just how impressive the ten-year-old title still looks, we took to marveling at the supremely eerie atmosphere. A true haunted house chiller with its decadent gothic interiors, rumbling thunder and lightening, and a rich aura of suspense, it’s fair to say we were on edge from the very beginning.
The game really does muster a strong sense of threat too. Indeed, my fellow judge Lex – a staunch veteran of all manner of challenging games – promptly got himself killed on the very first zombie. Perhaps playing as Chris on the hardest setting wasn’t the way to go…
In any case, a tense, moody experience followed – with the threat of rebirthed, super-powered Crimson Head zombies adding to the sense of drama – though it is also fair to say that we never once felt genuinely terrified.
FEAR RATING: 7
10pm – Silent Hill 2
My God, what an absolute triumph this game is. Spending a couple of hours in the company of Team Silent’s 2001 classic certainly proved that its power to traumatize and unnerve really hasn’t waned over the years. Vatra take note: this is how you do surreal tension, dark foreboding and an overwhelming atmosphere of slow-burning dread.
Taking the reins for this one (and deliberately avoiding the disappointing HD version in favour of the PS2 original), I quickly found my heart racing and my palms sweating as I raced through a thick fog populated by hideous, retching mutants, the control pad nearly flying out of my hands in utter shock the first time one of the loathsome bastards came scuttling out like an alarmed spider from under a nearby car. Panic isn’t the word.
Then came the impossibly dark apartment building, complete with horrifically animated mannequins, sinister cryptic puzzles and – of course – Pyramid Head himself. Topping it all off was Akira Yamaoka’s magnificently oppressive music, which crescendoed from ominous ambient tones into unhinged bursts of otherwordly chaos with deliriously upsetting effect.
This is how you do survival-horror, people.
FEAR RATING: 9
Midnight – Amnesia: The Dark Descent
The moment our third judge Jono – a complete Amnesia virgin – plonked himself down in the hotseat and cockily proclaimed “I don’t reckon this’ll be that scary”, the other two of us knew we were going to be in for a real treat. After all, he wouldn’t exactly be the first fully-grown man to start out playing Amnesia with that kind of brash confidence, only to be squealing like a little girl not long afterward.
True to expectations, roughly an hour-and-a-quarter later Jono was reduced to a gibbering, whimpering wreck, cowering in the corner going slowly insane and torn between staring away from the horrific monstrosity lurking barely out of view, or risking a hastily snatched gaze. Because not knowing is even worse…
I’d like to say I’m simply describing the on-screen actions of his character and not Jono himself, but that really wouldn’t be honest of me. The truth is that the guy quite understandably had a full-blown freakout, and refused to play the game a minute longer.
FEAR RATING: 10
1.30 am – Dead Space 2
From one extreme to the other, we swapped Frictional’s petrifying vulnerability for Visceral’s bombastic action – sinking our teeth into brilliant shock-fest Dead Space 2.
Working on a very different level to Amnesia’s sustained, psychological dread, the combat-heavy Dead Space 2 is much more about alarming jump-scares and stress, but these can be effective horror tools too.
As the only one of us not to have clocked it, Lex booted up a mid-campaign save and soon found himself experiencing some of the most intense and disturbing moments that the game has to offer. A full-on, palpably intense encounter with the Velociraptor-like Stalkers in a maze of cargo crates was soon followed by an unnerving, harrowing trek through the elementary school area, complete with grotesque mutated children and bloated, puss-filled infants. Lovely.
FEAR RATING: 7
2.30 am – Resident Evil: Nemesis
Given that this is probably my favourite Resident Evil of all time, I eagerly assumed direct control, Harbinger-style, for this one. But despite being heartily good fun, I soon realized that the third full Resi outing is probably not as scary as I had previously thought.
The moody urban environments were reasonably atmospheric, but proved far less frightening than anything we’d encountered previously during the night. And the shambling, moaning zombies didn’t muster quite the same impact as their revamped brethren in the later REmake.
That said, appearances of the gigantic, relentless Nemesis creature – a towering goliath of pure, remorseless hate that pursues you from room-to-room – still had the power to set the pulse rating. And that bastard’s pretty damn dangerous too. I was absolutely tearing it through the game, only to find myself picked up and dispatched by the STARS-hunting beast the moment I let my guard down.
FEAR RATING: 6
4am – Parappa The Rapper
Look, don’t judge us too harshly ok? It was late, we’d been crapping our pants for 7 hours straight, and we desperately needed something fun, colourful and inoffensive to send us off to our beds without the threat of nightmares.
Still, you can’t deny that there’s something quite unsettling about Master Onion Head. Indeed, we unexpectedly found ourselves a little creeped out by this martial arts fusion of man and vegetable, and as a consequence the old-school rhythm game didn’t completely end our night in the fear-free manner we had hoped…
FEAR RATING: 5
As those of you capable of comparing numerical values will have deduced, the undisputed champion of terror – and scariest game of all time – is of course Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Any title that can induce full-blown nervous breakdowns and make grown men weep has to be the daddy of them all.
Before you start sending in your complaints or threatening us with physical harm, we acknowledge that we didn’t get chance to play the likes of Eternal Darkness, System Shock 2 and Clock Tower. But, you never know, there may always be time for a Round Two somewhere down the line. Once we’ve managed to wake Jono from his current catatonic state that is…
Mark Butler is the author of Interactive Nightmares: A History of Video Game Horror, which is available to download for Kindle, PC, iPad, iPhone and Android.
Get it for just $2.98 from Amazon.com
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