Opinion: What’s The Scariest Game Of All Time? Here’s A (Not So) Scientific Analysis…

From dusk until dawn last night, horror enthusiast Mark Butler played through some of the most terrifying games ever made in a bid to discover the true champion of fear. Following a full-throttle evening of shocks, shudders and even a full-blown psychological breakdown, he reports on the nail-biting experience, and eventual winner…

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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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…




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

Get it for just £1.91 from Amazon.co.uk


Part’s 2 and 3 of our search for the scariest game ever made have now arrived! Click here and here to read all about our second and third nights of gaming terror…


18 Responses to “Opinion: What’s The Scariest Game Of All Time? Here’s A (Not So) Scientific Analysis…”
  1. Richie says:

    I would have liked to have seen you guys give Siren Blood Curse a go but Amnesia is totally the scariest game I have ever played.

  2. Dan Jenko says:

    Thoroughly entertaining read, possibly the funniest article we’ve ever had on the site. I demand a part 2!

    • Mark Butler says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Dan! We’re definitely going to do a Part Two at some point in the coming weeks I think, incorporating suggested titles that we didn’t play this time around.

      • Jason says:

        Give Eternal Darkness a whirl. If I could sum that game up into one word, it would be “bathtub.” 😉

  3. Eeezy says:

    you forgot fatal frame 2…

  4. Alex Levine says:

    Fantastic article, I love horror games! Of all types of media for horror, games are the ones that can truly make you cry and curse it for forcing you to make those terrifying steps towards the dark, dank basement with blood coming form it and screams on the other side lol.
    I would love to hear your opinions of condemed origins on round 2.

  5. Mark Butler says:

    Thanks to everyone for their great suggestions so far, both here and over at N4G. Please do keep them coming!

    For Part Two, when we get around to doing it, I think the biggest shouts so far appear to be for us to tackle Fatal Frame and Condemned – but I’m also going to add Eternal Darkness, Siren Blood Curse, Cry Of Fear, SCP-087 and Rule Of Rose (the last of which I’m actually completely unfamiliar with) to the longlist as well.

  6. JOjo says:

    Fatal frame 1 and 2…..definitely scary as crap.

  7. Chris says:

    Deffo the fatal frame series. The supernatural aspect always seems to sh1t me up over physical threat like zombies etc. Oh and Condemned!!

  8. usrev2 says:

    Things jumping out at you are not scary… fear is seeing something and wanting to turn and run away from it. if its dark and a monster makes a sudden noise and u get scared its not real fear.

  9. bouzane says:

    I am willing to forgive the dubious omission of System Shock II if you include it in “What’s The Scariest Game Of All Time? – Part II”

  10. Quantum says:

    Easily: Call of Cthulhu, older game, but definitely as scary as Amnesia.


  11. Nick Silverman says:

    You must try slender by parsec productions. Takes slender man to the next level and completely obliterates amnesia. Part 2 part 2 part 2!

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