The 12 Best Horror Games You Might Not Have Played
If there's one thing I love, it's horror, be it books, movies, or games. I can trace it back to the time I snuck out of bed and peered around the corner to watch non-garbage original version of The Evil Dead while my mother thought I was asleep when I was five and promptly endured a record-setting three weeks straight of solid nightmares. I'd like to tell you I'm made of sterner stuff these days, but that would be a lie, and every time a Canadian lies a mountie loses their wings. I still get terrified at the drop of a hat, and I love it. Over the years, we've reviewed a lot of horror games, some your conventional booga-booga affair, others more abstract and psychological. Here, then, to continue our 12 Best series, are some of The 12 Best Horror Games You Might Not Have Played.
- Do You Have a Grudge? - Made to promote the 2004 American remake of the 2002 Japanese horror movie Ju-on: The Grudge, this advergame may be short, but it ain't short on freakiness. You find yourself in a quiet, dark house, where you've apparently been called in on short notice to look after someone's invalid mother. As you explore, however, you'll find this is one job you'll wish you never took on. You might call it gameplay-lite, or even just a haunted house simulator, but its deft touch with sight and sound makes for an oppressive atmosphere that's perfect for enjoying with the lights way down and the sound way up.
- The Visitor Returns - The Visitor was a short surprise hit of a point-and-click adventure where you played a disgusting alien worm that could manipulate and take over lifeforms in your quest to reach and devour humans, so it was exciting to see ClickShake flesh things out a bit for this bloody sequel. Once again you play an alien worm that can assimilate creatures it gets inside of, but figuring out how to do so is harder than it seems, since you're small and vulnerable. It's an exceptionally gross and gory game, so if you're the person who screams "Aw, sick!" with delight rather than horror, this is right up your alley.
- Eyes - The Horror Game - 2012's Slender was such a massive hit that it practically spawned its own genre... creep around a dark, scary place, trying to find a specific amount of randomized items, and don't look behind yOH NO YOU MADE IT MAD. Paulina Pabis managed to capture that hazardous, exciting atmosphere while putting a unique spin on it in this game where you play a thief trying to find all the treasure in a house rumoured to be haunted, and then escape before you're caught by the horrifying creature inside. The twist is that you can find special symbols that allow you to see through your pursuer's eyes (albeit in trippy Ghost-o-Vision) and can help you figure out where it is, and thus avoid it... but you're still going to do a lot of running and screaming. Crime doesn't pay, kids, which is unfortunate because you're about to get a ton of therapy bills.
- FPS-Man - The great thing about horror is that if you're clever, all it takes is a simple shift of perspective to make the familiar terrifying, and Tom Davies' unique spin on a classic game that's older than time itself does just that. You find yourself exploring a strange, dark maze with your path lit only by glowing orbs... but you're not alone. Admittedly, FPS-Man is sort of a one trick pony, since after you first encounter the horrors within they lose much of their fright factor due to the repetitive, simplistic nature of the game. Still, it stands as the testament to the way anything can be made scary if you know how to manipulate your source material the right way, and this is one game that is far more clever than it seems.
- Aurora - When you think of horror games, Western themes probably aren't anywhere near the top of your list, but Pastel Games might change that if you give this exceptionally eerie point-and-click adventure a try. You find yourself in a dusty town with only a few strange occupants, and everyone says a mysterious woman named Aurora wants to meet you... but you get the feeling you desperately don't want to meet her, and are trying to find a way out before she arrives. It's a game that operates on expertly manipulating you with a feeling of impending dread, and plays up how effective the fear of the unknown can be in any situation. The series has yet to be finished, but one taste of its unique setting and experience and you'll be chomping at the bit for the rest.
- Lab of the Dead - This unique sim/puzzle game by Evil Dog and SickDeathFiend is so unexpected, yet works so well. You play a researcher trapped in an underground facility after the end of the world with a few disgruntled soldiers and a whole lot of caged zombies, and with few other options, you begin to experiment on the undead monsters by interacting with them through various items in various ways. The twist is how you treat the zombie has a drastic impact on how they interact with the things you give them, so a zombie filled with rage and bloodlust might react with confusion and anger to classical music, but another attempt after you've worked with it and kept its hunger in check and you could see something like wonder cross its face. As you play, you unlock more of the story and more items to use, making Lab of the Dead by far one of the most creative and inventive zombie games you'll ever play.
- Intruder - This point-and-click adventure is basically a nightmare scenario. You get a frantic phone call from a friend who says there's someone in her house, and she and her husband are trapped. Once you figure out a way in, you need to keep finding ways to avoid the shadowy figure stalking the halls, forcing you to make quick decisions before time runs out in encounters. The rain-drenched, dark atmosphere makes this game incredibly tense, and the use of black and white imagery is striking. Getting the best ending sort of depends on making a choice you might feel is unintuitive, but Intruder earns high marks for making one of the most intense and heart-pounding point-and-click adventure games around.
- Rune Hunt - I like to consider myself a pretty brave lady-type person, but there is one place I will not go, and that is caves, and I was that way even before I saw The Descent and stopped sleeping forever. Thomas Jahn spins some stellar creepiness into this exploration based puzzle game about a young boy who goes looking for his father and instead finds himself trapped deep underground. Playing involves figuring out not only a way out, but how to manipulate your surroundings and take advantage of the scarce light sources in order to proceed safely. It's a clever concept with a great visual style that proves pixels can still definitely be scary.
- Monster Basement - This point-and-click puzzle adventure is exactly what it says on the tin... you awaken confused and disoriented on a cold floor in something's basement and you want to get out in a hurry. There's a huge bloody axe on a nearby table and something moving under a tarp nearby. In a lot of ways, this is actually a classic room escape game, and developer Godlimations manages to inject some of their own personal philosophies and religion into the experience without coming across as overbearing or obnoxious. It's creepy and unsettling in all the right ways, and has an ending you may not see coming!
- My Father's Long, Long Legs - Twine can make for some extremely evocative interactive fiction, but few are as engrossing and formidable as Michael Lutz's eerie nostalgic horror story about a young girl whose father comes home from work one day, goes down to the basement, and begins to dig. Told through memories right up to present day and a return to your childhood home, all you have to do to play is click the bolded text, though the end of the game offers a maze of sorts that will require you to keep your ears open and your volume up. It's one of those examples of how subtlety and imagery can combine to make something nightmarish, and stands as one of the best pieces of interactive horror fiction you could ever hope to read through some stellar use of sparse sound and visuals.
- Rebuild 2 - If you like zombies and strategic simulations but haven't yet become acquainted with Sarah Northway's amazing Rebuild games, well, there goes your afternoon. And your next two weeks. In Rebuild, the game picks up some time after the world has ended, and it's up to you to lead a small band of randomly generated survivors to, well, rebuild society in randomly generated cities. You'll have to manage food and happiness from day to day as you send people out to search, fortify, research, gather resources and territory, all while dealing with the constant threat of zombie attack. There are tons of different endings, most of which you'll need to meet special conditions to unlock, and with all the special events and secrets to uncover, Rebuild has enough replay value to keep you going for a long, long, long time.
- Somnium: Exodus - To call this action adventure from Azure Dreams ambitious is a bit of an understatement. You awaken with no memory in a hospital, only to discover not only have all the doctors and nurses gone missing, so has every other person in town, and what follows is a remarkably complex science-fiction horror story as you try to find out what happened and who you are. The game looks amazing, with detailed and atmospheric pixel artwork, and even offers RPG-type skill progression as you deal with enemies. The downside is that it feels like it suffers from some steep balance issues and unintuitive gameplay, but the sheer scope of the project and all the story elements set up at the end of the cliffhanger makes Somnium a series you'll hope to see even more from.