Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Top 5 Genuinely Scary Videogames

You could (just about) fill a David Cage plot hole with all the horror games that have been made over the years. Only a tiny fraction of them, however, succeed at being scary. This isn't necessarily a list of the very best games cowering under the 'horror' umbrella, therefore, but the ones that best do the job of scaring the shinola out of you. If there was a number six, it would be occupied by a Project Zero/Fatal Frame game; although the new Wii U entry looks like it could be terrifying enough to barge its way higher. But anyway, with no further ado here we go, in ascending order:

5: Zombi U (Wii U)

Although this has been recently ported to PS4, Xbone and PC, it's the superior Wii U original which is both the most fun and the most disturbing to play. For one thing, the arrival of enemies is rarely signposted – not even a whole horde of zombies – so you can never be sure what's around the next corner. When you do come up against enemies, even one rotting miscreant on its own can kill you in a few swipes if you're not careful, sending you into a panic when you start taking damage. It's the genius of the GamePad's use that really makes the game though, forcing you to look away from the TV whenever you loot, enter a passcode, or do anything at all involving your backpack. You better be damn sure the coast is clear before looking away...

4: Shadowman (N64, Dreamcast, PSOne, PC)

Based on the relatively little-known comic of the same name, Shadowman wasn't perfect – there was a little too much wandering round in search of the next object or path – but it was a thoroughly enjoyable action platformer that creeped you out at every opportunity. The fact that I originally played it 16 years ago, yet it still sticks in my mind, should tell you something. Enemies were disfigured things, the one that I still remember being a two-headed monstrosity that dragged itself along the floor at speed while calling your name in a tortured voice. Then there was the Playrooms area, full of freaky enemies; and that soundtrack! A twisted lullaby-style tune, with the occasional cry of a distressed baby that you never found. This was years before I had kids of my own, but I was glad to finally leave that area behind.

3: Condemned: Criminal Origins (Xbox 360, PC)

Condemned is a masterfully constructed psychological horror, and you should totally buy it. It really messes with your head, but in a good way; if that's possible. It's played from a first-person perspective but, like Zombi U, guns and ammo are scarce and it isn't an FPS. You instead whack monsters and humans alike round the head with a variety of melee weapons you grab from the environment, all of which have limited lifespans. However, enemies here actually understand that running, hiding, and launching an ambush is often better than fighting toe-to-toe until one of you drops. You therefore creep along each new area with the hairs of your neck on end, and Condemned delights in leading you to believe danger is around the corner when there's actually nothing there – and vice versa. Also the longer you play, the more you question how much of what you see is real; yet you must continue to dish out the violence, or die yourself.

2: Siren: Blood Curse (PS3)

Many of you have probably never heard of this title, which is a real shame; it's one of the best horror games I've ever played in pretty much every way. Why is it scary? Well, where do I start! Enemy design is fantastically unnerving for one thing, strengthened by some very good graphics. The game is based in a village full of Shibito, creatures that started as humans. Many still look fairly human, despite the blood spatters and bleeding from the eyes (ick). Others are more monstrous, with the heads or faces replaced by grotesque, fleshy, active growths. In gameplay terms, you'll spend some of your time unarmed; one of the characters is a small girl who is never armed. Generally it's wise to avoid confrontation altogether and, even if you fight an enemy and win, it only stays down fairly briefly before getting back up again. Then there's 'sight jacking', whereby you see through the eyes of a Shibito in order to look for clues and see how close it is to finding you. This gives you a split screen with their view and normal play displayed simultaneously, resulting in some extremely tense and nerve-wracking situations.

1: P.T. (PS4)

Technically this doesn't exist any more, and is not even a full game. However, never in my life have I found any other game, film, book, TV series, audio drama, comic, or play to terrify me so effectively and thoroughly. Therefore, it has no competition at all for the number one spot. At one point I nearly put the controller down and walked away, it shattered my composure so much, and no other game has ever had that effect on me. Intended as an interactive teaser for the now infamously-cancelled Silent Hills, it essentially tasks you with walking round and round the same corridors of a house. Demonstrating the horror properly, even via video, is impossible without placing the controller in your hands. Each time you do another lap of the corridors something, somewhere, somehow, is different. It could be subtle, it could be in-your-face disturbing. I certainly don't think I'll forget a foetus talking to me about my character's wife in an extremely deep voice in a hurry. As for when the ghost of a woman ran past me, I foolishly turned back round the corner to see if she was there, and she leapt out of nowhere and killed me? I nearly bloody shat myself.

Luke Kemp

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