From Commodore 64 to GameCube, these are my seven favorite scary video games. The post is long, so I’ve put it on a subsequent page. If you’re curious, keep reading.
7. Project Firestart (Commodore 64)
This is the first genuinely scary game I ever played, and quite possibly the first one ever created. You're a guy running around, trying not to die on a spaceship full of alien monsters. You've got a time limit, aliens popping out of nowhere accompanied by scary music, and lots of bloody dead people. Sure, it doesn't seem scary anymore, but when I was in elementary school it was freaky.
6. BioForge (PC)
My old buddy Wayne and I used to play this game a lot. You are a cybernetic chop-job who wakes up in a cell not knowing who he is how he ended up in this state. You spend the game trying to get these answers while staying alive on a stereotypical “outpost…on the edge of space”.
How is this a horror game? Well, for starters, one of the first things you have to do in this game is beat a guy to death with his own severed arm. There are plenty of monsters and scary situations you find yourself in from there.
When you finally do discover your identity it will vary depending on the personality you’ve shown your character to have through the choices you’ve made prior to that point.
This game deserved a sequel (and in fact set itself up for one at the end), but never got it. Oh well.
5. Alone in the Dark (PC)
This is the game from which Resident Evil derives its concept. Three-dimensional characters moving on pre-rendered (actually in this case, pre-drawn) backgrounds, cumbersome controls and camera angles, and cheap scares brought about by knowing that you’re going to be killed by a monster if you don’t do just exactly the right thing at exactly the right moment.
There have been four games in this series. I think the second one was the most fun and playable, but not all that scary.
4. Resident Evil 1 (PlayStation original - GameCube remake)
The first game dubbed a "Survival Horror" game. There were zombie guys, zombie dogs, mutant spiders, gorilla lizard things, and later, naked zombie guys. The main monster – the T Tyrant - wore his heart on his sleeve...literally.
Bad camera angles, worse acting, poor controls and the fact that two keys took up as much inventory space as a bazooka all added to the fright-factor. Still, it was the first of its kind, and I have played through it more than once. The GameCube remake is much better than the original in every way, unless you're a fan of actors who can't even say "Wait, don’t OPEN that DOOR" believably.
3. Silent Hill 3 (PlayStation 2)
Silent Hill 2 probably would have come in at number eight on this list. I felt like its story was a dull departure from the intrigue of the original game. Silent Hill 3 returns to its roots, adding unique twists to the story (but still never really making much sense). The monsters are freakish, but really more weird than scary. The creepy environs and truly nightmarish feel work well, but what knocked this down to number three for me is that the game is ultimately just a lot of running through hallways and checking for doors that actually work as demon nurses take potshots at you. Still, you want to play this one with a friend close by.
2. Silent Hill 1 (PlayStation)
Take all of the places that you don't want to be walking around in alone at night and put them in a game. A hospital. An old elementary school. An amusement park. Now, sprinkle them with all the trappings of a morgue (including sheet-covered corpses), a bunch of naked demon children with knives leaping out of the darkness, ghost babies that simply run around, fall down and disappear, and non-existent people crying in bathroom stalls. Finally, put yourself in the middle of it all with nothing but a flashlight and a claw hammer.
Get the picture? Probably not, unless you've already played it. This game is genuinely scary. When I went to bed at night after playing it, I could swear I was still hearing the sound your radio makes as monsters approach. That, to me, is the mark of a successful horror game.
1. Eternal Darkness (GameCube)
Unlike the other games on this list, this game is almost exclusively psychological horror. The monsters aren't really very scary. What is scary is what the game does to mess with your head.
In this Lovecraftian story, you play as 10 different characters over the past 2000 years. Nearly every one of these characters meets a shockingly grisly end against a common enemy as you unravel the story contained in the Tome of Eternal Darkness.
Without a doubt, the most unique feature of this game is the "Sanity meter". As your characters make eye contact with monsters, the sanity meter goes down just a bit. When you execute a finishing move on a monster, the meter rises. As your sanity decreases, the fun begins. The camera angle begins to tilt, the music becomes discordant, and your character -- and you -- begin to hallucinate.
I say "you" because the game tricks you into thinking things have happened that really haven't. Your character might see blood dripping from the walls, sink through the floor, or believe their torso has exploded. You, however, will be fooled into thinking your memory card has been erased, your inventory lost, your video cable unplugged, or that you've reached the ending credits much sooner than you expected. All of these pranks are followed by a bright flash and your character saying, "This...can't be...happening!"
The game has some genuinely memorable moments. After playing through once you will never search the upstairs bathtub again, unless you're just trying to make your friend Jay shriek like a schoolgirl and jump three feet off the sofa. In that case, it's well worth a second look.