Guts and Grog Tooned Up

Monday, June 14, 2010

Top Ten Horror Video Games- Gabe Nye the Science Guy

Top Ten Horror Video Games of all time (According to my drunken memory, with zero research done, so if you think I missed something you can suck it. {"It" meaning my dick of course, or whatever dick is most readily available to you, I don't expect you to come all the way out here. I'm polite that way.})

Hey, Gabe Nye the Science Guy here, bringing you my highly scientific list of horror games. Before I get to the list though, I want to clarify how I'll be choosing these games. I'm not necessarily saying that number one is the best game from a technical standpoint, nor the most fun to play. In my mind the goal of a good horror game is to be both fun and scary, or reminiscent of great horror film-making. Telling a good story is also very important, something that few video games get right as I see it. I'm also going to try and limit myself to only one game per franchise. I'll try to remember to touch on the other noteworthy entries in the franchise in my summaries, but frankly I don't want the list to be nothing but silent hill and resident evil. I'm sure you understand. I'm just going to pick what I feel is the best of each series, and I can tell you right now that it probably won't be the first games. Unlike movies, games tend to get steadily better with each new entry. Tons of credit is certainly due to the originators though, and I'll definitely be explaining why each franchise is important as a whole. Plus, and I think it may go without saying, but as technology improves and graphics/sound get more and more lifelike, games have the potential to be increasingly disturbing and visceral. Anyway, you clearly aren't here to read about why I have/haven't rated certain games, so here's the list (finally).

10. Splatterhouse (TurboGrafx-16, PC)

Splatterhouse is really the first game that I can remember really living up to the horror genre. We had gotten a few weak movie related "horror" games (I'm looking at you Friday the 13th for the NES), but they neither lived up to the movies they were based on, or captured the fun and atmosphere of good horror. Splatterhouse changed that, it's not based on any movie, but I think it's pretty clear who inspired the main character's look. Hmmm, blue coveralls, creepy white mask, who could that be? The gameplay was pretty basic, walk from left to right, punch things to death, pick up the occasional weapon to beat things to death a little faster. There were some pretty cool boss encounters, such as the poltergeist where you dodge pieces of furniture being tossed at you. There was even a pretty decent story, for the time, you were out to rescue your girlfriend, with the help of a mystical mask that makes you super fucking bad-ass. The game wasn't easy, but that's how we rolled back in the day. You can download this one for your Wii via the virtual console store and relive the glory days of gory games. I highly recommend it. There were two sequels to this for the genesis, and both are well worth checking out. The graphics got better, and some new gameplay was added, but the first is really the one that I have the most fond memories of.

9. Doom 3 (PC/Xbox)

The first Doom was a revolutionary game for a lot of reasons, and it almost made the list just because of that. However, this is a list about horror, and while the first Doom was definitely creepy for its time, Doom 3 really brought home the scares. The plot is pretty basic, portals to hell being opened, demons on mars, blah blah. Not really important. Part of what made this game so creepy was the insane graphics. This was, hands down, the prettiest game ever made when it came out. If you were lucky, your computer could almost run it decently. If you got the chance to see it in action on a souped up machine back when it came out, I guarantee your eyes exploded out of your skull in an orgasm of graphical awesome. Or maybe you just went "neat, that looks pretty slick". I guess it depends on how much you care about video game graphics. Looking pretty aside, the game was constantly fucking with you, bloody footprints appearing on the floor in front of you, creepy ghost shit, you name it. There's a particularly memorable bit when you look into a bathroom mirror and catch a glimpse of hell. The sound design really added a lot to the atmosphere as well, you were constantly hearing things that weren't there, if you were lucky. The gameplay was every bit as good as the visuals too. It was a fast paced, action-packed game where death was always right around the doorstep. All the action really emphasized the scares whenever you had downtime. You knew it couldn't last long. The one downside of the game was a kind of cheesy flashlight system. Basically, you could either have your flashlight on, or have your gun out, but never both at the same time. We have the technology to open portals to hell on mars, but we can't attach a flashlight to a shotgun? What the fuck is that all about? Still, while this gameplay mechanic may be a little unbelievable, it really kept you on your toes. Whenever you walked into a pitch black room, you knew you'd have to whip out the light, but that left you defenseless. Creepy shit. If you missed out on this one, you should do yourselves a favor and track it down. Any decent computer these days should be able to run it. Or you can check out the Xbox version, it doesn't look quite as nice, but it's every bit as good.

8. Zombies ate my Neighbors (SNES/Genesis)

Ok, so this one definitely isn't scary at all, far from it. In fact, it's pretty fucking goofy, but in the best way. Think of this as the gremlins of the videogame world. (Yeah, I'm pretty sure there actually was at least one gremlins game for the NES, but I'm also pretty sure it was a big pile of shit.) By that I mean, it doesn't take itself seriously at all, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. It had a great graphical style, heavily influenced by the "B" horror movies of the 50's and 60's. So don't expect a bloodbath here. Gameplay was pretty basic, it's a top down run n' gun shooter. The little twist here is that you have to rescue your neighbors from the monsters. It's not exactly the most cerebral game in the world, but it's fun as shit and addictive as hell. This one is also available on the Virtual Console for the Wii, and you'd be doing yourself a favor by checking out a true cult classic of a game. For the more intrepid, a sequel was made called Ghoul Patrol. I can't really tell you too much about that one, because I haven't played it in over a decade. I do remember liking it though, I believe it was more of the same with a few improvements. That one you'll have to track down on eBay, or the more unscrupulous amongst you might download a ROM for their emulators (criminals).

7. Heavy Rain (PS3)

Ok, so this may actually be the best game on this list as far as I'm concerned. So, why isn't it number 1, you ask? I'll tell you. This is a horror game in the same way that Silence of the Lambs and Seven are horror movies. Which is to say, barely. It's really more of a psychological thriller at heart. Having said that, it's still scary as hell at times, and probably the most emotionally involving game I've ever played. I'm not sure I'm qualified to describe how the game actually plays. It almost has to be played to be understood. I'd say that it's like an interactive movie, but that makes you think of games like God of War which, great though it is, features a ton of cut scenes that require you to press a certain button at a certain time or else the main character dies. I'd be lying if I said Heavy Rain was completely unlike this, but it is so much more that that at the same time. It's an adventure that has you jumping from character to character and experiencing a phenomenal story even as you yourself are shaping the narrative. Seriously, if you have a PS3, download the demo, it'll do a better job than me of showing you how much the game rules. I could write an entire article on the graphics of this game alone. I'll try and keep it brief. I guarantee that you have never before played a game that looks this gorgeous. (Unless you're reading this article sometime in the future, if that's the case, fuck you for having flying cars, asshole) Every aspect of the game looks great, but what really stands out are the character models. The people look more lifelike than real people. After playing this game for awhile you'll start thinking all your friends look kind of low-res and shitty by comparison. (No offense intended to my shitty looking low-res friends) Basically, if you can play this game, do it.

6. Dementium: the Ward (DS)

This is the only handheld game to make this list, and for good reason. It's pretty difficult to make something scary when you're staring at a little 3 or 4 inch screen and listening to the sound through, at best, a decent pair of headphones. Dementium takes the form of a first person shooter, a genre that can work surprisingly well on the DS what with the touch screen controls and all. Graphically, it looks really good for the DS, so somewhere between N64 and PS2 graphics. The game takes you through a psychologically scarring story while you fight monsters in a sanitarium. If this game were made for a home console, I doubt it would've made my list. But, being able to take your horror on the go gives it a little extra edge. The sequel is out now, and by all accounts is just as good, or better, than the original. I haven't played it yet though, so I can't give it my personal seal of approval yet. The first one is pretty cheap, and well worth the money. Pick it up, or the sequel, and put a little horror in your pocket.

5. Ghostbusters: the Game (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)

So many people seem to feel that Ghostbusters doesn't count as a horror movie. But those people are assholes. It's about fighting ghosts, how is that not horror? So what if it's a little bit more of a comedy, so is Shaun of the Dead, and people still call that horror. Anyway, I put Ghostbusters firmly in the horror genre, and as such this game is more than qualified to be on the list. Ghostbusters: the Game, is everything that Ghostbusters 3 should be. It's even set in the 90's, as the magic of video games allows the main characters to look exactly like they did back in the day. Part of what makes this game so amazing is that they fully enlisted the talents of all four Ghostbusters. Not only do they resume their roles for the voice acting and facial likenesses, but Dan Aykroid and Harold Ramis even punched up the script, ensuring that it was up to the classic Ghostbusters quality. The game is full of laugh out loud one-liners, a plot that is way better than Ghostbusters 2 (maybe not the most difficult accomplishment ever), and more importantly, it lets you step into the shoes of a Ghostbuster. This is exactly the game you've wanted since you were a kid. If you spent even half as much time as I did running around with a plastic proton pack "busting ghosts" as a kid, this will be pure wish fulfillment for you. I'm guessing you've already played this if you even have a passing interest in the Ghostbusters. If you didn't, what the fuck is your problem? Go buy it now. I'll wait. Oh yeah, the graphics and sound are great too, sound effects and music are straight from the movies, but that's just the icing on the cake really.

4. Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube/PS2/Wii)

Ok, so I've finally gotten to the Resident Evil franchise. You had to know this was coming. The first RE practically invented the genre of survival horror. Yeah yeah, I know there was alone in the dark and a few others first, but RE is the one that tossed the genre into the mainstream. So, everyone has a different opinion of which game in the series is the best, and for me it's part 4. Part 2, or the remake of the first for the gamecube are probably the best of the "classic" style Resident Evil, you'll get no argument from me there. I choose 4 because it was the most fun to play. The graphics are gorgeous and the sound is great, but the improved control scheme is really where this game shines. Leon still controls like a "tank" more or less, but shifting the camera to his back and allowing him to aim in three dimensions makes a whole world of difference. Counter-intuitively, getting rid of the zombies actually makes this game better. Don't get me wrong, I fucking love the shit out of zombies. The enemies in this game are a bit more like "the thing" though, and that makes them so much more dangerous. The first time you have to actually out think your opponents you'll really appreciate the difference between shooting mindless zombies and actually having to coordinate against a thinking opponent. This also just adds more to the frightening atmosphere, lending tons of "wow" moments and a fair share of adrenaline charged fights. This is another game that everyone in the world played, seemingly. But if you managed to miss it, you really are missing out. Even if you played part 5 (which is a great game as well, but I feel it's a little bit inferior to 4), you should really look into this one. Get the Wii version if you can, it offers the best control scheme for your money.

3. Dead Space (PS3/Xbox 360)

This is just hands down a brilliant game. Ok, control wise it's pretty much a rip off of Resident Evil 4, but why fix what ain't broke, right? What Dead Space does that really pushed it up this high on the list for me is the story and the setting. It's kind of a mix between Even Horizon and The Thing, which just so happen to be two of my favorite sci-fi horror flix, and it works fantastically in video game form. You play as a silent protagonist tasked with finding out what happened to a massive spaceship. As you explore the empty corridors of the ship you slowly piece together just what happened. At the same time you'll be solving some puzzles, and trying your best not to get torn to pieces by the creatures that have taken over the crew's bodies and are out for blood. One of the more clever aspects of this game is it's approach to taking out these enemies. The head shots that you've all trained yourself to dish out don't do all that much damage to these creatures. The quickest way to victory here is to amputate their limbs. It takes a bit to get used to, and adds a nice twist to the gameplay. the graphics and sound are phenomenal as well, and really add to the atmosFEAR (See what I did there?). Definitely pick this one up, it's only 20 bucks or so, and the sequel is in the works right now. It's a perfect time to get up to speed before that comes out.

2. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (Gamecube)

This one is a bit of a forgotten gem. It was one of the first games to come out for the Gamecube, and frankly, I still haven't given up hope that we'll get a sequel someday. When you first start playing the game, you'll probably think that it's nothing more that an attempt to cash in on the Resident Evil success. Give it some time though, and you'll begin to see just what set this game apart. The story stretches through time, taking you between multiple characters like a modern woman and a roman soldier. I don't want to say too much about the plot, but it draws heavy influence from H.P. Lovecraft, and that's something of a rarity in the video game world. The game gives you a variety of weapons to fight with, as well as magic spells to cast. There are even three different "alignments" of magic you can choose from, adding a little bit of customization to the gameplay. All of this is great, but what really sets this game apart and bumps it all the way up to number 2 is the sanity system. As your character gets attacked and menaced by the enemies, your mental health can be broken, driving you insane. The effects of being driven "insane" vary, it tends to start slowly, the camera angle becomes skewed, you hear people screaming or footsteps with no visible source. It progresses to hordes of enemies appearing but aren't really there, you may find yourself walking on the ceiling or notice that the walls are dripping blood. Where it really gets clever though, is when it starts fucking with you, and not your character. The game might suddenly go black, or switch to a screen full of static, while displaying a channel number in the corner, causing you to believe that you accidentally changed the channel in the middle of the game. These days you might not get taken in, newer TVs have such different displays and such. But take it from me, the first time it happened back in the day I was diving for the remote control and swearing a blue streak, thinking I had changed the channel in the middle of a fight. It was the first time a video game had ever fucked with my head, and I loved the shit out of it. I haven't played this in years, so maybe it doesn't stand up to the test of time, but it'd be cheap to find out. Give it a play.

1. Silent Hill 2 (PS2/Xbox)

Alright, so Eternal Darkness was the first game to fuck with my head. Silent Hill 2 was the first game to actually scare the shit out of me. Keep in mind that I watch horror movies the way most people eat dinner. That is to say, frequently, and in a very calm manner. The last time a movie even kind of freaked me out was the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (somehow the old Atari game based on the movie didn't have the same effect, crazy) when I was a kid. That was just a feeling of unease though, Silent Hill 2 full on scared me, and I wasn't even kind of prepared for it. Sure, it probably won't have the same effect on people nowadays, what with the out of date graphics and the lack of surround sound. But I still have vivid memories of the first time I played it, alone, with the lights out. Jesus, I just about had a heart attack when I stepped outside for a smoke to calm myself down and found that a sinister looking fog had rolled in, not cool nature, I still haven't forgiven you for that one. That's one of the things about Silent Hill, you can never see all that far, whether its from the fog when you're outside, or the oppressive darkness when you're indoors. In the first Silent Hill, the fog was there because the PS1 couldn't handle rendering the, at the time, impressive graphics for much further than a subjective 10 or 15 feet from the character. In the sequel for the PS2, they did it intentionally. This time around the fog seemed to be alive, it became a character in the game almost. So, scary fog, why is this game number 1? Because it tells a beautiful and fractured story that almost doesn't makes sense. I've played through the game multiple times, and it took that to really make sense of everything. It's like watching a David Lynch movie, you don't always know what is going on, but you can't stop watching, and you love it. Even if you can't necessarily explain why you do. Silent Hill 2 is almost a portrait of a man's descent into madness, and I absolutely cannot recommend it enough. All the Silent Hill games have been great, but they haven't yet beat this phenomenal sophomore effort. What makes Silent Hill stand out from the survival horror pack for me is its focus on brains over brawn. Sure, you fight monsters (fucked up ones at that, like something out of an S&M nightmare) but you also solve puzzles. However, these aren't your Resident Evil style "I've got a hexagonal shaped crest, and this locked door seems to have a hexagonal hole in it, what do I do!!?!?!" type of puzzles. These ones are often presented as riddles, and make you have to exercise your brain a bit. Something that rarely happens in video games, and I love them for it. I could keep talking about this game all day long, but I'm sure you don't give a shit what I have to say. Just play the fucking game, and thank me later.

Gabe Nye the Science Guy

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