Happy Halloween, folks! As many of you know, my gaming diet largely consists of JRPGs, point-and-click adventure games, and survival horror, so to celebrate my favorite holiday, I wanted to do a quick rundown of my top five favorite horror titles of ALL TIME.
This type of list always seems easy in theory but narrowing it down to just five games really, really sucked. I feel like so much is being left out! But, alas, let’s carve this pumpkin. Or, as my uncle would say when I was a kid, “it’s time to make the fuckin’ donuts.”
5 – Clock Tower 3
With an underappreciated level of character animation, Clock Tower 3 remains the best (and only) magical girl horror game of all time and it perfectly captures what was so endearing about the PS2 era.
The story is absurd, with the game’s protagonist able to chain serial killers to the floor and defeat them with a magical bow, while slowly uncovering her family’s dark secrets and the cause of her mystical powers. Seriously, it’s some Sailor Moon horror shit and I am here for it.
Solve puzzles, evade murderers, and witness the stupidity of your childhood best friend.
4 – Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
A series that’s been mostly forgotten over the years, especially here in the west, Fatal Frame (Project Zero elsewhere in the world) was a unique take on the horror genre back when it started on the PlayStation 2. Rather than blasting away zombies, which had become commonplace, Fatal Frame’s vulnerable heroines thwarted ghostly evil with a magical camera.
Fatal Frame 2 is one of the most perfect horror games I’ve played, absolutely nailing the spooky atmosphere of an abandoned Japanese village and dripping the narrative through muffled audio diaries and flashbacks. It basically took everything that made Fatal Frame great and doubled down. The ghosts were more interesting, yet equally startling to bump into the moment you switched from third- to first-person whenever you whipped out the Camera Obscura.
It’s just a masterclass in Japanese horror, and although all of the games are good in their own right, I think the series never topped the second entry.
3 – Bloodborne
Some may dispute the notion that Bloodborne is a horror title, but I beg to differ. Just because a game is an action RPG doesn’t make it any less of a horror game — take Vampyr or Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, for example. And, according to the Bloodborne wiki, the aesthetic was heavily inspired by horror writers like H.P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker, and I’d even go as far as to say Robert W. Chambers and Ambrose Bierce as well.
Bloodborne has its roots in horror, especially cosmic horror. There are eldritch terrors around every corner and the entire narrative has this otherworldly moon monster thing going on. But, I digress.
Bloodborne is just an incredible game (a horror game). The aggressive combat is my favorite of any From Software game, the enemy designs are goth-as-fuck and imaginative on a level I’ve never seen before, and the gothic European architecture brings the labyrinthine nature of Yharnam to life in a way that makes it feel just as much a character as anyone you’d meet along the way.
2 – SOMA
Frictional Games already established themselves as cosmic horror geniuses with Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which also brought with it the big Let’s Play boom on YouTube a decade ago. Gone are the gothic castles and creepy monsters, but SOMA cranks the atmospheric storytelling and sheer sense of claustrophobia and dread to a whole new level.
This first-person narrative masterclass has you delving into the concept of consciousness, mortality, and what defines us as human beings. It’s not your average scare-a-minute fright fest, but that’s not to say the scares aren’t there. SOMA is just the perfect balance of in-game frights and uncomfortable thinking on your behalf. And man, that ending.
While other first-person horror developers have since come along and eaten their lunch (namely Bloober Team and Red Barrels), Frictional Games still knows what goes into crafting a damn fine experience and SOMA will forever hold a place in my jet black heart.
1 – Silent Hill 2
Forever my favorite horror game of all time, Silent Hill 2 has it all. The story is fucked up with a big reveal that puts BioShock’s to shame, the atmosphere, and design of the town is a giant chef’s kiss, and Akira Yamaoka’s soundtrack is uncomfortably beautiful in its execution.
For the most part, the Silent Hill series centers itself around a cult-like storyline as the root of the city’s problems, but Silent Hill 2 is instead a character study on grief and how it can really fuck a person up. James is vulnerable in the loss of his wife, but it’s what happened leading up to that event that’s truly shocking. Nobody is perfect.
What about you, folks? What are some of your favorite horror games? I hope you all have a happy Halloween and enjoy some horror with your candy. Just… check it for razor blades.