June 2021
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Top 10 Scary Video Games

My wife loves to watch a good horror movie around Halloween every year.  Truth be told, she likes to watch horror movies year-round, but she especially enjoys them during the month of October.  Me, I’ve never cared for a horror movie, but I *love* a good scary game.  Some find this odd, and I admit it probably is a bit unusual.  I’ve thought about why I enjoy one and not the other, and the best I’ve come up with is control – I don’t like watching stupid people do stupid things without being able to do anything about it.  In a video game, I’M the stupid person!  Therefore, I have full control of my actions – well, until the cutscene kicks in.  So I thought I’d take this chance to list my all time top-10 scary games.

10) F.E.A.R. 2
The story of Alma is convoluted, but at its heart lies the tale of a girl who was experimented on and tortured, and now seeks revenge on pretty much everyone. Your character possesses psychic abilities and a sufficiently large arsenal, enough to cause many to consider this game much more “action” than “horror”. But the unnerving atmosphere it creates combined with the unexpected paranormal outbursts caused by Alma are enough to put anyone on edge.
Most Memorable Moment: Walking through a deserted schoolhouse when all of the lockers simultaneously burst open.

9) Doom 3
Doom 3

Doom 3 was one of the first games to use lighting effects not only to wow us but to create a very tense atmosphere. The controversial decision to make the flashlight a separate weapon which forced you to choose between extra light or a gun turned a lot of people off, but in my opinion helped to create one of the most suspenseful games of the early 2000’s.
Most Memorable Moment: I vividly remember one section that was pitch black and required you to switch between the flashlight and a gun to simultaneously stay on a narrow path and dispatch the demons that would appear along the way.

8) Shadow Man
Shadow Man

Shadow Man was based on a comic that I can’t personally tell you anything about, because I would never have even heard of the comic if it weren’t for the game. What I can tell you is that the main character of the game is a man who has been given supernatural powers and can travel between the normal world and Deadside, the land of the dead. He does this using the teddy bear of his dead younger brother as a conduit. During the course of the game you have to track down and kill 5 serial killers who have also been given supernatural powers by a force known as Legion. Sound creepy? It is. This was released on several platforms, but the Dreamcast version is the version of choice.
Most Memorable Moment: Probably the stand-out level in all of this has you in what looks like a twisted evil nursery, complete with the sounds of crying children in the background.

7) The 7th Guest
The 7th Guest

Never before would you have believed that a puzzle game could be terrifying. But this was no ordinary puzzle game. Mixing what was then cutting-edge video on the brand new CD-ROM format, fantastic sound, mind-bending puzzles and a story that involved a mysterious old man named Stauf who turned children into dolls, The 7th Guest became the reason many PC owners bought a CD-ROM drive. It’s now available both through Good ‘ol Games and on iOS, giving you two excellent ways to relive the horror.
Most Memorable Moment: A puzzle in the basement of the house was basically just a maze which wouldn’t be TOO bad on its own – but every time you ran into a dead end Stauf’s voice would boom out “Feeling….lonely?”.

6) Demon’s Souls
Demon's Souls

At first glance, Demon’s Souls would appear to be a poor fit for this list. After all, this is a fantasy RPG first and formost. But play it for a bit and you’ll soon come to realize what true fear is. Around every turn lies the promise of a swift death that will send you back to the Nexus, a hub area populated by dead adventurers who all came before you and all failed. And the price for your death is a long trek back to where you died to reclaim your body, all the while hoping you don’t die again along the way, losing your original stash of souls – the game’s currency – forever. Messages left by other players connected online can offer either helpful or misleading advice, and soon the oppressive isolation of it all really starts to wear on you.
Most Memorable Moment: Coming across a boss at the end of the tutorial stage that completely decimates you really sets the tone for what’s to come.

5) Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
SMT Nocturne

What, 2 RPGs in a row, and this one a turn-based JRPG? Surely this is a joke, right? Afraid not. When a game starts with the end of the world, you know you’re in for something unnerving. After a brief introduction, you suddenly find yourself thrown into an apocalyptic nightmare filled with bizarre demonic creatures. You eventually start coming across your old friends, but they seem to be losing their minds. Or maybe you’re losing yours too? The only companions that join your party are creatures you manage to capture. Combine all of that with a difficulty level that has you weighing every move in every random encounter, and you have a game that creates a tense atmosphere thick enough to cut.
Most Memorable Moment: First realizing that it’s going to be up to you to decide the fate of this hellish world – and that there’s no clear-cut good answer.

4) Alan Wake
Alan Wake

Alan Wake is a writer who has somehow fallen into his own book. My wife, being an aspiring author herself, finds just this concept extremely terrifying. As you progress through the game – which is mostly set at night in very dark, forested areas – you stumble across pages of the book which you are living out. You soon realize the pages you find are foretelling what will befall you, and even worse, you are powerless to stop it. Demonic shadow creatures attack you at every turn which makes your flashlight more than just a helpful tool, it’s your strongest weapon.
Most Memorable Moment: While this game is full of frights, the scene you’ll probably remember the most involve you surviving an onslaught of the shadow creatures while you take the stage in a rock concert.

3) Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4
For me, Resident Evil begins and ends with RE4. I had never been able to get into the serious before it released (the closest I came was Code: Veronica, but I saved myself into a spot where I didn’t have enough ammo to proceed). And I’ve tried in vain to get into the games since. Resident Evil 4 just struck that magic note, the perfect action combined with some very unsettling situations. It’s easy to see where other games, especially the next one on this list, were heavily inspired by what RE4 accomplished.
Most Memorable Moment: There are many I could choose, but the most vivid memory for me has to be the first time I failed to defeat a chainsaw-wielding “zombie”. It was hard not to turn away as the saw hit my character’s neck and the blood began to fly.

2) Dead Space 2
Dead Space 2

This series has already made my “Top 10 New Franchises” list, so it should come as no surprise that a game from it would appear here. Combining fast action with a tense dread-inducing atmosphere that is unrelenting is a task not easily accomplished, but the Dead Space games pull it off with blood-soaked colors. Choosing between the two main games currently out is a very difficult proposition, and honestly neither of them should be skipped by fans of the genre. But if I have to choose, I’ll go with the second one for its more polished interface and more varied environments.
Most Memorable Moment: Unfortunately, it’s a major spoiler – I’ll just say Chapter 10 was one of the creepiest things I’ve ever played in a video game.

1) Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2

Making it to the top of this list required not only a nightmarish atmosphere and truly disturbing enemies, but a story that strikes a very unnerving cord in equal parts due to its supernatural elements and grounding in reality. Enter Silent Hill 2, the most disturbing game I have played. More than just simple jump-scares or bloody gross-outs, this game hits emotional cords that few games have even attempted before or since. This game is my go-to example of what a “mature” game should be, not because of it’s blood or violence but because of the very adult, mature themes the game deals with. It is a crime that reports say the recently released HD version of this game is such a mess. If you haven’t played it yet, track down one of the original versions and do so. You won’t regret it.
Most Memorable Moment: The first time you see Pyramid Head is utterly terrifying.  He can’t reach you at the time – you see him through a locked gate – but just knowing that at some point in the future you will have to face him sends chills down your spine.

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