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Spook-Up: our favourite horror games

Halloween 2015 is almost done and we’ve brought you some spine-chilling content. To round off the week, here are some of our favourite horror games to see you through the dark night ahead.

Kim says…

This year has been a great one so far for fans of scary video game experiences, with both big-budget names and smaller indie titles scaring our socks off. The Five Nights at Freddy’s franchise has done particularly well and attracted thousands of fans with its jump-scares; and Monstrum by the lovely guys at Team Junkfish is a survival-horror which takes place in the original setting of an abandoned cargo ship. And there’s Until Dawn, which is still taking the world by storm.

But it’s not just newer releases that get our blood curdling. We all have memories that stick with us: being attacked by what looked like a lifeless alien in Dead Space; getting tracked down by Slender Man in the woods; or cowering in a cupboard in Amnesia: The Dark Descent. And don’t forget the classics – many gamers of the same generation as myself are likely to remember how hard their heart pounded when the dogs crashed through the windows in Resident Evil.

With Halloween night just a few hours away, we can’t help but think of all those horror games we’ve played in the past and which of them have scared us silly. In this article, 1001Up and friends give their favourite titles and explain what makes them so frightening – so dim the lights, cuddle up close with your controller, and get ready to embrace the darker side of gaming…

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Terrifying Tim from GeekOut South-West:

Killing Floor, video game, box art, logo, symbol, nuclear

“My favourite horror game is easily Killing Floor, a co-operative zombie survival which really makes it more of an action title but it features nicely in horror. When I first played, I didn’t expect much from it. It felt like just a Left 4 Dead title that had been released off the back of something else, but what I got was a lot better than that. It’s well-presented in a gory, bloody way. Zombies, known as Zeds here, come at you from all angles and you must work with your team to survive wave upon wave with limited supplies. Couple this with different perks (classes) which enable you to fight better in different ways, and the game is smart and easy to play.

Killing Floor really sets out the feeling of claustrophobia, even though you are out and about in London. You can run in and out of buildings, you can be in the great outdoors or in caves. It really doesn’t matter where you are: you will get surrounded at some point and that’s why it works as a horror title. There are some freakishly shocking characters, such as the heavily-mutilated Bloats or the chainsaw-wielding Scrakes.

“It’s unsettling, it’s gory and it’s uncomfortable… but it pumps enough adrenaline for you to forgive it! This game gives you a sense dread that only a wave survival title can provide.”

Cutthroat Kevin from The Mental Attic:

Fatal Frame, video game, box art, camera film, ghost, face, scream

“My favourite horror game is still Fatal Frame, the original title in the series.

“The first time I launched the game was with my best friend Vanessa. We played it together. I remember us going through the prologue, unsure as to what we’d find but already unnerved by the ‘based on a true story’ tag on the game’s cover. It creeped us out but nothing major. But when the title properly began with the main character arriving at the manor and fighting the first few ghosts, we had to stop playing for a while to recover. It was just too intense and didn’t let up. Our biggest scare will always be the blinded ghost.

“From beginning to end it frightened the hell out of me. Usually horror games lose their bite the more you play and progress through the story but Fatal Frame is one of the very few titles I’ve played where the scares are effective right up to the final boss. First, as you’re dealing with ghosts, you’re never safe as they can walk through walls and come at you even where you save your game. Second, it crafted such an amazing atmosphere that simply walking around the haunted mansion gave you chills.”

Troublesome Tyler from The Young Beards:

Dead Space, video game, box art, hand, arm, blood, space, stars, floating

“My favourite horror game would have to be the original Dead Space.

“It was released at a time when survival-horror games were beginning to teeter off into the action genre but developer Visceral Games had a goal in mind: to scare the socks right off your feet. I remember watching the Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star trailer and thinking how terrifying this adventure is going to be. Coming out a few weeks before Halloween made it the perfect title to set the vibe for the season. From the beginning it immediately gives an isolated and eerie vibe as you arrive the mining ship, the Ishimura. About 15 minutes in you’re greeted by the hideous necromorphs, completely defenseless and trying to make a panic-run to the nearest escape route. This was an opening so intense that every step you took made your heart skip a beat.

Dead Space is a great horror game for many reasons. It established a very isolated atmosphere and the adventure felt very claustrophobic, in a good way. The creatures were designed to be very disturbing but the scares didn’t rely on gore or ‘boo!’ moments; it instead was all about the build-up of suspense. It was very psychological at times and left you questioning your sanity.”

Ghoulish Jamie from Caiminds:

F.E.A.R, video game, box art, Alma, title, girl, dark, face

“As much as I hate to admit it, I get scared very easy when playing horror games. I buy them every now and then but struggle to play more than ten or twenty minutes at a time. So you might assume I’m insane for choosing F.E.A.R. to be my very first and favourite horror. F.E.A.R. (or First Encounter Assault Recon) is a corridor first-person shooter (FPS). While there are jump-scares, that’s not the reason it’s my favourite; compared to some of the more hardcore horrors of today it isn’t that scary.

“There are times where I did jump in fear, but the set up of this title makes me keep coming back for more punishment. It does an amazing job messing with you psychologically to make you think twice before moving forward, and makes you dread knowing you have to look around the corner with your tilt controls. Yet it’s so perfectly paced in the horror sections (in between the gun fire with soldiers) that it scares you enough to not make you turn off but to continue forward and discover the mystery surrounding the characters and facility you are investigating with a chill down your spin and goosebumps covering your body. If you are looking for a starter horror game, F.E.A.R. is perfect to frighten you this Halloween but not enough to make you want to switch off… and the story is surprisingly well thought-out with extremely fun gameplay too.”

Petrifying Pete, designer and friend of 1001Up:

Resident Evil, video game, box art, gun, man

“My favourite would have to be the original Resident Evil. I was in my early twenties and it was the first real horror game I’d ever played, with my friend Tony who came over a few times a week for gaming sessions. We got stuck on one puzzle for ages and ended up having to run around a load of corridors to figure out a solution, and we kept getting attacked by dogs jumping through the windows.

“It had some jump-scares that caught us out but two ‘macho’ blokes sitting in a bedroom playing video games aren’t going to admit to being frightened! Resident Evil was a landmark game because it tried to do something that had never been done before – a puzzle title from a third-person perspective, with zombies and a tense atmosphere – and that makes it one that every gamer should have on their to-play list.”

Beastly Ben from 1001Up:

Resident Evil 4, video game, box art, wood, trees, silhouette, dark, figure, red sky

“My favourite horror game? Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube. Which, given it was more action-orientated than its predecessors, might seem a strange selection on the surface. But it managed to conjure up an atmosphere of tension and nervousness that was comfortably on a par with any of the titles that had come before it.

“My first experience was with an imported Japanese demo of the game, played after hours in the GAME store I was working in at the time. It was (I think!) from a magazine that one of the other staff there had managed to source. Needless to say we had it up on the biggest screen we could find with the lights off and audio pumped through the shop’s music system. It’s fair to say I nearly wet myself when, surrounded by villagers with only a few bullets to my name, I heard that chainsaw rev for the first time. Genius.

“There are numerous reasons as to why Resident Evil 4 is so good. The enemy design is fantastic, with their increasing difficulty as the title progresses – a result of the typically crazy Resident Evil plot rather than simply making the artificial intelligence (AI) tougher. The atmosphere is has the player constantly on their toes, never quite sure if the next door, building or crypt will trigger an enemy stampede. The game areas are designed in a blend of open spaces and narrow corridors, with multiple ways to succeed against the Las Plagas horde. They would be nothing, however, without the top-class pacing of the adventure. The game can go from calm to crazy in the blink of an eye with the lulls in the action just long enough for the heart rate to recover before having to face the next stampede of enemies.

“Mix it all together and you’ve not got one of my favourite horror games of all time but one of the greatest GameCube offerings too.”

Bloodcurdling Kim from 1001Up:

Shivers, video game, box art, title, eye

“For this article I’ve chosen a game that some may not consider a horror or even all that scary – and that’s if they’ve even heard of it. Point-and-click Shivers was released by Sierra On-Line back in September 1995 and I picked it up shortly after its release as a teenager.

“The title takes place in the ‘Professor Windlenot’s Museum of the Strange and Unusual’, built by a mad scientist but never finished due to his mysterious disappearance. The player takes on the role of an adolescent who’s dared by their friends to spend a night in the building and it’s up to you to make it out alive. Unfortunately however it’s not that easy, for in 1980 two students from the local high school broke in while the Professor was on an excursion and unwittingly released the Ixupi: evil spirits who draw the life essence from humans until they become trapped.

“The graphics are pretty poor and looking back on it now, the Ixupi weren’t even that frightening. But add a group of impressionable teenagers, an empty house while parents are on holiday and a dark Saturday night, and you have the perfect environment for a scary evening. All of us screamed when the first spirit appeared from among the ash within an abandoned fireplace, laughing it off afterwards and saying we weren’t frightened in the slightest… but we all huddled a little closer after that, making our way through the museum whilst trying to capture the ten Ixupi before sunrise.”

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