Pure PlayStation’s Jason Frye is the nicest guy to ever eat pie, yet he’ll tempt you with games that’ll make you cry. Awful poetry aside, here’s something Jason knocked up for this special spooky occasion.
Happy Halloween! It is the time of year when all the frightening ghosts and goblins come out to…demand candy while they are dressed as a character from their favorite Disney Junior show. Games played today should fill you with pulse-quickening dread. Halloween can be a time to play our favorite scary games and relive those tense moments.
I’ve put together a list of games that I think are pretty great for today, but it may not contain your holy grail horror game. There are a few caveats. First, they have to be games I have actually played. I know your sister’s cousin’s brother’s nephew said that this other game was scary, but, if I have not played it, it is not on the list. Second, they have to have been playable on a PlayStation console. The following games are not ranked in any particular order.
The Silent Hill Series
Silent Hill is a sinister place that houses a great blend of lunatics and monsters. The people you meet in Silent Hill may not even be real. This may be even scarier than seeing disfigured, grotesque monsters that would make David Cronenberg squirm, because you cannot even trust your own sanity.
Like some of the best horror games, you are not incredibly strong or well-armed. You are a person lost in your own corner of hell, fighting to get out or at least make sense of what you are seeing. Everything seems to be against you, and the town itself is an obstacle, blanketed in fog and filled with puzzles and locked doors.
Nurses are my favorite monsters. They are reflective of the total perversion of reality that permeates every square inch of Silent Hill. Their job is to help people get better, but they have been changed to kill and harm.
Finally, the iconic Pyramid Head is an unstoppable force of pure destruction where the only reasonable response is to run from him, making you feel even more helpless. Combined with the oppressive atmosphere, Silent Hill is an amazing horror game.
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Another PS2 classic in the Japanese vein of horror, Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly follows two twin girls who explore an abandoned town. At least, it would be abandoned if not for all the ghosts and spirits.
The only protection you have is through the lens of the Camera Obscura. It is a camera that lets you attack the ghosts and packs more punch the closer you are for a little risk/reward in your encounters. It also reveals hidden things that help you advance the game.
As you try to unravel the mystery, you find not all spirits are deadly, but they are still creepy. Like Silent Hill, this is another game where the town is messed up, and the people were not exactly angelic. The impact of this past is discovered, and there are multiple endings.
This game also shows that Japan is the absolute best at finding ways to make kids creepy.
Dead Space 2
Dead Space is a series that grabbed me immediately. I love space horror movies like Aliens and Event Horizon, because space and horror are the perfect peanut butter and jelly of gaming. From our perspective, we have no idea what is beyond our own solar system, allowing us to feel the fear of the unknown. If space is so enormous that we cannot conceive of its limits, anything could be possible, including everyone’s personal nightmares.
After the events of the first game, Isaac Clarke wakes up in a facility where he has been the subject of experiments involving the marker. For some reason, no one ever thinks to just leave horrible things alone, instead of plopping them down on your kitchen table and inviting your friends to come see it.
For me, the scariest part of the game was going back aboard the Ishimura. The whole ship felt empty, and the tension while waiting for the next attack was fantastic. The ship was also overly sanitized with white plastic covering the hallways that were previously covered in blood and body parts. This should have reduced the need to death grip my controller, but it only made me more worried.
The demons inside Isaac’s mind are perhaps worse than the necromorphs. There is no longer the illusion that you are communicating with your wife. The delusions grow more violent as you progress through the game, and often you find that the person trying to hurt you is you.
The eyeball scene is the other moment in the game that made me squeamish. I personally do not wear contacts, because I do not want to touch or have anything touch my eyes. Dead Space 2 forces you to guide an extremely long needle into the center of Isaac’s eye. When you fail to accurately land the needle within the time, the death animation is the stuff of nightmares.
Speaking of nightmares, the monsters in the game cannot be killed by a simple shot. They have to be dismembered and destroyed. The amount of gore and spray in the game would make the watermelon in a Gallagher stand up show look dry by comparison. The necromorphs themselves range from the dog-baby-tentacle-monster to the unbeatable human-looking-abomination-with-scythes-for-arms.
Ultimately, Dead Space 2 hits a lot of the high notes of horror. It was followed up with a disappointing sequel, but I really hope we get a Dead Space 4 sometime in the future.
Until Dawn was a really welcome surprise, and it starts with a cliché premise that opens up slowly over the course of the game. The game has a cast that looks like they have been chosen for an MTV reality show. You have the archetypes of the jock, the smart girl, the creepy guy, and the good guy among others.
The thing that keeps Until Dawn from wallowing in a swamp of sterotypes is its brilliant execution. The game is narrative driven, and it lets the player drive that narrative through different choices and, yes, quick time events. Don’t worry. The QTEs are not bad and make a lot of sense in context. The game continues if you fail, but it may cost you later.
In its amalgamation of horror movies, I can decide if one character would save another or choose to save themselves. These choices have real consequences too, and, just like your favorite slasher movies, not all characters will live to see the end credits. Like the movies used for inspiration, a character’s death is a bloody event.
It does not hurt that it looks and sounds amazing with the extra graphical power of the PS4. The characters display genuine fear, and the facial modeling is outstanding. The sound is fantastic, but the voice acting brings the world and characters to life. There is even some bigger name Hollywood talent with Hayden Panettiere and Peter Stormare.
If you like horror movies and enjoy a new twist on the old tropes, give Until Dawn a try. It cleverly uses the old ideas while letting the player be an amateur director. Just like the Marvel movies today, stay through the end credits.
PT was dropped as a demo, and it took gamers by storm. It seemed like Konami took someone’s dream game and turned it into a reality. They were going to make a new Silent Hill game with Kojima, and Guillermo del Toro was involved. The game would be a return to form, and it would please new and old fans alike.
The demo was eerie and terrifying, and it was proof that Konami was on the right path. Every week, you would hear about something new discovered in the demo, and guides were written about how to beat it and have certain things happen.
Like any good horror game, just as everything seemed to be going perfectly, the world was revealed to be a monstrous place with nothing but pain and torment. The new Silent Hill was cancelled, and the demo was the most we ever saw of the game. Sony even removed it from the store.
Kojima left Konami, which is probably a good thing, but the relationship between gamers and the once great company that now turns out a new PES and the occasional Metal Gear Solid (when it is not focused on pachinko machines) is permanently tarnished.
This is one instance where the story about the game is definitely scarier than the game itself. As is the case with supernatural monsters, maybe PT will not stay dead forever.
These are some of my favorites. Let me know yours in the comments.