Horror video games tend to be the most polarising of them all. The majority either swear by this genre or hate it; however, it's nigh impossible to ignore it altogether...
Horror video games tend to be the most polarising of them all. The majority either swear by this genre or hate it; however, it's nigh impossible to ignore it altogether. It's not difficult to understand where the appeal lies. The video game medium has evolved into a pantomime mainly due to its humble beginnings. Powerful modern hardware makes it possible to deliver subtle nuances with sophisticated facial animation techniques employed in games such a L.A. Noire. However, back when such a thing was not possible, we interacted with faces in a simplistic yet even more satisfying manner such as, say, with a cat-silenced shotgun in Postal 2. You see, it is human nature to revel in violence, sex, and sometimes a morbid combination of the two. However, it is fear that fires up the neurons with an even greater frenzy.
If you resolve human behaviour to its most basic components, you'll find that it all boils down to survival and the binary choice between fight and flight. Fear, after all, is the ultimate driving force behind our most primordial instincts. The purest form of instant gratification, therefore, can only be derived by tapping into the deepest recesses of your psyche and yanking out fear till the point your brain directs your endocrine system to deliver a heady mix of adrenaline, serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters causing that inexplicable rush — the one that puts you in an uncanny state of feeling good to be alive.
What follows is an eclectic selection of the five horror games, cherry-picked from varying genres such as old-school Point-and-Click, Survival Horror, FPS, Third-Person, and Adventure. Each game in this list takes a different approach to horror. Some use the age-old boo technique distilled to perfection, whereas others mess with your head in a deeper psychological manner. Irrespective of their means, all these video games provide a compelling gameplay experience that doesn't just make them excellent horror titles, but great games. Period.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
Honourable Mention: System Shock 2, Sanitarium
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (IHNM) has been adapted from a short story of the same name by the controversial Sci-Fi author Harlan Ellison. This point-and-click adventure game is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where an evil AI known as Allied Master Computer (AM) built by the superpowers (USA, Russia, and China) to fight the war for them has all but wiped out the human race. Sounds familiar? Well, the game happens to be the most seminal of the lot. It's hard not to notice how varying elements and subplots from the horror short eventually went on to inspire Terminator (something that Ellison has already accused James Cameron of).
Most importantly, its mark can be seen in the infamous Saw series of movies. Before Jigsaw from the Saw movies preceded his carnival of pain with the words, "I want to play a game", the diabolical supercomputer AM did that decades prior in this game. You play as any one of the five remaining humans that the digital tyrant has been torturing for the past 109 years. Each character has its own twisted back-story and a completely different campaign. One of the character's story arc, for example, is inspired by the Nazi war criminal Dr Mengele from the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. Needless to say, his campaign involves gruesome depictions of torture and unsettling gore.
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