It’s almost here.
As much as I would love Halloween to last all year round, I am restricted to enjoying about a month’s worth of a celebration of all things dead, bloody, and otherwise macabre. Just today I walked out of a store with a 35th Anniversary Blu-ray of the original John Carpenter classic that is partially responsible for the shape of the holiday I adore.
How else to ring in the upcoming days of the dead than with another heaping of video games designed to traumatize you into a crying heap? Last year I chose what I thought to be the five scariest games I could find. Having thought about it, I know I’m right on those and refuse to admit wrongdoing…but I only allowed myself to pick five and because this is another year, we’re doing five more!
Availability: PlayStation 1 (disc only)
Original Release Date: October 1, 1997
Clock Tower, actually the second in a series that began on the SNES in Japan, has all the makings of a truly great horror experience: menacing music, atrocious voice acting, and a villain who belongs right at the top along with Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger. The fact that the game is a point and click adventure only adds to the panic you feel whenever you hear the clanging of blades following your every step.
At the time, horror was a thriving genre on the PlayStation. Resident Evil 2 and Silent Hill were both still in development and Nightmare Creatures complemented the autumn offering of Clock Tower in 1997, the same year we were given Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Christ, what a season!
This underrated gem was never given another release of any kind, so tracking down a used PS1 copy is your only option. It isn’t the most widely available, so expect to pay a bit, but I promise you that every time you think you are safe, the synthesizer will kick in and you will be scurrying to flee and find something, anything, to ward off that giant fucking pair of scissors.
Availability: Steam, PlayStation 4
Original Release Date: September 4, 2013
Not being a PC gamer yet, I will have to wait until the console release for Outlast in order to be subjected to what has been described as “a game of cruel limitations with an oppressive, constantly unsettling atmosphere.” From the look of that trailer alone, my PlayStation Plus membership is going to once again pay for itself when the game is offered to members free of charge during its first month of availability.
The premise of exploring an abandoned (or IS it?!) asylum is nothing new; I’ve done it in real life myself and am thankfully still alive to type. What makes Outlast stand out is the execution. I am reminded of Mirror’s Edge if Faith were tasked with running a package to a mental facility, and incredibly, she would have more of an advantage than our unfortunate investigator Miles Upshur.
The beaten horse has turned into a zombie by now, but for fuck’s sake, if you don’t have PS Plus, and plan on purchasing a PlayStation 4, this is incentive enough if you plan on picking a side in the next round of consoles. Speaking of potential system sellers…
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Availability: Steam, Windows DVD-ROM, Xbox 360 (disc and digital)
Original Release Date: November 16, 2005
The Xbox 360 was the first out of the gate to usher in the current generation of consoles. It had the usual offering of sports titles, racing games and even a new Perfect Dark which was horribly inferior to the original Nintendo 64 title. The one that immediately caught my eye was a game that truly felt like an evolution of horror.
Condemned had you not only rationing whatever scarce ammo you could find, it forced you to use whatever you could find to defend yourself. When a crackhead full of fresh drugs rushes you with a rebar, your reflexes had to be in top shape for you to block and violently smash his face with a conduit. This could happen seconds after you had just finished scanning a crime scene for fingerprints, bloodstains and other evidence.
Some of the more horrifying elements came later in the game as Ethan Thomas slowly lost his grip on sanity and began seeing parades of department store mannequins. The sequel had its own moments (Google “holy crap it’s a bear”) but nothing quite like the first Condemned and a certain moment inside a locker room that you should discover for yourself.
Availability: Windows CD-ROM, PlayStation 2 (disc), Xbox (disc), Xbox 360 (backwards compatible)
Original Release Date: August 21, 2002
While I am busy slobbering on John Carpenter’s dick, let’s talk about his other masterpiece. The Thing remains not just one of the best horror films ever made, it stands the test of time as simply an incredible movie. The possibility of it being made into a game that was both fun to play and captured the essence of the film seemed so outlandish that all of us were blown away.
Fear, paranoia and constant distrust of your comrades hampers your thought process while you search the base for anything left behind by the previous crew from the film, all of whom are nowhere to be found. As you know (or should know) from watching the film, the only thing guaranteed to dispose of those alien bastards is fire. Lots of fire. What you need to worry about the most is whether or not the partner who finds the flamethrower for you is still human.
Surprisingly, the game still holds up pretty well despite the obvious graphical inferiority. A certain someone from the film may or may not make a cameo appearance, and The Thing is a challenge to finish. If you are in possession of an Xbox 360, copies of the game from the original Microsoft console can be found for less than a good meal.
The Evil Within
Availability: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows
Release Date: 2014
Horror has changed. The days of message board flame wars between Resident Evil and Silent Hill are long gone, with fans of both camps coming to terms with the fact that each series has strayed off in directions that, for better or worse, don’t quite match the originals in terms of terror and suspense. Shinji Mikami, the man who basically created survival horror as a genre, is giving us what he calls his final directing effort through Bethesda and a game that looks to be everything we could want out of the next generation of horror.
It’s a familiar setup: detective gets called to a crime scene, something is very fucked up and other things go awry. What hooked me immediately is the part where you “wake up” in what looks like a subconscious portal, the only choice being to face whatever truly scares the hell out of Detective Sebastian Castellanos. If this game turns out to be a success, it will be the second time a former director of a Capcom series has left the company and sought to do something better on their own. We will see if the company attempts to sue Keiji Inafune over Mighty No. 9.
Have a happy Halloween, NSFW Gamer faithful!