The time of year that everyone loves is here. Whether you are a candy connoisseur, a horror aficionado, or simply a fan of women in costumes that scream “Daddy still doesn’t love me,” Halloween brings out the best in filth and decadence. We at NSFW Gamer specialize in both of those, so we invite you to come with us on a journey into the mind of horror gaming.
I am here to share with you five video games that left a lasting impression on my psyche as well as the front of my underwear. It takes a sick mind to come up with the things they accomplished in these games, and I want to highlight each of them. Turn out the lights, get your blanket in front of your face and prepare to lose your shit!
Nintendo Gamecube, Nintendo Wii
Original Release Date: April 30, 2002
Resident Evil has appeared on just about every major system in existence since its inception on the Playstation, but the most frightening entry is undoubtedly the spectacular remake of the game which debuted on the Nintendo Gamecube. The original mansion, guardhouse and laboratory were reconstructed from the ground up and given a new look that was, at the time, one of the most stunningly realistic-looking video games to appear on a console. Zombies, hunters and dogs not only looked twenty times scarier than their old and blocky counterparts, they sounded accurate with new groans and shrieks.
Capcom made this frightening because they toyed with your expectations from the original. That hallway where the dog crashed through the window the first time? It doesn’t play out the same way. Furthermore, moving from room to room no longer meant a guaranteed escape from whatever monsters you were evading. If you didn’t kill a zombie, it would be more than willing to bust through a door and follow you in search of flesh.
Speaking of killing zombies, you had best be sure to aim for the head or burn a zombie when you “kill” it, because if you don’t, you WILL be sorry. New to the remake are Crimson Heads, the result of the T-virus incubating inside a zombie and re-reanimating it. When a Crimson Head rises, all you can do is run and pray the door is close enough. They are faster than you, more powerful than you and they will kill you.
The constant fear of death is what makes Resident Evil so horrifying. Time and again, you will approach a door and think to yourself “I don’t know if I will make it through this place alive.” Ammo and herbs in this game are scarce at best, and on the harder difficulties you must train yourself not to shoot at everything that moves. Every time you think you are safe for a bit, something else reaches out and tries to eviscerate you. Of all the entries in the entire RE series, the remake on the Gamecube (also available as a Wii port) is the one most guaranteed to frighten the hell out of you.
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly/Director’s Cut
Playstation 2 (Original), Xbox & Backwards Compatible with Xbox 360 (Director’s Cut)
Original Release Date: December 10, 2003 (PS2), November 1, 2004 (Xbox)
There was a time when it seemed like the only horror movies coming out in the United States were remakes of Japanese ghost stories, and the Fatal Frame games were released during that period. Unlike the Americanized versions of films such as The Grudge and The Ring, Fatal Frame II was not only original and thought-provoking in its narrative, it was pant-shittingly scary.
The original game laid the groundwork for what was to come in the sequel, telling the story of twin sisters Mio and Mayu Amakura who happen upon a village shrouded in the woods. It seems abandoned at first, but as Mio begins to explore and chase after Mayu, it becomes obvious that something truly awful happened. Without spoiling the genuinely intriguing story, a ritual involving twins went horribly wrong and resulted in the ghosts of the entire village roaming for eternity.
Some of these ghosts are here to aid in your attempt to resolve the situation. A lot of others are not, and they are desperate to drag you to the Hellish Abyss with them. Your weapon is known as the Camera Obscura, an ancient camera spiritually empowered to fight off the dead. When you encounter a hostile ghost, arming the camera will send you into first person mode to battle with the spirit. Capturing the ghost is always a tension-filled fight, but getting to each fight is what will keep you on edge.
Exploring the village never once provides you a sense of relief or safety. Save points are not relegated to safe rooms; you might even walk up to one only for it to be locked for the time being. As you explore the rest of the area, the camera angle switches to show you a ghost that was following you the entire time. This continues for the ten or fifteen hours it will take you to play through, and the Director’s Cut comes with refined graphics as well as an option to play through the entire game in first person mode, upping the tension even more.
For those with an Xbox 360, Fatal Frame II works flawlessly with the system. It is unfortunately becoming more and more of a collector’s item, but the wealth of content is worth the investment along with an unforgettable horror story.
Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Original Release Date: October 14, 2008
I have always been more of a fan of Alien than Aliens. Regardless of the comparison of James Cameron to Ridley Scott, the sequel’s shift in focus to action as opposed to the isolated feeling of horror in the original is the same progression that Dead Space has made. The sequel was still plenty scary at parts, but you were certainly firing a hell of a lot more shots than the first time you controlled Isaac Clarke. In fact, the biggest moments of tension in Dead Space 2 came when you had to explore the ruined remains of the USG Ishimura, the setting for the first game.
When the crew of the USG Kellion is dispatched to investigate the Ishimura’s distress signal, they get on board the Ishimura after crashing into it. What they find on board along with the opening attack by the creatures known as Necromorphs is one of the most frantic and horrifying first encounters you will ever have in a video game. Isaac is not a trained soldier, but he is able to rig engineering tools into weapons at workbenches all over the ship.
These weapons only do so much against an alien race that continues to find ways to outrun and outthink you. After spending years, maybe decades remembering to shoot things in the head, Dead Space makes you forget all of that and aim for the limbs, which are not so much limbs as razor-sharp scythes the size of something the Grim Reaper would carry. They will stalk you throughout the ship’s ventilation system and every clank and screech you hear throughout your speakers or headphones will have you wondering when one of them is going to burst out and attempt to kill you.
The constant sense of dread in Dead Space comes from the fact that nobody is coming for you. In fact, you were originally the rescue and you discover something much worse than any mechanical malfunction. There will be no help, and your only choice is to try and make it out alive…but not before you and Isaac are permanently scarred. While we have the luxury of turning the game off and recuperating, Isaac has to live with the mental damage and carry over the trauma to Dead Space 2.
Silent Hill 2
Playstation 2 (Original), Xbox (Restless Dreams), Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 (HD Collection)
Original Release Date: September 24, 2001 (PS2)
While the factions never descended into Twilight madness, there were camps at one time for Resident Evil vs. Silent Hill. Resident Evil provided jump scares and tension with zombies, an iconic horror presence. Silent Hill simply took your mind and raped it with the same savagery as we saw Pyramid Head do to a poor(?), unsuspecting mannequin inside an apartment.
There are a lot of reasons Silent Hill 2 is remembered as a favorite in the series. For starters, it is something of a side story, still set in the titular town but not having a whole lot to do with the whole mythology of the universe and its occult themes. This way, people who had never played the original and still haven’t can jump right in and experience one of the most depressing tales ever to befall a man who answers a letter from his dead wife.
James Sunderland is a bit of a schmuck and a submissive asshole. Not only do we get this impression from his dialogue and actions, we interpret this through the demons that manifest themselves in the town of Silent Hill. You see, James gives the impression that he tended to his wife’s every need until the bitter end of her struggle with the sickness that took her life. As you navigate through James’ vision of Silent Hill, you find out that’s not exactly how it played out.
Silent Hill 2 is another game that will scare the hell out of you not by constantly making you jump out of your seat, but instilling a deep-rooted fear of everything around you. I can remember being so frightened by some of the things I experienced that my hands were actually shaking when I had to finally turn off the system and regain my breath. No other game in the series with the possible exception of SH3 has done that, and having never completed the third one, I have to give the nod here to SH2.
I would love to tell everyone to go pick up the HD Collection recently put out by Konami, but I cannot make that recommendation after hearing how atrocious the ports were handled. I have heard everything from broken and stuttering controls to graphic and sound glitches, not to mention the recasting of a lot of voice actors in both 2 and 3, the games included in the collection (where the hell is 4, anyway?). While the collection has since been patched and fixed for the PS3, the Xbox 360 version seems to be beyond repair to the point of Konami offering exchanges on their website. Since SH2 on the Xbox is glitchy as hell when played on a 360, simply playing the PS2 version is your best bet here.
Slender: The Eight Pages
Microsoft Windows, OS X
Original Release Date: June 2012
Playable at www.parsecproductions.net/slender/
The most recent game to be released and absolutely terrify me originated as nothing more than a meme and contest on the Something Awful forums. The legend of the Slender Man has now spread to its own video game, and Jesus Christ, is it effective.
Your object is very simple: find eight pages of notes that are tacked on to things such as trees, bathroom walls, etc. before the creepy figure can track you down himself. You have absolutely no idea when he will show up, and when he does, your only option is to run like all hell. You cannot fight, you cannot escape and you will not be able to resist screaming like a bitch as your monitor fills with static and white noise.
The game is still technically in beta mode and receives regular updates, but that has not stopped it from being the scariest experience in any game this year. With only a flashlight and a man in a suit with tentacles protruding from his back, you don’t need much else for a recipe of sheer fright. If for whatever reason you haven’t tried this game yet, do it. It’s free, and the sequel will not come with the same luxury.
Thanks for joining us at NSFWGamer for our special Halloween coverage, but don’t worry – we aren’t done yet! I’ll be back next week with something both sexy and helpful. Cheers, everyone!