The Scariest Video Games of All Time - Chapter I

It’s Halloween soon, and seeing as everybody at some point makes an article on their scariest games ever, I would have a crack at it myself.

So I’ve settled on a list of about 18 of the scariest games I’ve ever played, and I even tried to put them in the correct order as well. You’ll see some classics here as well as ones you wouldn’t expect. Not all of the games are a part of the survival horror genre, and you may even see some glaring omissions. Perhaps I haven’t played the game for some reason. I usually don’t like to comment on games I haven’t played, but I might well list them somewhere as an honourable mention.

Before you embark, just remember that it’s all down to opinion, and nobody is right or wrong, or retarded. What scares you might not scare me, and what scares me might not scare you. Or you could just be lying in order to put on a brave face.

So let’s have a look:

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18. Blood

Blood was released in 1997, during the build game era, and is recognised as one of the big four build engine games, alongside Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, and Redneck Rampage.

Blood was designed to be a horror game. Proof of this is that its original working title was Horror 3D while under development at QStudios, Apogee, in the early days of its existence. But the game was sold to Monolith, makers of future games like F.E.A.R., and Condemned: Criminal Origins – two games that also made it onto this list.

This is where Monolith’s horror game pedigree started however: with Blood.

You strap on the cowboy boots of Caleb, a disgruntled, undead gunslinger out for revenge after the cult he belonged to, The Cabal, betrayed him and his wife Ophelia, along with two other Elders – killing them or otherwise disposing of them. Caleb was apparently buried alive, and left to die in his grave.

Caleb rises from the grave however and sets out on his quest for vengeance, and like Duke, goes about borrowing famous lines from movies like Evil Dead and so on. You quickly learn that Caleb, in addition to having quite a reputation for his proficiency with guns, is also quite the sadist. He likes to inflict pain on his enemies, and often laughs manically while doing so. He also takes great relish in, after decapitating an enemy, kicking his head around like a soccer ball. The amounts of violence and gore in this game were almost unparalleled for its time, and made other 3D Realms titles like ROTT and Duke Nukem 3D seem quite tame in comparison, at times.

The thing with Blood is the sound effects. They are among some of the things that contribute to the creepiness of the title. The screams of people on fire, and even when Caleb is set alight are very disturbing.

The enemies you face in Blood are also something to worry about. Generally the smaller ones are the most terrifying. You get the hell hands that look like they’re right out of The Addams Family (actually Evil Dead), that creep along the floor, muttering words like “I’ll swallow your soul” (I always thought they said "your body is ours") and start to suffocate you if you stay in one place too long. They are basically like the Protozoid Slimers from Duke Nukem 3D. Also, the gameplay in Blood runs at full speed – you need quick reflexes otherwise you’ll be dead within a short time span.

I would say some of the scarier levels are later on in the episodes where you spend some time in the mansions, or the hospital. Why this is is because there are some nasty traps in these areas as well as secret areas... with traps in them. You also start to come face to face with probably one of the most menacing foes in the game at these points – the ghost reaper with the scythe, known as the Phantasm. One or two swipes from that thing and you are dead.

And of course we mustn’t forget the poster child for the game: the gargoyles (actually a grotesque) or demons. They appear on the title screen, and crop up throughout the game. They tend to fly around above you making it hard for you to get rid of them, seeing as you can only look up so far towards the ceiling. They also sometimes tend to stay still and act like statues until you pass by them. At that time they spring to life. There’s a suped-up version of the demon too, known as Cheogh, one of the bosses in the game. And if you though the smaller ones were bad, this thing is a friggin’ nightmare.

Blood isn’t often recognised as a scary game however. It does feature a fair bit of sadistic comedy, as was the case with most build games, which does tone down the scary bits a tad perhaps. Another reason maybe is because people haven’t played it. It was never as popular as Duke Nukem 3D, and Monolith screwed up the sequel as it is. And for people looking to play it nowadays on modern systems, it is a bit of a pain, seeing as there isn’t the same amount of support for it, with source ports and so on, like there is with DN3D, or even Shadow Warrior.

That’s because the source code is said to be lying around somewhere, gathering dust on a shelf in a backroom in Atari’s HQ. It was never released. In 2009, the plug was pulled on the Blood franchise as the trademark on the series was not renewed. So that means a Blood 3 is highly unlikely. Da-da-duhhhh!

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17. Left 4 Dead

This game came out nearly two years ago, and even though I bought it when practically brand new, it lay there for the next two years gathering dust… until I finally picked it up and figured I would try it out to see what it was like.

I wouldn’t say Left 4 Dead is really that scary. Probably nowhere near the scariest game I’ve ever played. Somehow when you have guns and you’re against shambling zombies who are unarmed (except for their arms which they use to hit you with), it does kind of make it less survival horror, and more action-orientated first person shooter.

But things do pick up eventually after a few minutes of play. The zombies are no longer fumbling and falling about, but are now sprinting in your general direction. The horde becomes aware of your presence and seeks to overwhelm the group of survivors. Not only this but there are less common, special infected, who also have a few tricks up their sleeves.

One of the worst in my opinion is the Boomer. He’s easy enough to kill, but if he manages to vomit in your face, then the zombies start rushing you. And they attack YOU - not your friends. And you can’t really see a damn thing that’s going on for that fat ****'s puke in your eyes.

You also get the Hunter, who is much like the fast zombie from Half-Life 2, and is much more aggressive than the average zombie. He will pounce on you from virtually any direction, rendering you helpless as you lay there on the ground.

The Smoker is amusing in the way that he coughs and carries on, much like a smoker in real life would. But when he lashes out his tongue, wraps it around you and drags you kicking and screaming into a massive horde of zombies – that’s when it becomes pretty unfunny right there. This is particularly distressing when he hangs you from a rooftop, suffocating you like a boa constrictor.

The other boss infected - the Tank and the Witch - are very tough, and are best avoided if you can help it. If you don’t you end up getting swiped, knocked down, and likely incapacitated or killed. The Tank can take a hell of a lot of damage before he’s brought down.

As you start out on a mission, you’re heavily armed. But as you progress, cutting through hundreds of undead, and your ammo starts to run out, it does get a little frantic. You’re left with having to run instead of fight, and ambling towards the safe house. By the time you reach the red door, you’re elated to have gotten through a stage.

I still wouldn’t say it’s really psychological horror or survival horror. Yeah, it’s dark, and there are zombies, and your team’s chatter does raise your heartbeat a little bit, like when they say: “There’s a Hunter around here somewhere” – little things like that. But it’s more scary in Resident Evil 5 fashion: where you’re just overwhelmed, and relieved when you get a break every now and again. It does get repetitive and predictable though. The tough bit is the last level where hordes upon hordes of zombies zero in on the group and you have to last long enough to be rescued by some idiot with a helicopter or boat who likes to travel along the scenic route at f**king 5 mph. I want to get out of here now - not in ten minutes! Step on it!

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16. Metro 2033

This is the most recent entry in this list, and that’s a good thing for one reason. The horror encountered in it is still fresh in my mind.

Story wise you assume the role of Artyom, a young man who has lived in the metro tunnels below ground his entire life. You’re quickly thrust into the action as you travel with one of the other tunnel dwellers to meet Hunter, who arrives at the station. Soon thereafter there is an attack and all these creatures start pouring in through the ceiling and the air ducts. You and the others dispatch them.

The situation is getting worse, with attacks happening more frequently, and getting closer and closer to home. Soon the station will be overrun. You are tasked with going to Polis Station, which is many miles from your home. You have to appeal to the authorities there and get help.

During the game you spend a great deal of time traveling underground from station to station, and come across bandits as well as the many demonic creatures that plague the underground.

Sometimes you also venture topside and walk outside. It’s snowy, freezing cold, and the water that isn’t frozen over is extremely radioactive. On top of this, there is the added threat of the monsters mentioned before, as well as these huge gargoyle like creatures that you generally don’t stand a chance against unless you are a good enough sniper that you can take them out from afar.

Being topside is also kind of creepy because the air is so polluted that you have to wear a gasmask equipped with filters to survive, otherwise you risk suffocation. The noises of air being sucked through these filters and the gasping as Artyom begs for breath is quite disturbing to say the least. Your vision also becomes clouded as the mask’s screen fogs up. Not only that, but cracks can start to appear if it’s damaged enough, and eventually holes in it will mean death.

But I think the greatest terrors lie underground. There’s like an alternate reality here, and the Reds or communists are battling the one foe that has cropped up in many a game to date: the Nazis. After the nuclear apocalypse destroyed the world above, the war between these two old enemies appears to have resumed.

I think one of the scariest things about Metro 2033 is that although you have guns, the game doesn’t work that well as a shooter, unlike the game that inspired it: STALKER. Metro 2033 is less of a shooter and RPG like said series, and more of an adventure. Think Myst but with guns.

When you bring in the fact that enemies at some points are almost non stop, just pouring in from different directions, and your guns are quite ineffective, it makes it very frustrating and you are likely to come within inches of death almost constantly when dealing with the demons.

I would say that one of the scariest parts in the game is when you are under the library looking to complete an objective, and are confronted by several “librarians”. These things are basically flesh eating gorillas and can jump into the ceilings and so on and drop down straight on top of you. Engaging these things in full frontal combat is terrifying and you’ll more than likely end up dead rather quickly, while screaming “it’s just not f**king fair!” over and over.

15. Thief: Deadly Shadows

Thief: Deadly Shadows might not have been considered the best in the series for a plethora of reasons, like the absence of many mainstays in the series to date like the rope arrows and so on.

But some of the missions weren’t too bad, and one that is still brought up to this day is the Shalebridge Cradle.

Garrett ventures in to the Cradle, once an orphanage which was turned in to an insane asylum (and at one point housed both patients and children), while on the case of the Old Grey Lady. The Asylum was vacated years before due a large fire which destroyed parts of the building. Garrett enters through a storm shelter door, or what looks like it, and lands up in the basement.

You begin to explore and eventually make your way up to the attic where you discover the ghost of a little girl named Muriel. She was murdered a long time ago, and she begins to help you on your quest. But you have to help her and lay her spirit to rest – very similarly to the Haunted Cathedral mission in Thief: The Dark Project. If it’s nice, do it twice, I guess.

Along the way you enter through different time frames, alternating between the past and the present. You end up having to sneak through the asylum and visiting locations such as the morgue, the cremation furnace, and several cells where inmates were once kept, all while avoiding the orderlies or nurses – faceless beings who patrol the corridors. In certain states, if they touch you, you go back to the present. In other states, if they touch you, you die.

That’s in the past states. In the present state those orderlies are replaced by undead patients who suffered from shock treatment. You can see them twitching as they walk around, which is kind of funny – until they come close to you that is.

After seemingly hours spent in the Cradle years ago on my first playthrough, all I wanted to do was leave – but you have to carry out Muriel’s requests first, before finally reaching the tower and jumping out of the top window to exit for good.

Deadly Shadows, in the eyes of diehard fans, did a lot of things wrong, but you could list some of the things, on one hand, it did right. One of those would probably be the Shalebridge Cradle mission.

14. Dead Space

Dead Space was recommended to me by a couple of people when it first came out nearly two years ago. Upon seeing it I immediately got the distinct impression that it had more of a console feel to it. The over-the-shoulder camera view, while preferable to something more distant like Tomb Raider, made it look like Gears of War… except in space.

Still, nitpicking aside, I played it. I’ll admit that it was quite creepy, and the sound was used to great effect. I think one of the areas that this came in to play the most was the section where you proceed to walk outside the ship. You have a limited amount of oxygen, and it sounded though you were underwater or had earplugs in - with footsteps sounding loud, and gunshots muted while you took down necromorphs waiting in the wreckage.

Speaking of which, the necromorphs were obviously creatures you wouldn’t want to bump in to while in the kitchen having a midnight snack, and all you had to defend yourself with was a peanut butter sandwich. Because it wouldn’t work. These things are tough, and just shooting them doesn’t do much. You learn early on that you have to sever the limbs – shooting at the arms or especially the legs will weaken them and slow them down. And perhaps nothing is more satisfying than stomping on them when they’re down.

I will go out on a limb here (get it?) and say that one of the moments that got me was when you got up to the area where the captain was, and saw one of those infector things doing its job and well, infecting the cap’n. It looked and sounded repulsive - like he was being inflated like a lilo, but with puke instead of air.

Enough to make you bring up that peanut butter sandwich now.

By the way, if you thought Dead Space was scary, then you should see the sequel, which isn’t out yet at the time this was written so I can’t comment on it, not having played it.

© 2010 ANDR01D

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