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The Best in Survival Horror

Updated on June 4, 2010

Prepare to Perfect Your Headshot

Zombies, demons, cults, atmosphere, ghosts, midgets with novelty-sized scissors. Conserving ammo. Hoarding med-kits. Wailing on phallic monster symbolism with a length of pipe. There's nothing quite like a good survival horror. So let's take a look at a few of the better games and franchises.

Silent Hill

What's not to like? Creepy monsters, symbolism, cults. For a lot of the people, Silent Hill 2 was the height of the series. 3 - your millage may vary. 4 - screw you Mr. Escort Mission. 5 - Please stop, you're wrecking everything.

Remakes for the wii, PSP, PS2 ports. The franchise has overextended itself a bit; pandered to too many platforms, replaced symbolism for iconic scares - i.e. everyone gets Pyramid Head and sexy nurses regardless of the main character's psyche.

It makes me angry when I see a PS2 Silent Hill game ported over from the PSP. But I'm only angry because I care. This series will always have a fucked up little niche in my heart.

Fatal Frame

No gun? No problem! Here's a camera! You'll want to remember those friends you made in ye olde Japanese villiage with a dark past.

I'm not sure any games makes me scream more. There are planned scares. There are certainly storyline moments that are creepier than others... But I've never played another franchise were normal combat was quite as terrifying as it is in Fatal Frame.

You're typically female. Typically scrawny. Typically equipped only with a camera and various types of spiritual film. When a ghostie comes along, you snap its picture. If you're trying to conserve "ammo", you're going to want the ghostie to get close. Really close. All up in your personal space close.

The ghosts that don't attack aren't much better. Your handy ghost meter gives you a general idea of how close you are to a bonus points ghost. Hot and cold games have never been quite so terrifying.

Clock Tower

No gun? No camera? No prob-no... wait... you're kind of screwed, actually. Go run and hide.

Clock Tower is a bit like sitting down to a puzzle. The puzzle looks pretty easy at first, but then you open the box and realize it comes with a 7ft tall man who stands right behind you screaming, "Finishing the puzzle now! Do it now! Now!" All the while threatningly waving about a giant hammer.

The Clock Tower games leave you pretty helpless. You run. You hide. You can, maybe, set some sort of Home Alone type trap for the baddies to get snagged on. Mostly though, you're just looking for a locker to hide in Metal Gear style and that's... completely terrifying.

Oddly enough, the worst parts of the franchise occur in Clock Tower 3, in obligatory end-of-chapter "boss fight" bits where you're suddenly expected to man-up and fight. The transition is just... awkward.

System Shock... and all those other games that want to be System Shock

System Shock and System Shock 2 for the PC are classics. They've also been pretty damn influential in terms of games with a slightly futuristic and/or cyberpunk  take on survival horror. You wake up from suspended animation to find that the ship has been taken over by rogue AI, SHODAN.

Along the way to your final showdown you fight space zombies, psychic monkeys, and a horde of other things that are, I swear to you, a lot creepier than they sound. You also pick up creepy audio logs from your dead crewmen and encounter some damn fine bits of level design/video game story-telling.

As for notable games that followed in System Shock's footsteps; Half-Life, Bioshock, and the often overlooked Dead Space were all quite entertaining as well.

Resident Evil

And where would a list of notable survival horror franchises be without Resident Evil?

I'll be honest, this franchise and I have a weird love/hate relationship. The writing is awful. It's just plain silly. Most of the games have glitchy controls and a camera system that makes me scream and hurl the controller.

Still, there's something charming about it. Something that keeps me coming back for every major installment. I grew up with this franchise, and it's kept me pretty consistently entertained. There may be some sort of correlation with the improvement in graphics allowing Albert Wesker to keep getting consistently more attractive, but it's hard to say...

Resident Evil 4 was obviously the series' high point. Better combat system. Better story that didn't take itself all that seriously. Better everything. Then 5 came along and sucked in comparison. But have I lost faith in the franchise? Certainly not. It will always be my first stop for traditional zombie gunnin' gameplay.


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    • Jakebrap profile image

      Jakebrap 5 years ago from Liverpool, UK

      Great hub :] really awesome, I've linked to it from one of mine if you don't mind!