Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Berserker's Top 10 Horror Games

I'm the type of person that truly makes a meal out of every horror game that I play. I crave them and I get all swept up in the mood by playing them in the dark with my surround sound up to a high volume. I guess my likeness for them spawns from the horror movies that I used to watch when I was younger - Hellraiser, Dawn of the Dead and such.

Anyway, since it is close to Halloween, I thought, why not make up a top 10 list of my favorites up to this day. Please keep in mind that this is a list of all that I have played through completely so far. I never have been able to make it too far in the original Clock Tower and I still haven't played the latest Alone in the Dark.

10) Haunting Ground

Haunting Ground is quite an underrated survival horror if you ask me. It plays much like Clock Tower 3 but takes a much more serious approach overall. The game emphasizes running and hiding, though it does have a few interesting puzzle-like boss battles. When Fiona (the main character) is scared too badly she will run in a manner that you have little control over and if she hits a wall then she will stumble or fall to the ground - this really increased the level of tension when an enemy suddenly appears similar to the way it did in Clock Tower 3.

The dog companion was a nice touch also. Rule of Rose is the only other horror game that comes to mind that used a dog companion but Haunting Ground was the first to do so. Haunting Ground felt very epic also. The twist and turns that Fiona's adventure takes made for a surprisingly much longer and satisfying game than I first imagined.

9) Resident Evil: Code Veronica X

Alexia and Alfred Ashford are some of the most disturbing characters in the RE universe and when it comes to character aspects, I love crazy characters since they are so unpredictable which makes for an all around exciting story full of surprises. CVX is my personal favorite Resident Evil game in the series mainly because of its story and overall graphical look that it carries. The characters almost look anime inspired in a way instead of realistic. I also look back it for its 3-D camera and 3-D backgrounds that made it to where the game didn't have to pause when your character ran through an area.

The return of Wesker was also an exciting twist since he was long believed to have been dead since the Mansion Incident yet he resurfaces with new powers that make for some very cool cutscene fights between him and Chris. If you ask me, his appearance in the Resident Evil universe doesn't have the same special appeal as it used to ever sense his constant need to emerge ever since CVX, but I still enjoy Mr. Shades all the same.

Also, I'm a Chris fan, he's my personal favorite character, and CVX is the Redfield game of the Resident Evil series. It's the story of the Redfields vs the Ashfords and it will always remain my favorite RE because of that. Why am I a Chris fan? Read on and you might find out.

8) Silent Hill 3

To me, Silent Hill 3 is memorable because it has the best dialogue and cutscenes out of the series. I really enjoyed the lead villain, Claudia and her overall cold nature displayed throughout the game. Her saying of "I'll be waiting where all begins... in the town of Silent Hill" still is one of the most memorable and chilling quotes of the entire series for me.

Then there's Valtiel - what a mystery he is. He's like another Pyramid Head-type creature that we know even less about. The connection to the first game was interesting also. Altogether, it brings some meaningful closure to the whole Alessa saga.

7) Siren: Blood Curse

Siren Blood Curse is wicked, demented, and overall evil all combined together. This game wants to throw some of the most disturbing stuff your way to where you'll never want to venture out into the dark again. The atmosphere is so extremely well done in this game. Characters that you might play as in one chapter might just die off in a later chapter and this game carries one very interesting twist that increases its length in a very nice way that I don't want to spoil. The overall story is pretty deep.

In all honesty, the frustrating gameplay kept me from fully enjoying the original Siren. I played for the story and atmosphere and that was it. I literally felt like I was forcing myself to play through it at times just for those aspects. Thankfully, Blood Curse's gameplay is quite good with only minimal control complaints every now and then.

6) Eternal Darkness

Sanity effects! Such an interesting way to build up tension or just plain screw with your head! Having enemies suddenly spawn on the screen when your health is low and then running away only to find that they are illusions - this sanity effect was one of my personal favorites. Also, my memory card is corrupted!? For a first time player to this game, I would actually recommend keeping your sanity gauge low throughout the majority of the game - that's where the party's at!

Besides the sanity feature, the overall setup with the way the story was told was engaging. The main character would dig up information on her ancestors and then the player would take control of that character and live out the tale of the ancestor to the conclusion. It was a great setup and the overall superb voice acting really helped to bring each character to life. The combat was cool also. Appendages could be chopped off of enemies and you had to finish each one with a finishing blow.

5) Condemned: Criminal Origins

Ah, Agent Thomas. What frightening images you can concoct in that mind of yours, dear sir!

The first Condemned does a remarkable job of playing with your head at key points and scaring you very badly at other points. It has good pacing throughout the story in terms of enemies and overall story also Enemies start out as mainly crazy homeless people then the game slowly switches over to some disturbing looking supernatural enemies.

Both Ethan and Rosa compose a great team as well. I felt as if they both contributed quite a bit to the story by the end of the game and both characters were very likeable in their own way. It's too bad that so many changes were made in Condemned 2. Not that Condemned 2 completely ruined the story, but I didn't really like the new direction that it took or the way that it changed the characters' looks so much.

4) Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2 is the most complete Silent Hill experience, if you ask me. The psychological story to this game is a brilliant horror side story for the series. Everything fits so well together and the whole game left me with a sense of completeness once I had finished it. This is the first and only Silent Hill where I haven't had to dig out a plot analysis to fully enjoy its story.

Maria was an awesome touch to James' story. Not to spoil anything, but her appearance really makes the overall story much more appealing through her actions and overall goal by the end of the game. Then there's Pyramid Head, who is now one of the most recognized Silent Hill creatures of them all. His appearances are all so memorable in this game - like that scene between him and the nurse or the hallway chase.

Angela is probably my most favorite character in the game however. Her overall story is delivered in just enough fragments to keep her interesting. I also really liked her sudden mood changes followed by apologies - it really gives her a unique attitude very fitting for Silent Hill.

Overall Silent Hill 2 was the main game in the series that made me like Silent Hill. I always look forward to side story games now because of this one. The Alessa saga is important to Silent Hill and all, but I like to have breaks from her at times.

3) Resident Evil (PSX)

1996... *sigh* I'll never forget it. It was the year that the horror game where those grisly murders took place in the Arkley Mountains of Raccoon City was first released... and I didn't have a PSX at that time to enjoy the experience that followed because I bought a Sega Saturn to enjoy Virtua Fighter 2. I practically had the whole story ruined for me by watching a friend play it on his PSX but I eventually bought it nearly a year later when it was released for Sega Saturn.

The first time I saw the opening movie and overall introduction cutscenes to Resident Evil, I couldn't believe how the game captured such an incredibly close feeling to that of a horror movie. Sure the voice acting was cheesy, but the overall feel was so very memorable. The first Resident Evil still carries a special tensity to it that the remake didn't capture if you ask me. The Alpha Hunters in the original game are still some of the scariest enemies I have faced in any survival horror. Dear god, those things are so very unpredictable and tough in the original game.

If you read the CVX description above, then you'll know that Chris Redfield is my personal favorite RE character and my likeness of him spawns from this game. It was so greatly entertaining to play through with his less ammo filled adventure when compared to Jill's game. His game was much more about survival to me, literally having to take zombies on with a knife at times because of lack of ammo, when compared to Jill's game where she actually gets ammo handed to her at times and she has control over the grenade launcher/bazooka which helps out greatly for Hunters.

2) Resident Evil (GC)

I still look at this game as an extremely major highlight of all my gaming years. A remake of the first game in my most favorite game series!

The atmosphere from the original game was intensified so very greatly with the power of the Gamecube. Some areas were given facelifts while other areas were given complete makeovers. The Aqua Ring area felt much more fitting this time around and the music that plays inside of it is still my all time favorite track from the game series.

The addition of Lisa added a lot to the backstory of George Trevor and the entire Spencer Estate as well. The game provided quite a bit more backstory on Ozwell E. Spencer though still managed to keep him as elusive as we have come to expect in the RE universe. I start to wonder how Capcom will eventually show him to us and if they ever will...? Or have they already?

1) Fatal Frame series

Yeah that's right. Fatal Frame, Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly and Fatal Frame III: The Tormented all for number 1. I can't differentiate between them since they are all equal to me. Out of all the survival horrors that I have played, Fatal Frame 1 is the first game to actually scare me to where I had to stop playing it one night. Seriously, a ghost scared the living daylights out of me and I just said, "Ok, that is enough for the tonight." It was the first time ever and first time since then that I have ever done that. It felt good.

Fatal Frame completely nails the most important part of a survival horror experience to me - the sound. Fatal Frames makes me not even want to walk into a room because of a slight bell ringing or a sudden thumping sound. Besides the sound, the timing and unexpected placement for some its scares are the main aspects of the game that startle me. Fatal Frame can startle me so unexpectedly that I literally stare blankly at the screen during a scare sequence before responding because I was so unprepared for the scare and I haven't had time to react just yet. That probably didn't make sense, but it's a hard feeling to describe. It's like I'm jumping on the inside while the outside is still motionless.

Fatal Frame - I skipped out on this game for quite a while after its release until I finally decided to check it out due to the positive comments I had read about it. I would usually think to myself "Using a camera to battle ghost? Ok?" By god, was I ever wrong to think that. The concept of using a camera and having to switch to a first person view intensifies each battle so greatly!

Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly - In a way, I don't remember much of this game since I have only played through it one time. It was just as good as the others but there were so many other good games out around its time. I do remember that creepy Falling Woman ghost though and the main ghost in this game was incredibly frightening.

Fatal Frame III: The Tormented - Part 3 brings such good closure to the PS2 trilogy. I like the fact that it brings the other two games together by having a few areas and characters from them while attempting to tell its own story. The return of Miku and a continuation of her story was really memorable for me since I liked the first game so much. Tormented was the first game that ever inspired me to write a guide for a survival horror game and is one of the main reasons why I continue to do so today.

Honorable Mentions

Silent Hill - Tell you the truth, I didn't really appreciate this game until I played through Silent Hill 3. Silent Hill 3 made me return to the original and play it a bit more thanks to its connection. The original Silent Hill still scares me the most out of any of the games in the series. The random noises that play so suddenly in some rooms of the game really startle the hell out of me sometimes.

Resident Evil 2 - RE2 is quite the memorable game but the change in location made the atmosphere feel less scary. Don't get me wrong, I jumped quite a few times with this game, and still do. To this day, it is probably my most played RE title out of all of them - sometimes I think that is why I don't really care to come back to it. I probably have overplayed it. Why did I play it so much? Have you ever checked to see how many different version of RE2 have been released? I have to own them all, you know. :p

Resident Evil 3 - RE3 brought in a unique fear with the stalking tough-as-nails Nemesis that I would love to see repeated again in a horror game some day. RE4's Verdugo brought that same feel for a while, but it was too short. Resident Evil 3 can also be the hardest RE of them all if you try to actually fight Nemesis every single time. It makes for a very fun survival playthrough.

Illbleed - LOL, wut? Have you ever played it? Illbleed still stands as one of the most unique horror games that I have played. It's corny at times but it sure isn't afraid to scare you quite badly with sudden noises when traps are set off. Also, you gotta love the geysers of blood that come from character and enemies when they are hit.

Rule of Rose - This is a strange game. It is basically played for story and that is it. The combat is horrible and the overall gameplay is mediocre but the story is quite good and deep... pretty cruel too.

Dead Space - EA's new horror game has really, really impressed me much more than I was expecting. The atmosphere and overall sound design is done so very well in this game.

Onimusha - The first Onimusha game reminds me a lot of Resident Evil with swords. It captures a horror feel much better than the later games in the series. That's not to say that it's my favorite however. Dawn of Dreams is still my pick.


sephirosuy said...

Personally, talk about horror game the first came to my mind is Kuon (PS2), it has really scared and impressed me more than Fatal Frame did, gameplay short but awesome, but the graphic is not as good as other horror games :(

Agree with the Haunting Ground/Dememto is another outstanding title. If no mistake, it was the first horror game that the enemy can chase you over a serveral rooms without loading?

Btw, no RE4 in your list?

Brian said...

Yay, Rule of Rose gets a mention! Thanks man.

Gosh looking at this list makes my belly churn. Makes me remember how much it takes to be scared, haha, or in my case, how little.

Brian said...

BTW, just read your review on Infinite Undiscovery. Very helpful! :D Right now Amazon has a 50% off deal on it for 30$ but I wanted to check 'round before picking it up. I'm sure it'd be worth it on some levels but the bad localization is something I can't stand in any game (I love the Mega Man Battle Network/Star Force gameplay, for example, but their localization was done by a 6 year old otaku, I swear). Besides, these coming weeks are going to go nuts with games... And I haven't even touched Star Ocean yet!

Berserker said...

Kuon was just as scary as a Fatal Frame/Project Zero game really, but to me, that game had a major flaw in length, and I don't usually mind a short game. It was so very short though. I couldn't help but think, "That is it!?" by the end of the game. It was quite scary though.

With RE4, I don't consider it that scary really. Most of the tension in that game is drawn from enemies piling up rather than actual creepy stuff. Oven man was about the only part that startled me a bit. I had my shotgun ready for him the first time through though, since I was expecting something. But yeah, I don't really consider RE4 or UC scary.

Rule of Rose has too good of a story not to mention.

Although that is a good price for IU, I'd wait if I were you, Brian. It's not good to have too many RPG's at one time, especially with the onslaught of games to come. That is the first RPG since FFXII that I have felt the need to fully (well, most of the way) complete. I never did beat the final boss. :p

I'd recommend keeping a check on They'll eventually put up a used copy for a really good price most likely. If you've never bought from them, then you get everything in like new condition with some minor scuffs on the game disc sometimes. I just got Haze and Lost Planet (PS3) in the mail from them for $9.99 and $12.99 respectively - free shipping too!

The voice acting problem in IU is kind of "on and off" bad, or maybe... I was just getting used to it. Haha. :p

Nish said...

A nicely written up list.

I'm a real wuss when it comes to the Horror genre so it's not something I dip into that often bar the RE and SH series.

I actually felt physically ill just playing the Silent Hill demo. The sound, the camera angles and those - quite frankly - terrifying, filmy-looking infants with knives made my stomach churn. When I eventually played the entire game (actually only a few years ago) I found myself relating to the protagonist who could only mumble "Why?" at some of the gruesome sights.

I did buy one of the Fatal Frames but I didn't play for long and it was exactly for the reason you mentioned. I should really pluck up the courage and re-buy.

sephirosuy said...

Yah RE4 = "not scary", but i thought you're selecting the "top horror games" not the "scariest games"? :p

Berserker said...

Eh, to me, the most memorable horror games make me feel tense from their overall atmosphere while playing through them. With RE4, the best atmospheric areas to me were the Village and then the Regenerator rooms at the Island, which leaves out a good chunk of the game. The Verdugo fight was great also. Don't get me wrong, RE4 was a great game gameplaywise and its a very memorable RE game overall, but I'd still rank it just about the lowest in the series on an overall horror feel.

The way that Leon acted at most points also took away from the overall sense of fear in the game. He was way too much of an action movie star in that game and to me, his attitude got ridiculous at some points. I'm hoping they don't make Chris like that in RE5. Sure Chris had his moments in other RE's but his attitude wasn't completely overdone. I'm expecting some really wild Wesker vs Chris fights in RE5 though. :D

Thanks for the comments Nish. The school stage in the original Silent Hill is still pretty creepy because of the infant's.

Brian said...

Oh jeez don't remind me of those creepy things. Pretty well done in the movie if you ask me... though for some reason they didn't haunt my dreams as much as that tentacled cradle did, probably only because they showed up once.

Berserker said...

^ IGN's 13 scariest games of this generation

I haven't even played many of the games on that list. I keep meaning to get Bioshock, but still haven't gotten around to it. I know I'd love it.

I tend to agree with the number 1 slot. It really is that good. :D

Bronson said...

Being a new acolyte to the horror genre, I appreciate this list. I took your advice and just purchased the three Fatal Frames. Hopefully, I haven't been too spoiled by the graphics of the PS3 games. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for the heads up.

Berserker said...

Hey! Glad to help.

I recommend playing them with a good surround system or a very high volume. About 50% of the atmosphere in each of those games comes from the sound. Hope you enjoy them!