Frictional Games

Post-Halloween, Ben and Andrew discuss their favorite horror games

Post-Halloween, Ben and Andrew discuss their favorite horror games

Every year in October, the video game industry is united in celebration for the horror genre. There's no other time of the year when a single genre of video game becomes the dominant pre-occupation of such a significant portion of video gamers. 

I'm not immune to it either, and I inevitably end up looking in my collection of games for my favorite horror titles from yesteryear. I always find it to be a nice break. A moment when you can look backward at the classics for a week before the end-of-year onslaught begins. 

This year we have a couple of compelling new titles to add to the annual list though: Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, as well as Outlast. Both of which emerged as two of the best horror games in years. 

I don't think I'll ever get over the classics though. The new games are great, but for me there's something about the PS1/PS2 eras of games that was perfect for horror. When you list the great horror games of all-time, most of them seem to come from those two eras. Personally, I'm all about Fatal Frame and the Resident Evil Gamecube remake.

It's shocking how good the latter of those two still is. Eleven years later it's still gorgeous and each scene is just dripping with character. Capcom absolutely knocked it out of the park with that game, and it's a testiment to the original vision as well. Those wonky controls still manage to keep me on-edge.

What about you? What are your go-to Halloween classics? And is there anything that came out this year that you think will end up in your yearly rotation?

Ben's Halloween Hitlist

It's weird how much horror games play into my nostalgia for being young. Back in the day my best friend and my (now wife!) girlfriend played through all of the first Silent Hill across about two nights, eating nachos and freaking out until the sun came up. I'm not sure if I would still find the game scary today, but it's one of my favorite gaming memories.

I still think that Fatal Frame 2 is one of the best horror games ever made. Period. No question. The first game had a limited scope due to the fact that it took place in a single haunted house, but the sequel introduces an entire haunted village and the creepiest set of twins you'll ever meet in a game.

The Camera Obscura is one of the best mechanics in horror gaming history because it forces you to look at the ghouls you encounter, stand your ground, and take the perfect shot. Your nerves are tested, along with your bowels, and you have to face your fears if you want to succeed.

Also, that ending! My God, that ending was haunting. You know the one I mean and, if you don't, get to work. I'm pretty sure you can pick up Fatal Frame 2 via the PlayStation Network right now.

So Andrew, do you play your scary games with the lights off, headphones on, and all alone, or do you need friends there with you?

Andrew's childlike tolerance for fear

I have almost no tolerance for scares in video games. Basically everything scares me, and that's actually a good thing. Even low-rent horror games tend to be a little scary to me, and I'm a sucker for atmosphere. I get very drawn into the games I play. Particularly atmospheric games like Amnesia and Outlast are actually too much for me. I end up being forced to walk away from the game for a while and try to reset my batteries.

So with that in mind, no, no I do not play games with the lights off. I do play with headphones and alone, but that's mostly by coincidence. If I turned the lights off I might actually be a little worried about psychological damage when playing a game like Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.

More often than not I stay away from horror games. A lot of times they're too intense to be enjoyable for me. Other times my boss makes me review two horror games in a row, and I'm forced to put on my Big Boy Pants and trudge my way through it. I always end up enjoying the experience in retrospect though.

I still can't go into a department store without chuckling about my experience playing Condemned, which is a really good horror game with some really neat gameplay mechanics. Fortunately or unfortunately, all anybody who played it can remember are the mannequins.

The basic gist: (spoiler alert for an 8-year-old game) you're forced to hunt for someone inside a department store in which murderous goons are posing as mannequins. So basically, as you're walking through this location, sometimes the mannequins will come to life and hit you with a pipe. It's horrifying and scarring and I'll remember it until the end of my days.

You've talked a little bit about the horror games that are important or memorable to you, but do you think horror is changing? We have iPhones, virtual reality headsets…

Ben's shrieking, disembodied head responds

I'm going to elevate The Room to new-classic status, because it's a horror game that slowly builds a sense of tension and dread, and there's really no giant pay off. It's a horror game that takes place in a single room, with a single puzzle box, and it's best played in the dark, with headphones, and finished in one session. It also uses the touchscreen and other technologies of mobile devices in some very unique ways.

So if you have little tolerance for jump scares, that's a great place to start. It's the sort of horror game that will draw you in, and then slowly give you the sense that things aren't right. And then built on that feeling relentlessly. I can't wait until the next game in the series comes out.

I'm not exactly a fan of horror games on the Oculus Rift, but it's certainly another way to use technology to test your endurance for scares. It's almost too much, and I'd be really nervous about some of these demos to anyone who scares easily. If this is where we are in the early days of horror virtual reality, I'm actively scared about what is coming into the future. I think Dreadhalls has the possibility of becoming the next big thing in horror. 

Okay, so let's jump out of this by giving people some solid ideas. If I had to pick three games to play this Halloween, this would be my list. Andrew, I'd love to see yours as well.

  • Fatal Frame 2
  • The Room
  • Dreadhalls on the Oculus Rift

Andrew's List

I'll go with a varied mix for my list. There are certainly better horror games, but I wanted to cover a few bases.

The first is for the regular gamer. If you never played the Resident Evil Gamecube remake (or don't remember how good it is) then that is an amazing game to spend a few hours with this Halloween.

The second is for the afficionado. The person who is not only interested in playing a good game, but wants to fill in their horror backlog with an interesting, lesser-known, but still powerful game from yesteryear.

And Outlast is for the person who wants to play something with a group. Forget about the usual Halloween movies. Hook up your PC to the TV, load up Outlast in Steam Big Picture and have fun experiencing that game's intense shock scares with a group of friends and some popcorn.