Trick or treat! With Halloween just around the corner it’s time to get ready to celebrate all the things that go bump in the night, and what better way to do that than to take them head-on in the gaming realm? This week in Geek Squad, we’ll look at some of my favorite horror-themed games, from the throwbacks to the thrillers. So shut the door, close the curtains, turn off the lights and pump up the volume as we delve into five video games that’ll perfectly complement your Halloween experience!
Resident Evil 1 (GC)
One of the most recognized horror games in the industry, this classic PlayStation 1 zombie thriller makes an even bigger splash on the GameCube, completely remade with new visuals, new puzzles, new voice acting, and much more. At the beginning of the game, you choose to play as either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, members of Raccoon City’s elite squad known as STARS. Sent to investigate a number of murders in the outskirts of the city, you are promptly chased by dogs into a creepy mansion. It isn’t long after that you discover the mansion is filled with the undead, and your two objectives become clear: investigate the mansion to get to the bottom of why and how these creatures exist, and, of course, survive. But the latter objective is tougher than you think for many reasons – enemies are constantly flung in your direction, puzzles and traps are there to impede your way, and worse off, ammo is very scarce. All of these combine to make the perfect atmosphere for a horror game – the kind of intensity that makes you contemplate your every move out of fear while enticing you to go on. “Resident Evil” has all the makings of a good horror game: suspenseful thrills, mind-busting puzzles, and a plot line intriguing enough to push you ‘til the end.
Silent Hill 1 (PS1)
Like the pepper to “Resident Evil’s” salt, “Silent Hill” is a horror game that’s less action-centric and more focused on emotions and plot. As the protagonist Harry Mason, your driving force through the game is reuniting with your daughter Cheryl after a car accident finds her missing. But like many pieces in the genre of horror, the plot isn’t as clear-cut as that, as the game slowly leads you through a plot revolving around the resurrection of a cult’s supposed god. “Silent Hill’s” atmosphere is one established around sound rather sight – darkness and fog obstruct your view more often than not, and with a flashlight that only illuminates the area in front of you by a couple of feet, you must rely on the sounds of shrieks and footsteps to alert you toward danger. The horror that surrounds “Silent Hill” is more psychological than anything, and the environments prove testament to this idea, with blood splattered all over the walls and corpses lurking at every corner. Playing through “Silent Hill” is a horrifying yet enthralling journey through both the quaint little town that the game is named after and your very own psyche.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (GC)
The first game published by Nintendo to be given an ‘M’ rating for mature audiences, “Eternal Darkness” aims to mess with your head even more than the previous game. Centering around the protagonist Alexandra Roivas, the game involves an ancient artifact: a book bound by human skin and bone known as the Tome of Eternal Darkness. With each chapter of this book that Alexandra finds, the game’s perspective alters to a different person, from Pius Augustus in the year 26 BC to Alex’s grandfather, whose mysterious death causes her to investigate in the first place. “Eternal Darkness’s” gameplay hosts an interesting mechanic known as the sanity meter. This meter, which is depleted and replenished under various circumstances, serves as a gauge for your character’s sanity, and when it gets too low, things tend to get a little crazy. Screams can be heard in the background, the walls begin to bleed, your character’s head falls off – essentially, these effects are supposed to emulate your character slowly going insane. But these tricks of sanity are taken to another level when they mess your own head: the game’s volume will lower with an indicator accompanying it, the display will sporadically switch to a black screen with “Video” in the corner, and enemies will appear that don’t really exist. “Eternal Darkness” is an adventure through the sanity of the characters whom you take control of and your own sanity, tricking you into questioning what’s real and what isn’t.
Dead Space (360)
If you had to put it in a nutshell, “Dead Space” is essentially “Resident Evil” in space. After receiving a distress signal from a nearby mining vessel, you, as engineer Isaac Clarke, must investigate the ship and piece together exactly what happened to the crewmembers while powering on the ship’s systems to avoid collision in an asteroid belt. It is through this investigation that you discover the identities of your enemies as Necromorphs, humans infected by a viral species of alien. But the twists and turns continue further than that as the game ultimately becomes about survival. Much of the game’s horror is derived from the creatures housed within – grotesque beings that require precise strategy to truly vanquish. And with the darkness of a powerless ship and the isolation of deep space, “Dead Space” provides the lonely atmosphere that serves as the backbone of any well-respected horror piece.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1)
This list wouldn’t be complete without an entry from the “Castlevania” series, and there is no better candidate than “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.” A non-linear, open-world exploration game, “Symphony of the Night” was a breakthrough entry to the series, deviating from the fully-established level-based format of the series and providing more exploratory gameplay, with RPG elements like experience points and levels, numerical attributes, and combative companions known as familiars. The game, like most in the series, deals with the proliferation of the dark lord Dracula, and a family known as the Belmonts destined to put him in his place. In this game, however, you play as Alucard, the half-human son of Dracula who decides to investigate the sentient home of the dark lord, Castlevania, after sensing a great shift in evil energy. Though I wouldn’t call the game scary by any means, it is very much a game fit for Halloween, serving host to some of the most well-known monsters of horror literature, from the Werewolf to Frankenstein’s Monster to Dracula himself. Indeed, “Symphony of the Night,” like most “Castlvevania” games, is deeply rooted in these classic stories, making it an excellent adaptation of the stories of gruesome monsters that you grew up with. It isn’t really Halloween without “Castlevania.”
So there you have it – you’ve got the games, now all you need are the right conditions to play them and maybe a dash of courage to get you through the night – or, if that’s not readily available, someone near and dear to accompany you on this frightful journey. With that, we bid you adieu and wish you all a happy and safe Halloween!