Real life is very often stranger than fiction—this is far from being new. What is a bit fresher is just how valuable these twisted real life stories can be to the minds that make some of the creepiest games around. Art is inspired by life right? But which of life's stories are most inspiring in the #Horror survival genre?
Art Imitates Life In These 6 Horror Games Based On True Stories
With both #ResidentEvil7 and #Outlast2 on the horizon, we have a lot to be excited about in the coming months. But if you ever feel like the usual horror fare is just getting a little too far away from reality—never fear! You can take a break and unwind with these truly inspired and horrifying adventures that you can play on your computer or console.
WARNING: I feel like this goes without saying but the true stories spoil most of the game endings/stories.
Released: June 9, 2015
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
Kholat is a walking simulator set in the Ural Mountains that leaves you tracing the steps of nine college students who went missing on Kholat Syakhi in 1959. The game itself is a lot of what you'd expect from a horror-themed walking simulator with its atmospheric chills and captivating visuals. Its narration by Sean Bean really sets it apart from the rest and it's got a great haunting soundtrack to go with it.
Does Sean Bean die in this one? Only time will tell. But what we do know is that the Kholat tragedy is real!
In real life: The Dyatlov Pass Incident
In 1959, nine student skiers from the Ural Polytechnical Institute went missing in the Ural Mountains over a period of four months. Investigations started after a message they were meant to send following their return to Vizhai (their starting point) was never received. Two weeks afterward, their tent, cut up from the inside with all of the belongings still intact and footprints made by bare feet in the snow lead them to the bodies.
The circumstances of their deaths were all quite mysterious. Soviet investigators came to the conclusion that six of them died of hypothermia. Makes sense. But what of the others? One victim ended up with brain damage despite the lack of skull damage and another had a fractured skull. A female victim was even missing her tongue which, needless to say, complicated things a bit.
Other notes generated a bit of controversy surrounding the explanations, like the fact that some witness accounts recall the corpses having "deep brown tan" skin. There were also large amounts of scrap metal in the area which lead to theories about military involvement.
The aftermath of the investigation has brought about a number of theories including a possible avalanche, a yeti attack and even infrared sound-induced panic. Though the common consensus seems to be that hypothermia did the group in, the chronology of the events remain undetermined and the fictional interpretations, like Kholat, keep coming. The pass itself was eventually named for the leader of the group, Igor Dyatlov.
2. 'The Town of Light'
Released: February 26, 2016
In continuing with our walking simulator trend, we've got Town of Light. It's a psychologically tense adventure set in a psychiatric asylum from the early 20th century. As you explore the space you find notes and items along the way that help you piece together your character's past.
The special thing about Town of Light though is that it features a painstakingly accurate recreation of a very real location in Italy.
In real life: Volterra Psychiatric Asylum
Located in Tuscany, Ospedale Psichiatrico di Volterra housed 6,000 patients in its heyday—6,000 patients that were never allowed to leave. Patients could end up behind its locked doors for everything from slight depression to moral transgressions. In the 50s and 60s, it was considered one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in Italy when it grew to include everything from shops to a judicial facility.
Electroshock treatment, experimental administrations of pills and poisons and medically induced comas were a few among many unorthodox practices to go on within the asylum's walls. Sanitation wasn't a concern either—there were only 20 sinks and two toilets to every 200 patients. Needless to say, the conditions really did a number on the patients. The inner courtyard of the facility features wall carvings of runes and phrases that were made by a patient that was kept there for 14 years—Oreste Ferdinand Nannetti. Yikes.
The asylum closed its doors in 1978 when its practices (and the practices of other Italian asylums) were deemed inhumane by Law 180, but it can still be seen towering over the area in the hills in its haunting—and heavily vandalized—glory. Thank Tower of Light for the shoutout, you creepy old thing!
3. 'Fatal Frame'
Publisher: Microsoft Corporation
Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox
Cult classic horror game, Fatal Frame takes us deep into the Japanese forests to face some fairly malicious supernatural entities through the lens of the Camera Obscura, a special photographic method that allows your protagonist to capture and pacify supernatural entities. The story follows Miku in her attempt to track down her brother after he's gone missing while trying to find another missing person. Talk about a hot mess.
The series itself is one of few that is justifiably and frequently compared to the early #SilentHill and #ResidentEvil games, but the first game is one of the only games in the series to be based on a "true" story.
In real life: Himuro Mansion Haunting
This one is a little bit different from the rest because it's an urban legend but creepypasta as pervasive as this is simply too provocative to exclude from this list. In an area just outside of Tokyo, the Himuro family is said to have engaged in a Shinto ritual called "The Strangling Ritual" every half century in an attempt to prevent bad karma from rising from a portal on the mansion's grounds. The grotesque ritual involved the brutal quartering of a young maiden selected at birth to shut off the portal.
Apparently, ahead of the last recorded ritual, the maiden fell in love with a man who wanted to save her from the ritual. The girl's father found out about the relationship and brutally murders his entire family with a sword before killing himself out of remorse... or some general fear of the repercussions. Now the spirits of the family try to carry out the ritual on anyone that comes into the house.
What's the verdict on its validity? Being the skeptic that I am, I'm not sold. Like a few others in the community, I think that Tecmo made this one up. However, there is quite a bit to be said about that.
4. 'Sherlock Holmes Vs. Jack the Ripper'
Released: March 20, 2009
Platforms: Xbox 360, Windows
The subtlety of the reference is a bit more than lost with this one considering the title of the game and it's also not technically a horror game. However, I would challenge anyone to play this without being even a little disturbed by the game's creative take on the infamous killing spree of one of London's earliest serial killers.
The cases in the series are modeled tit-for-tat after the real murders and they follow the canonical five killings that are most certifiably attributed to Jack the Ripper and not a copycat. What's more is, much like L.A. Noire, you actually get to "solve" the mystery of who the killer is!
In real life: Jack the Ripper
Most people know Jack the Ripper as the sloppy, over-indulgent sexual predator that scared the living daylights out of Whitechapel way back when. The reality was that Jack's moves were quite calculated and the facts of the killings themselves would indicate that, despite their focus on prostitutes, the motivation for the killings was not sexual. This is something that the Sherlock Holmes game actually handles quite accurately—even going so far as to implicate that the Ripper could have had medical training.
The Ripper had other qualifiers involved in his M.O. like the ages of his victims, the timing of his attacks and the severe pelvic mutilation that all of the bodies underwent. If you're interested, there are photos out there... but you should probably swallow your food first!
Because of the historical context, the details surrounding the killings and the degree to which they can be attributed to one person remains fuzzy. Nevertheless, the murder that is considered to be the Ripper-est murder is Martha Tabram who is widely considered to be the first victim. So, you can rest easy knowing that. You're welcome!
5. Become Lizzie In 'Lizzie Borden: The PC Game'
Developer: Tiki Interactive
Platform: You guessed it—PC!
I'll be honest: I added this, not just because it looks creepy, but because it looks hilarious and reminds me of the old school Nancy Drew computer games. It's like a walking simulation/point-and-click hybrid with half-assed sound effects and it is definitely awkward. I have to admit though that even the low quality isn't making me feel any less creeped out by some of what's going on in that walkthrough above.
The game features a recreation of both the house and the grounds surrounding the home—where you can actually spend the night and eat the same breakfast as the family Borden IRL. But Lizzie Borden, y'all—let's talk about Lizzie Borden.
In real life: Lizzie Borden
We all the know the story, right? Kind of. For starters, the rhyme is wrong. There were no 40 or 41 whacks. Lizzie allegedly killed her father in as few as 11 and didn't even use an axe. She used a hatchet, broke and threw out the handle and then burned her bloody clothes after the investigation started like a total f**king rookie.
The condition of her parents' skulls following the murder was so bizarre that they were actually brought into the court room—something that I will actually never really understand since they had plenty of pictures of the scene. Did everyone else know that there are beaucoup photos of her dead parents? Because I didn't and my innocent Google search for Lizzie's face had me gagging.
The technicalities are all fine and dandy, but I think that, what's really interesting, is that the most likely reason that Lizzie didn't really get a lot of crap for killing her parents is because no one liked them. Seriously. Her father was a typical rich guy that manipulated and abused those less fortunate.
So, after all the dust settled, Lizzie and her sister lived happily ever after, sort of. Lizzie even went on to maintain a "close" relationship with actress Nance O'Neil which made her sister pretty grumpy. They never spoke again afterward.
6. 'Sir, You Are Being Hunted'
Developer: Big Robot
Release: May 1, 2014
Platforms: Windows, Linux and Mac
Sir, You Are Being Hunted is an open world stealth survival game set in Britain with a horrible edge—you are a person being hunted by a gang of robots in the British "wilderness."
In real life: When you think about the premise, the short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell probably came to mind, which makes sense. The time and setting match up quite well. But what you may not be familiar with is the story of Richard Christian Hansen—the real life wealthy hunter in the woods.
In the '70s and '80s, well-respected and well-known business man abducted, sexually assaulted and abused more than 21 women at his home while his wife and children were away.
Once he finished with them at his home, he would strip them naked, let them free and then hunt them down and kill them only to redress them in their own clothes and then bury them in a shallow grave.
It wasn't until a teenager that managed to escape before the flight to the cabin reported her experience that anyone would suspect that a man like Hansen could be behind the disappearances that had plagued Anchorage until then. No one can know for sure what his inspiration was, but the similarities between his M.O. and the famous short story are undeniably chilling.
He died of an unknown natural cause in prison in 2014.
Bonus: Find The Zodiac Killer In Watch Dogs 2
Released: November 15, 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows
So, in season 2 of "Let's Solve A Real Life Unsolved Mystery In A Game", we've got #WatchDogs2. Yeah, I know it's not a horror game but it does have a special preorder mission that allows you to follow a trail of clues that lead you to the Zodiac Killer. Super fitting since the game is set in San Francisco, but yikes. Gives me the heebie jeebies just thinking about it.
In real life: The Zodiac Killer
Who's the Zodiac Killer? Well, he was a really nasty dude who trolled around the Bay Area in the 60s and 70s brutally murdering at least five people. He claimed to have killed as many as 31 but that number remains unvalidated. Things got really intense for everyone when he started contacting the news, sending letters and even calling in to taunt everyone.
The final Zodiac letter was actually just the killer praising The Exorcist as the best satirical comedy he's ever seen as well as a score notice: "Me=37 SFPD=0." That's right, guys! He was keeping score but apparently no chill to speak of. No chill at all.
We still don't know who this guy is, or was, but that doesn't stop the imposters from popping up every now and then. Be sure to phone in if you hear anything, folks—or call the police.
I don't know about you guys, but I freaked myself out thinking about all of these people and replaying these moments in the games. I just checked my bathroom for Lizzie Borden. So, I'll probably be sticking with my wackier favorites until I recover... or I'll come prepared and consider wearing a diaper.
Do you think that horror games with true stories are scarier than the other ones?