There was a time when I scoffed at the idea of a horror video game. Back in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, even well into the age of polygons, the idea of the crudely rendered characters and settings that showed up in games giving me chills was laughable.
But then along came a (fairly obscure) game called Clive Barker’s #Undying and everything changed. Playing through the first few levels of that game I remember feeling genuinely uncomfortable; what was this strange sensation creeping up my spine, this nervous apprehension? Is this fear?
It was, and it set the stage for a complicated relationship between myself and horror games in the coming decades. Now, when it’s widely acknowledged that games can be at least as scary (and often far more) than the most terrifying films, I’ve begun to creep back to these games that I’ve mostly avoided for the last several years.
And I’ve been pleased to discover that they’ve grown in both quality and abundance, showcased by the three games on this list, some of the scariest and most interesting fare coming this year.
Friday the 13th
Lovingly crafted by creators #GunMedia, #FridayThe13th puts campers back in peril in a detailed recreation of the famous Camp Crystal Lake killing grounds, home to everyone’s favorite mass-murdering hockey aficionado, Jason Vorhees. Whether you run, hide or bravely (and recklessly) try to take the fight to Jason, camp counselors will have to coordinate and work together or be butchered in gory, dramatic style that will be instantly recognizable to fans of the films.
The game was originally pitched as a multiplayer-only experience, with one player as Jason stalking a team of counselors, but Gun Media has since announced that a single-player experience will be coming in a summer update later this year. The single-player mode will let players recreate scenarios from the films from Jason’s perspective as they hunt and slay counselors and complete missions. Early impressions from the beta have been very positive, and have whet my appetite (and machete) for more delightful carnage.
The first project to come from independent creator NVYVE, #PAMELA is a first-person survival horror joint that takes place in an intriguing cyberpunk setting. The island of Eden, designed as a utopian paradise, has fallen prey to a virulent epidemic that causes uncontrollable bone growth in the infected.
As Pamela, the AI overseer of this doomed isle, your task is to search for the source of this mysterious plague and, if possible, destroy or cure it. Equipped with a bionic arm and upgradable modular weaponry, you’ll battle and scavenge your way across an island that’s fractured into a number of rival factions and individuals with uncertain motivations.
P.A.M.E.L.A. also features an interesting game wrinkle that tasks you with managing the island’s power infrastructure. You’ll need to preserve power whenever possible or risk plunging all of Eden into darkness, and construct a base from which to conduct scavenging runs and in which to shelter the valuable gear you collect.
The follow up to one of the most interesting and terrifying horror games of the last several years, #Outlast2 picks up in the same universe as the original but with a different setting and fresh cast.
You play as an investigative journalist searching with his wife for the truth behind the seemingly impossible murder of a young pregnant woman. Set in the Arizona desert, creator #RedBarrels promises Outlast 2 will prove a horrifying spiral into darkness and madness as you strive to bring to light a massive, insidious conspiracy.
The team at Red Barrels are so convinced that Outlast 2 will scare the <bleep> out of you they launched a Kickstarter for a companion diaper for when “#2 becomes problem #1.” While the campaign failed (raising only $20k of it’s $40k goal), it was, admittedly, a brilliant piece of marketing. We’ll see if the game lives up to the hype later this year.