A few days ago I published the first of my Top Five series – Top 5: Cosmic Horror across Media. It was comparatively an incredibly popular post, so I couldn’t resist publishing number two earlier than originally planned.
For this article, we will be looking at my top five scary games that have great stories. Anyway, enough formalities – let’s begin.
5. DEAD SPACE
Coming up at number five is EA Games’ Scifi horror masterpiece: DEAD SPACE. Set in 2508, DEAD SPACE revolves around Isaac Clarke, a ship system engineer who, alongside his co-workers arrive on board the star ship USG Ishimura after detecting a distress beacon. After a landing malfunction grounds them, Isaac and his team find themselves attacked by horrific corpse-like aliens known as the Necromorphs. Fighting for survival, the group look for a way to escape the outer space hell they’ve become trapped in.
DEAD SPACE is a fantastic Alien – Event Horizon hybrid that incorporates a near voyeuristic obsession with dismemberment alongside the typical third person shooter tropes to deliver a terrifying journey into the cold, dead bowels of the USG Ishimura. Although not huge on characterization or literary themes, the game does have a tightly constructed narrative and thematically deals with concepts around the fear of disability and the uncertainty of able-bodied-ness through its excessive use of violence and jump scares.
At number four, is Red Barrels’ insane asylum themed survival horror: OUTLAST. I’m going to be brutally honest with you, this one scared the shit out of me. In OUTLAST, you are Miles Upshur – a freelance investigative reporter who receives an anonymous tip that Mount Massive Asylum is playing host to unethical experimentation by the Murkoff Corporation and breaks in one night to discover the truth. What follows is a horrifying psychological journey into the unknown as you make your way through the shadowy halls and try to avoid the hostile patients who have been let loose for nefarious purposes.
OUTLAST was soo scary that I had trouble playing it for more than an hour at a time. It perfectly builds atmosphere and has you on the edge of your seat 90% of the time. Like DEAD SPACE, OUTLAST doesn’t necessarily have the most literary story, but it’s a good, fun romp in genre horror fiction that doesn’t let up once until the credits roll. Keep an eye out for the terrifying nude Doctor who will haunt your dreams for nights on end!
It’s no secret that I am a huge Bloodborne fan. I’ve mentioned it several times in other articles, and it ranked number one on my last Top Five list for Cosmic horror. Considering it is hugely inspired by literary horror giant HP Lovecraft and his Cthulhu Mythos, it seems fitting that it would be in a list for horror games with great story.
Although minimalist in its telling, From Software gives us Bloodborne - the story of a foreigner come to town on the night of “The Hunt.” A time where the Holy Church sends its elite warriors out into the night to go about slaughtering crazed townsfolk, Werewolves and all other manner of Lovecraftian beasties in an attempt to free the city from their eldritch grip.
What more can I say about this game? Its minimalist storytelling deals with cosmic themes of humanities insignificance in the universe, the place of Religion and the seduction of forbidden knowledge.
Nearing the end of our list, we arrive at Frictional Games’ SOMA. Their newest release, SOMA is a scifi descent into some very weighty philosophical questions.
The playable character in this one is Simon Jarrett who in 2015 survives a near fatal car crash in Toronto. As a way to treat injuries to his brain, Simon undergoes an experimental brain scan and blacks out. He awakens inside PATHOS-II, a deep-sea research facility in the Atlantic Ocean in the year 2104. The station is at first seemingly abandoned, but as he investigates he begins to notice that the facilities robotic workers are displaying increasingly human characteristics…
To give away much more would be to spoil the game. All I will say is that this is a superbly written Scifi horror both in the genre sense and in a literary sense. It is incredibly atmospheric, claustrophobic and Lovecraftian in the true sense of the word.
1. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Lastly, we come to number one on my list. Frictional Games’ second appearance is Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Like OUTLAST, this game was one that I had to take frequent breaks from just to steady my poor heart.
The game begins as you awaken in 1839 in a decrepit Victiorian-style castle in Prussia with no memory of who you are. In your hands – a letter written seemingly from yourself to yourself explaining your name is Daniel, that you are being hunted by something supernatural and you must descend into the depths of the Castle and murder its Baron – Alexander.
Like SOMA, Amnesia focuses on an atmosphere of cosmic dread and uses our age old fear of the dark against us. With a beautifully written story that is both horrifying, yet somehow romantic, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a harrowing experience like no other and boasts some of the scariest “escape the monster” sequences of all time.
So that’s it! My Top Five. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Do you agree with me? If not, why? What are your top 5 scariest games that have great stories?