Halloween is a great time for scary movies, but why not indulge yourself with some scary games instead?
A little change of pace
I know you’ll all be playing Battlefield 3 this weekend, but in the spirit of Halloween, I ask that you don’t overlook some of the most terrifying and intense games you’ll ever play. Believe me, I’m a tried-and-true action gamer. Games need not be deep or well thought out for me to have a lot of fun. In fact, if a game doesn’t get into some action within the first 5 minutes, I usually give up on it…but every now and then it’s good to have a change of pace, to find a game that really messes with you.
Okay, I’ll admit up front that not all of the games in the list below fall under the “deep and scary” category, but all of these games will take a toll on you, especially when you drop all the lights and jack up the sound like you’re supposed to. You also have to put some of these games in context, both within their time and technology, but believe me when I tell you that all of these games made me jump and, in some cases, even gave me nightmares.
In no particular order…
Doom is one of the first games I played that genuinely made my heart skip a beat. Sure, Doom doesn’t hold up very well against today’s game, and its reputation as nothing more than a deathmatch game doesn’t help, but playing the campaign alone could keep you up late. I forget exactly what level it was but at the end there was a room of columns that was pitch black except for a strobe light. It looked plenty easy until you hit the door and then BLAM…lights out…followed by hordes of demon imps coming at you from all sides. Between the lights, the monsters and spinning 360 degrees while unloading your shotgun, it was quite a ride. I recommend playing Doom with some Nine Inch Nails…there’s nothing better.
Resident Evil 4
This is one of the few games I really enjoyed playing on the Nintendo Wii, and also one of few games that actually held up great when ported to the Wii. Resident Evil is a well established franchise in the horror department (and even the movie department), but this fourth installment kept me coming back for more punishment. Resident Evil 4 strikes a good balance between action and game pace. There’s enough action to keep you running and guessing, but there are enough story elements to keep you interested in what’s really going on. Especially at the beginning when you’re wandering through the village of zombies; you can really appreciate the mood it creates…even more so with your sub woofer turned up to 11.
House of the Dead
Okay, okay…I admit that House of the Dead isn’t really frightening, but it can get pretty intense when you’re trying to blast all the undead that just won’t stop jumping in front of you. Like any arcade shooter, House of the Dead is about reaction time, accuracy, and your ability to reload at the right time. Out of all the games I’ve listed, this is the only one that can challenge you physically…at least if you play the game properly. This is another game that works well- nay, works best- on the Wii and provides the most accurate arcade experience. So call your best bud, grab your Wiimotes, turn up the sound, and turn down the lights.
Dead Space 2
I have to admit that I haven’t played Dead Space 2 as a complete game; I only played the demo on the Xbox 360…but that was enough…it was enough to tell me this is not a game I could handle. Even in the 10 minute demo, the mood created is one of the most intense I’ve ever experienced and the “jump out and scare you” factor was off the charts. The pace of the game was slow and creepy, and the lack of music didn’t help matters any. In many games the soundtrack gives you clues as to what is going to happen. That’s not the case here,. You’re all alone and you absolutely feel like it. If there’s one thing I have a hard time dealing with in video games, it’s down time…dead air…silence…it’s just unsettling and that freaks me out. If the demo of Dead Space 2 managed to give me the heebie jeebies, I can only imagine how much sleep I’d lose suffering through the entire game.
If Dead Space 2 is sci-fi creepy, then Bioshock is old timey creepy…only Bioshock is a game I actually played through beginning to end. Bioshock is not without its “jump out” moments, but in many ways Bioshock is just out right scary. With Dead Space 2, it’s set inside a futuristic, sci-fi world and you just kind of have to accept what’s going on because you have no basis for reality. Bioshock, on the other hand, takes place in a world that you can understand and believe, even if the story itself is just as ridiculous as Dead Space 2.
The visuals and sound in Bioshock create one of the moodiest games you’ll ever experience, but the other half of the uneasiness is the lack of resources you’re given. This isn’t a game that gives you unlimited ammo and easy access to weapons, so when you chase a shadow around a corner (or more so, when it chases you), you’re not only worried about it attacking you, you’re worried about not being able to defend yourself. Very few games manage to creep you out while also providing the stress that is resource management, but Bioshock does all of this extremely well. This is a game I played in the dark and I’m not ashamed to admit that Big Daddy and his cronies ended up in my dreams. Scary.
A different kind of challenge
Most video games challenge us by simply making the goals difficult to achieve. The bosses might be incredibly hard or the level itself might just be a challenge as you jump from platform to platform. Some games ask you to solve puzzles while others put your reaction time to the test. This is all well and good, and frankly, this is usually challenging enough, but now try to do all those things while fighting your emotions. Making a game hard is easy. Making a game that completely messes with your head is a real achievement. So do yourself a favor this Halloween weekend and play your games in the dark.