Brown Pants Bonanza: The Scariest Video Games Going

Adam Mathew
Games Horror
Games Horror

Most video games are epic power fantasies but sometimes they can go in the complete opposite direction. For some folks, having God-like abilities is boring. They prefer to be deprived of everything — ammo, save points, sphincter control — in favour of being thrust into a situation that was once the sole purview of common sense-less teens in a 1980s horror film.

You know the type. The sort of mental decathlete who yells out the following out at 1 a.m.: “Steve? Emily? I don’t want to play hide and seek in this creepy mansion anymore!” [Pregnant pause, followed by thunder.] “Guys?!” [A wolf howls.] “Okaaay. I’m gonna go take a shower now…”

If that’s your jam we’ve got some humdingers of horror for you here today. In fact, one of our entries pretty much replicates the aforementioned idiocy…

A xenomorph lunges at the camera screaming
A xenomorph opens its two mouths. Possibly to laugh at your pathetic excuse for a flamethrower. More likely to bite off your face.

Alien: Isolation (VR Mod)

Let’s start with what we think is pretty much the deep end in terms of immersion and bonafide fear factor. On its own, 2014’s Alien: Isolation still has the potential to scare the bejesus out of just about anybody who plays it. Being stalked by a completely unpredictable and invulnerable, 11-foot recreation of Hollywood’s scariest creature will do that.

But that experience played on a TV is child’s play compared to strapping on an Oculus Rift and truly inhabiting Amanda Ripley as she scurries about the derelict space station Sevastopol. No word of a lie: whenever we show this to VR newbies we offer the person a safe word. The victim always smirks at the suggestion. And they always utter it inside of 20 minutes worth of playtime.

A terrified woman at night
Unspeakable horrors are just around the corner in Until Dawn. Also, every B-movie horror trope under the sun.

Until Dawn

This PS4 exclusive by SuperMassive Games is the title we were alluding to earlier. Picture this scenario: a bunch of teens decide to return to a moonlit mountain exactly one year after two of their friends go missing.

This perfectly sound decision then descends into almost every horror trope imaginable, to the point where you’re completely overwhelmed with choices when deciding what’s picking them all off. Is it a haunting? A psycho killer? An especially hungry bear? Aliens who love dreadlocks and hunt for sport? Lycans? Lupus? Is it LUPUS?!

Spoiler: it isn’t lupus (because it’s never lupus). But we can tell you that this third-person thriller is choc-a-bloc full of gore, seemingly innocuous decisions that WILL get people perma-killed and…yeah, Hayden Panettiere taking a bath in the middle of the holiday from hell.

The family father chases the player around the living room.
Daddy is lookin' to give you a whuppin'...

Resident Evil 7

Here’s another one that can be “enjoyed” through VR if you somehow feel like the TV version isn’t triggering your heart attack fast enough. Forget the over-the-shoulder antics of every other previous Resi game, 7 was a complete reinvention of the series that transplanted the horror into first-person view. It also took us back to the intense thriller roots of the franchise, banking well away from the blockbuster action leanings of Resident Evil 5 and 6.

This is less guns blazing and more hair raising. Much like Alien: Isolation you’re outgunned and on the lam in a claustrophobic environment (a dilapidated Southern mansion) as you’re being hunted by an almost indestructible freak (with incredibly sharp and adaptive AI, for an inbred redneck).

An unknown horror slinks toward you, down a hallway of locked doors.
An unknown horror slinks toward you, down a hallway of locked doors.

P.T.

The tale of P.T. is a tragic one. Released as a demo during Kojima’s twilight years with Konami (the two parties have more or less washed their hands of one another now) P.T. was a succulent entree to what was going to be a bold new direction for the much beloved Silent Hill series. Sadly, it’s now been erased from the PS Store. Heck, even users who downloaded it can’t even reinstall it again.

We lost something special here, folks — a psychological FPS thriller that Konami’s marketing department could have easily renamed P.T.S.D. Set in a suburban nightmare, it was a short, jump-scares-a-go-go romp that was so effective we insta-preordered, even before we heard it would star Norman Reedus and be co-directed by Kojima and Guillermo del Toro.

Honestly, just typing about P.T. is undoing many expensive therapy sessions. Let’s move on before we accidentally remember the fetus in the si … Oh, God. Damn. It.

A necromorph stalks a man that we see through a window.
The first reveal of the necromorphs. Lashing of Aliens, right here.

Dead Space

In space, nobody can hear you scream. Nobody except that necromorph horror that’s feverishly hacking off your limbs and/or removing your head so it can jack a few tendrils in and walk away with your body. Like a hermit crab who’s found a new home. Gruesome death animation, thy name is Dead Space.

Fans continue to argue over which title in this trilogy is the most terrifying. Few people ever say Dead Space 3 (a co-op mode always halves the fear in our mind), we personally think Visceral Games’ debut chapter is the horror masterpiece. We always fear more that which we do not know. Going on a first date with the necros — beasts that only get angrier the more you shoot them in the head – is something we’ll never, ever forget.

A bedroom with a gramophone.
That gramophone is evil? Grandpa, you said that about all of the presents.

Layers of Fear

We’re so glad that Bloober Team decided to take up the mantle and unique concept of a game like Eternal Darkness. The idea is simple: both games don’t just jump scare you, they mess with your head and make you question your own perceptions. You’re cast as a painter struggling to finish a masterpiece, a magnum opus of…well, madness.

Because that’s the thing — as the game progresses your sanity begins to slip away. Imagined two-dimensional horrors are given form as your home starts to reshape itself on the periphery of your view. Doors and windows alter. Objects disappear and reappear. Pretty soon you’re suspicious of basically everything and you’re slowly choked by a sense of impending doom. Basically, it’s the feel-good video game that’s perfect to unwind with before bedtime.

A mannequin in a dress among mannequin limbs and a bloodied carpet.
Mannequins. Why did it have to be mannequins...

Silent Hill 2

Now here’s a game crying out — nay, shrieking in a bloodcurdling fashion — for a 4K remake. When Silent Hill 2 came along scare fans were already pretty much hooked on the original’s take on the genre. While Capcom was dominating the action-thriller space with its resident evils and dinosaur crises, Konami was trying its own thing with subtler, psychological horror that oozed its way under your skin.

In our mind (which is greatly scarred today) the second chapter has yet to be be topped by any fully-featured Silent Hill in the franchise. It cast us as James Sunderland, a grieving widower drawn to the eponymous town when he receives correspondence from his not-so-dearly departed wife. Cue a frantic quest to stay alive and one step ahead of humanoid monsters inspired by James’ dark subconscious. The daddy of them all: Pyramid Head, a ripped, sword-weilding brute with a penchant for sexual ultra-violence. If this game was released today, the Internet would implode.

Adam Mathew
I've seen and played it all – from Pong on a black-and-white CRT to the 4K visuals and VR gloriousness of today. My only regret after a decade of writing and 30+ years of gaming: hitchhiking's no longer an option. My thumbs are nubs now.
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