Video games have been around for decades, and the horror genre has been a popular choice for gamers since the very beginning. It’s a genre that has always had a strong following, and with each passing year, it seems to be getting more and more popular. Horror video games can range from psychological thrillers to zombie infested towns, and everything in between. In this article, we’ll explore the history of horror video games and take a closer look at some of the classic games that helped shape the genre.
Overview of the horror video game genre:
The horror video game genre is one of the most popular and enduring genres in the gaming industry. It’s a genre that is defined by its ability to evoke fear and terror in players through the use of various gameplay mechanics, storytelling techniques, and visual and audio design. Horror games can be broken down into a few sub-genres, such as survival horror, action horror, and psychological horror.
Survival horror games are typically slower-paced games that focus on exploration and puzzle-solving. The player is often tasked with surviving in a hostile environment, with limited resources, and facing off against supernatural enemies.
Action horror games, on the other hand, are faster-paced games that focus more on combat and action. The player is often given more weapons and resources to fight against hordes of enemies, with a focus on adrenaline-fueled gameplay.
Psychological horror games rely more on creating an unsettling atmosphere and psychological terror than jump scares or combat. These games often feature mind-bending puzzles, unpredictable events, and strange and unsettling environments that can leave the player feeling uneasy and anxious.
Brief history of horror video games:
The first horror video game can be traced back to the 1980s, with games such as Haunted House and Friday the 13th for the Atari 2600. However, it wasn’t until the release of the classic horror game, Resident Evil, in 1996, that the genre really took off.
Resident Evil was a survival horror game that revolutionized the genre with its use of fixed camera angles, limited resources, and puzzle-solving gameplay. It was a critical and commercial success and spawned a franchise that is still going strong today.
Other classic horror games from this era include Silent Hill, which relied heavily on psychological horror and was known for its disturbing visuals and surreal atmosphere, and Alone in the Dark, which was one of the first games to use a 3D environment and featured Lovecraftian horror themes.
Classic Horror Video Games:
Resident Evil is a classic survival horror game that has stood the test of time. It follows the story of a group of survivors who are trapped in a mansion filled with zombies and other supernatural creatures. The game is known for its use of fixed camera angles, limited resources, and tense atmosphere.
Silent Hill is another classic horror game that is known for its psychological horror elements. The game takes place in a fictional town called Silent Hill and follows the story of Harry Mason as he searches for his missing daughter. The game is known for its disturbing visuals and surreal atmosphere, and is considered one of the best horror games of all time.
Alone in the Dark
Alone in the Dark was one of the first 3D survival horror games and is known for its Lovecraftian horror themes. The game follows the story of Edward Carnby as he investigates supernatural occurrences in an old mansion. The game was a critical and commercial success and paved the way for other horror games to follow.
The Last of Us:
The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic game released in 2013. Set in a world where a fungal infection has turned most of humanity into zombie-like creatures, the game follows the journey of Joel, a smuggler, and Ellie, a young girl, as they try to survive in a harsh and dangerous world. The game is a masterpiece of storytelling, as it not only provides intense gameplay but also explores the themes of love, loss, and hope in a world gone mad.
Dead Space is a science-fiction horror game released in 2008. The game is set in the future where the player takes on the role of Isaac Clarke, an engineer who finds himself stranded on a spaceship infested with alien creatures. The game features an immersive atmosphere, with dark and claustrophobic environments, jump scares, and intense combat. The game also explores the psychological effects of isolation and the desperation of survival.
Alien: Isolation is a survival horror game released in 2014. The game is set in the Alien universe, where the player takes on the role of Amanda Ripley, daughter of the famous Ellen Ripley, as she investigates the disappearance of her mother. The game features a stealth-based gameplay mechanic, where the player must avoid the alien creature and other dangers while also solving puzzles to progress. The game’s sound design and atmosphere are outstanding, creating a sense of dread and tension throughout the game.
Psychological Horror Video Games:
Psychological horror games focus on creating a sense of dread and fear through storytelling, character development, and atmosphere. These games challenge the players’ emotions and perceptions, exploring themes such as mental illness, trauma, and the human psyche. Some other notable psychological horror games include Silent Hill 2, Outlast, and Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Condemned: Criminal Origins is a psychological horror game that was released in 2005 for Xbox 360 and PC. Developed by Monolith Productions, the game puts you in the shoes of an FBI agent who is investigating a series of brutal murders in a dark and gritty city. As you explore the city and gather evidence, you’ll encounter all sorts of creepy and unsettling things, from deranged homeless people to supernatural entities. The game’s unique combat system, which emphasizes melee combat and environmental interactions, makes for a tense and thrilling experience.
One of the things that sets Condemned apart from other horror games is its focus on atmosphere and immersion. The game’s environments are incredibly detailed and realistic, and the use of sound and lighting is masterful. As you make your way through dark and abandoned buildings, you’ll hear the creaking of floorboards, the dripping of pipes, and the distant howling of unseen creatures. The game’s use of first-person perspective and limited visibility adds to the sense of claustrophobia and dread.
F.E.A.R. is a first-person shooter that was released in 2005 for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Developed by Monolith Productions, the game tells the story of a special forces team that is sent to investigate a paranormal phenomenon in a secret laboratory. As you progress through the game’s levels, you’ll encounter a variety of enemies, from human soldiers to supernatural entities, and you’ll use a combination of guns and special abilities to take them down.
One of the standout features of F.E.A.R. is its fast-paced and fluid gameplay. The game’s combat is smooth and satisfying, with a wide variety of weapons and upgrades to choose from. The game’s use of slow-motion mechanics, which allow you to briefly slow down time and take out enemies with precision, adds a unique twist to the genre. The game also features a compelling storyline, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you engaged.
Dead Rising is an action-adventure game that was released in 2006 for Xbox 360 and later for PlayStation 4 and PC. Developed by Capcom, the game puts you in the shoes of a photojournalist who finds himself trapped in a shopping mall during a zombie outbreak. As you explore the mall and rescue survivors, you’ll use a wide variety of weapons and tools to fend off hordes of the undead.
One of the things that sets Dead Rising apart from other zombie games is its focus on player choice and freedom. The game’s open-world setting allows you to explore the mall and surrounding areas at your own pace, and there are plenty of side missions and activities to discover. The game also features a unique time-based system, where events and missions will occur at specific times, adding a sense of urgency to your actions.
Limbo is a puzzle-platformer game that was released in 2010 for Xbox 360 and later for various other platforms. Developed by Playdead, the game takes place in a dark and surreal world, where you play as a nameless boy who is searching for his sister. The game’s minimalist visuals and haunting soundtrack create a sense of unease and mystery, as you navigate through a series of increasingly challenging puzzles and avoid deadly traps.
One of the standout features of Limbo is its use of atmosphere and environmental storytelling. The game’s world is filled with subtle clues and details that hint at a larger narrative, but the game never explicitly spells out what is happening. This allows the player to interpret the story in their own way and adds to the sense of mystery and ambiguity.
Inside is a puzzle-platformer game that was released in 2016 for Xbox One and later for other platforms. Developed by Playdead, the game follows a nameless boy who is exploring a dark and dystopian world, where he must avoid capture by a mysterious organization. The game’s visuals and sound design create a haunting and oppressive atmosphere, as you make your way through a series of increasingly bizarre and unsettling environments.
One of the standout features of Inside is its use of pacing and storytelling. The game’s narrative is told entirely through environmental storytelling and visual cues, without any dialogue or text. This allows the player to fully immerse themselves in the world and create their own interpretation of the story. The game’s use of pacing, with moments of intense action interspersed with periods of quiet exploration, creates a sense of tension and anticipation.
Little Nightmares is a puzzle-platformer game that was released in 2017 for various platforms. Developed by Tarsier Studios, the game puts you in the shoes of a small girl named Six, who is exploring a dark and disturbing world filled with oversized creatures and twisted environments. The game’s visuals and sound design create a sense of claustrophobia and dread, as you navigate through a series of increasingly challenging puzzles and avoid deadly enemies.
One of the standout features of Little Nightmares is its use of scale and perspective. The game’s world is designed to make the player feel small and vulnerable, with oversized objects and towering enemies looming overhead. This creates a sense of powerlessness and tension, as you struggle to survive in a world that seems determined to crush you.
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead is a co-operative first-person shooter game that was released in 2008 by Valve Corporation. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world where players must fight their way through hordes of zombies while completing various objectives. The game’s fast-paced gameplay, intense action, and cooperative gameplay make it one of the best horror games of all time.
One of the standout features of Left 4 Dead is its AI Director system, which dynamically adjusts the game’s difficulty based on the player’s performance. This ensures that the game is always challenging, no matter how many times you play it. The game also features an extensive modding community, which has created numerous custom campaigns and mods that add new levels, weapons, and enemies to the game.
Dying Light is a first-person survival horror game that was released in 2015 by Techland. The game is set in a vast open world where players must scavenge for supplies and weapons while avoiding hordes of zombies. The game’s parkour mechanics, which allow players to climb and jump over obstacles, add a unique element of gameplay and make it one of the best horror games of the past decade.
One of the standout features of Dying Light is its day-night cycle, which drastically changes the game’s atmosphere and difficulty. During the day, players can scavenge for supplies and complete missions, but at night, the game becomes much more challenging, with more powerful enemies and limited visibility. The game also features a multiplayer mode, where players can team up to complete missions and fight off hordes of zombies together.
Bloodborne is an action role-playing game that was released in 2015 by FromSoftware. The game is set in a Gothic-inspired world where players must fight their way through hordes of monsters while uncovering a dark and mysterious narrative. The game’s fast-paced combat, challenging bosses, and intricate world-building make it one of the best horror games of all time.
One of the standout features of Bloodborne is its emphasis on exploration and discovery. The game’s world is filled with hidden secrets, challenging enemies, and intricate lore, which encourage players to explore every nook and cranny. The game’s combat system, which rewards aggression and risk-taking, also adds a unique element of gameplay and makes it one of the most thrilling horror games ever made.
Indie Horror Video Games
Indie horror video games have become increasingly popular in recent years, with many developers creating unique and innovative horror games that push the boundaries of the genre. Some of the standout indie horror games include Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which uses a unique sanity system to create a sense of unease and dread, and Outlast, which puts players in the shoes of a journalist investigating a remote asylum filled with horrific experiments.
Other notable indie horror games include Layers of Fear, which uses a surreal and abstract art style to create a sense of horror, and Soma, which explores complex themes of identity and consciousness through a terrifying sci-fi narrative. These indie horror games demonstrate the versatility and creativity of the horror genre, and showcase the unique ideas that independent developers can bring to the table.
There are many other great puzzle-platformer games out there, and several that deserve honorable mentions. Fez, developed by Polytron, is a game that uses a unique 2D/3D perspective shift mechanic to create mind-bending puzzles and a surreal world. Braid, developed by Jonathan Blow, is a game that uses time manipulation to create a series of challenging and thought-provoking puzzles. And Ori and the Blind Forest, developed by Moon Studios, is a game that combines stunning visuals and a touching narrative with challenging platforming and puzzle-solving.
Layers of Fear:
Layers of Fear is a psychological horror game that was released in 2016. In this game, the player takes on the role of a painter who is trying to complete his masterpiece. The game is set in a Victorian-era mansion that is filled with haunting and disturbing imagery. The player must navigate through the mansion and solve puzzles to uncover the story of the painter and the events that led to his descent into madness.
Soma is a science-fiction horror game that was released in 2015. The game is set in an underwater research facility where the player takes on the role of Simon Jarrett, a man who finds himself trapped in the facility after a car accident. As the player progresses through the game, they must solve puzzles and make choices that will affect the outcome of the story. Soma explores themes of identity, consciousness, and the nature of existence.
The Evil Within:
The Evil Within is an action horror game that was released in 2014. The game is set in a world where the player takes on the role of Sebastian Castellanos, a detective who is investigating a series of gruesome murders. The game features a mix of survival horror and action gameplay, with the player having to fight off hordes of monsters using a variety of weapons and traps. The game also features a compelling story that keeps the player engaged throughout.
Action Horror Video Games:
Action horror games are a sub-genre of horror games that focus on fast-paced gameplay and intense combat. In addition to The Evil Within, some other notable action horror games include Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space. These games feature a mix of horror and action gameplay, with the player having to fight off hordes of monsters while also exploring a well-crafted world.