1. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Amnesia is fantastic at creating a truly uncomfortable tone, even when nothing of note is happening the player feels constantly on edge. The fact that the entire make up of the game is the player constantly roaming through networks of corridors makes the game even scarier due to its unpredictable nature. The majority of the game when you aren’t in an area such as the infamous water-level is turning corners, around which anything could be waiting. This seems like pretty basic stuff to horror fans but trust me Amnesia delivers this ancient horror technique in a very fresh way. It isn’t just the player walking around a corner to see a ghost standing there which then disappears. The lighting and music constantly build you up to a point of real stress before you turn a corner, it may amount to nothing but the atmosphere does not relent. This puts the player on edge as they know that something is definitely coming, they just don’t know when. In Amnesia: Dark Descent the main character is absolutely defenceless, you have no weapons or way of fighting off the monsters; your only means of surviving against the creatures that lurk in the corridors is to run away and you have to really run. These aren’t enemies that will patrol the hallways before slowly lumbering after you; they dart after you as soon as they spot you, knowing just how dangerous they are and just how dangerous you aren’t these moments fill you with dread. Very few video games put you in this vulnerable position, but you will find that when it is done it is the most effective method of getting a scare out of the gamer. Try and think of the most frightening games you have ever played, I am betting most of them put the player at a huge disadvantage, making fighting off an enemy a completely fruitless task.
I haven’t played the entire F.E.A.R. series so I can only speak for the effect of the first instalment in the franchise. But I’m willing to bet that the sequels are better than the original given that the studio behind the games was capable of more in the production of the later games. F.E.A.R is an interesting one, in contrast to the previous instalment in this list, F.E.A.R. actually makes the player capable of quite a lot but still manages to make them afraid of what could be around the corner. This is due to the fact that F.E.A.R. is a blend of your usual first person shooter action and horror. When facing regular foot-soldier enemies, once you have mastered the impressive combat system you can run through adversaries with relative ease. Especially if you utilise the slow motion mechanics as well as just some of the games brutally effective weapons. However, there are certain moments where you are completely at the mercy of forces much more powerful than you. This take place in excellently orchestrated moments of jump scares and creepy supernatural occurrences. F.E.A.R. somehow makes you afraid of something that you never actually come into conflict with, the reason you are afraid is because you aren’t looking forward to the next occurrence of unexplainable phenomena. For the most part the frights in F.E.A.R. are purely visual, however they really hit the spot.
3. Slender: The Arrival
Slender: The Arrival is another of those games that proposes a situation in which a human is being pitted against a seemingly unstoppable force. Slender: The Arrival manages to retain the appeal of Slender while updating the overall experience considerably, the premise is the same you run from the Slenderman while trying to work out what is going on. Although there are additions to this, the most striking being the considerable graphical update. However I would argue that as long as the scares are done right even the least graphically intense games can be terrifying. The other biggest addition is the locations, as well as a wider open world there are more buildings with clues in them that relate to the general plot. I actually found that my experience with Slender: The Arrival was improved by the fact that I played the original game, having experienced the terror of entering a building in the first game I was reluctant to enter the house that the player is presented with early into Arrival’. Having played Slender it proved to be a test of nerves looking for clues in the ransacked house of the main character’s friend. This being because in my experiences of Slender I had walked around corners in the building to be shocked by the sudden appearance of the Slenderman.
4. Silent Hill: Homecoming
Simply put Silent Hill: Homecoming has an odd atmosphere to it, though it doesn’t present the main character as completely defenceless the game’s enemies are a force to be reckoned with, even the low-level enemies are a problem before you have spent a long time working out how to beat each type. Some of the creatures are genuinely uncomfortable to look at and will just blind side the player at any given moment, the iconic mist of Silent Hill once again conceals the horrors of the mysterious town in sinister fashion.
5. Alan Wake
Alan Wake is an homage to the fantastic Twin Peaks, not really in plot but in style. The idea of a seemingly gorgeous, picturesque mountain town with dark and supernatural secrets is present in this story-driven yet somehow simultaneously adrenaline fuelled and frantic, horror masterpiece. I cannot speak highly enough about Alan Wake, it is fantastic, you are absorbed by its art style and enthralled by its plot, it is beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. It has a constant up the creek without a paddle feel to it, I say this as the only way you can fight off the relentless flow of mad axe wielding possessed lumberjacks is with a flash light and limited firearms. The unique idea behind the enemies in Alan Wake is that they are the husks of normal people who have been taken over by the supernatural force that has a grip on the town. The force essentially being pure darkness, a mysterious and seemingly sentient phenomena that controls people like puppets. The hostiles appear to be surrounded by the force as it drives them to attack Alan, the only way to defeat these shades is to shine a torch on them, and then attacking with whatever you have. The majority of this takes place as the player is lost in the woods surrounded by hordes of these hostiles, with very little ammo. There are terrifying moments in which you have forgotten to conserve your resources, your batteries on your torch are running low meaning the enemies are essentially invulnerable to whatever you do and you have no flares. This all usually takes place when multiple enemies are closing in on you. Alan Wake has a fantastic plot, as well as a sharp and unique gameplay dynamic that weaves into the story.
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