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19 Survival Horror Games That Deserve Another Look
A tribute to the lesser known horror games
By Briana Lawrence
November 03, 2010
A little late to the Halloween party, but we'd still like to take time out to discuss one of our favorite genres in gaming: survival horror. We love scaring ourselves and becoming paranoid about that scrapping noise in our apartment that turns out to be the cat using the liter box. We’ve gone through many adventures in Raccoon City and have ventured into Silent Hill, but we’d like to take time out to discuss the lesser known titles that have impacted the genre.
19. Haunted House (1981)
Looking back at the graphics, this Atari game has absolutely nothing scary about it. But it deserves some credit for being considered as the first survival horror game out there. It’s focus on puzzle-solving and avoiding danger is a huge trend of games in the genre today.
18. Sweet Home (1989)
Released in Japan only on the Famicom, the graphics may not do much to scare audiences today but it was the first real attempt to scare players. The game provided a gruesome story, tense music, and creepy cutscenes. Developed by Capcom, the company would later revisit elements from Sweet Home in their smash hit, Resident Evil.
17. Alone in the Dark (1992)
You can’t have a survival horror article without mentioning Alone in the Dark. There have been many sequels, and even a movie -- unfortunately -- but before all of that there was the PC release back in the 90s. Known for its supernatural monsters, puzzles, and mysterious notes, Alone in the Dark really set the standard for the genre.
16. Clock Tower (1995)
Released on the original Playstation, this series usually has a pretty helpless lead character who hides from the killer instead of attacking him head on. What we remember most about this game is Scissorman, the killer equipped with a giant pair of scissors.
15. Overblood (1997)
This Playstation game is the first in the genre to make use of a 3D environment. It’s also one of the first to have sci-fi elements as Raz Karcy awakens from cryogenic sleep, meets a robot, and begins his quest to escape the compound and regain his memories.
14. Parasite Eve (1998)
SquareSoft -- now Square Enix -- released their first M-rated game on the Playstation. This game had the guts to come out the same year as Resident Evil 2, giving players a weird mix of survival horror and an rpg. As much as we loved Resident Evil 2, we still can’t get Parasite Eve’s image of an entire opera house audience spontaneously combusting out of our head.
13. American McGee’s Alice (2000)
This PC game is probably one of the creepiest games we’ve seen because it crushed our childlike lenses of Wonderland. After Alice’s house is burned down -- her parents dying in the fire -- the cute heroine we always envisioned is put into an insane asylum. 10 years later Alice enters into a twisted version of Wonderland warped by her now dark mind.
12. Fatal Frame (2001)
Released on both the PS2 and XBOX, this Japanese style horror series is the first we tried that had terrifying ghosts and spirits instead of grotesque monsters. This game has a quiet type of horror that jumps out at you when you least expect it. With only a camera as a weapon, Fatal Frame still gives us goosebumps.
11. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002)
We were taken by surprise when the GameCube came out with a mature rated game published by Nintendo themselves. This game is known for playing tricks on your mind. Players have a “sanity meter” which decreases when the character starts to panic. As messed up as it is to see bleeding walls, it’s even more messed up to have a game tell you that your save data is corrupt.
10. The Suffering (2004)
This game came out on multiple platforms but we played the Playstation 2 version. A survival horror game where hideous monsters have been unleashed all around a prison. You take control of the lead character, Torque, as he tries to escape. Much like Bioshock’s moral dilemmas he has to decide to either help survivors, kill them, or be completely indifferent. Your decisions effect the outcome of the game.
9. Kuon (2004)
We didn’t even know about this Playstation 2 game until last year. The game takes place in a creepy Japanese mansion where mutated creatures are on the loose. Unlike many other survival horror games that use guns and steel pipes, Kuon uses magic as a weapon.
8. Siren (2004)
Another Japanese style horror game for the Playstation 2, the game focuses on ten different characters and their days trying to survive in a creepy village. When the siren goes off, inhabitants of the village walk into a sea of blood-red water, creating an army of corpse-like people who do the bidding of the village leader.
7. Haunting Ground (2005)
Taking a cue from Clocktower’s style of hiding from enemies, this Playstation 2 game features a heroine named Fiona who tries to escape a castle full of twisted inhabitants out to kill her. When she’s not cowering in fear underneath a bed, she’s solving puzzles or using her canine companion -- Hewie -- to fight off pursuers.
6. Rule of Rose (2006)
Like Haunting Ground, this Playstation 2 game features a weak female lead who has man’s best friend as a valuable alley. Jennifer follows a little boy to a mansion and ends up being knocked out and brought onto an airship. There, she meets a cruel group of children known as the Red Crayon Aristocrats who force her to bring them offerings each month or else she will be killed.
5. Penumbra (2007)
A series of PC games where players control a man named Philip who receives a letter from his supposedly dead father. In each game Philip is usually alone, looking for clues and ending up in dangerous situations with limited weapons. Each game picks up where the previous game left off, the first taking place in an abandoned mine, the second in a research facility, and the expansion having a new lead character exploring a tomb.
4. Juon: the Grudge Haunted House Simulator (2009)
Exclusively for the wii, the popular Japanese horror movie comes to life as players use the wiimote as a flashlight to explore the different levels. And... that’s about it. If you move the wiimote too much -- for example, if you jump or flinch out of fear -- your success rate will go down. Battery power has to be kept up, otherwise players will be attacked and the game will end.
3. The Calling (2010)
Another horribly executed wii exclusive -- getting worse reviews than Juon -- has players discovering “The Black Page,” a website that only displays how many people have died after visiting the website. The wiimote is used to explore areas, but is also used as a cellphone where players can hear ghosts talking to them.
2. Deadly Premonition (2010)
Something’s not right in the town of Greenvale. FBI agent Fracis York Morgan is investigating the murder of Anna Graham, but when he gets to the town he notices that the local residents seem a bit... bizarre. Exclusively on the XB360, it’s one of the only games in the genre we’ve seen where you actually have to take care of your lead character -- make sure he eats, gets sleep, and keeps the gas in his car full.
1. Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010)
By the same studio behind Penumbra, the recently released PC game is getting rave reviews from critics. With no memory of anything but his name and the fact that he’s being hunted, Daniel wakes up in Brennenburg Castle with an ominous note written to himself from... himself. Players have little to no weapons and are forced to hide from their enemies or outsmart them. While hiding in the shadows is recommended, staying in the dark or seeing unsettling images makes the player lose their sanity -- similar to Eternal Darkness.