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Jamie John

Scary games: do you enjoy them and what's the scariest you've played?

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No, I do not like scary games. The Scarecrow nightmares in Arkham Asylum, the crying baby nightmares in Max Payne, and New Londo Ruins in Dark Souls are about my limit.

 

But I did read the article Kieron Gillen wrote about the Robbing the Cradle level in Thief: Deadly Shadows, and its story of an orphanage that was also an asylum - does that count?

 

http://gillen.cream.org/thecradle.pdf

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Aliens v Predator on the PC (the first one) is the scariest game I’ve played. I had to turn it off each time I could hear a facehugger in the room with me but didn’t know where it was. You had to start each level afresh when you died, and enemy positions/movement was randomised, which made it much worse.

 

For similar reasons I found one segment of Alien Isolation extremely stressful but il glad I persevered. 
 

I think I just have a thing about facehuggers and spidery things in general. I rounded a corner this morning while out for walk and shit myself:

 

 

Spoiler

7588BF2B-7C56-4AC9-90F5-ED9027D8FBA1.thumb.jpeg.0867bc71199250051c27eca2b8688d4e.jpeg

 

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3 hours ago, Jamie John said:

I didn't realise the Outlast games were so highly regarded. I might give them a go (by which I mean buy them but then not play them for 6 years). What are the Switch ports like?

The Switch ports are amazing - 2 is only 30fps as opposed to 60fps on the other systems but it looks fantastic, the first one is basically the same as the other versions. 

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I love scary games and go for the full late night, lights off, headphones on experience. If you’re going to do something then do it properly.

 

There’s a wider conversation to be had here about the inherent advantage that videogames have over movies in terms of producing genuine fear. I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I was genuinely scared by a movie but games manage it consistently and I’m not just referring to cheap jump scares. Partly that’s because modern horror movies are almost all fucking dreadful and have a complete lack of understanding of how to engender fear and tension in the audience but mostly it’s because the interactivity of games opens up the possibilities in a multitude of ways. The medium is perfectly suited to manipulating the player in this way to the point where I’m almost worried where they could end up when we have such compellingly detailed and immersive worlds being created in games now. There’s strong rumours that Kojima’s next game will be a horror title and anyone who played the PT demo will tell you that is a terrifying prospect.

 

Having said that, Silent Hill 1 is the scariest game I’ve ever played and probably always will be. It would seem incredibly tame now and hard to believe that the PS1 graphics and ten metre draw distance could ever shit someone up but at the time (about 18 years old and most probably stoned out of my mind) I had never played anything like it and I just wasn’t prepared for the unremittingly bleak and disturbing atmosphere that drenches every single square inch of its foggy streets. The first time the world shifted to the rusted metal and decaying rot of the ‘other’ realm I absolutely fucking shat myself. It was so indescribably unsettling and I wanted to get out of there as soon as humanly possible as I felt literally physically uncomfortable. Brilliantly done.

 

At the time the Resident Evil games were the standard for what a ‘scary’ game could be but although they had some decent jump scares they were ultimately cheesy B-movies in tone. But Silent Hill felt like it was the first proper psychologically disturbing horror and the soundtrack in particular was exceptional in the way that it dug under your skin and made you feel that something was just not quite right no matter how mundane it appeared on the surface. It created a permanent sense of tension and unease superbly.

 

Silent Hill 2 took the psychological horror and the burrowing down into the darker depths of a character’s mind aspects to the next level of course and has never been bettered in this regard in my opinion. It’s a masterpiece but it didn’t outright scare me quite as much as by that time a little of the novelty of the set-up and premise of the Silent Hill games had worn off. It’s still right up there though.

 

Plenty of others have done a good job of either shitting me up good and proper or ratcheting up the tension to almost unbearable levels.

 

Alien Isolation nails it with its incredibly evocative rendition of the original movie’s sci-fi aesthetic and feelings of being hunted relentlessly by a foe that you can’t hope to beat.

 

The Shalebridge Cradle level from Thief 3 was a masterpiece of an increasingly disturbing and slowly unfurling truth underlying the environment you were exploring and some cracking jump scares for good measure. Atmospherically one of the truly great videogame levels.

 

The original Dead Space overdid the ‘empty room with vents’ a little by the end but its sound design is the greatest in videogame history and it has many moments of genuine terror. It took the alone in space theme and welded it to brutal and hefty body horror and I found it terrifying at times.

 

There’s plenty of others such as Soma, Outlast, Fatal Frame, Amnesia etc. Good shit all of them and proof that games are the king when it comes to making me fill my trollies.

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Inspired by this thread, I installed FEAR earlier and gave it a go for about an hour. As mentioned, it's not scary at all, really, and while the shooting is quite good fun, it's 18 years old now and showing its age a fair bit - lots of grey warehouses and cardboard-coloured corridors with identical enemies.  I'm glad I've given it a go but I doubt I'll return to it, unless there's some compelling reason to.

 

Gonna give Amnesia a go later, instead, once the sun goes down :ph34r:

 

@pinholestar - nice write-up. I was unfortunately too young when the Silent Hill games came out on the PS1 to properly appreciate them. It'd be great if a remake came out that nailed the atmosphere of the original.

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Dead Space the first really put the shits up me back in the day. I remember playing it at night in a big empty house and then crapping myself going down to the kitchen, sure that when I turned the lights on I'd get scrubbed by a necroblob.

 

Amnesia was another one that scared me. I remember creeping through the darkened castle finding some objects so I could break open a lock, hoping that mister happy face didn't find me, then when I managed to get the lock open I heard him go 'bleh' behind me and I ran all the way back through the level and hid under a table.

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@Jamie John The PT in Unreal has been taken down by the developer. I found this link which 'looks' legit enough - https://lutris.net/games/unreal-pt/. I grabbed it when it came out and haven't played it so will rectify that soon.

 

As for scary, the recent Song of Horror is superb and should be played by anyone who has any kind of taste for creepy and scary games.

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PT

Alien Isolation 

 

 

REVII (VR)  has to be it for me because the immersion is obviously at a different level. Actually craning your neck around a corner to see if the person hunting you is there is terrifying in a way regular tv stuff can't really compare to. One moment in the second act scared me so effectively, I felt my chest tighten quite actutely. This was a  jump scare but because of the sense of scale and immediacy, it felt 'real'. If you haven't tried it, I can't recommend it highly enough. I've said it loads of times, but it really is revolutionary stuff and for Capcom to get so much of it right first time out of the gate is really impressive.

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I think it's worth sticking with FEAR.  Once all the combat options open up it's really something.  I played through quite a bit of it again recently and the gameplay is more chunky and satisfying than most shooters from the past decade.  But yeah, the environments were always drab.

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The only thing that scares me in games these days is in VR. Anything with giant spiders in VR scares me to death. One comes to mind is the Brookhaven Experiment were you are in that sewer and the spiders are on the roof and spit webs in your face etc. Resident Evil 7? VR was amazing and scary at the same time, loved that.

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12 minutes ago, Jamie John said:

One game I've never got round to is STALKER. Is that scary?

 

It’s creepy rather than outright scary I’d say. Hugely atmospheric though and well worth playing. The Metro games trace their lineage back to STALKER so if you’ve played any of those it’ll give you a good sense of what to expect.

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I really want to spoiler this because I want to put across exactly why this is scary, but to do so involves plot spoilers.  Here we go.  DEADLY PREMONITION.  Yes.  I think I need to explain that.

 

So, what Deadly Prem does is it lures you into a false sense of security.  Some of this is intentional, some is not.   The unintentional hilarity starts with scenes like the conversation between Polly and York at the hotel.  There's a deliberate joke here which is that the table is too big and they can't hear each other.  The unintentional joke comes from the audio mix in 5.1 being completely dreadful and you, the player, can't hear the dialogue either.  It's a complete mess, and it makes you laugh.  The presentation of the game (PS2 standard on the 360 era hardware) goes a long way to convincing you that you are playing a very silly game.  But what happens is, when the novelty and the silliness wears off ("The Sinner's Sandwich!) , you find you've been sucked right in to the characters and the story.  It's all so well put together, with side stories and quests that flesh out each of the characters.  The bumbling "sapling salesman" and his dog, your parner Emily, the sheriff, the shopkeeper , they all inhabit this world for real, and soon you are looking past the ropey presentation and low budget feel and instead enjoying the action and storyline.

 

Then this happens.......

 



You learn that the unintentionally hilarious zombies that have been moaning "Let me die! Don't want to die! Huuuuurgh!!!!" and making you laugh, are actually quoting lines from a really disturbing moment in Detective York's childhood.  And the jolly laughs of the sapling salesman continue as he tries to kill a whole village with a nerve gas.  And he's taken Emily hostage!"

OK, I kept that spoiler mild.  But when that thing, which players of the game will know exactly what I'm referring to, happens, when you see what (he) has done to (other character), and you have to make a choice...  well, if you were one of those people who cried when Aeris died in FF7, this will have you helpless.

 

I've never been as invested in a story or characters in any other game, and the way it sets itself up as a cheap, silly, horrror comedy adventure, then starts pulling the rug away from under you, it's a masterpiece.

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Really enjoy atmospheric scary games, and ones in space it would seem given my favourites are Dead Space 1 & 2 and Prey (2017)

 

The Bioshock games have their moments too, again though the atmosphere created lends so well to that. Got Soma still to play, hoping that will provide some chills.

 

Headphones all the way while playing, preferably in a dark room and phone out of reach so there are no distractions.

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Parasite eve has stayed with me. Finished it for the first time in around the last year.

Amazing game.

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Actually this Aliens game on the humble c64 also used to warrant a pair of brown trousers. I'd never even seen any of the films at this point either...

Aliens_e_05.png

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As mentioned,  alien isolation in VR is so scary it's not even fun. 

 

Recently finished the Forest (which you can play in vr for added atmosphere) and it's definitely a scary experience. Even better going in blind. 

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13 hours ago, Jamie John said:

I didn't realise the Outlast games were so highly regarded. I might give them a go (by which I mean buy them but then not play them for 6 years). What are the Switch ports like?


I got Outlast from PS+ and got as far as finding a person stood in a corridor, Blair witch style, that you had to walk past. 
I turned the console off and deleted the game. 

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One of the biggest scares I've got from videogames came from Mario 64. One day just going to pop out into the wee garden of Peach's castle like I've done loads of times before but this time there's a fucking ghost in the hallway leading there? Not cool, Nintendo, not cool at all. 

 

Don't even get me started on that bastarding piano. 

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45 minutes ago, Vespa Alex said:


I got Outlast from PS+ and got as far as finding a person stood in a corridor, Blair witch style, that you had to walk past. 
I turned the console off and deleted the game. 

 

Hmm. Now I'm not sure whether to play it or not.

 

I carried on with FEAR for a bit this evening. There were a couple of jumpy-ish bits. Nothing that literally made me jump, but a few sections that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and my heart beat faster. I think it's weird that a game can create a palpable physical sensation in this way. I'm not sure if I enjoyed it or not, really. I only played it for about half an hour and have spent the rest of the evening playing Rayman on the Switch instead. Maybe scary games are only good in short bursts, otherwise they just turn you into a jangling bag of nerves.

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P.T for me.

 

There has just never been anything like it at all, this mystery game by a highly respected designer putting out a demo of a game nobody has heard anything about. I played it before  I knew of anyone finishing it, got very far too. There is this moment in there where you feel like the game is done, however with the combination of it being a Kojima game and the obscure nature of it's release I felt compelled to keep playing and sure enough eventually something 'changed' and there was clearly a deeply hidden mystery to it all. At the time it kinda felt like I was the only person in the world experiencing whatever this thing was. 

 

There wasn't really any clear solution, again with it being a Kojima game I was trying all sorts of mad stuff like walking backwards in time to certain sounds etc. I had no idea what this 'game' was and where it was going. 

 

That along with the very oppressive tone freaked me out quite a bit. Also you have to remember that at the time this was one of the most incredibly realistic looking games, partly because of the new FOX engine but also the game environment was so small that they could get away a really high budget technically speaking.

 

I cherish it but I never felt like playing it ever again as I just found it very unsettling, especially the sound design. It's a weird one because anyone playing it for the first time now wouldn't have the same experience of playing it before anyone knew what it was. Even if you know nothing about it now, you at least know nothing came of it. 

 

 It reminded me of watching BBC's infamous Ghost Watch program as a child. This sort of one off 'show' where you start to wonder if you're witnessing the something horrific for the first time ever. Hard to explain but 0.1% of me felt like the end result was going to be a video of Kojima revealing that he's just killed everyone in the studio and that Sony didn't catch it because they only played up until the part where you think it's complete or something.

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14 hours ago, glb said:

Really enjoy atmospheric scary games, and ones in space it would seem given my favourites are Dead Space 1 & 2 and Prey (2017)


This. Playing Dead Space at night with the lights off and headphones on was one of the most tense gaming experiences I've ever had, in particular being stalked by the Regenerator. I also found Prey to be incredibly tense, until the latter third of the game when I was so ludicrously overpowered with Human neuromods and weapon upgrades that I could tank through pretty much anything up to and including the Nightmare. I never did find an effective technique for dealing with Technopaths though. :( 

 

For some strange reason, games where you are utterly alone in an alien environment have a deeply unsettling effect on me. I found a game like Lost Planet hard going at times due to the extreme sense of isolation, whilst having no issues with similar sections of one of the recent Tomb Raider games because the environment still felt familiar.

 

I tried out Alien Isolation earlier this year, but it got a bit much so I stopped playing even though I hadn't even encountered the alien yet! I plan to go back to it eventually but I imagine I'll be playing it in very small chunks lol. 

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You are correct! Half of what  made PT so effective is the fact you didn't know what it was all about. I discovered it on the PlayStation dashboard one day and just has a quick read of the description and thought it sounded a bit like Silent Hill so gave it a try. I had no warning about what the experience involved so no expectations or apprehension. It was an amazing piece of art IMHO. It evoked so many primal fears etc. I was absolutely gutted when this didn't develop into a full title. Maybe it will be taken forward in future. Really hope so.

 

As an aside I think to many times these days we are bombarded with media, videos and opinions of upcoming games if we consume too much of it our experience and some of the magic of the final release is diminished - we are robbed of an experience and we feel like we have played the game before it has even been installed.

 

Decided going forward just going to read a bit about a game perhaps look at the odd screenshot and that is it. Just get it on release and relish it. This thought came across my mind when I was watching a trailer for the upcoming Paper Mario game on the Switch. It was revealing to much of the magic I wanted to discover myself - robbing me an experience. So I turned it off after around 10 or so seconds. Never watched any Mario Odyssey footage at all. Just the odd screen grab and a few bits around the general premise of the game. Absolutely loved the experience of playing it fresh and smiling at various points as I discovered another puzzle or or gameplay design element. Something magical about that and I'm not letting the internet take that away from me. :)

 

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Thinking back to something that was the right level of scary for me, Alien Trilogy on the original PlayStation did a great job of putting you on edge. 

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Until Dawn is brilliantly schlocky and creepy, a real 80’s horror slasher come to life but arguably better written.. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood in VR is wonderful too, extremely tense. 
 

Resi VII is the king for me though. Just so anxiety inducing.
 

Outlast is a decent scare too, and a bit more bearable that Resi for me. Terrible final boss though.

 

Deadly Premonition isn’t scary per se, but is so bonkers it’s almost like you’ve entered a Lovecraftian blizzaro world.

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Yeah, I enjoyed playing through Until Dawn with my wife a few years ago now, taking it in turns to make decisions. We're currently doing the same with the first Walking Dead series. I wouldn't really describe either game as scary, but they're good fun.

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I've heard a couple of people (okay Greg Miller, I know I know) suggest that Last of Us 2 is horribly tense in places. 

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15 hours ago, Talvalin said:


This. Playing Dead Space at night with the lights off and headphones on was one of the most tense gaming experiences I've ever had, in particular being stalked by the Regenerator.

 

Deadspace is easily one of my favourite horror/survival horror games. I eventually managed it on the top difficulty with only the Plasma Cutter, and that was pretty tense at points. My girlfriend found it absolutely nightmarish, mostly because she finds the following things very scary: -

 

- Crawling things

- Very hairy things

- Things that move is spasms

 

.... and whilst the Necromorphs were never especially hairy, they were definitely pushing her horror buttons hard. But she couldn't look away from it, and I remember several nights of her sat on the arm of the sofa watching me play, and whenever anything would bust through a wall she would get up and walk out of the room until it was gone, then come back. She sort of built up a tolerance for it after a while, but it really added to the whole thing, and of course provided me with some welcome breaks to make a cup of tea and take the piss.

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I've played the first two Dead Spaces and enjoyed them a lot, but I don't think I ever really found them that scary. Tense, in places, definitely, but never truly dread-inducing or anything. The necromorph design felt too alien and bestial to be truly scary.

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I also found Silent Hill: The Room scary... I don't think I'm cut out for playing scary stuff. 

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