Got Survival Horror?

Survival horror is a dying genre. Sadly, the audience for it is small, and game developers tend to cater to larger audiences like the shooter crowd. This bodes ill for me since it’s one of my favorite genres, yet sadly I’m still looking for the perfect survival horror game. Those of you that know me probably know I cannot stand horror movies. They scare me beyond belief, the last one I saw (in theaters) was The Woman in Black and I ended up covering my eyes with my sweater for 80% of the film. I’m the kind of person that jumps when a gun is shot in any film, so you can imagine that jump scares really get me. The strangest part of this whole thing is that I am the complete opposite when it comes to games. It happens to be very difficult to actually scare me with a video game, but I keep coming back for more in hopes that one day I will find a game that actually does scare me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve played games that were intense, frightening, and creepy, but nothing has made me too scared to play the game. Jump scares still get me in games, I’m not quite above that yet. When a necromorph pops out of a vent in Dead Space, I definitely jump, but it’s not enough to make me say “whoa, I need a break” like many people do when they are frightened in a game. Speaking of Dead Space, the first Dead Space game is probably the most frightening game I have ever played. The atmosphere was dark and intense, the player is alone most of the time, and there are jump scares galore. It’s a great game, and when looking back at all the survival horror games I have played, it’s probably my favorite.

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Another great game is Amnesia: The Dark Decent. I’ve heard from various sources that it’s the “most horrifying game out there” but I’d have to disagree. It’s a very good game, but most horrifying? I think not. Now, the game is indeed creepy. The setting and story are mind-boggling and intense, but I think what makes this game appear to be so scary is the fact that the player is alone the entire game. Not like in Dead Space where you talk with people here and there but end up being alone most of the time. In Amnesia you are absolutely, 100% alone for almost the entirety of the game. Another thing that makes this game so intense is that when you spend too much time in unsettling areas or the dark, the character you play as starts to go insane. This blurs the vision and makes you hear things that may or may not be there. That’s not all, the most frightening part of the game is the enemies. They are few and far between, but they drive the character insane if he looks at them for too long and they chase you around and try to kill you, which is pretty easy for them since they have metal daggers for fingers. Oh, and did I mention that you have no weapons in this game? Just a lantern and some stuff to light it with.

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One game that I really found to be jumpy and overly frightening for such a small time game is Slender: The Eight Pages. I mean, the game literally consists of the player walking around a forested area at night with a flashlight looking for eight pages. Sounds simple, but don’t forget about Slenderman. Based off of an urban legend, Slenderman is a man with disproportionately long arms and legs and no face. He follows behind the main character, a random female, at a distance  If you turn around you might see him off in the distance, then walk 6 steps and turn back around and he will be closer. The more pages you get, the closer he gets and if you turn around and he is directly behind you, you die. Game over. It’s a very intense experience, and the game is free so if you haven’t tried it out I suggest you do.

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I’ve come to realize that independent developers make the best survival horror games, overall. The thing is that big game companies pander to the majority, like I said earlier, in order to make money by selling more copies of their game to the bigger crowd. Let’s face it, Call of Duty sells, this leads to game franchise’s like Dead Space turning slowly into more action based games. Indie developers don’t have to coddle the masses, they tend to just make the games they want to make. Since their budgets are lower they don’t have to worry about making as much money as say EA or Activision does. It’s totally understandable, when it cost $10-$30 million or more to make a AAA game you’d expect that they at least want to break even, which would only be possible if a lot of gamers bought said game. It usually only costs about $100-$300 thousand to make an indie game, so making gratuitous amounts of money isn’t as big of a deal. It’s just the way of the world these days, which is why I love to support indie developers in any way I can such as paying $25 instead of the base cost of $5 for Slender: The Arrival.

In conclusion, I’m in need of a new survival horror game, one which will scare the socks right off my feet. Anyone have any suggestions? I am going to give FEAR a go, since I hear that is a good one. I have already played F3AR, but not the first or second games in that series. There are also a few indie games on Steam that I want to give a shot, but I haven’t found too many that I think are worth playing and haven’t already played. Be sure to leave some of your suggestions in the comment box and I may just give it a shot. Thanks for reading!

6 thoughts on “Got Survival Horror?

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Indie developers have tapped into what really scares people and they stick with that. Innovating too if the technology allows it. I recently talked to the developer of the Indie horror game “Paranormal” and this is what he said about creating horror the indie way:

    “The whole point of horror is the feeling of helplessness. If you do not have that feeling, if you give someone a gun, they have something to combat helplessness. It’s not about fighting enemies, which it is now, with the focus on action because it kills the hopelessness and that’s the complete opposite of what you should be doing with horror.” – Matt Cohen (Paranormal)

    Here’s a link to his game – http://www.indiedb.com/games/paranormal

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    • Nice! That’s so true, some of the scariest games (and two of my three favorites as mentioned in the article) have the player walking around with nothing but a flashlight or lantern.

      I watched a trailer for a game called Outlast and it looked really good. I really like how it looks like you will only have a video camera, no weapons. Stuff like that is very cool.

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  2. This is a well-written article, and I really enjoyed reading about your experiences with survival horror games. I’m not a fan of horror films either. I’m too much of a scaredy cat to really watch them. That, and I’m convinced it will give me nightmares if I do watch them.

    I’m not sure if I can give any survival horror games a chance. I think I’d be too scared to play them, much less continue with them. I have heard about Amnesia and Slenderman, and both sound terrifying. I can see myself immediately turning off the console or computer because I’m too freaked out.

    Either way, I wish you luck on your endeavors of finding that great horror game that will scare the living daylights out of you! 😉

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  3. Nice article, and I definitely agree with you about the “action-ing” of most triple-A survival horror games. Even once-great series like Silent Hill have lost the magic of what gave them such a creepy atmosphere. There is one title that I could recommend that walks the line between horror and action games- Condemned: Criminal Origins. Taking several cues from suspenseful movies like Seven, Condemned features solid combat within a haunting and intense setting. It is an early Xbox360 game, so it doesn’t look as great as some modern releases, but still worth checking out. Avoid the sequel, though: it completely jumps the shark with silly magic powers and forgettable multiplayer.

    Outside of Condemned, I would recommend Fatal Frame 2 and Silent Hill 2, if you can get your hands on them.

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    • Thanks for the recommendations! I have been told about Condemned before, maybe it’s time I check it out. I have also heard that the Fatal Frame games are good. I really want to go through the Silent Hill series too, I have only played one of them but it was pretty good.

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