Elemental Challenge Day Twenty-Six: Survival Horror



Swallow your fears and pull the covers over your heads because it’s time to talk about Survival Horror! This spooky genre is primarily defined by its dedication to everything frightening: body horror, supernatural horror, psychological horror, jump scare horror, clunky gameplay horror. You name it. There’s little more terrifying than having to stand still to shoot a gun, or making every bullet count because your never know when you’ll run out. A lot has been done with this genre in gaming over the years and it has more than its share of viral hits.

These are just a few of our favorites, or least favorites depending on which one of us are the biggest sissies.


FF3-NES-Summoner2.png  The Green Screen Mage

Horror might be one of my least favorite genres. I am a big baby. But I love Until Dawn! It has one of my favorite horror monsters, a bunch of entertaining protagonists you have to save/or kill, creepy good soundtrack, some pretty good twists, and it’s overall just a highly entertaining game.



blackmage  The Black Humor Mage

This one was a little tough. I’ve played a handful of survival horror games, and they all feel a little similar, but ultimately Alien: Isolation is my favorite in this genre. If survival horror is about making you feel less in control, then this game definitely did it for me. You can’t even kill the Xenomorph in this game, and it makes it twice as terrifying. This game oozes a dreadful atmosphere, but it is science fiction at the same time. I love science fiction much more as genre too, so this game has it all for me.



mystic_knight1 The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)

Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Probably the scariest game that I have ever played in my life. Amnesia could definitely be in the Stealth category as well, but it being the game that gave me lucid nightmares and made me question my own sanity while playing, it deserves this top spot in Survival Horror. (Honorable Mentions – Condemned: Criminal Origins, Resident Evil, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem)



spoonybardmageright.jpg  The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)

I’m a wuss. I don’t like horror. I don’t like being scared. There came a point when the Resident Evil games weren’t really scary though, and RE4 was the pinnacle of the series for its gameplay, particularly on the Wii. Now that RE series (with 7 having just come out) is legitimately scary again, I won’t play it.



FF3-NES-Geomancer1 The Five More Minutes Mage (Gamegato)

Don’t Escape 3 is probably another game you may never heard of. You wake up in an airlock, and the console is counting down to opening. Your objective is survival. Think it’s not scary enough? Finding your dead crewmates and hallucinating is.



HandheldMage1  The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)

The Last of Us (PS4). I wasn’t sure if TLOU fitted this category, but upon further thought it really does. It’s definitely a game of survival, about a group of survivors simply trying to keep going towards a potentially hopeless goal. The horror isn’t just about zombies, it’s the horror of what society has become and how people have reacted to it. As a regular civilian, the bleakness of TLOU terrifies me more than any monsters.

Read Well-Red Mage’s excellent review for a better breakdown of how bleak TLOU is…I’m just happy I’ve played it and don’t have to go back to it.



EKkbAqWy  The Brave Blue Mage (924COLLECTIVE)

There are a lot of Survival Horror titles to choose from but Parasite Eve immediately comes to mind.  The Opera scene at Carnegie Hall still gives me the chills.  Square delivers a dynamic hybrid of real time combat with RPG elements, this really was the Nightmare before Christmas.



Kx18GL1dNEW  The Dapper Zaffre Mage (Save File 02)

I’m not quite sure if the PSX’s Parasite Eve counts as ‘survival’ horror, but I’ll admit: the game terrified me as a child. NYPD officer Aya Brea’s battle against the mutated creatures roaming the city seemed pretty vivid at the time, especially with the engine that would go on to become Final Fantasy VIII. Seriously, it’s not but ten minutes into the game when you’re treated to the lovely sight an entire room of theater-goers spontaneously combusting and flailing in panic. Manage to get past that and the prologue boss, and say hello to the FMV of an ordinary rat mutating into some crime-against-nature fireball-tossing enemy that proceeds to attack the moment the cutscene ends. Fishing a key off of a charred body was also probably not what I thought I’d be doing that evening, either.

Parasite Eve, while arguably short, was a great game with a fun combat system (one that I only fault for having your character stand rooted in the spot every time she fires a gun.) I adore the idea of RPG characters being able to dodge attacks, so me and Parasite Eve got along pretty well, even moreso when I came back to it years later and knew what I was doing. Aya herself is a strong character, and pretty much ties with only one other as my go-to example on a solid, well-written female protagonist.



nostalgiamage  The Over-Caffeinated Nostalgia Mage (Nostalgia Trigger)

There was a period of time where I was obsessed with everything horror. Movies and games being the primary focus, I couldn’t get enough of them! It was at this time I discovered what I consider one of my favorite survival-horror games of all time: Penumbra: Black Plague. This game was far ahead of its time for its graphical prowess, and the atmosphere looked like real-life, especially considering it game back in 2008. Do yourself a favor and look up some screenshots, keeping your head in the context of almost 10 years ago. It really was incredible for the time.

What made it scarier than any other game I’ve played is the fact that you don’t have any weapons. No means of attacking, whatsoever. As you’re playing through the game, you’re avoiding all enemy creatures to your best ability. At the same time, the game engine kept a sanity meter and your vision would blur as you witnessed horrifying events unfold before your eyes. It was very advanced at the time and it still plays great today!

The followup title Amnesia: The Dark Descent was also terrifyingly brilliant, but Black Plague still holds the title for creepiest survival horror I’ve ever played. Some terrific work by Frictional Games, who continues to put out great survival horror content to this day.



  The Rage Mage

There’s this old P&C adventure horror game about insanity, torture, rape, and artificial intelligence called I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. More like “I Have No Taste, so I Must Play Survival Horror Games”.



rmage2.jpg  The Well-Red Mage

I have to echo so many sentiments of my mage colleagues: Spoony not liking horror, H. Handheld’s relief at never having to go through TLOU again, but ultimately I have to agree with the Black Humor Mage because Alien: Isolation is indeed survival horror perfection. This is a genre that I generally have a strong aversion to, not because I’m a ‘fraidy cat, but because there’s so much gratuitousness in the typical gore, gross-out shock factor shmutz, and violence overdose that it’s just revolting to me. I’m not so much scared as I am nauseated, and that’s not the same thing, nor is it a feeling I’ll cherish. Every once in a while, a morbid fancy overcomes me, but not very often and even then I’m quite persnickety, preferring horror literature and film over horror gaming.

Alien: Isolation, on the other hand, adapts one of the greatest, most atmospheric sci-fi horror films of all time and evokes all the the terror of running from an unstoppable Xenomorph with its great attention to detail and recreating score… But for the sake of diversity I’m going to name Luigi’s Mansion. What a hilariously fun game, with a few survival horror features tucked neatly away inside it. Besides, it’s a special kind of delight watching a horror protagonist that’s hilariously more scared than you.



Well… try to get some sleep tonight. Don’t let the horrifying nightmares bite. Come back tomorrow for something I bit cheerier, I bit more hipster. Thanks for reading!

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38 replies »

  1. Silent Hill 1-6 & Origins!!!
    Ohhhh I need Silent Hills!!!
    Damn, but P.T was utter, utter cack!!!!
    *Sobs Uncontrollably*
    Solid Honorables to Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem as I own it & it’s awesome!!! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I nominate Metroid: Other M on the Wii. I have not played many Survival Horror games (I am not sure if I can count Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness). I understand people do not like this game, however, as I have not played many Metroid games, I can not say how this game interferes with the Metroid series’ storyline. I have felt that parts of the Metroid Prime games did create an effective scary atmosphere, but this game was much better. The whole game takes place on a ruined space ship, with evidence that something terrifying happened, leaving no survivors. This means the player runs through rooms with destroyed walls and upturned furniture in silence, creating an effective sense of isolation. The game also uses a lot of rooms simulated to resemble outdoor locations on Earth (that sometimes blur or lose the simulated surroundings), creating a weird sense of unreality. Much of the other rooms in the ship are dark and industrial. The game also includes a small team of allies, who are systematically killed during the game, and a mysterious character. The game also uses some enjoyable bosses and interesting action sequences. I also enjoy the use of third-person and first-person perspectives. The game also reminds me of the Alien film.
    I am interested by the reasons why this genre of games are hated or enjoyed. Is Luigi’s Mansion actually scary? Is there a scene showing a shadow of Luigi hanging?


  3. I love a good scare and survival horror from the PSX era is one of my fondest memories of that time. Games like Resident Evil (1-3), Dino Crisis (1 & 2), and Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, were all a ton of fun. But the one that trumps them all for me was Silent Hill. I was playing the original Silent Hill with a friend and we had the lights off, playing the game on a 13 inch screen, we entered the school and a small black figure appeared out of nowhere. Both of us jumped, had some choice words to say, and I (controlling the game at that point) unloaded an entire clip in to the ghost. We quickly turned on the lights, realized the ghost couldn’t hurt us, and had a good laugh but I’ve, to date, never been more scared while playing a game. And my friend has sworn off horror games on the whole.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t do a ton of horror games, as it isn’t my favorite genre, but If I had to pick one that stuck with me it would be Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube. A lot of these games try to just simply startle you with jump scares. Eternal Darkness truly screwed with your psyche. Making you think your character was dying when limbs fell off for no reason. Making you think it was going to erase your save file. Along with a host of other ways it would get in your head. Then the story, and setting were full of dread. It takes on a ton of influence from HP Lovecraft novels, and the game just oozes atmosphere. Even if the graphics haven’t held up against other, more photorealistic horror games, it is still an instant classic for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a genre I haven’t played enough of but really want to play more. I’ve played Luigi’s Mansion but that’s it. I mean, both games in the series are brilliant, but I really want to play Until Dawn and Alien: Isolation.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Spoony Bard Mage you basically summed up my experience with the Resident Evil series as well xD. I also could only play 4-6 (and even 6 freaked me out at the beginning) and now won’t touch the series anymore because 7 is scary again.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The scariest game I ever played was Mario. Think about it. Mario can break bricks with his fist and kills helpless turtles and goombas.. So imagine waking up one morning and finding that your brick house has been smashed to pieces, and dead turtles and goombas all over the place. Scary, right?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My sister’s favorite genre has always been survival horror. I have learned not to take her suggestions for games or movies even if she says “really, it’s not scary at all!”. I don’t deal well with the lingering sensations of fear that cling to me after scary games and movies, so I generally avoid them. Add to that my dislike for gratuitous violence as accurately described by Red! (here’s looking at you, Outlast 2. I’ve never played a game with so much gore that I became bored of it rather than grossed out) That being said, I played through one of the Slenderman games with a group of friends. We didn’t finish, only managing to make it as far as a corn field with a creepy abandoned barn. The creature rushing after us as we retreated from the barn got us and we decided to call it a night. That one’s fun because it focuses on the fear element, offering its audience no gratuitous violence or gore to try and frighten them with. It’s jump-scares all the way, and forcing players into situations where they know they have to turn a corner, but they don’t know if that scuttling thing they just heard will be there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That desensitizing to things like horrific gore, torture, etc. is something I detest out of principle, but if it’s used in small doses it can be really very effective at shocking someone. Clearly, though, that shock value becomes less and less impactful if you’re watching constant hyper-violence. It loses its purpose, and at that point it’s just disgusting. Or hilarious.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Sublime Reviews and commented:

    Day 26 of the Elemental Challenge is a genre that I have started to love the older I have become. Because I am devolving into full blown madness of course. Survival Horror. My pick for today goes to Amnesia: the Dark Descent, stop by The Well-Red Mage and let us know yours!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m happy Parasite Eve is included here. I didn’t get through much of the game (action RPG le sigh), but I loved the premise, and you can definitely see they used similar themes in FFVII. VII doesn’t present as a straight horror, but there are decidedly horror elements in it (body horror, cosmic horror, existential horror/crisis, eldritch abomination, alien mental manipulation et al) that I love to examine and flesh out in anslysis, but I didn’t come here to talk about VII. I came here to talk about SOMA.

    SOMA is terrifying not because of the jump scares or the monsters, which it has; it’s horrifying because of the underlying reasons behind the jump scares and the monsters. I recently googled “existential horror,” and one breakdown I found was just perfect. I’m probably going to misquote, but…screw it, I looked it up again lol.

    “Being chased by a killer is Terror.

    Being chased by a killer robot bent on destroying all of humanity starting with you is Horror.

    Discovering that, not only are you being chased by a killer robot, but that it has already exterminated all of humanity centuries ago, and that you are one of the faux-human replicants the killer robot has built and programmed with human memories in order to continue its endless, pointless hunt is Existential Horror.”

    That nails it and SOMA is a perfect example of thus concept. I don’t want to spoil it Fig those who haven’t played, but it is currently sitting in my top 10 and possibly top 5 favorite games.

    I started watching The Last of Us last week, and I feel that will be pretty high, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Are those definitions from TV Tropes, or whichever that site’s name is? I’m curious as to how old and accepted terms like “eldritch abomination” are, or where they originated. I’ve perused the place a few times but I don’t recall there being any sort of “etymology” or equivalent. I’m sure some are easily based out of Lovecraft, or the like. I recall King wrote on the differences between these words as well:

      “The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, I think they’re from this forum! Let me see if I can find it… It’s a user named OldKentuckyShark (which is FANTASTIC btw) on RPG.net’s forum. https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?558276-What-is-quot-Existential-Horror-quot-exactly

        I think the term eldritch abomination originated with Lovecraft, but there is an entry for it on TV Tropes, which is where I first found it. When I first discovered that website, I fell into its gaping maw and didn’t emerge for months. The length of those wiki walks. I eventually had to set a two hour time limit each night, because I was in the midst of writing my first novel, and it was cutting into that. Lovecraft coined the term I believe along with “cosmic horror.” He’s considered the father of horror and that genre especially with his Cthulhu Mythos, which is pretty widespread, and he forces the question of whether or not you can wholly separate an artist from their work, since he was a virulent racist as well as anti-Semitic. I found THAT out while writing/editing Northern Lights, since I have a line about the “rats in the walls,” which is the title of a story by him. Because I like to be informed, I looked up the story on Wikipedia, and yeah… According to the Google, the word “eldritch” is Old-English. It’s very possible I think it’s more common than it really is, because my favorite story has an eldritch abomination so I’m always thinking about it lol, but I also want to write a cosmic horror, so there’s that, too.

        The first two are the ones I can deal with. The third is what really scares me at night. The kind of terror that you can’t see, that may be in your head because something has gotten into your head. Giant spiders are scary, don’t get me wrong, but when you can’t even trust your own mind because something might have infiltrated it. You can’t trust your own senses, and you’re not sure what’s real. When a narrative makes you question the reality you live in or some fore thought ineffable quality to it, THAT’S what gets me.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Silent Hill 2 is likely my favorite of all time. I *love* this genre, but at the same time loathe what it’s become over the last decade — smaller teams cherry picking ideas from popular games and turning them into shovelware on platforms like Steam. SOMA, Fatal Frame 2, and Resident Evil VII are also very, very high on my list.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Something old, something new:
    The original Resident Evil was my first PS1 game, and those dogs at the widnow still get me to this day. It’s a classic, and I love it.
    In recent times, Alien Isolation takes it. That game left me so creeped out that I kept fumbling a simple puzzle. It also left em so creeped out that I wasted a good twenty mintues of game time hiding in a pipe, simply because I had no idea whether it was safe to come out yet or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s the obvious one, but Silent Hill 2 is my go to for this genre. It’s horribly clunky by today’s standards but at the time it was genuinely unsettling. Additionally, the survival aspect was ramped up due to James being utterly useless in a fight (partially due to him being an average guy and partially because the controls weren’t built for fighting).

    Liked by 2 people

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