Opinion

“Mage Picks: Favorite Horror Games”

 

Happy Halloweenies!

Today, we the mages thought we’d put together a list of some of our favorite horror games. Well, okay. These aren’t all explicitly horror games. Some of them are from completely different genres, but you get the picture. If you want some scares in some form or another in your gaming today, these are 9 of our favorites…

 

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I just replayed this game last weekend, revisiting it with my own brother who played co-op on it with me over 20 years ago, and I can testify that it’s still just as full of anxiety as ever. Sure, I noted that it can be somewhat unfair when a disembodied tentacle or an oozing blob or a slobbering werewolf snags one of your neighbors juuust off-screen before you can actually reach them, but the almost inevitable game over is part of that sense of pervading dread. Thank goodness there are passwords to jot down.

It’s almost as if this game taunts you with its upbeat beach party/B-movie horror music, but be forewarned (or remember) that this game isn’t easy. It is, however, terribly enjoyable even after all these years. Zombies Ate Neighbors remains one of my favorite games with zombies in it.

-The Well-Red Mage

 

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The corridor was dark and narrow. As I limped my way through its twists and turns, hand pressed painfully against my ribs and red clouding my vision, my ragged gasps echoed off the claustrophobic walls.

Behind me I could hear the growls and screeches of the horde I’d just left behind. I killed as many as I could, but they kept coming. My herbs were gone, and my ammo was close behind. With only three 9mm bullets left to my name, I ran for it. Now I was lucky just to be alive.

I’ll be back, I swore to myself. With a rocket launcher. Then I’ll see them all in hell. Especially that chainsaw guy.

But for now, I needed a typewriter, and I needed one bad.

As I peered around what I prayed was the corridor’s last turn, I saw a cloaked figure ahead. Instantly my adrenaline-charged trigger finger acted on its own. I fired, and the figure dropped to the ground.

My first thought: Whew, that was close!

My second thought: Zombies never go down with one bullet…

Oh no. No, no, no.

I rushed over to the still figure, and the truth hit me harder than Jack Krauser’s fist…I’d killed the Merchant.

As I crouched over the body, desperation rising, I tried pushing random buttons to see if I could revive him. I tried to loot the body, but to no avail. I tried to rouse him with a hearty, “Welcome, stranger! What’re ya buyin’?”

Nothing. Only silence.

After what felt like an eternity, I slowly turned from the dead Merchant and faced the corridor’s exit. It was quiet outside. For now. But I was half dead with no herbs and only three — actually, make that two bullets. Thanks to my twitchy finger, I had no way to get more health or ammo.

Ahead of me lay God-knows what horrors, and now I’d have to face them with nothing.

My stomach sank, and I stepped out of the corridor.

-The Blue Moon Mage

 

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When you think of horror or horror video games, one would instantly think of the Resident Evil or Silent Hill series of games as perfect examples. However, would you believe that Final Fantasy VII actually has some horror elements in it, elements that have this very mage slightly afraid of the dark to this very day?

For Halloween and to celebrate horror elements in video games, I give you my choice: Final Fantasy VII. Weird right? Well, while it is one of the games that defines who I am as a person, it also used to be the stuff of nightmares for me. Part of the reason was due to my active imagination revolving around the lifeform JENOVA. That hideous monster that was the catalyst for Sephiroth’s creation was and still is something that terrifies me from time to time, especially when I’m in the dark.

When I first saw JENOVA’s headless body in the Shinra building all those years ago, I was scared stiff. The image I saw in that tank, that of the grotesque woman-shaped creature, alive and writhing about despite missing a head, really left a lasting impression on me. Coupled with my imagination, JENOVA left me with some very vivid nightmares about it chasing me, infecting me and taking control of my body away from me. It was pretty freaky. Because I was without a memory card when I first started playing, I had to replay that scene quite a lot and every time I got to the part where Cloud would see JENOVA, or the theme “Who Are You?” would start playing, I’d instantly shut my eyes and mash Circle until the scene passed.

Even in the present, in the wee hours of the morning when it’s still pitch black out, when I walk down the stairs in complete darkness to avoid waking anyone up while getting ready for work, I sometimes have this feeling that JENOVA is behind me, floating about and stalking me. It doesn’t do anything but cause the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up on end and triggers me to find a light, any light, and turn it on to banish the darkness and the monster away. I scold myself for being irrational about a fictional monster from a game that’s not a horror game, but the fear of it is still palpable for me. It’s the fear of the unknown qualities of the lifeform, the fear of the otherworldly aspects of it and the fear of knowing it only lives to feed off others and mindlessly infect all living creatures that spikes my fight or flight reflex and gets the adrenaline pumping.

Hard to believe that one of the greatest RPG’s released in our time makes me feel like this, right? Well if you feel the same, then join the club. And pass the coffee while you’re here. It’s going to be a long, sleepless night waiting for it to stalk me again…

-The Hyperactive Coffee Mage

 

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The Simpsons: Hit & Run has 7 levels taking place daily across Halloween week. When we get to Level 7, it’s 31st October. There’s a well-timed zombie apocalypse caused by Kang and Kodos’ invasion. The map has been redesigned to reflect the tone, while the clutter and non-playable characters have been replaced with horror-themed counterparts. The soundtrack is now played on an organ.

It may sound like the most interesting level, but it’s actually quite tedious. The map design is a single, unchanging route between the Nuclear Power Plant and the mothership above the baseball field behind the Elementary School. Almost the whole level is driving to and from these two locations, with the only variance being which character is being played:

As Homer, follow the men in black (from the ship) to discover where they’re going (the power plant).

As Professor Frink, help Homer transport the nuclear waste (from the power plant) to the aliens (at the ship).

As Homer (at the ship) find more nuclear waste (at the power plant).

As Homer, transport that nuclear waste (from the power plant) to the aliens (at the ship).

As Snake, transport Homer (from the ship) to more nuclear waste (at the power plant).

As Snake, help Homer transport the nuclear waste (from the power plant) to the aliens (at the ship).

As Grandpa, transport Homer (from the ship) to more nuclear waste (at the power plant).

As Grandpa, help Homer transport the nuclear waste (from the power plant) to the aliens (at the ship).

It might not be quite so annoying if the nuclear waste didn’t explode at the slightest impact, forcing you to return to the power plant again.

It’s got a cool aesthetic that definitely establishes itself as a final level but it’s very repetitive in a way that the preceding levels weren’t.

So how come I’m calling it my “fav” horror game? Well, I don’t really play horror games but wanted to write about this particular level in order to be included. Sorry.

-The Purple Prose Mage

 

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While you might not categorize BioShock as a horror game, it certainly has elements that are scary, gory, and tension-filled. However, where most people probably think of it as an action game with horror aspects, I would argue that it is a horror game with action elements. To me, it’s the scary parts that stick out in my memory, not the FPS shooting.

For starters, it takes place in a unique, but almost familiar, setting. Rapture, a city under the sea, makes you feel so claustrophobic and isolated. On top of that, the city erupted into a sort of Civil War on New Year’s Eve, 1959, and so is frozen in time as of that date. Aside from the art deco styles you see in the surroundings, the game constantly reminds you of the better times, in Rapture’s heyday, by playing big band jazz songs from the 1940s. For some reason, the music makes everything so much more tense and creepy.

Finally, the enemies could give anybody nightmares. The Big Daddies are silent brutes reminiscent of Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. The Little Sisters are like a mix between Children of The Corn and scary dolls. However, for me personally, nothing in BioShock or almost any other game is as hair-raisingly terrifying as the Splicer’s and their dialogue, especially the women. Some of them rant, some of them talk, some yell, some whistle, some sing, some cry. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you pause to look behind you or turn more lights on.

-The ABXY Mage

 

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The 7th iteration in Capcom’s now legendary survival horror franchise, released in 2017, both shook up the venerable series and, at the same time, returned the series to its roots. Gone is the 3rd person view, replaced by a far more immersive 1st person perspective as seen in games like Outlast and Alien: Isolation and the bombastic, almost Call of Duty feel of Resident Evil 6 has been stripped away, leaving us with a far more traditional mansion-based adventure much like the original.

The setting this time is south Louisiana and protagonist Ethan Winters has pulled up to the run down Baker estate in search of his missing wife, who recently contacted him from within. What follows is some very well-crafted, edge of your seat horror as Ethan must avoid the twisted Baker family, deal with waves of mutated horrors and find out what is behind the latest bioweapon attack. Guns are available, ammunition is scarce and inventory management is as important as ever.

A truly excellent game that must be tried by franchise fans and newcomers alike, give it a try and prepare to be scared!

-The Bizzaro Mage

 

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Some things work best in low-def. Just ask Monet – or play The Last Door.

The Last Door is a very modern game – pixel art, indie, episodic, point-and-click, Cthulu Mythos. It couldn’t get more hipster if it coded on a typewriter riding a penny farthing. It’s not the first game of its kind; Infogrames did the same stunt in the 90’s with Shadow of the Comet and Prisoner of Ice. But The Last Door does it so much better, and it’s not just the superior puzzle design, the clever use of colour and pacing of the plot (although all those things help). Oddly, it’s the pixel art – the Cthulu Mythos is all about the unsettling nature of things your mind cannot comprehend, which is why Lovecraft tended to use so much gibberish in his short stories. It is a world that does not mesh well with crisp, clean visuals – the second between when you first see the blob of pixels on the screen and the time when your mind de-codes what is happening…that is the moment that The Last Door is all about.

There are many horror games on PC that are more famous than The Last Door, but for my money, there are precious few that pull off that moment of confused dread.

Highly recommended.

-The Badly Backlogged Mage

 

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One of the quintessential horror movie experiences is to watch the characters in said movie go through horrendous experiences–all while secure in your knowledge that if you were calling the shots, you would survive. Well, with Until Dawn you have your chance to prove you have what it takes to do just that.

Until Dawn is a narrative-driven experience in the vein of a Telltale game, where quicktime events and fast decisions will determine the fate of your small party of young adults. As you make your way through a thrillingly-paced horror mystery the game will constantly interact with you through two ongoing narratives, and it’ll be your job to navigate its twist and turns to see how many people you can keep alive by the end of the game.

Playing by yourself would be fine, but I played the entire game with my wife on the couch next to me, and we made all the decisions as a team. It was a fantastic experience from front to back, as we worked together to try to figure out who the killer was, and bantered back and forth over some of the slower decisions while frantically choosing during some of the most pressing.

Until Dawn is one of the most fulfilling narrative games I’ve ever played. Its multiple endings will keep you hooked as you continue to come back determined to see everyone live, all while enjoying its many branching paths. If you find yourself with eight hours to kill and a partner to hold your hand along the way, you can’t go wrong with this phenomenal PS4 exclusive.

-The Mail Order Ninja Mage

 

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I love co-op games. I love being surprised and adapting with a team of friends on the fly. I’m also a big fan of comedy horror, as I am a huge wimp and real horror games send me screaming for the blanket fort. Left 4 Dead scratches all of these itches.

Left 4 Dead, if you missed the boat or were too young about 10 years ago, is a co-operative zombie survival game in which you and a team must work through different stages all the while surviving classic fast zombie meat targets, horrifying mutations like exploding zombies, hulkish tanks, zombies with giant grabbing tongues, the quiet and haunting one hit kill witch, and an AI Director that monitors your progress, pumping up the difficulty and removing ammo and health if it thinks you’re breezing along just a bit too worry free. The levels alternate between long stretches of travel over unsafe territory and defending one location against unthinkable hordes, keeping the play varied. No mission is ever exactly the same twice.

As for the comedy horror? Left 4 Dead is a pretty straight forward action horror game, but you and all of your friends screaming when a tank shows up at just the wrong moment or your idiot friend sets off the witch when you REALLY could have used a minute or two to regroup and are low on health packs is top shelf comedy. And someone will invariably race ahead of the group to see how far they can get before the Director decides to pick off the lone rogue hopeless hero. In my groups this usually happens right after your traitorous teammate has killed everyone in the safe house rendering us powerless to stop or help him.

That’s the great thing about Left 4 Dead. It’s a rush. It’s different every time, even though the set pieces are the same. But the balance creates a hugely fun gauntlet that you need teamwork and trust to get through. When it works, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences in gaming. When it goes terribly horribly wrong, it’s still really funny. Grab some friends. Go kill some zombies.

-The Ink-Stained Mage

 

What are some of your favorite frightening games? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Categories: Opinion

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14 replies »

  1. There are some great games here, I loved Hit & Run and Bioshock. I have got to give props to Badly Backlogged Mage for calling out The Last Door! That game is amazing and actually had me genuinely scared at times, which is a crazy feat for something with such bare bones pixel graphics.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They Hyperactive Coffee Mage is now my new favorite mage ♥♥♥ Sorry all the rest of you lol. I wasn’t expecting to see FFVII on a horror list, but I’ve always maintained it has many horror elements to it. I mean Jenova is certainly drawn from Lovecraft eldritch abominations and has a similar mien to The Thing as well as Alien. It freaks me out, too, and I’ve learned the hard way not to look up pictures of it late at night before bed. It’s an alien that can take the form of people you know and love to get into your head and corrupt/indoctrinate you. It’s…terrifying when you dig into it, so I’m just overjoyed to see that someone else picked this up!

    I actually just came here to say SOMA, which is not only horrifying, but a brilliant examination of consciousness.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Honestly, FFVII has a lot of horror motifs to it. There’s a good deal of Lovecraft inspiration so it’s hard to avoid. There’s also a lot of Fridge Horror, which is my favorite because it gets more disturbing the deeper you look. FFIX has that, too. I’ve found that soe of the best fantasy stories have that little bit of horror thrown in. I remember this one part in LOTR where Gandalf talks about these things that even Sauron is afraid of, and it was just chilling. No matter what universe you’re in, Middle-Earth aka Midgar(d) is frightening :p

        Liked by 1 person

  3. These are some interesting choices, particularly as a few are not horror games, and there were some interesting reasons why some games were picked. I particularly enjoyed the description of how the other team members created comedy during the left 4 dead game. I also liked the description of playing Resident Evil 4 as I remember watching someone playing that game and then apologising as they deliberately shot the Merchant dead.
    By favourite horror game was Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. I have not played many horror games, but this game had a terrifying atmosphere. The story dealt with a serial killer and the game design seemed to consist of drab colours and gloomy locations, especially the Von Croy’s Apartment and The Sanatorium levels. Some creatures had a very scary design as well.
    What other horror games have you played?

    Liked by 1 person

      • Many of the Tomb Raider games have some element of horror, such as fighting large monsters and a sense of doom, but Angel of Darkness felt more like a horror games than the other games in the series. This was because part of the story concerned a Parisian serial killer, the locations were gritty and realistic (instead of the elaborate tombs from the other games), one level was set in a murder scene, one level (called the sanatorium) resembled a destroyed medical facility with the enemies consisting of mutated people, the level designs had used a very subdued colour scheme and many of the enemies were the results of biological experiments and resembled monsters from horror films. I can actually playing this game and actually being surprised that it was a sunny afternoon because the grim atmosphere of the game was so prominent.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great choices. My personal two picks every Halloween are Forbidden Forest, and Beyond The Forbidden Forest, both on the Commodore 64. Of course with my car situation I didn’t get to stream them on Halloween. Though I did get a chance to do the first one on the night before.

    Liked by 1 person

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