The Scariest Fiction – Part 3: Video Games

This is the introduction to Dead Space 2, one of the scariest games ever (definitely the scariest and most atmospheric in the series so far).

There is something ultimately more terrifying in video games than books and films. I’m a late bloomer with consoles – I was always a staunch (though not a hardcore) PC gamer and at my ex -wife’s insistence we get a Wii, and then later an XBox 360, I never looked back and was glad to have made that transition. Here is a list of the scariest games.

Resident Evil

Residentevil wiki

The original game was an absolute storm and I was introduced to the franchise by my brother on his PS1. It was immediately unnerving because we’d never experienced anything like this before. Sure, most of us played the original Doom games but they didn’t even begin to come close to being scary. The first RE game took it to a whole new level and single-handedly invented the modern horror game genre (giving birth to Alone in the Dark and a host of other copycats). It featured zombies, mutated creatures and scary genetically engineered diseases. Regular character switches meant each time you got to the end of the chapter and a cliffhanger, you went to somebody else. It featured jumps galore!

I played a little of RE2, not 3 or the various un-numbered games that followed… that was until I played RE4 on the Wii. The revolutionary point method of game play on the console made it an essential addition for serious gamers. Though it was more of a shooter than its predecessors, its intriguing plot line and atmosphere makes it the last decent game in the RE franchise to date. I was bitterly disappointed with RE5; RE6 apparently is more of the same. I’ve not played it and I doubt I will.

RE4 got away from the zombie genre, sending recurring character Leon to a rural community in deepest, darkest Spain. A mining operation uncovered an ancient parasite from palaeolithic rock formations and revived it. The villagers are soon infected with the parasite and become “Ganados” – violent killers with increased strength, immune system and a submissive personality. Inhabitants of the local monastery and the castle’s feudal Lord are also infected and under the guise of Lord Sadler, attempting to spread the disease across the world. You discover later in the game that Umbrella have been experimenting with the parasite and are creating all sorts of freaky creatures. RE5 carries this storyline to Africa where Umbrella are enhancing the parasite.

Bioshock

A splicer from Bioshock 2
2kgames.com

Don’t be surprised I have put this, I can’t praise it enough. Though it is not scary in the conventional sense, there are a couple of jumps in the first two games. I have included this because it is so unnerving rather than scary. Rapture – a city founded by anarchocapitalist Andrew Ryan and built at the bottom of the ocean just off the coast of Greenland. Annoyed at America’s New Deal for helping the poor too much, equally annoyed at the corruption of Communism and its suppression of enterprise, and finally annoyed the churches who sought to seize money and power for “God” (an undertone exists that it is for their own ends). So he set up this city…

where the artist would not fear the censor; where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality; where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well.

… out of the way of those “parasites” who would control and regulate his creation. Ryan was paranoid about any form of government and so kept his city secret, alone where they could develop a new society based on enterprise and secretly attract the greatest minds the world has ever known.

It slipped into civil ware just a few years after its founding. Ryan found a challenger in Frank Fontaine (whose researchers discovered the substance ADAM from which they developed Plasmid weapons and Tonics). Persistent over-use of Adam by the citizens of Rapture led to rampant insanity and psychopathic tendencies including self-immolation. These people became “Splicers”, addicts of the ADAM substance who following the war spent their time searching the city for it and the Little Sisters who harvested it. Little Sisters were once young girls subjected to hideous experiments so they could produce ADAM in their bellies. They are quite ethereal looking beings and protected by a “Big Daddy” (adult human males grafted into diving suits and programmed only to protect the Little Sisters). This game is unnerving, the world is screwed up. It might give you nightmares if you’re of a nervous disposition but for very different reasons.

Dead Space

A red marker
wikia.com

The story is a pretty generic horror set in deep space. You play the engineer Isaac Clarke single-handedly fighting the monstrous “necromorphs” with an array of engineering tools. It’s back to basics nature is what is truly terrifying. The Planetcracker class ship Ishimura is tasked with breaking up planets to mine them for minerals. Only on one planet, Aegis VII, an illegal operation uncovers a mysterious Red Marker, the symbol of the religion known as Unitology. The Captain is a Unitologist and is delighted to have discovered the artefact for his religion. On the journey home, the crew go mad and end up killing each other. Most of them become Necromorphs.

The second game takes this to a new level as the Unitologists stage an attack on the colony of Titan. The video up top is the first few minutes of the game and this is perhaps the most terrifying single chapter  across the trio so far released. As the Necromorphs take over The Sprawl, you as Isaac Clarke must escape through the city and return to the Ishimura once again. In the opening Chapter, you are wearing a straitjacket and have no weapon. I loved this game because of the different functions the suit gave you rather than merely being Version 2 being better than version 1. Some would give you better fire power, another better armour etc. Some of the new creatures are truly terrifying.

The third game was a little bit of a disappointment but the plot is that the emboldened Unitologists are attacking settlements all across humanity’s colonies and EarthGov eventually collapses as the Unitologists seize control. Isaac is rescued just as the Moon comes under attack and he is sent to find Ellie (his companion from the second game) on the ice planet of Tau Volantis where they uncover a two-century old mystery where the colonists committed mass suicide. Is Tau Volantis the Marker homeworld? Could activating the machine be the key to preventing Convergence all over the galaxy? The game was met with some positivity by critics but largely with indifference by fans of the franchise. Some of the best parts of the previous two games taken out; it was short on scares and easy to predict when jumps were coming.

There are jumps, all manner of disturbing creatures through all three games that get increasingly imaginative. For story, gameplay and overall mythology Dead Space 2 stands head and shoulders above the rest.

The Blair Witch Project

A twana creature from Part 2: Legend of Coffin Rock
filefront.com

There were three games released on PC: 1) Rustin Parr 2) The Legend of Coffin Rock and 3) The Elly Kedward Tale. Released in the two years following the film, they each follow events referred to in the film, each one set deeper and deeper into the past.

In the first game, paranormal investigators visit Burkittsville in the aftermath of the Rustin Parr Murders. The tone of the graphics are grey and oppressive and it uses similar sound and vision tricks that made the film so terrifying. Hear some music playing from a church organ? Walk into an empty church and the organ suddenly stops. It is the scariest game of the trilogy but the combat system left a lot to be desired.

The second game is set during the American Civil War. You play a Unionist soldier seriously injured following a battle nearby. As you slip in an out of consciousness you are approached by the apparation of a young girl who tells you not to die because “she isn’t finished with you yet” – this girl is Robin Weaver, a young girl who recently went missing that prompted a search that led to the gruesome murder of the men whose bodies were left on Coffin Rock. During his healing, he hears and sees lots of strange things. Eventually, he is asked by the girl’s grandmother to find Robin.

The third and final game goes back to the original tale. You play a former preacher turned paranormal investigator who visits the Blair township after hearing of missing children and the strange tale of the woman who lived in the woods. Though I never finished this game, it felt more in the vain of the Diablo games. As Prye (the character you play) you goes into the woods to discover the truth about Elly Kedward and learn all sorts of magic powers.

I recently purchased Condemned for XBox 360 for peanuts but haven’t played it yet. I’m reliably informed that it is one of the scariest games out there. So that’s my scariest games. What are yours?

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3 thoughts on “The Scariest Fiction – Part 3: Video Games

  1. The first scary game I remember was a submarine game on the Atari when I was 6 or 7. It was creepy. You moved your sub around for ages with nothing to see and only the blip blip of sonar, suddenly, eventually, another sub would appear, a quick exchange of torpedoes and blam! You were dead. The next scariest game was the original X-Com: UFO defence. I played it at the height of my fear of aliens and sat alone at my computer, scanning the radar for UFOs late into the night creeped me out. Then I had to go and explore crash sites in extremely tense turn based combat. It didn’t help that the game was ridiculously hard. Resident Evil was scary, but I don’t think it was a good game and I didn’t like it. The stupid camera angles and control system! But I did get tense facing up to some of the enemies, probably because I knew the camera angle would change and I’d end up running straight into an enemy. I can’t think of any other scary games. Dead Space is just jump scares and I don’t really count that as scary. It’s just surprise. A baby can jump scare me but I wouldn’t say the baby is scary.

  2. Poor control system certainly adds to the terror factor – albeit unintentionally. I remember a Resident Evil clone called Martian Gothic (link here) which may also have taken some inspiration from the film Event Horizon. I never found a walkthrough, even years later, so I imagine that nobody ever completed it. The control system was a bit pants. Near the beginning of the game when you encounter your first zombie, it is difficult to learn how to control the first gun you find – and then when you finally figured it out you realise that it was a water pistol.

    Dead Space is more unnerving than scary – especially the (don’t laugh) exploding baby creatures from DS2 and the pack creatures from DS3… And as for those f*****g regenerators! Hate them!

  3. Pingback: The Scariest Fiction – Part 1 TV & Film | Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink

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