I have a weird relationship with the horror genre.
When it comes to anything but video games, I hate horror with a passion. I find the genre makes me uncomfortable in a way that is nowhere close to exhilarating. Maybe this hatred originated during my childhood, or maybe I just don’t like being scared. It’s a hard situation to put into words. But give me a controller and a game disc, and it’s a different story.
While I was resistant at first due to my original perception of the genre, I slowly warmed up to survival-horror games over the years. Starting with titles like Resident Evil, and even Metroid, I learned that I enjoyed the tension and fear that survival-horror games or games with horror aspects put into me. The dread that comes from the flair of an intense instrumental or complete and utter silence combined with the agency that video games provide creates an experience that is both exciting and terrifying.
In honour of all the special days involving the dead, ghosts, and spirits this week, I would like to share two of the scariest games that I’ve played. In no way am I an expert on the horror genre in video games. Plus, with only two games, there are a ton of great games out on the market, such as Eternal Darkness, Outlast, and System Shock 2, that I won’t even touch on. I just hope you get a thrill from my choices.
If you roll your eyes and say there’s nothing scary about Metroid Prime, you either haven’t played the game or you blocked out how traumatizing the Metroids are in this game. From the ambient music Retro Studios loves to chime in whenever Metroids are around to their bone-chilling shriek, they’re pure unadulterated nightmare fuel.
For the uneducated, Metroids are a parasitic species in Nintendo’s iconic sci-fi series that enjoy long life-draining stays on your face. Yes, they’re very similar to face-huggers, but, dammit, I only have to watch dumb space marines get messed up by those things, not my entire screen! Although I dreaded every moment I had to encounter these creatures, those are the first moments I recall whenever I think of Metroid Prime and horror games in general.
Resident Evil 4
After Metroid Prime, I took a stab at Resident Evil 4 for the Wii. Resident Evil 4 may have been more action-oriented than a pure survival-horror experience, yet it blend ed the two opposing genres perfectly. The action from big shooting segments, brief quicktime events, and crazy setpieces were always offset by unsettling sequences of quiet, ambient silence.
Shinji Mikami and his team at Capcom knew how to masterfully scare the bejesus out of the player. I clearly remember putting down the game for a full calendar year because I was too scared to engage with a particular monstrosity. Looking back on it now, it seems silly. At the time, I couldn’t look at the game case without being terrified — a true mark of an excellent survival-horror game.