If, like me, you usually avoid the horror genre, you still probably have a list of games have have ratcheted your creepy-meter to full throttle. Here’s mine.
5. Halo: Combat Evolved – 343 Guilty Spark
Admit it: the first time you met the Flood, you were a little freaked out. By now, their pulsing gray flesh, their tentacles, and their bloated sacks full of parasites that burst if you get too close probably fill you with nothing but mild annoyance: but there was a time when Halo was the cream of the console gaming crop in terms of graphics, and you had probably never seen a monster so vibrantly and disgustingly alive. This would have ranked higher were it not for the levels titular character, the Forerunner A.I. Guilty Spark, whose voice alone is enough to suck most of the tension and mystery out of the whole situation.
4. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – Dwemer Ruins
This may provoke a bit of laughter from my readers, but honestly, it’s true. For one, the average RPG-enthusiast (like I was when I played Morrowind) is quite often not used to a first person perspective. That alone ramps up the intensity from what you would normally feel exploring a typical dungeon or haunted castle where there’s a loud, but predictable noise before you enter into a fight. And given how ubiquitous Dwemer ruins are throughout the continent of Vvardenfell, most players probably find one of these dimly lit, seemingly industrial caverns within the first few hours of play. It’s not so much that there are a lot of powerful enemies waiting to kill you – Dwemer ruins are no more dangerous than any of the other subterranean dungeons Morrowind has to offer – it’s the indescribable feeling of a place that feels like someone was just there a minute ago and is maybe still watching from the shadows. That first time, every creaking door and whirring gear is liable to make you jump.
3. Bioshock – Fort Frolic
There’s something about the mixing 50’s crooner music with the immanent threat of being sliced up by a crazed, drug-addled person in a bunny mask that’s particularly unsettling. Unlike a horror title, your character, Jack, is more than sufficiently well equipped to turn most enemies into dust no matter what corner they jump from. But Fort Frolic, presided over my the deranged “artist” Sander Cohen, is filled with living (or once-living) plaster statues of former residents. Only, some of them are not so once-living, and will jump at your with knives or hooks the moment you turn your back to them. You get used to it eventually, learning to immolate or electrocute any statute you see beforehand with Plasmids, but when the first statue turns into a splicer, you know you at least flinched.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Shadow Temple
ReDeads. All you need to do to call back some extremely frightening (not to mention frustrating) memories for Ocarina of TIme players is mention these zombie monsters who litter the seventh of the game’s dungeons, the Shadow Temple. And they are only the tip of the iceberg. The way you’re constantly falling into traps, the way the light is always fading while a Skulltula is looming just over your head – it’s was all enough to make the Shadow Temple either your favorite or your least favorite dungeon.
1. Half-Life 2 – Ravenholm
“That’s the old passage to Ravenholm. We don’t go there anymore,” says Half Life 2‘s female lead Alyx Vance. It’s not hard to see why. The town of Ravenholm had a headcrab shell dropped on it by the Combine, and it was not long before everyone was dead but the mad Father Grigori, who now spends his days shooting, burning, and otherwise destroying its zombified former inhabitants. Headcrab-zombies are by no means the most troublesome enemy in Half-Life 2 – it’s the way their bodies are almost human except for the parasites attached to their heads, lacking any noticeable signs of decomposition, that makes them so frightening. While you do feel a great deal of visceral pleasure in taking them out with your newly acquired Gravity Gun, the sense of terror, that some horrible thing is just waiting to get you at any moment, never leaves you the first time you play this one.