When I imagine a game which induces an adrenaline rush or a game that leaves me on the edge of my seat for hours on end, I don’t see a modern first-person shooter or competitive fighting game as some might. Instead, I reflect on all the fantastic survival horror games I’ve played over the years. These games, more than any other kind, are designed to evoke a certain emotion from the player. In this case, that emotion is fear.
The survival horror genre encompasses games which, not surprisingly, exhibit elements of both survival and horror. Many games could be considered “survival” games. As an example, in “Mortal Kombat,” the player tries to survive an encounter with various deadly warriors. For this reason, survival horror games are defined more often by the terrifying components.
The genre is somewhat broad. It includes the psychological thriller, “Amnesia,” a game in which the object of the player’s fear is rarely seen in the earlier portions of the game. It also describes the “Dead Space” series, an experience akin to being smacked in the face by a raw half-eaten steak while jumping out of a commercial airliner. (It’s a gore fest.)
The survival horror genre has been especially embraced by the indie community. Along with “Amnesia,” the undisputed king of indie horror, there are titles like “Lone Survivor,” an atmospheric two-dimensional horror game , and “Slender,” a first-person exploration game in which the player is constantly followed by the Internet monster known as “Slenderman.”
One of the longest running series in the realm of survival horror is “Resident Evil.” The iconic zombie apocalypse scenario has evolved drastically over the years. When they were introduced as fixed camera survival games with awkward controls on the PlayStation, the first entries in the “Resident Evil” saga focused on making the player feel helpless in a dire situation. With “Resident Evil 4,” the games became far more action oriented, and with “Resident Evil 5” and “6,” the games more closely resembled mission based action games.
Another important name in this field is the “Silent Hill” series. In fact, “Silent Hill 2” is considered by some to be the best survival horror game in the commercial game industry. Relying heavily on massive smoke machines producing a sort of gas cloud which is meant to behave vaguely like fog, “Silent Hill 2” does a great job of freaking the player out by letting them hear the threats long before they’re seen.
With Halloween just on the horizon, now is a good time to get into a good, scary game. Turn off the lights, get a good pair of headphones, and bring a change of pants if you’re squeamish.