Top 10 Survival Horror Games
It’s no secret that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the survival horror genre of video games. I love the sense of adrenaline I get when I play the games, but I’m also a giant chicken. I can read scary books, or watch horror films with no problem, but when I play a survival horror game it terrifies me. I think it’s because video games are interactive. I’m controlling the character, so I put myself in his or her shoes, and thus get absolutely freaked out… or it’s because I’m a baby.
Nevertheless, I love the genre. In honor of the Halloween season, I decided to count down my top 10 favorite survival horror games. Now before we begin, I guess I should explain the survival horror genre to those who aren’t familiar. Survival horror games are a sub-genre of action games, however they are made to make the player feel weak and outmatched. The goal isn’t to see how much you can kill, but rather see how long you can survive.
Now as with all my lists at 1 More Castle, all games on this list are retro, so they’re from the PS1/N64 era or prior. However, I’m going to throw out my one game per franchise rule because there really aren’t that many unique retro survival horror games, plus in some cases I just couldn’t leave one of the games in the series out.
OverBlood is one of the first survival horror games I ever played, but not one of the best. It was published in 1997 by Riverhillsoft, who made Doctor Hauzer for the 3DO (Another similar horror game).
OverBlood is a game that blends many genres and gameplay types. You control Raz Karcy on the Lyrsta Laboratories hidden research facility. The game begins with a malfunctioned cryogenic chamber releasing Raz. Raz has no memories of where he is or who he is. Nevertheless, he must survive the genetic experiments that are running amok on the research facility.
OverBlood is great because it’s a combination of many things. First off, it’s a survival horror game in a science fiction setting similar to Bioshock, Dead Space, and System Shock. Secondly, it’s a gameplay blend. There are numerous puzzles to solve with numerous characters with different abilities. Also it’s an action-adventure game. However, it’s not that scary so it only takes the number 10 spot.
D, which stands for something, was released in 1995 by WARP. It was released for the 3DO, Sega Saturn, and the original Playstation, which is the version I played.
D is a weird game, but one that always stuck with me. You play as a woman named, Laura. You may know Laura if you played D2 or Enemy Zero. Laura is a young woman and scholar. Her mother died long ago and Laura is still haunted by the tragedy. That is because Laura found the body of her deceased mother, bloody and limbless. We flash forward to years later, and Laura is traumatized again to find out that her father has gone insane and killed numerous people in the hospital he supervises. Laura goes to investigate the hospital and is disturbed by what she sees. Then she gets dragged away to a mysterious dark castle. Now Laura must investigate and stop her father any way she can.
The gameplay of D is puzzle/point and click style with a first-person perspective. It can be fun and challenging at times. However, the game did not age well. The graphics can cause headaches at times and sometimes the story/puzzles are just dumb. However, the game is frightening and deals with taboo subjects such as cannibalism, the occult, and excessive violence.
However, my favorite thing about D is that you cannot save or paurse. You must beat the game in real time in one sitting. You can’t step away from the fear.
8.) Alone in the Dark
Alone in the Dark has been dragged through the mud so much lately I can barely recognize it. The original games for MS-DOS are fantastic. However, the PS2 version of Alone in the Dark is quite bad and Uwe Boll (who needs/deserves no introduction) made a shit-tacular movie “based” on the game. However, you should totally ignore all that and play the 1992 game developed by Infogrames.
In this game you play as either Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood. They are both sent to a mansion to basically investigate the suicide of Jeremy Hartwood. So now they must investigate the mansion while solving puzzles, avoiding enemies, and avoiding traps. After further investigating the mansion they discover it used to be a home for the occult. The entire game and mansion is heavily based on Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. It is especially based on Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”.
Now this game was and still is frightening and paved the way for another survival horror game with fixed camera angles, puzzles, and that took place in a mansion…
7.) Resident Evil
I’m going to be quite honest here, and tell you that all Resident Evil games will be on this list. However, some Resident Evil games are better than others, and the original Resident Evil is my least favorite. Resident Evil was of course developed by Capcom, and is one of the grandfathers of the survival horror genre.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the original Resident Evil. However, it’s just not my favorite in the series. It’s the voice acting mostly that just gets to me. However, Resident Evil is one of the greatest survival horror games of all time and deserving to be on this list. The plot is common knowledge with gamers, but let’s look at it anyway. S.T.A.R.S. is The Raccoon Police Department’s Special Tactics And Rescue Service. They were sent in to investigate a series of murders. They investigate the murders and the disappearance of Team Bravo, but eventually get trapped inside of a mansion. They soon discover the corpses of Team Bravo which have been killed and eaten by zombies. In addition to zombies there are numerous other genetic experiments as enemies that are everywhere in the mansion. There are numerous twists and turns along the way that I won’t ruin, even though the game is so old. It’s one that every gamer should experience for themselves.
The original Resident Evil is a scary game. The scene pictured above made me turn off the game and lose all my progress when I was a kid. Even now, the fixed camera angles and just spooky atmosphere frighten me. However, as I mentioned above the cheeseyness and voice acting kill my suspension of belief. Nevertheless, this game popularized the survival genre and deserves all the praise it gets.
6.) Sweet Home
Normally, I don’t like to include Japanese only games in my lists because I am American and I never played them. However, I did download a translated ROM of Sweet Home, and you totally should to because it’s awesome. It was developed for the Famicom in 1989 by none other than Capcom. It is based on a Japanese film by the same name. Some people claim Sweet Home is the first survival horror game, but that is debatable.
In this game five treasure hunters enter the abandoned mansion of a deceased artist. They investigate the house to try and find the artist’s painting so that they can sell them. Upon entering the mansion they are trapped by a spirit and must fight through the mansion to escape.
Sweet Home was the inspiration to many survival horror games especially the Resident Evil series. However, it’s not just included on this list because of its impact on the genre. Sweet Home is a great game by itself. It’s one of the few examples of and RPG game combined with the survival horror genre, and is just pure fun. It’s not going to shock you with jump scares, but the atmosphere and story are quite disturbing.
5.) Resident Evil 3
Okay, you caught me… the third game in the Resident Evil series is my second favorite. However, it’s also one of the greatest game of all time.
In this game you play as Jill Valentine who you may remember from the original game. The game takes place prior to and slightly after the events of Resident Evil 2. Jill’s quest throughout the entire game is to essentially escape the zombie infested streets of Raccoon City. Later on in the game Jill meets Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service members and makes her way to the Clock Tower so that she may contact a rescue helicopter and be saved. The plan fails as the helicopter is taken down and Jill becomes infected with the T-Virus. Now you must control her partner, Carlos, to find a cure. Jill is cured but quickly learns the US government plans on nuking the city, so escape is very important. Raccoon City is wiped off the map as Jill escapes, although 100,000 people died.
Resident Evil 3 is just like the other games in the series. It is scary, there are numerous locations and enemies that will make you jump out of your seat but none of them hold a candle to the big guy pictured above… Nemesis. Nemesis is a mutated tyrant that has been programmed by Umbrella to hunt down the remaining members of STARS. He can dodge shots, use a rocket launcher as a weapon, and chase you everywhere. There are numerous scripted times when Nemesis attacks Jill, but also he will attack based on your actions in the game seemingly at random. It’s terrifying because even if you kill Nemesis, he will come back.
4.) System Shock 2
System Shock 2 is basically the good version of OverBlood. Actually, let me rephrase that. System Shock 2 is the great version of OverBlood. It was developed in 1999 by Irrational Games and Looking Glass Studios. It was actually supposed to be a standalone game by when Electronic Arts signed up as a publisher, they decided to turn the game into a sequel to the original System Shock.
You play as a soldier sent to investigate a distress signal sent from a spaceship. Your soldier is suffering from amnesia after being released from a cryogenic tube hmm… sounds familiar. As it turns out the space station and the ship sent to investigate has been taken over and infested by an alien community known as The Many. They have taken over the minds and bodies of the crew turning them into zombie-like creatures. The rest of the game involve trying to figure out what caused the infestation and how to stop it. Like the original Resident Evil, I can’t spoil this ending.
A big thing about horror games is the atmosphere. Haunted mansions are cool, but there’s something unsettling about space. I believe it’s because so much is unknown about space, and it’s so dark. In space you are alone, unless some alien parasites created zombie… then you wish you were alone.
3.) Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 was developed by Capcom, who definitely made the majority of games on this list. They were the king of the survival horror genre during the Playstation and PS2 lifecycle. It was published in 1998 and purely for nostalgic reasons, it’s my favorite in the series.
In this game you control the sexy Leon Kennedy or the also sexy Claire Redfield. They are both in Raccoon City for their own reasons. Leon is a rookie cop for Raccoon City, and Claire is a college student looking for her brother. They both quickly learn that Raccoon city is overrun with zombies. They quickly escape to the police station and this is where the multiple playthroughs are fleshed out. The best way to play Resident Evil 2 is to play through it twice. Once as Leon and once as Claire. In each playthrough, there are numerous things you can do that will affect the next playthrough. If you unlock a path in one playthrough it might be available in the next, or if you take ammo in one playthrough it might be gone in the next. In addition, the AI controlled character and events of the story can drastically change based on your character and decisions.
Resident Evil 2 is actually one of the first survival horror games I have ever played. It was also one of the first Playstation games I ever played. I never got very far in this game because eventually I got too scared and had to turn it off. When I first got the game, I didn’t even make it past the Start Screen because I was so frightened. You have to understand though, when I got this game I had experience with the NES, and Genesis. Nothing on those consoles were that frightening (except the giant baby in Zombies Ate My Neighbors) When I moved up to the Playstation I played Spyro, Brave Fencer Musashi, Crash Bandicoot, and then suddenly Resident Evil 2. This game was nothing like any game I ever played before, and a source of nightmares for many years…. But I played it. I played it because I loved it so much. I loved the characters like the mysterious Ada Wong, I loved the puzzles, the enemies (even tyrant), and I especially loved the intro. Resident Evil 2 was a game that didn’t pull punches.
2.) Silent Hill 1
I really wish I could include Playstation 2 games on this list, because Silent Hill 2 is my favorite game in the franchise. However, the original is quite good for its psychological scares.
In the original Silent Hill you control Harry Mason who visits Silent Hill in order to find his missing adopted daughter. As Harry and his daughter Cheryl are driving he has to swerve off the road to avoid hitting what looks like a young girl. Harry wakes up in the town of Silent Hill and his daughter is missing. He investigates the town in search of his daughter. Instead he finds out strange facts about the town and its residents. The entire town of Silent Hill is blanketed in fog and darkness. This is especially true in the “otherworld”. In addition, a cult in Silent Hill is attempting to revive a demonic deity.
Silent Hill is one of my favorite survival horror games because it’s so damn scary. While games like Resident Evil and System Shock 2 are scary, they’re like slasher-film scary. You’ll get freaked out by jump scares, but those are over quick. Silent Hill is a game that’ll stay with you for a long time. First off, you feel very vulnerable in this game. In Resident Evil or System Shock 2 you play as a soldier who shoots quite well. However, in Silent Hill Harry is an everyman. He has mediocre gun accuracy and can’t take too much damage. In addition, Silent Hill is a psychological horror. It had jump scares but the entire game has a feeling of uneasiness. This game won’t just scare you while you play it, but for weeks afterwards.
1.) Clock Tower
Now for this list, I am specifically talking about the US Clock Tower release for the original Playstation. In Japan this was known as Clock Tower 2, and it was also known as Clock Tower: The First Fear.
The plot of Clock Tower is difficult to explain because it’s a confusing game. There are multiple characters and endings that can cause confusion. However, the plot revolves around Jennifer who is receiving treatment to help her cope with the Clock Tower case and Scissorman. In addition, it revolves around Edward who is the new victim of the Scissorman. The game is basically a remake of the SNES game, however there are a few changes. It is a point and click adventure game that is built solely on surviving. You can click certain objects to pick them up, or investigate. You must survive and solve a series of puzzles in order to beat the game, but one thing is stopping you… Scissorman.
There is only one enemy in Clock Tower and he is Scissorman. What is Scissorman? Who is he? What does he want? That’s what you’ll have to find out. In other survival horror games you fight hordes of zombies, genetic creatures, or ghosts. However, in Clock Tower there is just one unstoppable killing machine. The Scissorman cannot be killed, he cannot be stopped. You have to avoid him and run away from him. However sometimes he will come out of nowhere, or he will be in one of your numerous hiding spots. If you’re solving a puzzle he can sneak up on you. There is no reasoning with him or stopping him. If you’re caught, you’re dead.
That’s why I like Clock Tower the best. When you truly feel outmatched and vulnerable you get frightened and Clock Tower presents this perfectly. In addition, similar to Resident Evil 2, Clock Tower is one of my first survival horror games. It’s nostalgic to me, and I still remember my friends staying over one night and we played this game. We screamed like murder victims whenever Scissorman appeared, and it was so damn fun.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this list. If you see some games on this list you never played, then give them a try. They’re a great time and be sure to scare you this fall season.