Just as with movies, the horror game genre during the 2000’s was a hit or miss phenomena. There were video games released that induced almost unbearable primordial fear and Xanax-defeating panic, while others were so laughably stupid they are lucky to be considered campy. Fortunately, we have endured the survival of this genre, with its countless homages to Japanese ghost stories and George Romero. We have also seen brilliantly executed slipstream sci-fi scares with Stalker and Dead Space; we have seen military horror with F.E.A.R themes and rural horror with SLENDER! A truly great horror game will still be scaring the crap out of the game designers themselves right up through beta testing.
With that in mind, the following is our list of the top 10 scariest video games of the 2000’s! Keep in mind that some of these games simply cannot be played alone, even with the lights on!
10. Clock Tower (1998)
Survival horror is not in the caliber you usually associate with “point and click” adventure video games.
But Clock Tower successfully incorporated the two with the inclusion of an evil and a relentless stalker who goes by the name of “Scissorman”. This stooped tormentor can suddenly appear at any juncture throughout the tale, wielding an enormous pair of shears that he horrifyingly clangs together with every step.
The only way to escape is to either take to the hill for a hiding place or find a weapon to counter him. The clunky interface made the story even more terrifying, as you frantically clicked around the screen, desperate to avoid sudden death from Scissorman’s blades.
9. Doom 3 (2004)
Doom 3 is set in 2145–mysterious events are taking place at a Martian military research facility, where teleportation procedures have created a portal to Hell!! Relentlessly besieged by demons, players have to fight these legions of Hellspawn as well as zombies (which are technically demonically possessed humans). Somehow, even with demons and zombies in the mix, one of the scariest parts of Doom 3 is the brilliant use of darkness. Players have to choose between wielding a weapon and holding a flashlight, leaving you either unprepared or unarmed.
8. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002)
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem used the ‘sanity system’ by Nintendo to screw with the minds of players as they jump back and forth in time to experience the fascinating stories of 12 unique characters. An on-screen meter slowly diminishes, making the camera angles skewed, and the unsettling audio sounds like doors slamming while footsteps and screams become louder and more frequent. There is also 4th wall-breaking effects–like fake memory card corruptions, simulating the TV, changing channel or volume, and the blue screen of death–until the player is utterly broken down from trying to discern what is real and what is not.
7. Thief: Deadly Shadows (2004)
Thief: Deadly Shadows is the epitome of stealth adventure! The story is set in the ruins of an abandoned orphanage, which makes for one of the most frightening levels in gaming history. After encountering the ghost of a young girl that was brutally murdered, you have to run around destroying all her remaining personal effects in order to free her, while at the same time fleeing the undead inmates that prowl her remains. The story also involves traveling back in time and possessing at least one inmate so as to remove lingering spirits from the past. However, this time traveling leaves players marooned in the cradle of death.
6. Fear 2
As The Ring proves, a creepy looking pale girl with long black hair sets the scene for real terror. Although, this game isn’t “things pop out at you” scary like Deadspace. It’s more atmospherically creepy. This is where the game really stands out. Taking strong influence from supernatural Japanese horror films and mythology, you’ll find that this is a game best played in the dark with your surround sound turned up. Ghostly apparitions, ghastly images, and creepy sound effects come at you at a perfect pace that is never under or overwhelming, particularly during sections in between major combat action. This is a stand out feature for the game, and one that really differentiates it from other games in the genre.
5. Resident Evil–The Remake (2002)
Although this was a remake of the 1996 horror original, the improved graphics and audio of the GameCube created a much more intense experience.
The game itself was altered to adjust most of the puzzles and new locations were added, including a graveyard and a creepy path that leads through Raccoon Forest. The most scary change, however, was that the zombies must be burned or decapitated to prevent them from regenerating later as Crimson Heads, which are more aggressive and fast than their counterparts.
4. Fatal Frame 2
The fear of the unknown is what makes Fatal Frame 2 so terrifying.
3. Condemned (2005)
In Condemned, Ethan Thomas is a condemned crime scene investigator looking for the serial killer who framed him for homicide. When the inhabitants of Metro City become nuts following an attack by a strange and mysterious force, Ethan is the only one remaining to fight them.
Guns are rare in this game and the main focus of the combat is utilizing improvised melee weapons like planks of wood and pipes that can be torn from the surrounding areas and wielded as per the player’s need. Fighting is particularly dreadful in this game as enemies are exceedingly intelligent and sly (they even hide in concealed areas before appearing to launch sudden attacks). One of the most remarkably freakish levels of this, or any video game for that matter, is the mannequin section, which features dummies creeping up on players when their backs are turned.
2. Silent Hill 2 (2001)
Silent Hill 2 is a classic in psychological terror and widely agreed upon as being one of the best horror games ever made. The story premise is that Mr. James Sunderland gets an estranged letter from his deceased wife “Mary,” in which claims she was earnestly waiting for him in “Silent Hill”, a small town that changes how it appears based on visitors’ thoughts.
As well as fighting against humanoid monsters and the dreadful Pyramid Head, players also have to fight off Maria, a woman who looks exactly like the once living Mary and is perhaps a crude manifestation conjured by James subconscious. Eventually, James discovers the truth regarding his past and that his visions are punishing him for past mistakes. Ultimately, he must face demons both within and without.
Forbidden Siren is one of the only video games out there that will actually give you nightmares. It begins when a destructive earthquake interferes with the strange ritual in the small village of “Hanuda”, the site of a recent mass murder. The village becomes separated from the rest of humanity by a sea of red water that converts most of Hanuda’s inhabitants into zombie like creatures known as “Shibito.” What makes the gameplay so scary is instead of fighting the terror, you’re hiding from it.
The key to survival is to use stealth to avoid the zombies. However, this is not easy, as they react rapidly to any sounds or light from your torch. There is also a really cool feature called “Sight Jack” that players can use to see through the eyes of a Shibito. Additionally, Sight Jacking allows the player to ascertain his location, thus making it feasible to plan an escape. Siren will make you rethink how horror games can take the player to an uncomfortable, terrifying, and ultimately fascinating world where things are never quite what they seem.