Halloween is fast approaching and at Enemy Slime we have decided to join in the festivities by having some of our editors recommend their favorite horror (or close to horror) games to play.
There was a time when survival horror games were simple – Ammo was limited, controls were unwieldy and scares came from things jumping out of windows. Those were good times. So today I’m going to look back fondly on some of my favorite survival horror games of the systems of yesteryear, and one game that feels like it should’ve been on the previous gen…
Silent Hill 2 (PS2, Xbox, PC)
I will always have a fond spot in my heart for the Silent Hill series. Despite some rather dubious offerings lately, Silent Hill 2 remains the king of horror games in my book. It was the first horror game I ever played that wasn’t just scary, but genuinely intriguing with its well-crafted plot, eerie design and beautiful soundtrack. Silent Hill 2 not only brought an immense amount of depth to the Silent Hill franchise, but to survival horror as a genre as a whole.
Three years ago James’ wife Mary died from an illness, leaving James devastated. Then one day he receives a mysterious letter from Mary, beckoning him to come find her in Silent Hill. Despite his doubts James sets off in search of his deceased wife. The beauty of this game’s story is its mystery; not just what’s going on with Silent Hill, but with everything and everyone you encounter. It’s haunting and sometimes repulsive, but all the same you want to know more.
When it was released in 2001, Silent Hill 2 was a huge leap forward for the survival horror genre in terms of graphics and voice acting. While the game obviously looks dated all these years later, the original voice acting (See below) is still mostly solid. What hasn’t diminished with time is the atmosphere of mystery and horror this game offers up. Something creepy is going on in this town, and no matter how many times I go back to it I feel it every time. If you’ve never played this title or haven’t picked it up for a while I can’t think of a better game to play to get in the Halloween mood. I would, however, advise against the HD remakes which have a re-recorded voice track which leaves a lot to be desired.
A relatively obscure survival horror entry from 2003, Siren (Forbidden Siren outside of the US) is a fascinating, frightening, innovative and problem-ridden game that manages to overcome a lot of issues to deliver one of my favorite gaming experiences in the genre. Siren deftly combines supernatural horror and Japanese mythology along with the very innovative sightjacking mechanic to create one of the creepiest gaming experiences I’ve ever enjoyed.
The game takes place in the isolated Japanese village of Hanuda. Kyoya Suda is a teenage boy investigating rumors of bizarre rituals in the town when he stumbles upon and interrupts the ceremony of a local religious cult. Kyoya’s disturbance creates some bad voodoo, causing the dead to rise as shibito, shambling but intelligent living corpses who stalk the village carrying out their incomprehensible tasks and hunting down the living. Also, they don’t die. You can beat them into submission for a while, but they will eventually get back up and continue what they were doing, meaning that whatever you do you’re never safe from them. The game’s story takes place over several days and has the player take on the roles of numerous characters from Kyoya to a university professor, an old hunter, a TV show host and quite a few others as they try to survive in the village trapped between two worlds.
The most innovative part about Siren is sightjacking. The protagonists can jack into the minds of shibito within the level and see what they see. This allows the player to figure out the location of enemies and where they’re looking. This allows you to plan your movements to sneak past enemies and solve puzzles. However, while sightjacking you don’t know what’s happening around your hero. It’s difficult to explain, but the fright you get when you jack into an enemy’s vision only find that they’re sneaking up behind you is a great one and truly unique to this title.
As I said, this game also has a lot of problems. The most apparent is the very bad English dub done by some of the most mush-mouthed British voice actors I’ve ever heard. Top that off by the game having NO subtitles and it’s almost enough to make you quit the game right there. Add onto that some clumsy gameplay along with puzzles and objectives that are insanely difficult and unintuitive and you have a game that’s sure to frustrate many. But if you can get past this, and have a strategy guide, this game is an experience well worth the effort.
Deadly Premonition (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Now here’s an odd title. Deadly Premonition was originally released in 2010, although it feels like it could be a much older game. Part survival horror, part sandbox… Part racer? And a little bit of CCG. Deadly Premonition feels like a game that was lovingly made by a brain aneurysm. This eccentric title draws heavily from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, possibly to the point of plagiarism, but in its own very, very peculiar way it is an enjoyable game with some surprisingly tense moments and lots of memorable, if not necessarily high-quality, scenes that make this confused title my final spooky pick.
A murder has taken place in the quiet, rural town of Greenvale. You play as FBI special agent Francis York Morgan, an eccentric hotshot who sees psychic messages in his coffee and speaks to his imaginary partner Zach about casework. York knows there’s more to this investigation than just a single murder, and with the help of the local police and other characters, most of whom are just as weird as he is, he uncovers a supernatural horror that threatens to destroy all of Greenvale. Along the way he’ll chat up the locals, earn new cars to drive around town in, go fishing and maintain his personal hygiene by routinely changing his suites and shaving.
So, yeah, it’s pretty strange. I recommend this game only on the caveat that you can keep an open mind for a long time. Deadly Premonition is a bizarre game that goes in a lot of different directions, not all them particularly well, but it’s a hell of an experience. While the game isn’t really that scary, there are a few moments that really did get my heart racing in a way I didn’t expect this modest title to be capable of. But really the allure of this game is to see the weird yet lovable story and enjoy all of its quirks. While most horror games are best played alone in a dark room, this one may be best enjoyed with friends and cold beers, and that’s a pretty good way to spend Halloween.
Keep an eye on Enemy Slime up until Halloween to see other editor’s picks.