Horror games are some of gaming’s best experiences, but only for those that can tolerate and sit through them from start to finish. But those who don’t play in the horror space can still get their fill in otherwise non-horror games because horror, no matter which genre it’s in, can enhance a game for the better.
Horror has a profound effect on the human spirit. The jump scares that cause adrenaline spikes, the sweaty feeling of barely avoiding death, the persistent dread that slowly rises to a climactic rush – these emotions affect everyone in different ways.
These feelings are rooted in the emotions of haunted houses and roller coasters. They also include the sense of dying without ever actually dying. Books, TV, films, and games all use horror to bring us near death. Game developers are aware of this, and it’s why horror finds itself sprinkled throughout all genres of video games, although sometimes one must look a little harder to find it.
One of the best examples of this is Fullbright’s Gone Home.
Gone Home is a great game – Learn why Game Informer It received an 8.8 out of 10. – but simply reading a plot synopsis or gameplay breakdown wouldn’t necessarily reveal that. This is because part of what makes Gone Home so great is all of the things it’s not. When the game begins, you’re figuring out how to get into a large spooky house on a stormy night. When you enter the home, you find that it’s empty but not abandoned. You will need to determine the reason why your family members are not present.
The game is a horror-themed experience right from the beginning. There’s the ambiance of a stormy night, a large, dark, and spooky house, and a mystery within the home’s walls. It’s classic horror stuff, and these things come together to tell you, the player, that things are a little scary right now. You might feel your hands get a bit clammy or your heart rate may rise. These feelings stick with you throughout the game until you reach its ending and realize it was never a horror game to begin with – it was a love story and a great one at that.
This creates an atmosphere of fear and anxiety that will keep you moving along the story. It’s a smart way to keep players playing until the very end where the relief they’ve been searching hours for arrives, and Fullbright gets to reveal the truth of what’s occurred in the Greenbriar home.
Cyberpunk 2077 is another non-horror video game that makes use of horror in an effective way. CD Projekt Red’s latest RPG is a lot of things, but it’s decidedly not horror. However, there’s a side quest available midway through the story that’s one of the most horrific things I’ve ever experienced in a game: help (or prevent) someone crucify themselves on camera. It’s quite graphic and extremely dark, naturally, but it also provides a look into Cyberpunk 2077 not seen anywhere else.
Cyberpunk 2077 is about Night City’s seedy underbelly and the way the corporate-overrun capitalism of the world has affected those not privy to that wealth. The crucifixion side quest uses the horror of witnessing a real crucifixion to show the player how far people will go to redeem themselves from the deeds they’ve committed in order to simply survive in Night City. It’s a powerful scene made even more powerful by the fact that you directly control how it plays out.
Outer Wilds is a horror game that uses space as a tool to create fear in otherwise normal people. Outer Wilds requires players to determine the reason why people are in an endless loop that sees the sun explode every twenty minutes. There’s an argument to be made that dying every 20 minutes no matter what you do is scary in and of itself, but Outer Wilds presents itself more as a sci-fi mystery exploration game than something fit for Halloween.
As you explore unfamiliar planets – discovering ancient relics of those before you, finding warnings of what’s to come, and dodging waterspout tornados or deadly angler fish – you’ll find yourself squeezing the controller tight in hopes that you can survive for just a minute longer. Outer Wilds preys on our most basic instinct in life – survive – to great effect, especially in the way it ramps up your adrenaline only to bring it back down again every 20 minutes.
As a way of shifting the terror experienced by players in-game, some developers resort to horror sequences. For example, take The Last of Us Part II. It might be called horror by some, but it is unlikely that most people would describe it as such before action-adventure or third-person shooter. However, some of the games events are quite disturbing. Ellie sometimes kills her enemies in a way straight out of a R-rated movie.
Naughty Dog presents a unique “level” in the second half of The Last of Us Part II that not only gives players the chance to experience a new type of scare for the series but likely nods to the horror genre that clearly inspired the game. As you enter a hospital’s lower floor, you’re met with a dark ICU-like unit filled with cordyceps-covered doors and more. You explore, searching for a way out, and that’s when the Rat King, as Naughty Dog refers to it, reveals itself – it’s a massive, overgrown ball of infected that wants nothing more than to take you out.
The sequence feels more at home in a Resident Evil game than it does in The Last of Us, but Naughty Dog uses it to up the ante of everything we’ve already experienced. Naughty Dog shows us that The Last of Us is home to even more evil enemies and the series could slide into horror. This takes out the tension from the main game’s human-versus-human battle and reminds players that they are still very fortunate to be human.
While horror’s not for everybody, developers recognize the powerful effects it can have on virtually anyone. That’s why horror has oozed its way into basically every aspect of media. It’s universal in that everyone is scared of something, but unique in that we each have our own fears and haunts living in our brains. And much in the same way games affect everyone differently based on what we personally bring into the experience, horror, too, shapeshifts to look like the monster we each picture in our head – it’s up to developers, though, to determine which genre that monster will skulk in with every new release.
Cyberpunk 2077: Our thoughts about the game Game Informer After official review, you can then go to the site and read it. Game Informer Outer Wilds Review. Check out why we gave The Last of Us Part II a 10 out of 10 after that and then read Game Informer Here’s a list of terrifying horror games to enjoy this Halloween.
Is there a part that scares you more than a horror game? Please comment below with your thoughts!