Just like the movie industry, video game developers have always sought new and unique ways to scare game players in new and unusual ways. Unlike the movies, however, where you're just sitting there watching, in a game you're actually in control of the action, which makes it all the scarier.

Obviously, you wouldn't expect to find something like Resident Evil or some other type of horror game on the Atari 2600, and while Haunted House is, indeed, very primitive by today's standards (as are most games for the 2600,) it was still a scary game back in its heyday. You could only see your eyes as you crept through a four story mansion with twenty-four rooms, given the task of finding a mystical urn that had split into three pieces, and then escaping with your life. You're given unlimited matches so that you can see items that might be lying around, but it's not all that easy. You've got to look out for vampire bats that are flying around, tarantulas that are lurking about, and, of course, the ghost that haunts the mansion. Getting touched by one of these creatures causes you to get scared to death, and costs you one of your nine lives. The randomness factor with the creatures, as well as the fact that the wind could easily blow your match out at any time and the thunder and lightning outside were enough to give Haunted House that spooky atmosphere that you couldn't really find in any other Atari 2600 games.

Way back in the early 80s, before we had fancy graphics and life like sound, when the Apple 2 computer was the thing to have, a husband-and-wife duo named Ken and Roberta Williams created a computer game called Mystery House. Created back when text adventures were the big thing, Mystery House was noted for being one of the first games to use both text and graphics to give the player a look at what was going on. While the graphics were just simple black-and-white lineart, back in the day it was considered state of the art. And while the game is fairly linear, back when we didn't have walkthroughs available at the click of a mouse or the ability to chat online with others to discuss solutions, many players were stumped trying to figure out what to do, all while trying to avoid becoming the next victim of a murderer who was stalking the guests in the house, taking them out one by one untill it was only you or them. One minute, you would be looking around, when the lights would go out. The next thing you knew, you were looking at the body of one of the guests, and you gulped, realizing that you could be next!

Alone in the Dark could easily be considered the forefather of survival horror, while Resident Evil pioneered it. Even though it seems primitive by today's standards, Alone in the Dark was considered a big thing back in 1992 when it made its debut. The different camera angles and polygonal graphics were something that had been rarely used at the time, and the story only added to the creepiness of the game. You were given the task of investigating a mysterious mansion in the South that had some kind of supernatural connection (yeah yeah, go figure.) Once you were inside, you found out that it was a lot worse than you expected. The place is swarming with zombies, demons, and other assorted creeps and creatures that are trying to keep you from solving the mysteries of the house and making you one of their own instead. The game was notable for using a unique control scheme that allowed you to use hand-to-hand combat as well as firearms and melee weapons, but combat wasn't always the way to go. In fact, sometimes, you actually had to use your brains to get past enemies instead of fighting them. In addition, the house was rife with booby traps and other nasty surprises, meaning that you could easily meet your maker at any moment without realizing that something is wrong at first.

Truly an underrated gem, Illbleed was a completely new take on the horror game genre that was never tried before. Instead of killing creatures or avoiding them, your task was to make it through a haunted amusement park that, ironically enough, was themed after several fictional horror movies to begin with. You had to use your senses, such as sight, hearing, and smell, to detect where traps or enemies were in order to avoid being scared. Failing to do so would cause damage to your character, as well as cause their heart rate to go up and possibly start bleeding. You had to avoid being scared to death by watching your heart rate and your rate of bleeding, while using things like bandages to control your bleeding, medicine to control your heart, and food to manage your health. In addition to avoiding death, keeping these things under control would get you a better ranking at the end of each area. Successfully negating a 'scare' (by using a special device) would increase your adrenaline, making you able to detect more scares. A lot of people were turned off by the bizarre gameplay and control, but it's actually a very fun game if you give it a chance.

Even though it seems simple by today's standards, back when the NES was still the big thing in the day, Uninvited was a game that scared many a game player. Employing the same point-and-click interface with a first person view of whatever room you were in that was used in Deja Vu and Shadowgate, Uninvited put you in the role of finding your sister after a car accident, which leads you into a creepy looking mansion right by where your car wrecked. Naturally, if it's creepy on the outside, then it's creepy on the inside. There were all sorts of nasty surprises waiting to happen, including monsters who would love to have you become their next resident, traps and hazards in places you would never guess to look, and the creepy atmosphere that haunted you wherever you went. I remember being so scared at one time that I actually closed the doors behind me wherever I went!

While it was a bit of a departure from the first game on PlayStation, Clock Tower 3 was still quite a scary game in itself. Ditching the point-and-click interface that was used in the first two games, the third game allowed the player to freely move around, while using holy water as a means of defense. Some things, however, still remained the same. Namely the stalker system, except in each part of the game, you would encounter a different type of stalker, who would still pop up at any time, and could be alerted to your presence if you made a noise, or an evil spirit spotted you. The addition of holy water as a means of stunning your enemy was a neat addition, as was the ability to not only retain hiding spots, but also special items that could be used to knock out your stalker for a brief period of time. In addition, the game featured quite a bit of graphic scenes that were definitely something you wouldn't find in your everyday horror game.

The Silent Hill series was a departure from what most video game players expected in a Resident Evil style game, moving away from Science Fiction and into a true horror atmosphere, while using fog and lighting effects to add to the atmosphere of the game. Silent Hill 3, however, still ranks as one of the scariest games in my book. You play as a teenage girl who is caught up in the mysterious world and evil associated with the town of Silent Hill, and the cause behind the whole thing is more than even she could have ever imagined. Between the fact you're just a teenaged girl instead of some action hero and the fact there are all sorts of creepy images and places in the game, it's truly the scariest of the bunch.

While the original game debuted in 1996, the remake of Resident Evil for GameCube is definitely the most remarkable in the sense that it truly used the capabilities of the GameCube to the maximum. The new minor effects, such as swirling dust and lightning, added more realism to the game, while more notable effects like shadows and lighting gave the game a truly creepier atmosphere. In addition, a new layout to the mansion, new enemies, and even more puzzles made for what one could only call the true Resident Evil experience.

While it looks like a Resident Evil clone at first, Clock Tower is actually a very different game from the Resident Evil series. Instead of running around battling enemies, you are forced to use your wits to avoid a slasher-type stalker that you never know when he'll pop up next. One minute he could be hiding in a closet, the next minute he could be hiding in the elevator. The spooky atmosphere is even made spookier with the game's brilliant use of sound in that most of the time, there is only silence, save for when the stalker is coming after you, in which case it plays a very fitting theme. It's almost like playing a horror movie.

There were many games in the Resident Evil series, a series which truly pioneered the horror genre in video games, and while there have been several remarkable games in the series, to this day the second game still ranks as one of the best. Capcom looked at what was wrong with the first game, and made sure to remedy as much of it as possible while focusing on creating a new experience for game players. As a result, they got a game with a solid, creepy storyline, a whole new environment to explore, and, of course, scares galore!

There you have it, the ten scariest games of all time. You may not agree with them, and that's fine. But to be frank, I personally feel that over the years, there have been very few games that could easily top the fright factor of these ten games.

List by Larcen Tyler (11/10/2005)

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