In the survival horror genre we've got a lot to be thankful for, and a whole lot more not to be of course, but here we take a look at a couple of the industry's stalwarts. These grizzled veterans have laid down the templates from which nearly all other horror games have followed.
While this pair of titles is certainly starting to show their age, they still stand as towering influences on the genre as a whole, and are a worthwhile playthrough for anyone with even a remote interest in thrills and chills...
When I played this titled way back when, I’m fairly sure it had a profound effect on my fragile little brain. You see, playing it back again now, it looks terrible, it plays pretty terrible, it even sounds pretty terrible, but boy is it still an uncomfortable and truly terrifying experience to play through.
Straddling that thin line between enjoyment and endurance, this is a dark and oppressive tale with little to no respite from the constant feeling of dread to be found anywhere in the game. The crackling of your radio acts as a constant reminder that something could be nearby at any moment. The mist and pervading gloom acts as a visual barrier to any of the entities that could be lurking mere feet in front of you. The infamous mist, which began life as a method to mask the game’s draw distance and improve the frame rate in the larger environments, has gone on to become synonymous with the series and the town of Silent Hill itself. Why anyone would ever go there I have no idea.
Placing you in the shoes of the alarmingly normal Harry, you’re on the lookout for your missing daughter in what seems to be a practically abandoned town. Of course, normally you’d pop on down to the police department and ask there, maybe even check if she’s playing in the playground. Word of advice in Silent Hill: DON’T DO IT.
Silent Hill’s favourite tactic is to throw more enemies at you than you can possibly kill with the extremely limited ammunition and weaponry available to you. When you’re down to your last dozen bullets you mentally realise that it would be an utter waste to use these on the town’s marauding mutants, they’ll only spawn back next time you enter the area. So, of course, this brings you back to the primary human process of fight or flight, instinct and terror rolled up into one horrific bundle. The utter sense of foreboding you feel stumbling around with dangerously ebbing health and four bullets is often overwhelming and always terrifying.
Alone In The Dark
The grandaddy of all survival horror games, Alone In The Dark singlehandedly spawned an entire genre, it's the gaming world’s Nosferatu or Dracula. It may not be a series that has aged gracefully, or even seen many quality sequels, but really what horror series truly has stood the test of time?
The old-school VGA graphics may look borderline unplayable now, too retro even for the indie-revival to emulate, but back in the day they were considered state of the art, and the game was terrifying in its own right.
Developed by the now-defunct Infogrames, Alone In The Dark is a Lovecraftian tale of a haunted mansion, suicide, the occult, and a dash of library chic. The classic setting set the tone for the horror games to come throughout the next decade, spawning dozens of imitators, including the brilliant first outing for the Resident Evil series.
Playing as a paranormal investigator, Alone in the Dark was, and still is, a deeply unsettling experience that takes in the whole gamut of the horror landscape, from zombies, to ghosts, haunted armour, houses and more. Played from the now-familar third-person perspective, you solved puzzles, fought monsters and demons, and investigated the mysterious goings on in a game that seems basic now, but set the template for what we’ve come to expect from classic survival horror.
If you fancy taking a trip down memory lane this Halloween, then look no further than Infograme’s classic for a chance to see where it all began.
What game do you think is the godfather of the horror genre?
Which one game did more for survival horror than any other?
Be sure to drop in and let us know your thoughts below!