Since the introduction of horror in video games, many developers have tried and failed to create scary monsters and creepy houses inclined to scare the gamer as they walk through. More often than not, these games fail simply because they seem more action-oriented, or because they're flat-out not scary (and then they're hilarious). Few games, and series, have managed to perfect the genre of survival horror, but here are the ten best games that get it right. These games are consistently creepy as hell, and to do them justice, playing them at night, alone, is the way you'll have to go.

By today's standards, Alone in the Dark really isn't that creepy of a game. It's missing the dark atmosphere, the intense detail, and the overall sense of dread. The game later suffered from becoming a Resident Evil clone, which is ironic because it's really the game that inspired Resident Evil. The original Alone in the Dark's supernatural elements, and the origin of the consistently-shifting camera - a brilliant tactic that made the gamer always question what was going to happen when they took those few steps forward - (the camera was adopted later on by the Resident Evil series), make this a worthwhile game for a nice scare fest if you're in the mood.

Doom 3 wasn’t exactly original in terms of scares, but the fact that it was a complete departure from the original series gave gamers something new - no longer is Doom the hellish action FPS, but a creepy, claustrophobic scare-fest. The game uses the small rooms and the many hiding places to insert plenty of "boo" moments into the game so by the end of the quest, you're skeptical to turn a corner in fear that something will be behind it. And after all the anticipation, you turn the corner and BOO! But the game still gets you.

Silent Hill 3 uses everything that makes the series so dark, disturbing, and twisted. The game is much less action-oriented than the original two, so the sense of panic when you have low health as you approach a dimly lit corridor is experienced in a fresh, new way - different from the other Silent Hill games. The twisted shadows formed by your flashlight never make it quite clear exactly what is on the wall next to you. The echoes of your feet as you slowly creeping by an empty wheelchair have never been creepier, and the choice to use mainly in-game sound effects for the music doesn't help the overall creepiness either. The monsters stumble towards you in a distorted, mutilated sense, while the walls bleed and the corpses decay all around you. Shine your flashlight towards the wall, and suddenly you're looking at a shield of human flesh. Turn off the lights and enter the twisted world of Silent Hill 3 - you won't be disappointed.

Though the concept was no longer fresh, Resident Evil 2 manages to build upon it's predecessor in terms of classic scares. While extending the gameplay into an entire city may feel like it is removing the closed, compact sense of the original, the game still works brilliantly. Turn the corner, and as the camera angle switches, a zombie appears. Turn back the other way, and suddenly a zombie stumbles over a car. Head into the shop to find a zombie dog eating at a corpse, and suddenly the first zombie reaches through the window and grabs you. The game uses the same style of music that the first one did, resulting in the same eerie feel. This is a terrific scare fest that retains all aspects of the classic original.

What was so terrifying about Eternal Darkness was the fact that just about anything could happen. It was so much the zombies and the undead – those guys were quite dull indeed. But the psychological thought behind the sanity meter – which questioned your logic – was scary as hell. The game was an expert at mind tricks – any moment, your memory card could wipe, the walls may start bleeding, or you may find a little surprise in a bloody bathtub. Whispers were heard, vision became blurry, and it was unclear if it was all part of the game, or all in your head. And to even provoke that thought is horrifying enough.

Sanitarium is an old point ‘n click horror game that is terrifying for its combined use of creepy images and music. After you awaken from a bloody car crash, you find yourself in an asylum that very well may be hell itself. Inmates crushing their bones, people jumping out of windows… Sanitarium took you into the mind of a crazy man, one with horrific images burned into his mind. The game’s atmospheric areas, involving a twisted carnival theme park, a terrifying alien home, and a confused and hopeless Aztec world all added to the creepiness of the monsters and the creatures in Sanitarium.

F.E.A.R. is strictly a supernatural action thriller. Taking ideas out of Japanese horror films and making the entire game take place overnight, the game uses it’s atmosphere to create a sense of pure horror. Despite the cliché, little girls have never walked so creepily before. Real time shadows and lighting make images dance along the dark, empty corridors that may be you, or may be something else. Similar to Eternal Darkness, your sanity was questions as random voices and brief image flashes were scattered throughout the game. The whole game was quite claustrophobic, giving you a feeling of being trapped for good. The developers used the first-person view as a way to increase the horror – if you sense something, or want to turn around, you can spin and immediately find a monster in your face. It’s moments like that that make F.E.A.R. so scary – a game that must be played at night to get the whole effect.

Using the 'ol Japanese history for a horror video game is quite a good idea, and obviously the developers of Fatal Frame saw it as a window of opportunity. Fatal Frame II is so creepy simply because everything looks so spectacular. The choice to make everything essentially black and white, combined with the typical lighting effects of the genre, make the whole world of Fatal Frame II an "uncertain" place. You're in a creepy village, along with an insane sister, and there are ghosts everywhere. Using your lonely camera is the only way to spot the ghosts, and it is there where the game really gets you. Did you hear something behind you? As you spin around to check, you find nothing. But bring up your camera and...

The original Resident Evil took something like Alone in the Dark and revamped it completely, giving it a cinematic style and making it one of the scariest games to date. Everything in this game - from the distorted camera angles to the ominous, distant moaning of the zombies - will keep your paranoia up. The music is superbly well timed with the gameplay so just when you think everything's safe and quiet, you turn the corner. BAM! It's moments like that that make Resident Evil shine. The ominous cinematic of entering a new room is agonizing, as there is no way of knowing just what is on the other side. And the game is at it's best when the house is quiet, everyone's asleep, and the moon is shining outside your window. In others words, the night.

Resident Evil was in trouble the moment the foggy little town of Silent Hill was created. Featuring the same style of survival horror gameplay as Resident Evil but scaring you in a completely different way. While Resident Evil's creepy monsters and sudden ambushes kept gamers on the edge, Silent Hill utilized a sense of moody, dark, and creepy-as-hell atmosphere. Right off the bat, we know there's something hellishy wrong with this town. The game's trademark use of the flashlight to create the distorted lighting effects gets the best of out of the PlayStation, and the sense that you're in a lonely and deserted place hung over you whenever you spotted a blood-stained wall or an empty wheelchair. Silent Hill is the ultimate game to play at night - one that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

Survival horror will never die until video games do - there's always a new way to scare somebody, and with many upcoming additions the genre in the seventh generation consoles, it looks like we'll be enjoying new scares relatively soon.

List by me frog (07/28/2006)

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