Horror is a wonderful video game genre that too many people skip out on. From my own time with the genre, horror offers unique experiences that aren’t only about being scared. Players might underestimate how brave they can be when it comes to horror games — and I’m saying this as a self-professed scaredy-cat.
I’m hypersensitive and easily frightened, so I grew up believing that horror wouldn’t be part of my media consumption. My father still refuses to watch most things horror-related, and I thought for a long time that I would be the same. But then that ended up not being true as I came to realize a simple, yet obvious truth — horror is more accessible than people give it credit for.
That is because horror, like all genres, is not defined by one thing. Horror exists in a spectrum, with a variety of different levels of suspense and violence. Different horror games can be more accessible to people than others. You never know what you’re willing to go through until you experience it, and I believe people should give certain horror games a chance. Even a coward like myself was able to play through P.T.
As an avid lover of the Silent Hill lore and legacy, I pushed through playing P.T. after becoming enamored with the online reaction to it. My heart was jumping in my chest, and I needed to play in the daylight, yet I am so happy to have that experience. The game offers so much more than the typical thrills and chills that are associated with horror, and it serves as a thought experiment that forces players to think in ways that they wouldn’t normally do with other games. People who play it get more out of it than just the frightening aspects and it is worth it for those parts.
Games like P.T. can still be too intense for many players to handle, though most can handle first-person shooters like Left 4 Dead and its recent spiritual successor Back 4 Blood. Despite those games featuring hoards of flesh-eating zombies, the mere fact that players can mow them down with bullets makes the experience less scary. It is still undeniable horror, just a different kind. If you want to build yourself towards the more hardcore stuff, start with Back 4 Blood and work your way up from there.
Resident Evil 4, which just re-released for VR, is also the perfect game for a scaredy-cat’s first entry into horror. I remember being so into my big brother’s playthrough of Resident Evil 4 that I needed to be in the same room when he was playing it. Even though RE4 has grotesque stuff, the tight gameplay controls and well-paced action sequences make the game easy to digest. When the product is so high-quality, it ultimately didn’t matter if the game was horror or not. A good game is a good game and anyone who is into tight shooters should play RE4.
If you still feel as if you wouldn’t be able to handle horror, you would be surprised. I convinced my brother to get Until Dawn so we can experience it together. Until Dawn is more of an interactive horror movie with players’ decisions affecting the outcome of the game’s story. Our sister, generally indifferent to horror, experienced the game with us and ended up getting hooked watching my brother playing — she even started her own save file of Until Dawn afterward. If games like Until Dawn interest you, then I recommend getting together with some friends on a couch to play it, or The Dark Pictures series that developer Supermassive Games followed the title up with. Don’t worry about getting scared — care more about the experience you are about to share with others.
There are some horror games that I believe are required to play. Silent Hill 2 is one of those games that, despite the intense atmosphere and terrifying enemies, is a game that everyone should at least experience. Everyone remembers the grotesque nurses and infamous Red Pyramid Head; however, those things are only one small part of the entire game. The game is more of a reflection of depression told through the lens of a man who lost his wife. Silent Hill 2 explores deep themes like suicide, grief, guilt, punishment, and love in such a way that makes you think about it long after you put the controller down. It’s a game that truly challenges players in ways that others have not, making players question their actions and what they are doing.
Silent Hill 2 uses its format as a game to its advantage, using the atmospheric mist as a way to get around the game’s graphical limitation. The multiple endings of the game offer something different to players, each one reflecting the overall moral and themes of the narrative. It isn’t a happy experience to play Silent Hill 2, and it is actually one of the most sobering experiences I have ever gone through. But sometimes those are the games that people need to play the most if only to get their perspective on it.
Genres are not always just one thing; they are more varied than people recognize. If one type of horror game puts you off too much, there are many others to dip your feet into. Resident Evil Village isn’t only a horror game — it’s also an action-shooter game with a campy, engaging story. If you like shooters then go ahead and try it out without worrying too much about the scary stuff. Life is too short to be scared of playing certain games as you never know what you’re missing. So if you’ve been thinking of playing a horror game yet have been too afraid to, then go for it. We’re all braver than we think we are, and what better time to try out a horror game than Halloween?