Poll: Have You Ever Found a Video Game Legitimately Scary?

Occasionally I'll read a review for a horror game (Amnesia, Outlast, etc.) and the author will talk about how freaked out he or she was, how terrified he or she was to play with the lights out, or how he or she couldn't play it alone.

(You know, the English language really needs a non-sexed pronoun.)

I've honestly never understood that.  Games aren't real.  It's just an image on your TV so how can it be scary?

Oh sure, games can make you jump.  Everything's quiet and suddenly OMG THERE'S A MONSTER IN YOUR FACE ACCOMPANIED BY A REALLY LOUD ORCHESTRA STING!!!!

But that's not scary; that's startling.  Big difference.

Eh, maybe I'm just a stick in the mud.  What about you?  Have you ever played a game that you found legitimately frightening?  Vote in the poll and tell us all about it in the comments or in an email to SuperPACpodcast@gmail.com.  EZK and I will share your stories of fear (and our own) on next week's podcast.

Until then, have a safe and happy Halloween!

"vote label" © Tribalium / Shutterstock. All rights reserved, used with permission.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Contributing Editor Andrew Eisen

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  1. olstar18 says:

    Silent hill 2 definately scared me. The environment they created with the fog and the static when you were getting close to the creatures and then when it changed to the nightmare version of the level. *shudder* Not a game I was able to play in the dark.

  2. Adaptor says:

    Never really thought about it like this before. Games like Amnesia, F.E.A.R. and Condemned were pretty frightening but none of them had any kind of psychological impact (for lack of a better term) after turning them off. Like that uneasy feeling you sometimes get after watching a really good horror/thriller movie. Guess I'm going to have to answer 'no' now…

    BTW: 'It's just an image on your TV so how can it be scary?' is a pretty weird thing to say for someone who loves video games IMO. Something doesn't have to be 'real' to invoke real feelings, right?

  3. Longjocks says:

    Ditto. But to add to that there have been horror games which have made me slightly anxious while playing them – building the right amount of tension at the right times.

  4. Samster says:

    Various games from the Silent Hill series (mostly 1 and 2), Project Zero/Fatal Frame, and Amnesia have all succeeded in scaring me.

    When I was a young girl playing Tomb Raider on the Sega Saturn, I admit . . . Some of those huge, cavernous, dark environments where you're completely isolated also managed to put the chills up me, especially when you get randomly attacked by a wolf or something.

  5. Neo_DrKefka says:

    Eternal Darkness as someone already mentioned is a great game that really gets to you. Sadly though that developer has really insulted customers and has done things that have drove customers away. 

    It's a case where they did a Bioware and now no one really likes or trusts them.

  6. NyuRena says:

    BTW guys, that Complete mod has an option to have Emissions turn NPCs into zombies instead of just killing them. It makes for a fun hostile environment after every blast. (Good to fill up on bandages too.)

  7. Wymorence says:

    Oh yeah, forgot about the STALKER series… Although that does have some "BOO" moments, radiation as a whole just freaks me out.

  8. Thipp says:

    I came here specifically to mention the Stalker series. It doesn't leave me afraid outside the game (I have never come across a game or movie that did that) but it certainly keeps you on the edge of your seat while playing.

  9. NyuRena says:

    The STALKER series has always kept me on edge and jumpy. Even with heavy armor, you still feel naked against the horrors that lurk about. I've been re-playing it this week and even knowing there are bloodsuckers in the woods, they still scare the crap out of me when they come up on your face.

    (I'm trying the "Complete" mod after uninstalling the Misery mod, which seems like something for extreme survival fetishists or people who HATE their F5/F9 keys. I loved the new game systems they put in, but the difficulty went well past challenging to just plain cheap.)

    Amnesia: Dark descent was a very good scare as well. (I have not tried the new Pig one yet.)

  10. NyuRena says:

    Good to know. If I can't find a copy then I'll emulate. (I was randomly given a game cube at a party this past 4th of July. Very cool, but weird.)

  11. Andrew Eisen says:

    It's an excellent Gamecube title and I highly recommend it.

    It's not scary though.  The one scene everyone talks about is startling (at least, it can be) but not scary.

    Well, to me anyway.


    Andrew Eisen

  12. Vincent Povirk says:

    I've been scared by SNES games that would crash and put weird stuff on the screen and sometimes make glitchy noises. This was usually caused by a Game Genie, but occasionally games would crash without such provocation. (Arguably, the fact that it was usually my fault made it that much worse.)

    Just think about the idea of being in a world where the very laws of physics have suddenly changed, and they haven't just changed a little bit but gone completely off the rails. You no longer have even the slightest knowledge of how the universe works. That is what happened to those SNES games. And yeah, they're just games, but like the real world they are a (mostly) self-contained world based on seemingly unbreakable rules. If they can fall apart in an instant, why can't the universe where we all live?

    Nowadays, crashes are far more tame. You just see the last frame to successfully draw and maybe some repeating audio. Or you end up back on the desktop with some stupid dialog box. Instead of turning into something horrible and strange, however short-lived that thing might be, the world just abruptly ends.

    Um, as far as games that are supposed to be scary…… no, not really, but I rarely play those. And I know to especially avoid Eternal Darkness.

  13. NyuRena says:

    I think the startle type of scare can be great if it's not overused like Doom 3 or Dead space. Yup another room, another vent, with a 100% chance of a bad thing coming out when you are a few paces from it. (Fun, but not scary.) 

    But if a game has plenty of quiet areas where nothing too bad happens between them, then it can be fun.  It's all about pacing. =)

  14. CMiner says:

    Has a movie or a play ever made you sad?  Images on a screen, scenes on a stage, they may not be of real things, but the images and sounds themselves are real, and can evoke a real emotional response.

    A good game (or movie, or play) will draw you in, put you in a state of mind where you forget, even just a little, that you are watching something that has been manufactured.

    And yes, the "sudden monster in face + loud music" is a cheap tactic, and startled <> scared, but it's not the only kind of "scary" that horror games employ.

    We could certainly have a long discussion about what "fear" actually is, and what fears are "real" (claustrophobia? fear of the dark?) but I think that if a game can evoke the same emotions we feel when confronted with something "real" that we fear, then it succeeds at being "scary".

  15. Andrew Eisen says:

    Yeah, technically true but just like I don't care to use "they" as first-person singular, I don't like using "he" to mean either gender.

    I also normally don't care to use "one" due to how awkward it often sounds.

    But really, I was just goofing on how silly it can get when we try to be thoughtful and inclusive.


    Andrew Eisen

  16. Bennett Beeny says:

    "(You know, the English language really needs a non-sexed pronoun.)"

    It does. It's "he". "He" isn't always male.

  17. Technogeek says:

    Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines, Ocean House Hotel. It took every haunted house cliche you can think of and made them work.

    Far too well.

    I still don't like to play that level at night, nearly 10 years later.

  18. narcogen says:

    Certainly! Parts of Silent Hill 2, as well as quite a few bits of Fatal Frame 2 (Project Zero).

    Playing alone, at night, in the dark, helps a lot.

  19. Wymorence says:

    The first few Silent Hills were insanely spooky for me. I can't really say games like Resident Evil and whatnot are simply because they typically use cheap scares as opposed to creating an atmosphere of fear.

  20. Andrew Eisen says:

    All true (except I can't possibly conceive how you found Limbo scary).

    I know it's acceptable to do so but I hate using "they" when referring to one person.  Just a personal thing.

    And yeah, I could have dropped the pronouns but then I wouldn't be able to bitch about pronouns!  And I really, really wanted to!

    Limbo was… okay.  It starts out really, really boring but picks up about a third of the way through (which isn't that far considering the game is 2-3 hours long).  From there it manages to stay just on the right side of dull.

    It almost had a terrific ending though.  Shame about that.

    Of course, I tend to be mostly (if not entirely) alone on this.


    Andrew Eisen

  21. SeanB says:

    (You know, the English language really needs a non-sexed pronoun.)

    They isn't always plural. Your paragraph would have looked like this, and been grammatically correct. The plurality of it comes from the fact that you are assumed to be talking about different reviewers in each sentence.

    Occasionally I'll read a review for a horror game (Amnesia, Outlast, etc.) and the author will talk about how freaked out they were, how terrified they were to play with the lights out, or how they couldn't play it alone.

    Or! You could just remove the need for personalization altogether

    Occasionally I'll read a review for a horror game (Amnesia, Outlast, etc.) and the author will talk about how freaky it was, how terrifying it was was to play with the lights out, or how "that game" simply could not be played alone.


    Back on topic!

    Yes, Limbo.

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