Horror has been a hugely influential genre in the world of cinema almost since the inception of the medium, and the same is also true when it comes to video games.
If you are a horror fanatic and you want to understand the evolution of this genre in the arena of interactive entertainment, here is a look at the games which have defined it over the years.
Back in the mid-1980s, side scrolling platformers rendered in 2D were the meat and potatoes of the video games industry and Castlevania was one of the most popular releases. Originally appearing on the Nintendo Entertainment System, it introduced players to a world of vampires, werewolves, ghosts and gothic horror, with iconic villain Dracula being the final boss.
Similar themes have become ingrained in many other titles over the years, covering lots of different play styles including first person shooters like Painkiller and slots games found on Casumo. Even so, Castlevania remains a landmark release and spawned a franchise that is still celebrated to this day.
Alone in the Dark
While the Resident Evil series would go on to popularize the survival-horror genre a little later in the 1990s, the game which started this trend is in fact Alone in the Dark.
Its 3D graphics and controls may be primitive by modern standards, but at the time it was revolutionary for a number of reasons. Giving the player access to limited resources to defeat foes, as well as using fixed camera angles to add to the feeling of claustrophobia, proved to be effective horror game tactics that would be used again and again throughout the next decade.
Resident Evil 4
While the first batch of Resident Evil games were best sellers and spawned tons of spin-offs, the survival horror formula that Alone in the Dark established back in 1992 was getting pretty tired by the time the new millennia arrived. Thankfully developer Capcom had an ace up its sleeve in the form of Resident Evil 4, a game that would once again redefine what could be achieved in this genre.
The main trick that this game pulled was to put the focus more on action. Rather than forcing the player through cramped corridors against slow-moving undead hordes, RE4 pitted them against much more sprightly enemies in larger, outdoor spaces, with a full 3D engine overcoming the restrictions of the fixed position camera angles used in its precursors.
Still critically lauded more than a decade and a half after its release, Resident Evil 4 helped to drag the horror genre kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
While this low budget game may not look as polished as some of its contemporaries, back in 2010 it helped to revitalize interest in horror thanks to its clever use of particularly terrifying mechanics. Wandering through shadow-filled corridors, trying to escape the clutches of gape-mouthed terrors that lurk there, while preventing your character from going insane, all adds up to a very intense experience.
Few horror games before Amnesia: The Dark Descent cloud really claim to be truly, genuinely scary, but after its release a whole slew of seriously spine-tingling titles like Outlast would emerge to continue its legacy.
One of the reasons that horror movies are so enjoyable is that when you watch them with friends, you can share the electric atmosphere together and shout advice at the screen when characters make obvious mistakes. But what if you could actually control the decisions of characters and go on a choose-your-own-adventure-style thrill ride in the process? This is exactly what award-winning Until Dawn offers, and it is arguably the best horror game of the current generation.
As a PS4 exclusive, it is not as accessible as some of the other games covered so far, but if you happen to have Sony’s console sitting under your TV, it is well worth the investment. Featuring a few famous faces and boasting a story that has plenty of twists, turns and scares up its sleeve, Until Dawn is a great game to pop on with friends, or play solo.