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And with that single line, the survival horror genre was bought back to haunt gamers once more.
The beginnings of survival horror can be found in the mid-1980s, with the likes of Electric Dreamsa€™ Aliens: The Computer Game crafting heart-stopping terror despite the obvious technical limitations of the time.
By using a crude first-person perspective and providing the option of switching between different Marines, Aliens: The Computer Game thrust gamers into a truly terrifying environment. Japana€™s status as home to some of the greatest names in videogames and horror movies inevitably meant it too would produce some of the greatest examples of the genre a€“ the best of which pre-date some of the more popular examples, like Resident Evil. Despite these proto-survival horror titles, arguably the first a€?truea€™ survival horror game came in 1992, with Alone in the Dark. Although these games all offered a hint at what was to come, it wasna€™t until the first Resident Evil and Silent Hill titles that most modern gamers got their first taste of the genre and how scary it could really be.
Like Alone in the Dark a few years previously,Resident Evila€™s corridors and exterior environments were all pre-rendered backgrounds, which allowed the developers to create highly detailed levels, increasing player immersion. The survival horror genre may have technically started with Aliens, but it was Resident Evil that first coined the term and which remains the most iconic franchise in under that umbrella to this day. Perhaps thata€™s because of the gamea€™s memorable set-pieces (nobody forgets the zombie dogs jumping through the windows)?
Survival horror pits the player into a hostile environment with few, precious resources at hand to overcome opponents, puzzles and the levels themselves.
At the time of its release in 1992, the game boasted a lot of relatively new features, like fully realized 3D graphics.
Some would argue that Dead Space is more of an action game than it is a survival horror, but I would argue that it is both. Despite putting you in an armored suit and equipping you with a powerful mining tool to kill your foes, it ups the ante by making it so that not even the tools you wield are enough to keep you from getting seriously injured. Alan Wake is a psychological horror game, written in the vein of a Dean Koontz horror novel. He discovers that the recurring nightmare he's been having has come to life, and that the characters from his unwritten book are intent on haunting, if not killing him and those around him.
Silent Hill: Downpour, like all its predecessors, is as much a psychological thriller as it is a survival horror game in which you must unravel the secrets of who you are as you explore the haunted, and fog-filled town. Made by a team formed exclusively to make this game, Siren follows a trend established by Fatal Frame, namely by having a pretty mean core mechanic.
Similar to fatal Frame, Siren is very Japanese and heavily influenced by the same wave of Japanese horror movies that brought forth Fatal Frame. As such, Penumbra is a game that, like Amnesia, takes strong inspiration from the Lovecraft mythos.
STALKER pits the player as an unnamed gatherer of artifacts in the exclusion zone around the twice exploded Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
The game prominently features an insanity mechanic, whereby the player characters lose insanity, which then translates into strange things happening within the game.
The original Silent Hill was created as a part of the surge of survival horror games following Resident Evil’s success.
Regarded by many as the best survival horror game ever made, if not the best game ever made – period -, Silent Hill 2 upped the psychological horror ante of the original up a notch. Silent Hill 2 was arguably influenced strongly by classic David Lynch movies and other strange cinematic tales like Jacob’s Ladder. Running circles around Amnesia in terms of scariest game ever, Slender – The Arrival started out as a little experimental game and was recently expanded into a full blown release.
Created by the team who brought us Blood, Shogo and FEAR, Condemned is a game that’s all about survival in the depths of the insane asphalt jungle.
With the power of his own two fists and every makeshift weapon he can get a hold of, FBI agent Ethan Thomas throws himself into the frey, exploring subway tunnels, abandoned houses and other urban sights. Few games manage to drive us to feel emotion, and The Last of Us holds the honor of having pushed us to our emotional limit several times over the course of the game. The very best survival horror games take away power from the player, leaving them vulnerable. Resident Evil 4 may be the last title in the Resident Evil franchise that managed to elicit genuine fear. While zombies were to be feared, the most terrifying of all is the chainsaw-wielding monstrosity with a bag over his head. It goes without saying that if you want to play a Resident Evil game with its roots in horror, this is the one to play. The Fatal Frame series utilizes one of the outright meanest gameplay mechanics of the genre. Fatal Frame takes a ton of inspiration from the early 2000s batch of Japanese horror movies that came on the heels of The Ring’s enormous success. You're alone and unarmed aboard a derelict space ship whose crew has died in mysterious circumstances.
With little choice but to push onward, you have to ignore their warnings and unravel the mystery of the dead ship.
Exclusive to the Wii U, Zombi U is a first person zombie-apocalypse simulator in which you play the role of a human survivor. Celebrated by fans as the best entry into the initial series, Resident Evil 2 frees the player from the confines of the original game’s mansion, opening up all of Racoon City for exploration. In a way, this game refined and polished up the ideas, mechanics and designs of the first game, letting them bloom fully. Resident Evil designer Shinji Mikami created this game of primal carnage, taking the proven success formula of Resident Evil and replacing zombies with man eating dinosaurs. Originally conceived as a spinoff to the actual Silent Hill series, part 4 eventually became an actual entry to it, despite the game never taking place inside the eponymous town, but in a neighboring borough of South Ashfield. Survival horror games are not quite action and not quite adventure, but incorporate elements of both in an attempt to build suspense, horror, and fear in the player. Developed by Max Payne creator Remedy Entertainment, the Twin Peaks and Stephen King inspired storyline of Alan Wake offered an atmospherically creepy experience for Xbox 360 gamers, as Wake tried to rescue his missing wife from a supernatural force. Based on James Camerona€™s Aliens, the game pitched players as Colonial Marines and made them responsible for guiding the team through the xenomorph-filled corridors of LV-426 through a multi-screen, first person, interface.


It was unnerving and unsettling, even if it was two-tone on the Spectrum 48k and despite the crudity of the graphics Aliens laid the earliest foundations for others to follow. Though far from a pure survival horror, the 1989 role-playing game Sweet Home, which was never released outside of Japan, gave a glimpse of core features of the genre years before they came to fruition in Resident Evil. While both debuted on the original PlayStation, which must have helped their popularity, the two were thematically and stylistically incredibly different despite some superficial similarities. However, by using pre-rendered backgrounds the development team at Capcom (headed by the legendary Shinji Mikami, who also spearheaded Sweet Home) restricted themselves to using static cameras through the game, removing control from gamers. This was a revolutionary game at the time, and spawned into its own franchise with the years. Also, the first entry to the series let the player explore the mansion at his own pace, in whatever order the player wanted to approach the game. The game nails all the right aspects of a survival horror title—it gets the feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and helplessness down. You take on the role of a Stephen King-like writer named Alan Wake who travels with his wife to the sleepy town of Bright Falls. Along the way, he finds scattered pages of the book he's yet to write, and has to do so in order to find out what happened to his wife. Having escaped on foot from a crashed prison bus, you find yourself in a city that knows more about you than you do about yourself. Where Fatal Frame forces the player to look closely at the supernatural enemies in order to defeat them, Siren forces the player to look through the enemies’ eyes.
The player has the command over a range of different characters, one per chapter, and the story of the game unfolds through each individual’s point of view. The original STALKER was a highly ambitious project, that was stuck in development hell for a long time, and ended up a rough, almost broken piece of work at release in early 2007. There the player has to fight mutated creatures and animals, strange anomalies tearing holes into reality, and of course other stalkers. This Silicon Knights developed title was originally planned as an N64 game, but the developers took too long with it, and so it eventually became one of the GameCube’s launch titles. Also, the game features a fairly unique magic system that has the player combine runes for varying effects. Silent Hill was developed as a much more cerebral endeavor, a much more subtle game, less about combat and more about fear of the unknown. While being a Japanese game, Silent Hill was also intentionally aimed at a western audience, and with success, as evidenced by the eight sequels the game spawned. Apart from the eponymous town, the game’s plot had nothing in common with the original, boasting a wholly self contained story and non recurring characters.
The strange tale of the husband coming to Silent Hill looking for his dead wife, thereby slowly unraveling the mystery of his own past while delving deeper and deeper into madness is one of gamings’ strongest yarns yet.
The monsters here are easily avoided most of the time, and taking them all on is a not even an option most of the time. With the launch of Nintendo’s GameCube in 2002, Capcom delivered a launch title that recreated the original game with vastly improved graphics and some added gameplay elements like the Crimson Head zombie, a fast zombie variant that spawns from downed enemies if the player does not burn them down.
This first person brawler proudly wears the label of being one of history’s most relentlessly brutal games.
Condemned breathes a malevolent, sick and decayed urban atmosphere like very few other games, making it a deranged classic.
Ita€™s an emotional rollercoaster wrapped into a post-apocalyptic survival horror experience. With more than just monster-in-the-closet scares, the game offers much in the way of horror with tales of torture and losing one's humanity. Quite unlike RE5 and RE6 that came after, RE4 was a lot like its predecessors in that it made players feel powerless in the midst of deadly monsters who could dismember them limb from limb in a moment's notice. The same monster reared its ugly head in Resident Evil 5, but by then, all he did was serve as another challenge in the game's long list of bad guys Sheva and Chris could kill without breaking a sweat. The whole mythology of the games is that particular shintoist kind, a mythology that seems very exotic and strange to non Japanese people. You have to scavenge for your resources, find weapons and ammunition, and secure your safehouse—all the while following the directions of a mysterious voice over the radio who aids in your survival. In an interesting twist, your previous character can potentially become one of the zombies. This episodic game was produced with the intention of selling this very Japanese game to an American audience. Initially released as a PSN exclusive in five Episodes, with a subsequent release of the game on disc.
The graphics engine ended up being more refined, the overall gameplay more polished and to the point, and also, the whole game structure was stirred up by having the actions of one character playthrough affect those of another character, eventually leading to the two character system found later in Resident Evil Zero.
The game set the player free on a mysterious tropical island as a medical doctor stricken by a deadly disease.
When the player receives damage, the good doctor quickly slips into a deadly fever and will soon after die, so having some self made medicine at hand is vital. Story wise, there is a lot of pulpy sci-fi going on, time traveling dinosaurs and secret scientific experiments, as you would expect from something that mixes, well, Resident Evil and Jurassic Park.
Dinosaurs always sell it seems, so the original game spawned two sequels and a lightgun shooter. First of all, there is the Room itself, an area of the game that is explored in first person view.
The use of light and dark, of endlessly feeling chased, and the small US town setting gave gamers a sense of unease a€“ but it also bought a sense of familiarity. Lovecraft (like Silicon Knightsa€™ GameCube survival horror, Eternal Darkness a decade later) Alone in the Dark put gamers into the shoes of private investigator Edward Carnby.
Strangely though, this didna€™t have detrimental effect you might anticipate; instead it immersed players in the mansion, as the STARS Alpha team of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine searched for the missing members of Bravo team. The formula of classic survival horror has been established in the mid 90s, and few games have strayed far from it. The original saw the player character, who could be male or female, trapped in a haunted Louisiana mansion.


The only way to kill them is to dismember them limb from limb, and them crush them under the weight of your heel just to make sure that they're dead. The game is set in a remote Japanese mountain village, after a devastating earthquake hit and the village has been overrun with zombies, two events that eventually turn out to be connected. The biggest difference between Penumbra and Amnesia is, that the Penumbra games actually featured combat, which was half heartedly implemented and not very satisfying. The first episode of this three episode game was conceived as a mere tech demo, upon which the later episodes then expanded.
STALKER is a unique game insofar, as it is first of all Russian (well, Ukrainian) made, and an adaptation of the Tarkovski movie of the same name and of a science fiction story called Roadside Picnic written by the venerated Russian scifi authors, the Strugatzki Brothers.
Eternal Darkness is a unique game, as it is essentially a Lovecraft mythos game in all but in name.
Overall the emphasis is on combat and exploration, and revealing the mysteries of the Roivas mansion and -family across the aeons.
The game made a virtue out of the relatively weak hardware of the PS1, creating the now famous fog effect, limiting draw distance intentionally and making that a part of the game world. So the emphasis is on running away, dodging the bigger ones and getting rid of the smaller ones when possible.
The overall story, including the Umbrella corporation’s secret test lab underneath the mansion, the T-Virus and the various creatures springing from that, is still the same. The plot sees again a larger cast of player characters, first and foremost an American TV crew shooting a documentary in a remote Japanese mountain village, when, again, the double whammy of Earthquake and Zombies occurs.
Kennedy, Ada Wong and Cyril Redfield, the second installment opened up the Resident Evil lore that should dominate the games to come. Especially Dino Crisis 3, an early Xbox exclusive, is worth mentioning, for it takes the dinosaurs to space. Henry has been locked in his apartment with no apparent way out, except for a mysterious hole in his bathroom wall.
Then there are the ghosts, victims of Walter Sullivan which will haunt and damage the player throughout the individual levels. Like Aliens: The Computer Game, Sweet Home was the gaming equivalent of primordial gloop a€“ the genre was still evolving. Like both Aliens and Sweet Home, Alone in the Dark featured some of the design ideas that would feature in the genre for years a€“ most notably, the use of pre-rendered backgrounds, static cameras, and 3D characters. Ita€™s likely a mix of all those elements, but one thinga€™s for sure a€“ Resident Evil kick-started the genre, prompting a number of franchises to appear in its wake, each taking survival horror in unique directions.
Riddles are good but bugs, crashes and (supernatural force) many technical problems are scarier than the game itself. Both new IP’s are released and classic horror series get revamped for the new generation of consoles.
The investigation of the mysterious suicide of the house’s former owner turns into a nightmare, as supernatural creatures start stalking the player.
The key was avoiding the enemies and beating them through puzzle solving rather than through brawling. STALKER was incredibly ambitious and has become game with an immense cult following in the PC gaming scene. It strides across time and space, having the player in the shoes of characters from ancient Roman times up until the present day.
Silent Hill 2 and 3 share a common visual style, thanks to creature designer Masahiro Ito, a Japanese fetish artist.
After the first of these eight was done, the Slenderman starts stalking you, getting perpetually closer with each subsequent task solved.
The player has to hunt down a serial killer through a city that is going mad, being confronted by deranged homeless and junkies at every corner. The emphasis is on exploration, and on eventually finding a cure without getting eaten by the creature. Those ghosts are invulnerable to regular weapons, and can only be pinned in place by ritual swords found throughout the game, of which there are very few, so pinning a ghost is always an investment of a precious resource. Combat wasna€™t a massive element in the game however; gameplay instead relied more on puzzle-solving, something that would also become a feature of the genre over the next ten years.
The survival aspect here is key, resources need to be gathered, the levels carefully pilfered for items to defend or heal or in some cases even save the game. The frame narrative is that of Alex Roivas, investigating the family mansion upon her father’s untimely demise. Aiming is hard, walking around isn’t simple either, with the characters moving like tanks. Not looking at him straight means he will start moving and may just reappear right next to the player. It’s impressive feat for a team as small as this to create such a compelling, immersive game, that forces the player to closely observe the game world for not getting hopelessly lost. It’s an ambitious and strange game, a weird entry into a weird series, and the last Silent Hill game that was actually any good. In a lot of the more modern games, combat is even de-emphasized altogether, making avoidance of the enemies key rather than bludgeoning them to death with a crowbar.
She discovers bits of information that unlock each subsequent chapter of the game that takes the player to four different continents across different time periods.
This is a game that is intentionally hard due to suboptimal controls, scarce resources, camera perspectives and other things.
But still, this is a classic in its own right, one without one of the most important games of the last generation, Resident Evil 4, wouldn’t have existed. And the you, the player, have to do your part, regardless of whether you're playing them on the PC, or on consoles like the PS3 or Xbox 360.



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