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Survival Horror Is Alive and in No Need of a Savior

OhTheHorror

We’ve all heard it, likely more than once. Horror games are dead and buried, waiting for the cyclical nature of the video games industry to reanimate it so the genre can claw itself from the grave for a glorious return. The problem is, horror games aren’t dead. In fact, this genre is not only alive, it’s producing some of the most exciting and innovative games we’ve ever seen.

Now, I do realize that much of this “horror is dead” opinion is aimed at AAA horror, which has been lacking in terms of quantity lately.

When you look at the state of Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Dead Space — three horror franchises that have defined this genre for years — it’s easy to get the impression that things are bad. The reality of it is sometimes publishers lose their way.

Capcom and EA wrongfully assumed we wanted more action, when it was actually the opposite, and with the gargantuan surge of interest in indie horror games like The Forest, Routine, and Among the Sleep, among a few dozen others, the industry’s major publishers are beginning to get the message.

That message is “Horror can make you lots of $$$.”

Granted, it’s not a great message, but it is one that these publishers are more likely to listen to than they have been the outcry of their communities. It’s a message that will inspire them to change their ways and produce the kinds of quality horror games that please both their fans and their shareholders.

This can be seen in a number of upcoming releases, including Dying Light, which aims to give us the Dead Island experience fans have been clamoring for since the first game’s fantastic debut trailer. There’s also The Order: 1886, which has some very strong genre influences, Doom 4 — set to be revealed next month — and the teen slasher-inspired Until Dawn, which Sony promises hasn’t been cancelled. We also can’t forget about the promised next entries in the Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Fatal Frame series.

All of the above is worth getting excited for, but it’s Alien: Isolation and Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within that have the most to prove right now. If those games are successful, it could mark the beginning of a ridiculously exciting era for AAA horror. Things are already pretty great, but there’s always room for improvement.

Thankfully, we don’t have too long of a wait (Isolation on Oct 7, The Evil Within on Oct 21) to see what kind of impact, if any, that these two games will have on the genre.

Speaking of which, in case you haven’t heard, there are a lot of those to look forward to right now. Indie horror is where it’s at, currently, and my list of anticipated indies grows every day.

Besides the quality of the releases we’re seeing — a few of which have sped past ‘impressive’ in favor of something closer to ‘mind-blowing’ — some of these games are tackling themes that are dark and personal, themes that can make you uncomfortable, but not in the sick, gross-out way.

Remember when Silent Hill did that? When that series was known not just for its disturbing imagery, but for its mature storytelling? Suicide, incest, rape, infanticide — Silent Hill used to be a beacon of hope for anyone looking for a horror game for adults that didn’t involve buckets of gore or cheap jump scares.

My favorite example of this is Matt Gilgenbach’s Neverending Nightmares, a psychological horror game that was inspired by Matt’s life-long struggle with mental illness, including depression and OCD. Even Among the Sleep touched on a deeply personal topic that will very likely resonate with certain people, including myself, though I’ll refrain from shedding too much light on it, as that will almost definitely ruin the ending. And we can’t forget about Fran Bow, which may be the first game in some time to offer a less stereotypical approach to institutionalized mental illness.

We’re seeing a bit of this in bigger budget horror games too, such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead. If you haven’t played it yet, that series is an emotional roller coaster ride.

All I’m saying is horror is here, it’s stronger than ever, and it’ll only get better as we go deeper into this new and exciting generation of consoles. The next time someone tells you horror is on its way out, I invite you to give them a gentleman’s slap across their ignorant face before you bid them farewell, because who needs that kind of negativity in their life?

No one, that’s who.

(Oh, and since I’ll almost definitely get chewed out for not mentioning one of any number of equally anticipated horror games we have on the way, here are a few more that prove horror is kicking hordes of zombie ass right now (and so no one attempts to kick mine): Dead Island 2, Frogware’s Call of Cthulhu reboot, Left 4 Dead 3 — it’ll happen, just be patient — SOMA, Monstrum, Killing Floor 2, HUNT: Horrors of the Gilded Age, Bloodborne, H1Z1, White Night, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and so many more)

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  • Weresmurf

    I have to say, Early access and Kickstarter have been two of the saviours of the survival genre. Be it straight up survival like Rust, Survival horror like The Forest or hybrid Survival/Survival Horror like DayZ (it truly is hybrid…). People can groan at it all they like, but the early access and Kickstarter programs have allowed some truly great games to come along that otherwise would never have had a chance at all to exist, or been affected by ‘focus group decisions’. Imagine ‘THE FOREST’ made by EA or Ubisoft? Suddenly your main character has a clever device on his wrist or on him somewhere he can use against the forests characters, suddenly it’s dumbed down to being a straight up Farcry level action game. Forget construction, it’s action all the way! If EA made DayZ? That Mosint rifle? It’s DLC baby! Preorder before the 15th at EB Games or JB Hifi and get your sick six zombie skins that noone else will see! Though we can’t guarantee our servers will (ever) work on launch… and if Rust was made by EA? Asides the absence of Man-doodle, they’d never scrap the entire game and start from scratch, tidying everything up, you’d never have a brave game design like it has, you’d get patch after patch after patch after patch after patch trying to balance out what exists, rarely introducing anything new.

    So that’s why it works. Because it brings us new exciting things and the Survival genre has benefitted greatly, those three games are just three examples among many, with lots more to come yet.

    • Gregory Miller

      I find the game industry to be very much like the movie industry. You find much more truth and originality in the independent writers, producers and directors who are not restrained on a leash being held by a larger corporation.

      • Weresmurf

        Absolutely. In the 80s there was a similair thing to what’s happening now, but on a reduced scale. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember, but companies like OCEAN and such existed, and were putting out some great, albeit big budgeted games (for the time, in comparison). A lot of devs went back to being ‘garage producers’. It was cheaper, tapes were easy to make, copy and produce etc and distribution wasn’t easy but it was able to be done via magazine demos, people swapping tapes and copying etc. That’s a severely basic analysis, but budgets etc drove a lot of people back to independent creation and that’s where a lot of our classics ended up coming from. Sounds very familiar doesn’t it…

        Life goes in circles, always has, always will.

  • Cheshire TrollCat

    Survivor horror is very much alive and kicking. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/warpo/legends-of-cthulhu-retro-action-figure-toy-line Support this shit guys, the great cthulhu commands you.

  • Brodequin

    Hope there will be a day when we’ll see a new Siren game…

    • Adam Dodd

      I’ll second that.

    • LoveAnimation

      Yea the Siren games are some of my favorite games ever and some of the best and scariest horror games i have ever played so i really hope the series is not dead and we will get a new one soon.

  • Sick_skwerl

    I loved Neverending Nightmares. That game was so personal- I didn’t think you could boil down mental illness and put it in a game, but it works so well.
    Long live horror!

  • magnus dissmoll

    Horror is alive and kicking, yes. Survival horror on the other hand.. Not so much.

  • Lucas Prilliman

    The only survival horror game that needs a true savior is Clock Tower. I was hoping Chris Darril will be that savior to reboot it and call it Remothered. I keep checking on his Remothered project, but he hasn’t given us any new updates in a few years now! I guess the fans are right about him canceling the project. So betrayed….