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)