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The 2009 Fear Awards

This has been a truly amazing year for survival horror games. By September 2009, records had already been broken as the genre raked in almost $150 million worth of thrills and chills. That was before a few heavy hitters like Dead Space: Extraction, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, and Left 4 Dead 2 hit retail shelves so by now it’s safe to say 2009 pretty much rocked. To commemorate such a fantastic time for horror fans we’ve come up with some awards dedicated solely to the horror genre. You won’t find a “Best Visuals”, “Best Music”, or even a “Game of the Year” award amongst the categories below; instead we’ve decided to focus on the little things. The more obscure but no less impressive feats.

Yes, we’re going to let you decide what you think is the best survival horror game of the year (coming soon) just like the past 2 years, but we have opinions too. Some of us even have good ones. Now you will read those opinions, varying in quality, but always interesting. So read on to see what we, your mentors and heroes consider to be the best horror games 2009 has to offer. After you finish allowing this beautiful wave of awesome opinions wash over you, you can shuffle on over to the comments section and let us know how much you disagree.

We would like to dedicate this award to the truly awesome developers who continue to support their games after release. A fascinating thing took place this year that made the tons of post-release DLC all the more great, and is the only reason we we’re finally able to dedicate a category to it. That miraculous thing was horror themed add-ons and DLC for horror games. Usually, downloadable content is for big budget shooters and open-world games, but this year a handful of great action/horror titles saw some post-release love. Here’s our pick for the best DLC that kept us playing the games we love.

The Contenders:

FEAR 2, “Reborn”
Fallout 3, “Pointe Lookout”
Left 4 Dead, “Crash Course”
Borderlands, “Zombie Island of Dr. Ned”

The Victor: Borderlands, “Zombie Island of Dr. Ned”

There was a lot of great DLC to choose from, but the complete change of scenery and sheer amount of content that came with the Zombie Island of Dr. Ned puts it head and shoulders above the rest.

Is that a zombie in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? With the growing popularity of mobile games fueled by the iPhone and touch screen revolution we finally have more than just another port after port of retro games to play whilst traveling to and fro from work. Now you can even get your survival horror fix with a plethora of cheap titles including scaled down versions of popular franchises like Silent Hill and Resident Evil. What follows is the best our cell phones have to offer.

The Contenders:

Silent Hill: The Escape
Resident Evil 4: Mobile Edition
Resident Evil: Degeneration
Fallen Episode 1
Alive 4-ever

The Victor: Resident Evil: Degeneration

Resident Evil 4: Mobile Edition was great but Degeneration, while lacking in the story department, improved on the controls its predecessor brought to the table.

Times are tough and everyone’s feeling it, so when a company decides to take the risk and create something original they deserve to be recognized for it. In a year that gave us an excess of 2’s (Left 4 Dead, Assassin’s Creed and Modern Warfare to name just November’s sequels) it’s nice to still see someone trying something new, whether or not they succeed. Here’s what we consider to be the best new IP released in 2009.

The Contenders:

Batman: Arkham Asylum
Killing Floor
Cursed Mountain
Demon’s Souls
The Void (aka Tension)

The Victor: Batman: Arkham Asylum

We finally got the Batman game we’ve all been waiting for since, well, forever. Arkham Asylum was so innovative, gorgeous, and well-polished that it easily deserves the top spot since its newly announced sequel has us drooling.

Arcade games are big and they’ll only get bigger with the increased focus on downloadable content versus packaged retail. Game Stop might hate it, but I think I can speak for everyone when I say I’m alright with that. When you’re skimming over the nominees you’ll probably notice the fact that every game has zombies in it. That’s not our fault, apparently zombies are popular.

The Contenders:

Burn Zombie Burn
Zombie Apocalypse
Zombie Driver
Zombie Wranglers

The Victor: Burn Zombie Burn

If Geometry Wars and Left 4 Dead got together to make sweet baby love, Zombie Apocalypse would be their brain munching offspring. If Zombie Apocalypse was actually good and focused on fire as your strongest weapon, it would be Burn Zombie Burn.

Aww, yes. We’ve made it to the worst of the worst, otherwise known as the games that failed in trying to be good, or what I affectionately refer to as The Crap. Most of these were actually very admirable attempts at making good horror games; some were dumped by publishers who lost faith in their product and one may or may not be an obvious cash in on an established franchise (I’ll let you do the guessing). So here’s our pick for the worst horror game of 2009.

The Contenders:

Ju-On: The Grudge
Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop
Obscure: The Aftermath
Shellshock 2: Blood Trails

The Victor: Ju-On: The Grudge

A Haunted House simulator on the Wii? Sounds intriguing but failed to make us do anything but yawn. My suggestion: wait for Natal or PS3’s Gem and make it for one, or both, of those platforms. And make it unrelated to The Grudge, because little girls don’t scare anyone anymore, just ask F.E.A.R.

More than a couple titles were pushed out of Modern Warfare’s way and horror games were no exception. The following games were either pushed out of a monster franchises way, just announced, or simply haven’t yet been released. We’re all hoping these games succeed but as a guy in a movie once said, “there can only be one”, so the winner is the game we just can’t wait to get our hands on this year.

The Contenders:

Dead Space 2
Heavy Rain
Dead Rising 2
Alan Wake
Deadly Premonition
BioShock 2

The Victor: Dead Space 2

This was easily the most difficult game to choose since almost every title on this list has our mouths watering. However, only one of these really stood out and that game was Dead Space 2. The original was bloody good fun and we can’t wait to get our Strategic Dismemberment on again (hopefully) this year.

These titles have been gone for a while, missing in action if you will, and one probably won’t be seeing the light of day on American shores yet we refuse to give up hope. We’re stubborn like that. There’s a good chance a few of these games either won’t come out for a long time or just won’t be happening, but each title holds a special place in our hearts, or could if we are ever able to play them.

The Contenders:

Condemned 3
Dead Island
Fatal Frame IV
Doom 4
A Scary Resident Evil Game
A Good Silent Hill Game

The Victor: Dead Island

Fatal Frame IV stands out but we’re pretty sure the game won’t ever be making its way to American shores so we decided to go with Dead Island. Most likely Vaporware, we’re keeping the hope alive. We want a zombie game on an island, and we get what we want. Usually.

True Survival Horror is a dying genre but the following games proved capable of making us jump at least once. The weaker amongst us might’ve cried, but only a little. We are rugged manly men after all, and men are only scared of kicks to the crotch and the occasional clown. When we weren’t busy watching sports, building stuff, or participating in an assortment of other manly activities, these games were bringing out our inner ballerinas.

The Contenders:

Dead Space: Extraction
FEAR 2: Project Origin
Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

The Victor: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

None of these games were particularly scary, you say? You’re mostly correct. 2009 was a year of great horror games but none were particularly terrifying. Shattered Memories is mainly an adventure game based around the original Silent Hill’s story. The sections where you’re running for your life help to break up the gameplay and get your heart racing, and just before you think you can’t take anymore it’s over but it sticks with you long after you’ve made it to safety.

Some of us have friends, some of us don’t, and a few of us have friends of the intangible variety. There’s nothing wrong with being a member of either category, but should you find yourself in the first you’ve probably played one or more of the following titles. Ten years ago a multiplayer option wasn’t as important in a horror game but since this generation is all about playing with friends more and more games are following suit. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when a game successfully implements this feature it’s fun for all (or at least fun for those of us with friends).

The Contenders:

Dead Space: Extraction
Left 4 Dead 2
Resident Evil 5
Burn Zombie Burn
Killing Floor

The Victor: Left 4 Dead 2

You had to see this one coming, right? Left 4 Dead 2 took everything the original did good and did it better by improving on the scoring and giving us a ton of new weapons, environments, special infected, multiplayer modes, and four new characters. We’re willing to admit that we have an addiction, and that addiction comes in the form of endless waves of zombies that we kill. Again and again.

For being a family centric console aiming towards getting soccer moms, the elderly, and children safely into gaming, the Wii has the most exclusive horror games. Granted, the Wii’s motion controls are perfect for rail gun shooters that make up over half this list, and that subgenre tends to pit gamers against waves of zombies, but some of these would’ve almost certainly done better on the Xbox 360 and/or PS3. What might seem at first like an anti-Wii opinion is actually proven by the overall lack of gamer interest in these types of games. Incessant whining aside, this is our choice for the best horror title the Wii has to offer.

The Contenders:

Ju-On: The Grudge
Dead Space: Extraction
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Cursed Mountain
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles
Resident Evil: Archives
Resident Evil Zero
House of the Dead: Overkill
Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop

The Victor: Dead Space: Extraction

A lot of games to choose from, but only one managed to take a proven formula and make it its own. Extraction served as a prequel to its acclaimed brother by showing us what happened on the Ishimura, and also managed to get us all hyped up for Dead Space 2.

There are good games and then there are great games, and the latter is usually requires some level of innovation. Well, the following titles took that idea and really showed us that not everything’s been done before. Whether it’s a different perspective on interactive with other players to a familiar mechanic that was perfected, it’s all here.

The Contenders:

Demon’s Souls Multiplayer
The Void’s (aka Tension) Drawing System
Batman: Arkham Asylum’s Detective Mode
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories’ Psychological Test
I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1’s Soundtrack

The Victor: Demon’s Souls Multiplayer

I cannot nerd out enough about this game because if you’re willing to put up with its unforgiving nature you’ll be rewarded with an immersive, creepy, disturbing, and beautifully realized world that can bring you in for many hours. It’s multiplayer is a completely unique take on interacting with others allowing you to leave hints on the floor for other players to see, watch how others died by touching their blood stains, invading players’ worlds for PvP, or entering other worlds for cooperative play. Demon’s Souls is a game you won’t forget.



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