There are some who say the horror genre is dying, or that it’s lost its mainstream appeal as video games continue to force their way into the pantheon of “accepted” forms of entertainment, right alongside music and films. I say that’s a load of crap. The horror genre isn’t dying, we’re just not recognizing many games that are actually far more terrifying than the scariest Silent Hill or Fatal Frame could ever hope to be. Here are ten games that are supposedly fun, quirky, or in some cases, adorable, when they’re actually horrifying.
Limbo wasn’t advertised as a “horror” game, but if the next Silent Hill were to feature a little boy with glowing eyes who’s trapped in a dark and dangerous world brimming with deadly traps and hideous monsters, horror fans would eat that shit up. Limbo wasn’t scary because it was supposed to be a quirky puzzle platformer with an eerie art style, but if it wasn’t so dark it’d be easier to see all the horrifying ways this poor kid dies while trying to save a young girl. The worst part? When he dies, almost always in a cruel and unexpected way, he has to do it all over again.
9. Any Kirby Game
I don’t think there’s a person on this planet that truly sees the horrors that lie hidden deep within every Kirby game. It’s just too darn adorable to alert our primal instinct to run from things that want to eat us. Kirby is a predator with an insatiable appetite for literally anything and everything that’s unfortunate enough to get in range of the black hole it calls a mouth. Its pink exterior is an evolutionary trait honed over years of evolution, as it’s designed to lure its prey—i.e. you—in close enough so it can suck you into its mouth, kicking and screaming, to a place where you’ll never be heard from again. Now try and shake the thought that there’s a Kirby hiding in your closet when you go to sleep tonight.
On the outside, Bulletstorm is an insanely addicting first person shooter that awards you with bonus points for killing your enemies in the most creative and brutal ways possible. Sounds like a solid shooter, but when you stop to think about it, what Bulletstorm is really about is a bunch of psychopaths. Now, you could say this about a lot of shooters, but where Bulletstorm decides to take an extra big slice of the crazy pie is when you realize the supposed “good guys” in the game—you know, the ones who try to be clever and/or creative with their mass murdering—don’t know about the whole bonus points for creative killing. This means they’re wrapping explosive bolas around people’s necks, kicking them into their air, and firing a firecracker into their ass to watch them explode into shower of squishy giblets just for fun.
7. Twisted Metal
Even the tamest of drivers has a bit of a road rage problem. So what if there was a world where running other vehicles off the road wasn’t just something everyone did, it’s actually encouraged? That’s Twisted Metal, where you aren’t just rewarded when you run a fellow driver into a car compactor, you’re even given the tools to make the job of transforming them into smoldering heaps of ravaged metal as easy and as fun as possible. Twisted Metal is the Bulletstorm of the racing genre.
6. L.A. Noire
Okay, stick with me for a second, because this one requires a little explaining. On the surface, L.A. Noire is a neo-noire crime video game where you step into the shoes of an up and coming investigator with an aptitude for solving crimes. Now, let’s scratch off that surface like a five dollar lottery ticket to see the real horror. On the surface, it’s just another beautifully crafted open-world game from the people who brought you innovative titles like Grand Theft Auto: Bowling With Roman and that game where you choke people with bags. In L.A. Noire, you’re a detective in a world where the entire human race doesn’t know they’re actually robots, because that’s literally the only reason I could come up with that explains the fact that every person in that game has such a realistically human face on a stiff, robotic body. At some point, whether it was the government’s doing, aliens, or both, the people of the world were unknowingly transformed into a (possibly controllable) race of cyborgs. Or something.
5. Viva Pinata
Viva Pinata has officially done for pinatas what It did for clowns. It’s a deceptively quirky and colorful little game where you, as the omnipresent pinata god, are tasked with luring in the “good” pinatas while keeping out the “bad” ones. Also, pinatas can now procreate.
I’d keep going, but I don’t think I need to.
4. Any Pokemon Game
Two words: animal slavery. All right, let’s add three more words to that: animal slavery, marketed to kids. Pokemon is one of the biggest things since Pikachu. Or rather, it’s bigger than Nimbasa City. Err, crap, do you see what Pokemon has done? It’s so big the only metaphor I can use to symbolize its size is comparing it to itself. It’s also grown so large that everyone’s totally willing to overlook all the soul-stealing monsters, ghosts, terrorists, and the worshipping of apocalyptic god-like creatures.
3. Plants vs. Zombies
You know what’s scarier than having a horde of zombies and gargantuan monstrosities in your back yard? How about fucking sentient weaponized plants? Sure, Plants vs. Zombies is like adorable gamer heroin, but that irresistible cuteness was put there to make wrapping our feeble human minds around the terrifyingly real possibility of all out war between zombies and mutant fauna a little easier. I hope it worked, because if it didn’t, you’ll be the first to go.
Look, I’ve already dedicated an entire article to the many layers of pure terror that lie in wait for everyone who comes into the game looking for a “good time.” Joke’s on them, because they’ll soon find out that there is nothing fun about that game, unless you enjoy shivering on the floor of your room in the fetal position, wondering when the sweet embrace of death will come and take you away from that horrible, awful game.
Have you ever really stopped to think about Pac-Man? I mean really think about it, because if you do it’s actually pretty terrifying. On the surface, it looks like a simple game about a yellow partially eaten pie that eats white dots while it’s chased by four colorful ghosts. Sounds like the plot of an anime. What most of us tend to glance over is the true terror that is Pac-Man. For starters, it’s about a yellow creature that’s trapped in an infinite maze with no means of escape. The possibility of escape is even cruelly teased by allowing making the exits visible, even if there’s really no way out, because walking through an “exit” only brings that poor, tormented creature back to the entrance on the other side. There’s also the little fact that the maze is haunted, and whoever controls it has placed pellets and various fruits to keep it alive long enough to continue tormenting him.