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What Horror Game Surprised You, for Better or Worse?

I haven’t quite gotten over just how good Until Dawn is, so in an attempt to help me move past it in time for SOMA, I’d like to hear about the horror game(s) that surprised you the most, either by exceeding your expectations or failing spectacularly to live up to them.

The last eight months left us with slew of titles that may qualify as victories for the genre, and it started with Capcom’s long-awaited course correction for their flagship “horror” series. The Resident Evil HD remake showed us what can happen when Capcom applies itself, the episodic Revelations 2 proved they’re still capable of innovation, and the recent confirmation of a Resident Evil 2 basically said they really are listening to us.

It took a while to get to this point. We should savor it.

Resident Evil is working on getting back to its fighting weight, but it’s hardly the only victory to come out of 2015. Dying Light sold enough copies to scare away its only competition, Killing Floor 2 got some blood in our eyes, and Bloodborne combined the immortal appeal of Nightmare Creatures with an overabundance of top hats and set it in an H.P. Lovecraft fever dream.

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They haven’t all been winners, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call any of them bad. The Order: 1886 took itself too seriously, Zombi played fast and loose with the term “remaster”, and Lucius II is definitely a game you can buy right now, if you wanted to.

The surprises you go with don’t have to be recent releases. As far as good surprises go, my list would have room for Shadows of the Damned and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. I might even include Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, which drew more ire than it deserved. It made some unusual changes to the core gameplay, but I suspect we’ll eventually remember it more for its unnerving world and brilliant storytelling than the terrible idea that was that electric lantern.

Representing the ugly side of horror games is Aliens: Colonial Marines, Dino Crisis 3, and Atari’s pitiful attempts to make Alone in the Dark and Haunted House relevant again. If there’s room on this hate train for another passenger, Konami’s done more than enough this year to earn that spot.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me, which horror games surprised you the most?

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COMMENTS

23 Comments
  • Shay Lauderdale

    I love all things Silent Hill. I was amazed at how good Alan Wake ended up being & also Shadow of the Damned.
    My favorites have to be the Fatal Frame games. Those really scared me silly lol……
    My biggest disappointment was paying $60 bucks for Bloodborne. It was just way to difficult for me personally. And there was no storyline that I could see what so ever. I like games to be more like interactive movies that you can be a part of.

    • MuscleStruts

      Trying to be a movie is something video games shouldn’t do, since being a glorified movie comes at the cost of satisfying and rewarding game mechanics. And just because From Software doesn’t present their game’s stories in a cinematic form doesn’t mean it is not there.

  • huntermc

    I loved Dino Crisis 1 & 2, so 3 was a major letdown. I don’t think I ever even bothered playing through the first couple of areas in the game.

    I was surprised at first how fun Dead Island was, playing through a zombie game in a fresh setting like a sunny tropical resort. And then I was surprised how derivative all of the later levels were in the game.

  • JoeInTheBox

    I love horror games, but the good/bad surprises were:

    -Evil Dead: Regeneration: After the first 2 horrible games, this was a really fun albeit short. Entertainingly well acted by Bruce and Ted Raimi as well.

    -Silent Hill: Downpour: Homecoming was not good, but this is almost a return to form. The only real downside for me was the creature design wasn’t very creative.

    -Home: While not a horror game per se, I have to admit it captured the anxiety, curiosity, and fear of entering a house where no one is mysteriously around.

    -PT: The surprise on this one goes without saying.

    -House of the Dead: Overkill: This was genuinely entertaining, and did a great job of applying the old games with a “grindhouse-like” presentation.

    -The Crow: City of Angels: Man, I wasn’t expecting much from the game to begin with, but it’s amazing how awful it is.

  • Phendranah

    Dino Crisis 2 surprised me. Not really a horror compared to the first one. But that’s why it surprised me. Loved it like mad!

    Also Aliens Colonial Marines… I won’t even go there right now

  • Alan

    As far as good horror game surprises go for me they were

    Outlast – This game wasn’t even on my radar so when I started playing it for
    the first time (had heard it was good so I got it during a Steam sale) I
    didn’t expect it to be as intense as it was (for instance that chase
    sequence about halfway through the game involving the Twins…just….oh
    my f****** God)

    Dead Space – I had initially ignored this game, but decided to pick it up based off of the trailers for the sequel and was glad I did as I felt it allowed me to enjoy Dead Space 2 even more than I would have if I had gone in cold

    Evil Dead Regeneration – I went into this game with low expectation based on previous experience with “Licensed” games and was pleasantly surprised that this game was a pretty solid hack n slash…..I also couldn’t help myself (even though I
    felt kinda bad about it) from constantly punting Sam.

    Dino Crisis – When I first heard about this game and that the first release
    of the game would include a playable demo for RE 3 I figured it was part
    of a marketing ploy by Capcom to get RE fans to buy a shitty game, why else
    include a demo for RE 3. Well it kinda work cause I picked it up day one just for the
    RE 3 demo and in the process got an awesome dino fueled survival horror title as a bonus.

    Parasite Eve – I’m not a big fan of RPG’s (especially turn based/active battle based ones) so I paid little attention to SquareSoft’s output of games, but I had heard they did a horror game called Parasite Eve so I (naturally at the time) decided to pick it up and while it had the (slow, boring, archaic) RPG battle system I hate the rest of the game was pretty awesome. It to this day remains the only RPG with that kind of (slow, boring, archaic) battle system that I’ve beaten/played all the way through (I even played through the post game 70+ level Chrysler Building)

    Resident Evil Revelations 2 – It’s a surprise cause after playing RE 6 I thought there may never be another good RE game and low an behold this game comes out.

    My horror game disappointments include Friday the 13th (NES), Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick (PS2, picked this one up after enjoying/playing through Regeneration), Silent Hill: Origins (PS2), Dino Crisis 2 (PS1, was more action less horror), and Siren (PS2)

  • Peter Johnson

    Resident Evil Revelations 2 was a pleasant surprise. Even now that I have it, I’ll be hesitant to play it, but once I do, its hard to stop. Once I start the game, I’ll wonder why I was ever hesitant in the first place. The story is fuggin awesome, and it reminds me of Resident Evil 4, just with a cult that isn’t so medieval, but more hellish.
    Outlast was awesome. It took me awhile to buy it, because based on how hyped up it was, I was expecting something not as scary as everyone said. I loved it, though, and immediately started playing Whistleblower after I beat it (so far, Whistleblower is scarier). One night, I played the part where you are trapped in the cell block with all the lights out and the fat dude is after you…I was tripping on acid for this, and it was freakin mental. Not the best idea, but damn it was scary

  • Calavera Sonriente

    Dying Light kind of surprised me because I thought it was scarier. It’s an excellent game, no doubt about that. But the whole sunny island atmosphere takes away the horror a bit for me. And the creatures hunting you at night aren’t really that scary, imo.

    Positive surprises were Until Dawn and Alien: Isolation. Seriously, I think Until Dawn is one of my favorite games. I just love the characters, the story, the choices…
    Alien Isolation seemed so boring and unscary to me when I first played it, and I actually quit playing it after a while. After I had completed the Witcher 3, I didn’t have any games to play, so I started Alien again. At some point, you earn a trophy called ‘The hunt begins’ and from that point on, the game is really good! So…yeah it was a pleasant surprise.

  • Keith Murphy

    My girlfriend and I stream games for charity, and lots of them are horror games.

    Neverending nightmares was better than I expected. The Evil Within and Lucius were both way worse than I expected.

  • Mark Nye

    Until dawn is amazing!! Outlast was creepy. Re2 rev was an improvement over the numbered installments, alien isolation was the best game of hide and seek I’ve ever played!! Evil within wasn’t as much a horror game as more of an action game, and it wasn’t really scary :/
    I am really really looking forwards to soma!! From what I’ve seen so far it looks amazing!!
    And dying light I’ve jus started and it’s hella fun so far 🙂

  • Psymon Bites

    Lone Survivor, Outlast

  • Gabriel Fernandes

    Haunting Ground will remain forever as my favorite horror game.

    • Tosufai

      Such an underrated game. And it’s really twisted too.

    • Brandon Foley

      Been dying to play this

  • Tosufai

    The first Dead Space really surprised me. I went into it expecting very little and ended up with an incredibly tense horror game with some of the very best sound design that I have ever heard (not to mention the fantastic environments.) Did it have faults? Absolutely, but it was a really top notch game regardless of the drawbacks. It’s a real pity they dropped the ball so badly with Dead Space 3 because the series has real legs but I’m not sure EA considers it worth continuing now.

  • WindowsIsDead

    Recently – Lone Survivor/Claire

    Both proof that 2D games can still be immersing and nerving and work well in the horror genre.

    Lifetime – Phantasmagoria

    Damn dude, tell me about playing Point and Click adventure games and then step up to Phantasmagoria, it surprised me! Surprised me good enough to the point of move one square pixel/hour in fear.

    Actually I even replayed it recently only to see Adrienne dies in every form possible. The face rip one has no price!

    Then there’s the classics that surprised me in a new way as they started the trend ‘You have a gun, you have resources. but they are scarce, so learn to run, solve puzzles, crack the head’

    Resident Evil Director’s Cut
    Silent Hill
    The PSOne Alone in the Dark

    Also Parasite Eve because of its cinematic narrative, rich story and beautiful cutscenes. (To be honest, I ever dreamed of PE receiving a cinematic treatment following the first game and not the book/Japanese movie, but I gave up of the idea since the first RE came out, they would just screw it)

    Some honorable mentions:
    Clock Tower Franchise
    Alien Trilogy (because jumping Facehuggers and unfair difficulty)
    Fatal Frame
    Dead Space
    Penumbra/Amnesia
    System Shock 2
    CoC Dark Corners of the Earth

    • kelly

      Phantasmagoria was my fave growing up! I also loved Gabriel Knight- the best within!

  • Hayley Elise

    Our positive surprises are almost exactly the same. I’m amazed Shadows of the Damned wasn’t a more popular game, it was ridiculous but still goddamn fun to play.

    Shattered Memories was such a great one for a re-imagining – ON THE WII. Some of the controls were clunky as they tend to be with Wii games, but it was surprisingly well done otherwise.

    Until Dawn I picked up as a game to take the piss – like Heavy Rain or Beyond Two Souls, I did not expect to end up caring about the characters and enjoying the game as much as I did.

    Dead Space 2 surprised me in the one scene where you return to the Ishimura. I totally expected them to just be reusing assets and the same old scares, but they actually managed to create one of the creepiest scenes in the whole series.

    Kholat was probably my most recent disappointment. It had all the makings of a great horror game and I was a sucker immediately for the Mary Elizabeth McGlynn soundtrack, but it just didn’t come together as a good horror.

  • Brandon Foley

    The Evil Within surprised me with just how good it could be while also demonstrating just how bad it could be. Some of the horror sections are some of the best in any game I’ve ever played, while some of the action ones(I’m thinking of the tank) are goddamn horrible with how sloppy they play. It was surprising how divisive it was within itself

  • William Overmars

    I thought Alien Isolation would follow in the footsteps of its predecessor and be awful but it turned out to be amazing. I liked Until Dawn but I would have like it more if it was a movie. Other than that, no horror game has surprised me.

  • Bosko

    —The Evil Within- you ether love it or you hate it, i myself love it, its freeking scary and the story is very good, when you get all the pieces together and understand. I mean the protagonist Sebastian is facing pure hell all troughout the game, recommend 10/10

    —Alien Isolation– suprisingly very good, didn’t play yet tho, watched 3-4h gameplay on yt, and i’m sure that its twice as fun when playing, other than just watching.

    —THE SUFFERING Prison is Hell— THE MOST UNDERRATED HORROR GAME EVER, it’s a little older game, but my God it’s sooo good. Who played it before, or now, knows what i’m talking about. The whole game is perfect, story, characters, graphics, sound acting…Recommend 11/10

  • Emma Kitt

    The Cat Lady. I went in expecting a good point and click horror game and instead got an emotional, feels-fueled journey…with some good scares. And I am 100% okay with that.

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