When survival horror games are at their best, they terrify us, grip us and refuse to let us go. They provide scares like no other and create an atmosphere so thick it’s palpable.
Here is my list of what I think are the very best survival horror games on offer. For the sake of this list, I will be limiting myself to one title per franchise and it is in no particular order. Now that’s out the way – let’s begin.
The Long Dark
Unlike most other survival horror games, there are no supernatural monsters or unstoppable killers chasing you down. Instead the enemies you deal with are nature itself. There are wolves that pose a very large threat, but I fear the harsh elements much more than any potential predator. The Long Dark pits you against the one enemy that is unforgivably cruel and without mercy. The game offers a real peak into just how hard survival can be in those situations. That is where the true horror lies. You may be removed from the reality of that world by a computer screen, but it is a situation that could happen. This gives the game that little bit more gravitas. I played this game and was so grateful to find shelter, see what I could scavenge. It was with great trepidation I left each shelter looking for the next, knowing that staying would be just as deadly as the elements.
Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Here it is – the granddaddy of survival horror games. My personal favourite will always be Resident Evil 4, but while that game is amazing, it doesn’t truly feel like a survival horror game. It always seemed like more of an action game. So, while not my favourite of the series, the best one that I feel best represents survival horror is Resident Evil: Revelations 2.
I did toy with the idea of choosing the first Resident Evil, as it defined the genre and was a true game changer for the time. But to me, nothing could show how hard it is to survive when you are playing with a friend and only one of you can use weapons while the other character is truly reliant on you, having to work as a team to succeed. The situation becomes a lot harder and more intense when you are looking after somebody else who may not be able to shoot but has other attributes that, without you, cannot succeed. Survival horror doesn’t have to be played alone to isolate you and, after playing through with your partner, you feel real apprehension at the sections where you are separated. For all those people who play a lot of games, I say do what I did – get your non-gamer friend and have them play the primary character, you will soon learn true fear.
P.T. Silent Hills
My choice of game from the Silent Hill series might be a bit contentious since it was technically not a full game and is next to impossible to get hold of now. However, my choice for the best survival horror game in the Silent Hill series is…
P.T. Silent Hills had such industry titans as del Toro and Kojima on board, so it easily could have been something unforgettable. P.T. offered a glimpse into what could have been, but also gave you a truly terrifying experience all its own with just a hallway and a collection of rooms. It manages to keep you jumpy and on your toes, never truly knowing what is next around the corner. While not as much of a survival horror as the other games, it takes a lot to survive till the end of the demo and not just nope out. Update: After the reveal of Resident Evil 7 at E3 this year, it appears that we can still play its spiritual successor with a fusion of two of the biggest names in horror games, coming together to make what should be an amazing experience.
Until Dawn used a very interesting premise as it puts you in the shoes of multiple characters and plays out like a horror film. All the characters’ base traits show the stereotypes of a horror movie and is broken down into episodes. Until Dawn features very strong character development, making you truly start to care for all the characters (or most of them at least), making you try your hardest to save everybody you can. Although it does play out just like an old-school horror movie, even down to some of the tropes, it still manages to be fresh and original with plenty of twists and turns. I won’t spoil here if you haven’t played before (stop reading, go play it – trust me. You can come back and thank me after), but Until Dawn was a refreshing change and offered some unique parts that I would like to see in future games. Except the motion sensor on the PS4 – nuts to that, it didn’t work damn it!
Dead Space did atmosphere like no other space game I had played before. The tension and fear playing through the first game is akin to the dread and terror I felt watching the first Alien movie in my childhood. As the games went on, they have gradually become less survival horror and more action horror games, but that first game had a story that led you down a path and truly surprises the first time you play through it. The universe that Dead Space is set in is very well realised and in-depth, you would expect no less from a series that has spawned multiple books and movies. The realism and completeness of the universe helps draw you in and keeps you there with the amazing score and jump scares littered throughout the game. Even with them gradually becoming more action orientated, I still cannot wait to play the next game in the series and see what is next in store for Isaac.
Alien Isolation is quite possible the best Alien game I have ever played. The visuals are perfect for the universe and time of the original Alien movie. The game instantly gets you in the mind-set of the original movie, where we do not have a horde of aliens for you to mow down with your pulse rifle. Instead you are an engineer who has to survive with wit, not weapons, and brains, not brawn.
Each time you manage to outsmart the creature is a victory…however short lived this may be. This enemy learns from you and adapts accordingly, meaning no play-through will be the same. This monster will be a unique enemy specific to you, tailored to hunt you and stop you. It makes the game all the scarier and harder. It will leave you with a true sense of victory when/if you succeed.
While there are many other games that are out there that I love, these are the pinnacle of survival horror games. If you think I missed any please let us know!