So Halloween may be done, but I’m not quite done with Halloween! I was sitting around thinking about horror-themed video games, and decided that I wanted to put together a list of some of my favorites!
Such a list is, of course, a personal one and is not intended to be some sort of list of the “absolute” best, as I haven’t played many of the most well-known. I wasn’t gaming during the early PS “Resident Evil” era, so I missed a lot of those classics.
So don’t yell at me that I didn’t include your favorite! However, feel free to share your thoughts on your own favorites in the comments!
The Lurking Horror (1987). Let’s start with one of the earliest games that can truly be called “horror,” in that it told a creepy narrative story! The Lurking Horror is an interactive text adventure released by the famed Infocom back in its heyday, and written by Dave Lebling. For those unfamiliar, “text adventures” were just that: stories told entirely through text, and with the player giving commands in the form of sentences, such as “go east,” “eat the spider,” and “hit the tentacle with the sword.”
The story is set at the fictional university G.U.E. Tech, modeled after M.I.T. and its name an allusion to the “Great Underground Empire” of the original Zork games, that started Infocom and the whole text adventure industry. The player is trying to finish a term paper in the computer lab while a fierce blizzard rages outside. While working, however, the paper gets corrupted with data from the Department of Alchemy, sending the player in that direction hoping to recovery the missing pages. With the storm outside, the player must navigate the steam tunnels below the university as well as its abandoned halls, and along the way finds evidence of a sinister and otherworldly force at work on campus. After surviving numerous perils, such as carnivorous rats and a murderous inhuman custodian, the player must finally put a stop to the evil and recover their paper in the process!
The game is well-written and surprisingly creepy, though like a lot of horror stories it mixes in dashes of humor at points. Especially amusing is a climactic scene in the Department of Alchemy where the player must thwart their own sacrifice! This was one of my favorite Infocom games, and I played almost all of them. It includes as obvious influences the works of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft.
As a bit of a joke, the game managed to produce one scare even before you started playing! The box included a very large, realistic-looking rubber centipede that was pointedly not included in the image of the box’s contents on the back cover, as seen below (image via The Infocom Gallery).
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (2005). As long as I’m thinking about games inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, I should immediately mention Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, which not only accurately captured the feeling and atmosphere of Lovecraft’s tales, but managed to do so with a fun story containing lots of twists and turns.
The game follows the tribulations of Detective Jack Walters, who learns sanity-shattering secrets about himself and the nature of the universe over the course of the game. After a prelude highlighting Jack’s past as a policeman and his first brush with the supernatural, the story truly begins as he arrives at the decrepit town of Innsmouth tracking down a missing person.
The game is founded on Lovecraft’s classic story The Shadow Over Innsmouth, where a visitor learns, to his peril, that the city is the nexus of a collaboration and union between humans as evil fish monsters called Deep Ones. The narrator of that story ends up being pursued at night through his hotel, and then through the city, by its residents, human, half-human, and worse.
The game begins with that same premise, and starts slowly. During the day, Jack can talk to residents and other visitors to Innsmouth, gathering information about his assignment.
As night falls, however, the residents decide to take Jack out, and this leads to one of the most impressive and terrifying chases in all of horror gaming! Unarmed and outnumbered, the player must guide Jack in a panicked race to evade a mob of pursuers.
The game becomes more action-oriented after this, as the player finally gets access to some firearms and can fight back, but the horror in my opinion never lessens. Having guns tends to highlight how ineffective they are against many of the enemies you will face. After fleeing Innsmouth, Jack meets up with Federal agents, who launch a military raid on the town (again, like in Lovecraft’s story), and Jack finds himself at the center of a number of increasingly horrifying and sanity-shattering encounters.
I had a blast playing this game, and it was well-reviewed, but ended up a commercial failure. The studio Headfirst Productions went out of business because of this, and had to cancel plans for a pair of follow up games — a true shame, in my opinion. The game is available through Steam, but it is quite buggy: be sure to track down the unofficial patch that has been released for it, because otherwise the late game is basically unplayable. But it is a real treat to see Lovecraftian horrors treated with such an eye towards Lovecraft’s original vision.
Black Mesa (2020). Officially, I should put the original groundbreaking 1998 game Half-Life on this list, but the incredible fan remake Black Mesa, which began work in 2005, has now become the definitive version of the game, improving on the graphics, gameplay, and even modifying later parts of the story for the better.
For those unfamiliar, the original and remake feature physicist Gordon Freeman on the worst day of his life (up to that point) working at the Black Mesa research facility. When he places an anomalous material into the “anti-mass spectrometer,” it is the trigger for an extradimensional alien invasion. Gordon must first struggle to survive, and then eventually take the fight to the aliens in their own dimension.
The game definitely qualifies as “action horror,” as the invaders are truly horrifying: the headcrabs that turn human scientists into zombies, the toothy barnacles that hang from the ceiling and ensnare passerby, and the titanic, nearly indestructible gargantua that will make you run for your life.
The Black Mesa Research Facility is a character in and of itself, a cavernous underground facility with many secrets that get revealed as the game progresses, and many horrors that were present even before the invasion. In the original Half-Life, many players found the final section of the game — where Gordon goes to the alien dimension Xen — to be rather frustrating and visually disappointing. The Black Mesa remake fixes most of those problems and provides a truly stunning experience (though now some people feel that it may be too long).
And one cannot talk about Half-Life or Black Mesa without mentioning its most enigmatic and creepy character, the “G-man,” who seems indifferent and even immune to the dangers of the alien invaders and appears periodically throughout the game. He would, of course, have an even bigger role in Half-Life 2… but that is another story!
Black Mesa is an amazing achievement and manages to not only update Half-Life to a modern engine but also build upon it.
Inside (2016). This is one of those games that I didn’t play when it first came out, but got it through one of the Epic Store’s deals last year. For a game I didn’t pay for, it haunted me for days after I finished it.
In this side-scrolling puzzle platformer by developer Playdead, the player plays a boy who is continually traveling to the right throughout a dystopian world, seeking a goal that will not become clear until near the very end. In the beginning, the boy must dodge patrols of dogs and flashlight-wielding men, but he eventually encounters stranger obstacles, as well as a world filled with mind-controlled slaves and ruined and abandoned buildings.
The boy never speaks, and nobody else speaks, either; the player is left to interpret the events that unfold on their own. And the game takes a truly bizarre, unexpected and horrifying turn late through its runtime, one that will really upend your perceptions of what it was all about. It is impossible to describe this twist without spoiling it; honestly, it rather difficult to describe the twist even if you’re willing to spoil it! The meaning of the game, and its secret alternate ending, was the subject of lively debate when the game first came out.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010). It couldn’t be a list of amazing horror games, in my opinion, without The Dark Descent, which has freaked out many people so much that they were unable to finish it!
This was also the breakthrough game for studio Frictional Games, which has gone on to make several other amazing horror tales that we will see on this list!
The game is set in August of 1839 in a Prussian castle. The protagonist, who we control through a first-person perspective, has no memory of himself and his past other than his name — Daniel — and the knowledge that something is hunting him. A note written by himself, for himself, directs him to descend into the Inner Sanctum of the castle to kill its master, Alexander.
This task is not easy, and Daniel must face many horrors along the way. He has no weapons against the monsters he encounters, and must use his wits to survive. Complicating matters is that Daniel has tenuous mental stability, and he loses his grip on sanity the more he directly faces horrors and dwells in the dark.
There is extensive lore and history in the game, and as Daniel explores, he rediscovers his own past and how he came to his present circumstances. He will not like all the answers he learns, and this is a great part of all of Frictional’s games: the monsters are only part of the horror.
In the end, The Dark Descent is a masterfully crafted, truly scary game. And remember how I mentioned people not being able to finish the game? This is in large part due to one sequence early on. If you play the game, you will know it when you see it — the only hint I will give is that it involves water! This sequence FREAKED ME THE FUCK OUT when I played it.
Sanitarium (1998). As long as we’re on the topic, let me note that “amnesia” is a common starting point for a lot of video games, especially horror video games! One of the classic examples is Dreamforge Intertainment’s Sanitarium.
In this game, which is played from a bird’s eye perspective, the player takes on the role of a man who has survived a terrible car accident, and awakens inside a decaying sanitarium with his face bandaged. As he explores the strange environment, he finds himself shifting in and out of strange new worlds, each of which has its own challenges to overcome. In an early one, for instance, the man enters a town inhabited by mutated children that is overseen by a monstrous alien known only as “Mother.” All of these experiences help the man recollect who he is and how he ended up in his current situation, and he must do so quickly — time is running out for him, and for many others.
It is a really charming game and, though the graphics are very dated by today’s standards, it is still very enjoyable due to its solid story and disturbing atmosphere. The game was both a commercial and critical success, and both honors are well-deserved.
Sir, You Are Being Hunted (2014). Doing good horror usually requires careful planning and exquisite timing to keep the tension at the perfect level and provide scares at just the right moments. Usually. One of the glorious exception to this rule is Sir, You Are Being Hunted.
In this first-person survival horror game, the player takes the role of a scientist who, through an accident, has been teleported to an island filled with abandoned British homes and murderous Victorian-style robots who are constantly on the lookout for the scientist. The scientist must collect the fragments of his exploded machine in order to reassemble it to return home. But the robots are often guarding the pieces, and as the player collects more, the threats become more frequent and more intense.
The entire island is procedurally generated, so every time you play you will be finding different threats, supplies and terrain. One would think that such an automated design would lessen the horror, but the game keeps you on edge and never lets up.
All the robots are caricatures of Victorian-era British people, including upper-class hunters, lower-class poachers, and robotic horse-riding fox hunters. They move and hunt intelligently, and the player must scavenge in the houses on the island to find supplies to thwart them. This includes objects that can misdirect the robots, like alarm clocks. The player can also scavenge food and weapons, but combat is almost always a losing proposition. Since the hunters tend to appear in groups, they will almost always take down your pathetic meatbag, even if you manage to get one or two of them in the process.
The story behind this island of horror is never explained, but vague hints can be found in letters tucked away in various houses. The absurdity of the whole situation just adds to the feeling of horror for me.
After initial development, the studio Big Robot ran a successful Kickstarter to finish the game, which was quite successful. This led to the rather macabre situation that the game kept getting harder as they company brought in more money! All the stretch goals were for new and fearsome foes on the island, such as the gigantic and indestructible landowner.
I’ve only managed to successfully complete the game once. I need to go back and give it another go when my nerves are up to it. By the way, there are monuments in the game, listing hundreds of names of people. If you’re lucky, you may come across a monument with the name “Dr. SkySkull” on it — that was a partial reward for backing the Kickstarter!
Project: Firestart (1989). This one certainly doesn’t hold up in modern times, but back in my day, this was one of the most impressive horror games you could play… on the Commodore 64!
The game is a side-scrolling action-horror game. The player takes the role of Agent Jon Hawking, sent to the research ship Prometheus in orbit around Titan to investigate a sudden loss of contact. As one can see from the cover, things are not well on the ship, and Hawking must fight to survive against monstrous horrors and escape before the Prometheus is destroyed. If this sounds familiar, keep in mind that the movie Aliens came out in 1986 and was still fresh on people’s minds!
The game is one of the earliest I can think of that really has cinematic pacing. When you first arrive on the ship, it is eerily quiet. Further investigating leads you to discover the horribly mutilated remains of the crew, and only later, once you are deep enough inside, do you come face to face with the hordes of murderous monsters! There are multiple possible endings to the game, which range from “total success” to “getting ripped apart by monsters.” The first time I played, I successfully escaped the ship, only to die in space because I had failed to activate a distress beacon first!
As I said, I doubt it would hold up particularly well these days as a game, but it was one of the first that really showed me the potential for serious storytelling, and scary storytelling, in a video game.
Alien: Isolation (2014). Speaking of Aliens… This game came out in 2014 and I didn’t play it until last year. I wasn’t sure that I could handle it!
Lots of games have been made inspired by the Alien universe, but they have “universally” been focused on the fight between the xenomorphs and Colonial Marines or Predators. Alien: Isolation is the first to attempt to really capture the complete terror of the original Alien movie, in which one is facing off against a ruthless hunter that cannot be killed.
Alien: Isolation is set between the events of Alien and Aliens, and features as a protagonist Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley. 15 years after the events of the original film, Amanda learns that the flight tracker of the Nostromo has been found aboard the space station Sevastapol, and she travels there to try and get answers about her mother’s disappearance. She finds the station in ruins, with survivors few and far between, thanks to the presence of a xenomorph that is wreaking havoc.
There are many twists and turns in the story, but in the end it all comes down to Amanda trying to hide from the xenomorph and outmaneuver it. There are plenty of hiding places, and she has a motion tracker to keep tabs on the creature while it is out of sight, but one small slip up can result in a horrifying death.
Good lord is it stressful! You must walk a very narrow tightrope: you need your flashlight to see, but your flashlight draws the alien. You can use your motion tracker to keep track of the alien, but it can hear it and then find you.
The station itself is beautiful in its banality. The art design closely matches the movies, so you really feel like you are there, down to the clunky mechanical switches.
The one gripe I have with the game is it has a rather bizarre and abrupt ending, which left many players (including me) baffled, but overall it is a masterpiece of horror and the only game that has really captured the Alien experience.
A Plague Tale: Innocence (2019). This quite recent release managed to do several unique things to stand out: a nearly perfect setting for a horror game and a game mechanic that complements the setting and is genuinely freaky.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is set in 14th century France during the Hundred Years War. The player takes on the role of a young girl named Amicia de Rune, who must struggle to survive and keep her ailing brother alive in what must be one of the most unpleasant settings imaginable. The bloody war has left seas of corpses across the landscape, and those corpses have drawn massive swarms of ravenous plague-bearing rats that can only be dispersed with light and fire. So Amicia must guide her brother through a battle-scarred landscape, dodging soldiers and Inquisition fanatics, while also avoiding the human-eating rats.
Dealing with the rats is genuinely stressful, sort of a “floor is lava” game where you can force some of the lava away from your position momentarily. The scenes of ruined battlefields and mounds of corpses swarmed by rats is unnerving, and really highlights the horror of the era.
The early parts of the game are the strongest, when Amicia and her brother have no offensive capabilities and simply must run away from soldiers and rats. There is a panicked chase scene through a plague-scarred village that is as terrifying as the dash through Innsmouth in Dark Corners of the Earth. As the game progresses, though, Amicia can use her sling to knock out soldiers or make them rat targets. About halfway through the game, the pair find a temporary safe haven and the horror is largely supplanted by puzzle solving. The climax of the game is an impressive and weird boss battle, but one that fails to capture the fear of the early game.
Nevertheless, I found A Plague Tale: Innocence to be really compelling, and a lot of fun! Its setting and mechanics make it a delight.
Dead Rising (2006). One thing that makes A Plague Tale so nerve-wracking is that you are not only keeping yourself alive: you must also help your brother. Having to keep one eye on yourself and another eye on an innocent adds immensely to the stress. If you add a real-time countdown to this, where you don’t have enough time to save everyone in danger, a game can become a true nightmare!
This is what the 2006 game Dead Rising did beautifully.
In Dead Rising, you play photojournalist Frank West, sent to investigate what appears to be violent civil unrest in Willamette, Colorado but turns out to be a zombie outbreak. The game introduction is one of the most effective horror intros I’ve ever seen, as Frank flies in via helicopter and uses his camera to capture random scenes of horror from a distance.
As one would expect in a zombie story, Frank decides to touchdown to get more information at a shopping mall — where else? — which doesn’t seem to be overrun yet. Of course, that changes quite quickly, and soon he is running and slugging his way through a mall filled with countless zombies, while rescuing other survivors, seeking rescue, and looking for the cause of the outbreak.
There are a LOT of zombies! This game, which was an XBox 360 exclusive, was groundbreaking in the number of monsters one could see on screen. You could have dozens of zombies running at you at once, if not hundreds, and have to shove your way through them!
You have 72 hours before your helicopter comes back for you, and a lot of this is played out in real time. You set up in the security office, where you receive calls from other survivors in the mall and can opt to venture out and rescue them. For me, this is where things got really intense — it is nearly impossible to save everyone, as often there are two groups on opposite ends of the mall! Even if you get to the survivors, you’ve still got to escort them back to the security office, and a lot of bad things can happen on the way. Each of the survivors has their own personalities, and you can converse with many of them after rescue, making their lives feel much more important and real.
Fortunately, you have a mall full of tools you can use to beat back the undead on your mission, from golf clubs to chainsaws to traffic cones that you can drop on the heads of the dead. You basically are always shopping while fighting your way through the mindless hordes.
This game is great because, just when you think things cannot possibly get worse — they get worse! I don’t want to spoil all of the twists, but there are so many ridiculous things that happen that the game never gets boring. I lost track of the number of times I said, “Oh what NOW?”
Dead Rising has spawned many sequels — 3 and counting — though none of them in my opinion have matched the fear and novelty of the original.
Among the Sleep (2014). This game is worth a mention due to its creativity! In Among the Sleep, you play a toddler, who along with his intelligent animated teddy bear must go on a quest to find the toddler’s missing mother.
The most effective parts of the game are the earliest, when you guide the toddler David through his darkened, abandoned house. As a toddler, you have limited mobility and reach, and must get creative to even do basic tasks in the house. Soon the search extends into a number of dark fantasy worlds, and the peril increases as David finds himself stalked by a number of sinister figures.
For me, the game loses its creepiest moments once you get outside the house and the strangeness becomes overt, but it is still a really clever game and worth a look.
Alone in the Dark (1992). I still remember the first time I played this game. I bought it basically on a whim, and didn’t really know what to expect, but settled into the attic, the starting location of the game, and did some exploring.
Then a monster crashed through the window and attacked.
My mom was watching over my shoulder, and both of us screamed as I tried vainly to fight off the hideous monster! It is still one of my favorite video game experiences of all time.
In Alone in the Dark, you play as either Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood, investigating the old and abandoned Derceto Mansion. You quickly find that you are trapped inside with a plethora of horrors! From the attic, you must descend through the levels of the house and into its underground depths to break its ancient curse.
Alone in the Dark was the first horror game to feature full 3-D rendering of its characters. Each room is rendered in a fixed perspective, which was often used to heighten the horror. In one scene, the player enters a narrow closet, where the perspective shifts to an extreme low angle. At that same moment, a zombie attacks! The strange view makes for a panicked and frantic fight.
The story of Alone in the Dark is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, and features a number of his creations and things inspired by him, such as Brian Lumley’s gigantic ground-tunneling Chthonian. The plot is sufficiently weird, and there are quite a few challenging and entertaining puzzles. One nice aspect of the game is its non-linear nature: many of the puzzles could be solved in any order, letting players change gears when they get stuck.
This game was so successful that it led to two direct sequels, one of which features Edward Carnby facing off against undead pirates! There was a later 2008 reboot which ditched all of the charm of the original and ended up being a commercial failure.
SOMA (2015). It’s pretty rare to play a videogame that genuinely haunts me. In fact, I can only think of two or three games that have ever put me in that state. SOMA, a science fiction horror game by Frictional Games, the creators of the Amnesia series, haunted me for weeks.
In SOMA, you play as a man named Simon who in 2015 has suffered cranial bleeding and agrees to an experimental brain scan to better diagnose him. However, something strange happens during the scan, and he awakens in a wrecked and seemingly abandoned underwater research facility called PATHOS-II. In addition to struggling to understand what has happened to him, Simon must avoid monstrous beings that roam the darkened corridors.
Simon can piece together how he got into this situation and the history of the facility through various logs written by crewmembers. To give too many details about the story would be a grave injustice. But SOMA does an amazing job at asking very uncomfortable questions about identity and the human need to survive. By the end of the story, Simon and an ally make a desperate journey to the deepest part of the ocean, a sort of aquatic version of Dante’s Inferno.
The ending is simply unforgettable. I find SOMA to be one of the best horror games ever made, and one of the best written games ever, period.
F.E.A.R. (2005). Maybe this game shouldn’t really be on a list of horror games, but it squeaks through because it is so damn fun!
In F.E.A.R., you play the Point Man, a member of “First Encounter Assault Recon” sent in to contain and put down an uprising of genetically-engineered super soldiers. Of course, as an enhanced soldier yourself, most of the time this involves shooting the heck out of everything and everyone that you come across.
But there are sinister secrets behind the rebelling super soldiers, and the Point Man starts to have increasingly intense and dangerous visions of a creepy little girl in a red dress named Alma. Alma brings the horror to the game, with jump scares as well as an overall growing feeling of dread.
The combination of intense action and unpredictable horror makes for an unforgettable experience. F.E.A.R. was so popular that it spawned several expansions and two sequels, all of which fill in the horrific and tragic backstory of Alma and others. However, none of them captures the insane intensity of the original.
Bloodborne (2015). I avoided playing the Dark Souls series of games. Though intrigued by the promise of dark worldbuilding, the punishing nature of the gameplay turned me off. However, I couldn’t resist FromSoftware’s follow-up, Bloodborne, a Lovecraftian horror story set in a Gothic Victorian style city!
In Bloodborne, you play a nameless Hunter, who is set loose upon the city of Yharnam during a blood moon to hunt monsters plaguing the city. These monsters range from corrupted humans to giant beasts to unspeakable formless apparitions. You continue your quest, told only to “seek the paleblood” as a cure for a nameless affliction.
When you die — and you will die, over and over — you end up in a place called the Hunter’s Dream, where you can upgrade and take a brief respite from all the murdering. The entire game has a dreamlike quality to it, and you run into numerous figures who seem confused by what it reality and what is not. In fact, at some points in your quest you will doubt what you have seen yourself.
There is a story here, but it is difficult to figure out and almost certainly incomplete. This is, however, part of the charm of the game. Some of the scariest stories are those you cannot quite understand. There have been numerous articles written to “explain” what happens in Bloodborne, and how it ends, though many questions and speculation remain. What you are certain of, however, is that it is a city that has been cursed by the acquisition and use of the blood of gods.
Combat is brutal and merciless. A single mistake in even the easiest of fights can end you. In keeping with the dreamlike nature of the game, enemies respawn whenever you die or rest, meaning that there is always more blood to be had.
Bloodborne is a game of unrelenting horror that takes a lot of patience and nerve to see through to the end. But it is hard to stop playing, because progression rewards you with new scenes of horrific beauty.
Control (2019). This game falls more into the genre of “action” than “horror,” but I’m including it because it was my favorite game of last year and has moments of genuine weirdness and creepiness!
In Control, you play the role of Jesse Faden, a young woman who finds her way to the headquarters of the super-secret Federal Bureau of Control, an agency tasked with containing and studying paranormal phenomena, which often manifest connected to objects or locations. Jesse arrives at FBC Headquarters, known as The Oldest House, just as it comes under attack from an extradimensional force known as The Hiss. The Director of the FBC kills himself under The Hiss’ influence, and Jesse finds herself mysteriously drafted as the new Director, and works to quell the invasion.
It is no coincidence that Jesse finds The Oldest House. She and her brother were involved in a paranormal event when they were younger, and her brother was taken away by the FBC; she has been searching for him ever since. The event also put Jesse into contact with a being, ostensibly friendly, who guides her on her journey. Along the way, Jesse picks up paranormal objects that grant her powers. First, she gets the Director’s Gun, which can take on different offensive forms, but later she gets the ability to telekinetically throw objects as weapons and even fly!
As in all good haunted house stories, The Oldest House is a character in and of itself. It is an extradimensional space with areas that change shape at random, connect in unpredictable ways, and even open into other realities. The FBC uses the House to contain and study the many Objects of Power that it has collected, all of which are unpredictable and follow their own rules. Control was inspired in large part by the SCP Foundation, an amazing fictional project filled with stories of dangerous objects collected by an agency tasked with keeping them away from the public. (You can lose days reading the SCP archives.) In her quest to stop The Hiss, Jesse also runs afoul of many Objects of Power whose dangers or attacks she must overcome.
Some of the boss battles are punishingly difficult, but the atmosphere of The Oldest House and the strength of the writing kept me going to the very end.
As a side note, one can find creepy children’s educational videos throughout The Oldest House, called “Threshold Kids.” These were created in part by my twitter friend Anna Megill!
Amnesia: Rebirth (2020). Okay, we’re in the home stretch here! Let’s end this post with the game that inspired me to write it in the first place: the sequel to the original Amnesia game!
Amnesia: Rebirth is set in 1937, almost 100 years after the original game. French archaeologist Tasi Trianon is involved in a plane crash while on an expedition to Africa, and finds herself awaken in the wreckage of the plane, alone and with no memory of what happened after the plane started to go down. She quickly finds a trail left by other survivors from the crash, and must wander through the desert and through darkened caves and ruins to learn what happened to her and her friends and husband.
The name of the game gives a hint of the nature of it, and if you will allow me, I will discuss one minor spoiler related to it below.
Tasi quickly learns that she is pregnant, and in addition to surviving the horrors of the desert and whatever monsters lurk in it, she must contend with a pregnancy that is developing far more rapidly than is possible in nature. It is yet another game where the player is tasked not only with keeping themselves alive, but also another under their care. Motherhood and the fears that come with it are a central theme of the game.
Things get very weird very fast, and Tasi finds herself wandering in and out of our world. This game is directly connected to The Dark Descent, and those people wanting more of the backstory will find it here, though not so much that it ruins the mystery of the game.
From The Dark Descent to SOMA to Rebirth, Frictional Games has perfected how to handle death in the game. When you fail and are assaulted, Tasi enters a fleeing fugue state that shows her running in a panic through corridors, eventually to come back to her senses at a previous location. It is a nice way to indicate failure, and suggest stakes in the game, without a mood-breaking “YOU DIED” or something similar on screen.
I didn’t find Rebirth as groundbreaking as The Dark Descent or as haunting as SOMA, but it is another magnificent tale of horror from Frictional Games. They know how to tell a story that not only compels the player, but has an underlying idea that can provoke later thoughts and horror.
Okay, that’s my massive list of those games that stand out to me in the horror genre! Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments!