When it comes to horror video games, you typically hear most about big names like Resident Evil and Dead Rising. The latter just had a big release last month, and the former is offering its newest entry this month. The games in these popular franchises are a few examples of horror games which get their due credit.
But over the years there have been some horror games which didn’t get a lot of attention. They’ve quickly been forgotten, due to either initial bad reviews or poor marketing. But if you ask me, these games are all quite fun and should have been given more of a chance.
So let’s take a look at five horror video games that are vastly underrated. Be sure to let me know in the comments if you agree with my list or if there are any good ones I forgot.
(PlayStation 2, Xbox, Windows)
Obscure is a 2005 survival horror video game which nobody seems to have ever heard of. Set in a high school, the plot centers on a group of five teenagers searching for their missing friend. They wind up locked in the school building overnight. With light-sensitive creatures closing in on them, the goal is to survive the night and escape.
A very interesting aspect of Obscure is its two-player cooperative mode. Rare at the time for a survival horror game, two players could take the monsters on together. This made for some very fun multiplayer experiences. Exploring the creepy, dark school with someone else added an extra layer of enjoyment to the game. Each character also has its own unique talents, so switching them out occasionally is encouraged.
Another unique part of this game is having permanent death for the characters. If one of the five teens died, they were gone for good. You would then have to play as another character to continue the game until either you win the game or all five are dead. This has since become more common in horror games, such as in the PS4 hit Until Dawn, but at the time there was nothing else like it.
4. Saw II: Flesh and Blood
(PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)
Did you realize that not only is there an official Saw video game, there’s even a sequel? It’s surprising how many horror fans aren’t aware of these games existing. But back in 2009, Konami released Saw: The Video Game, developed by Zombie Studios. It serves as a tie-in to the movies, taking place between the first and second films. You play as Danny Glover’s character, Detective David Tapp.
The first Saw game is decent enough, though it had a flawed combat system. Sometimes it seemed like you were fighting the controls more than anything else. But it was overall satisfying and felt like the potential was there for a new game franchise based on Saw.
Konami was hoping for that same thing and released Saw II: Flesh and Blood the very next year. This time players took on the role of Detective Tapp’s son, Michael, searching for the truth about what happened to his dad. The writing improved this time around, with a much more compelling story than the first game. Michael Tapp is actually a more interesting protagonist than many of the ones from the later films.
Also gone is the clunky combat system, replaced with something much easier to control. It’s like they were improving upon the promising premise of the original game. However, this sequel did not perform as well as the first game, and plans for future entries were scrapped. It’s too bad as I found this one to be a big improvement with potential for at least one more video game.
3. The Suffering
(PlayStation 2, Xbox, Windows)
Midway’s The Suffering isn’t a game you’re likely to hear mentioned anytime soon. The 2004 survival horror game has long been forgotten. But at the time it was such a unique game that it was unlike anything else. It even warranted its own sequel soon after, though it wasn’t quite as solid as this original title.
In the game you play as Torque, a convicted prisoner. You’re awaiting execution on Death Row for the murders of your ex-wife and two children. You believe you’re innocent, but you blacked out and have no memory of the event. Did you kill them? Or is something even more sinister happening? The game screws with your mind in this way from beginning to end with top-notch psychological horror.
While sitting on Death Row, horrific monsters suddenly descend upon the prison. While battling your own personal demons, you must also survive the real ones. You’ll encounter other terrified guards and inmates during your quest, but helping and/or killing them is entirely up to you. Be careful, though— it uses your moral choices to determine which powerful ending you’ll receive.
2. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
(Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2, PSP)
While they vary in quality, most of the Silent Hill games are all pretty similar. When looking at the series as a whole, it’s easy to pick the odd one out: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Being so different has gotten it a lot of criticism, while simultaneously being the reason why I praise it. Initially released exclusively for the Wii, this new take on Silent Hill incorporated the Wiimote into the gameplay. It was a very interesting new way to experience the franchise.
The biggest difference with this title is the removal of any type of combat system. You cannot fight the monsters— all you can do is run and hide. For me this wasn’t a dealbreaker, as I typically ran more than I fought in the other games anyway. And it also added to the horror experience, as I felt even more helpless when the monsters would start coming after me.
This game features a reimagining of the original Silent Hill and is set in its own universe. It has an in-game psychologist ask you questions, using your answers to tailor the story to you. The writing is top-notch, and I might even say it’s the best of any Silent Hill game in the franchise. Although there are five possible endings, each one is devastatingly heartbreaking. No matter which one you get, tears are guaranteed.
1. Friday the 13th
(Nintendo Entertainment System)
No, I’m not talking about the upcoming Friday the 13th game from Gun Media. That game is already getting tons of praise, despite not being out yet. And it’s well deserved. After personally beta-testing the game, I can confirm that the hype is real, and this game will be insanely good.
But the original Friday the 13th video game from 1989 has taken a lot of heat over the years. The Angry Video Game Nerd infamously rips it to shreds in one of his first videos. And admittedly, its difficulty level is pretty steep, which would turn off many players who try it.
Personally, however, I say this game doesn’t get due credit. It’s by far the scariest title on the NES. The eerie music alone is enough to make it frightening. And even if he is wearing a purple jumpsuit, Jason can still terrify you when he pops up from out of nowhere. There’s also a foreboding sense of dread as the sun slowly sets, gradually shifting from day to night— another unique aspect for an NES game. Taking on Jason does take a bit of a learning curve, but surviving each encounter with Jason feels like an accomplishment
At the time, the idea of permanent death in video games was unusual. But it’s a strong aspect of the Friday the 13th Nintendo game. You’re given six counselors to choose from at the start, with the ability of alternating between them. When one of them dies, though, they are dead. There’s nothing but a blank space where their picture used to be. And when all six die, the game literally tells you, “You and your friends are dead. Game over.”
Talk about the most depressing game over screen of all time.
I think that this game was simply too far ahead of its time. In fact, some of its elements are being used in the new game from Gun Media. This includes exploring cabins for items to use against Jason as well as choosing as different counselors to play as. It’s like the new game is an extremely advanced version of the NES classic. Even so, I’ll always have fond memories of purple-suited Jason scaring the daylights out of me when I was a kid. If its job was to be horrifying, it accomplished that.