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This week marks two important milestones for GamesRadar: the start of Halloweek, a weeklong series of horror-centric features, and the two-year anniversary of our weekly Top 7 lists. To celebrate both at once, we’ve dredged up the original Top 7 article - back from before we had our formula down and our shit together – and updated it with fresh art, better layout, a few revisions and videos that actually work. It’s a recycled idea, sure, but given how impossible it was to find anything on our site in 2006, we’re guessing it’s new to at least some of you. (And if it’s not, don’t worry – all-new Top 7s resume next Monday.)
Above: Remember when our site looked like this? Yeah, we've learned a lot since then
Any horror-movie director can tell you that keeping up a tense atmosphere for 90 minutes of screen time isn't easy. So imagine what it must be like to try and keep up that same level of tension over 10-plus hours of a survival horror game. No matter how scary you make it, sooner or later your carefully constructed atmosphere of terror and despair is going to fall flat.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at seven of the scariest games ever made (and we’re only looking at truly scary games, which is why we don’t have the entirety of Alone in the Dark on this list), and pinpoint the exact moments when they dropped the ball.
With its first-person camera-combat sequences, genuinely creepy ghosts and cursed-village setting, Fatal Frame II is one of the most immersive, atmospheric horror games ever. But that suffers a little when you fight a ghost for the first time, and big hit points and encouraging messages suddenly start popping up onscreen. The moaning phantoms are still eerie as hell, but the reminder that we're playing a game makes it a little harder to really be afraid.
Above: Ghosts are spooky. Hit points, not so much
We can wrap our heads around the idea of fighting a ghost with a magical camera. We can even accept that a ghost could absorb multiple hits from said camera, or have its remaining energy displayed in our viewfinder. But popup numbers are too much even for our stretched ability to suspend disbelief.