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The Top 7... Scariest games you've never played

We fear the unknown. Psychologists have proven that nothing troubles the human mind more, in fact, than that which cannot be predicted. Our phobias of death, darkness and strangers all stem from this single, simple truth.

Apparently, so does our predictable taste in horror games. Each fall, we settle for the same old scares as we did the fall before – we return to recognizable worlds, pick up well-practiced weapons and fight monsters that, though possibly shocking at first, have grown comfortingly familiar over time. Resident Evil 5 replaces Resident Evil 4. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories follows Silent Hill: Homecoming. System Shock begets BioShock begets Dead Space begets Dead Space: Extraction. You get the idea.

For this Halloween, then, we’ve chosen to celebrate seven lesser-known terrors. These games may be too old, too niche or too foreign for most players, but they’re often much creepier for that very reason. After all…
we fear the unknown.


I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (1995)

Why you never played: If your parents were still buying you games back in 1995, we seriously doubt they would’ve agreed to one with this rather evocative title. And if your parents knew anything at all about the co-designer Harlan Ellison, a notoriously dark and perverse author whose name is proudly printed across the front of the box, we know they wouldn’t have.

What’s so scary: Post-apocalyptic storylines have recently become a bit of a videogame cliché, but none have ventured anywhere near the miserable future predicted by I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. The human population isn’t struggling to survive in a radioactive wasteland or something similarly obvious – no, in this dystopia, our species is effectively extinct. Just five people remain, and they continue to draw breath only because a sentient supercomputer, the same A.I. that annihilated the world, needs them as entertainment. We are nothing more than toys.

The machine has a sadistic imagination, too, transforming its human pets into false forms that cruelly mock their true identities. Benny, once a handsome homosexual scientist, has been reduced to a child-like ape with hideous features and enlarged genitalia. Ellen, formerly a chaste saint, now gets passed around the group as a shared sex slave.

The group is usually separated, however, and forced to trek through hellish quests devised specifically for them by the supercomputer. Lose and you’re tortured to a greater degree. Win by committing good deeds and raising your “spiritual barometer”? Your friends die and you become the new A.I. for the rest of eternity. We told you the game was bleak…

Current availability: Your best bet is ordering the game through the infamous designer himself. Or at least his website. The Harlan Ellison Recording Collection sells I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: “The Computer Game” for $32. You can pick up the original source material – an actual book! – while you’re there.



Sweet Home (1989)

Why you never played: You never had the chance. Sweet Home is an 8-bit companion piece to a Japanese horror flick of the same name, and since those weren’t so popular before 2002’s Hollywood remake of The Ring, the game never reached any other countries or any other consoles. A Famicom-to-NES translation was rumored, but considering the content – and, more importantly, Nintendo of America’s probable reaction to that content – the plan was doomed.

What’s so scary: Though an RPG at heart, Sweet Home is often heralded as the first example of the survival horror genre as well, trapping a vulnerable group of investigators in a zombie-infested mansion long before Resident Evil. You run from monsters, you solve puzzles, you manage items, you trigger cutscenes and you collect cryptic notes left behind by previous victims. The truly revolutionary aspect of the game, however, was the mortality of your five team members. If they died, they didn’t respawn... no, they were just plain dead, and you had to make do without them and their unique skills for the rest of the story.

Pretty dark for the days of Super Mario and Duck Tales, right? You don’t know the half. The reason the house is haunted is because Lady Mamiya, a dead mother, has spent the past fifty years gathering playmates for her equally dead child. And since her kid burned in a fire, Mamiya’s preferred method for recruitment / execution is a blazing hot furnace. And since this murderous woman was also an artist, you’ll see – and have to record – her disturbing fresco paintings throughout the estate. Add in copious buckets of pixelated blood and Sweet Home’s 1989 obscurity is no real surprise.

Current availability: Despite a growing cult status, the game has still never been released outside of Japan. Officially, anyway. Fans share an unofficial English translation of Sweet Home on many sites and message boards across the internet.

Topics

Halloweek

76 comments

  • PatHan-bHai - March 1, 2013 11:35 a.m.

    i've actually rad some of Poe's stuff......creepy shit D:
  • holic237 - April 27, 2012 2:11 a.m.

    I remember watching my dad play Illbleed when I was eleven, and crapping my pants (metaphorically speaking). That whole woodpuppet thing - horrifying. And the music was the stuff of nightmares to an elementary schooler. xD
  • holic237 - April 27, 2012 2:14 a.m.

    Also The Path looks interesting but I'd be such a baby I would never stray from the path which would defeat the whole purpose of the game lol.
  • lilspooky - October 28, 2010 6:48 p.m.

    I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is only $154 dollars on amazon! what a deal. lol. http://www.amazon.com/Have-No-Mouth-Must-Scream-pc/dp/B0008EM0E2/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1288291583&sr=8-4
  • threedog - October 27, 2010 4:16 a.m.

    I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream was an amazing story...I really need that game
  • gamefreakl1996 - July 22, 2010 8:21 p.m.

    plus The Path looks good too!
  • gamefreakl1996 - July 22, 2010 8:21 p.m.

    EDGAR ALLAN POE IS AWESOME I WANT "THE DARK EYE" SO BAD
  • nonamenomad - December 18, 2009 5:31 p.m.

    Quick(ish) vid of the game. youtube.com/watch?v=gMffho0hv9I
  • nonamenomad - December 18, 2009 5:26 p.m.

    Anyone ever played the Penumbra series. The only real weapon you have is sneaking and stealth.
  • Spritle101 - November 23, 2009 5:03 a.m.

    Illbleed looks fun. So does The Path.
  • dslayer99 - November 8, 2009 6:33 a.m.

    orionsaint, that vid on youtube is the opposite of scary, even if it had sound!
  • dslayer99 - November 8, 2009 6:21 a.m.

    OMFG!!! I bought that path game last week at half priced books!!! that thing is disturbing and gives you nightmares and i'm 22 years old!!! one time i followed the path the entire time and it was really nice and pretty but *SPOILER ALERT:IF YOU GO IN THE FOREST AT THE END, IN GRANDMA'S HOUSE YOU FALLIN A PIT AND DIE!!!* it's on youtube!!!
  • deathrebellion - November 6, 2009 2:06 p.m.

    The Path and the dark Eye looks gr8 i soooo wannna get them :D
  • vitoruss - November 2, 2009 8:42 p.m.

    When I read about how you can get to grandmother's house in under a minute if you don't get off the path, I literally said, "That's genius!" The concept is so nice. A shame that the graphics don't have the same power to reinforce the type of experience. Playing a game like that with the realistic polish of a game like, say, Arkham Asylum, would be an incredible experience. Also, as a writer of short stories, the concept for "The Lurking Horror" really gave me inspiration for a new story!
  • TreyTable - November 2, 2009 4:17 p.m.

    I played 'Haunted House' quite a bit on the Atari VCS (2600) although I was more interested in Warlords and Night Driver at the time.
  • Orionsaint - November 2, 2009 12:51 a.m.

    You guys missed a good one. Rescue on Fractalus for the Atari 5200 and Commodore 64. Created by Lucasfilm games. Yeah prelucasarts. It was released between 1983 and 85. Yeah after the great Video Game crash and before Nintendo rose from the ashes like a Phoenix. Essentially the dark ages for console gaming. I picked it up at K-mart for $9.99. This was the first game to genuinely scare me. On the surface it seems simple enough. Your spaceship launches. You go through a planets atmosphere and shoot alien turrets over mountains. Occasionally a human needs rescuing. You land your ship and you watch as the human comes running towards your ship and comes onboard. Yay! You rescued him. Then you rescue a few more. Oh look here comes another human AHHH!!!! WTF!!! An alien pops up in front of the screen and smashes your ships window and you die. This comes as a total shock. No where does it say in the manual this will happen. It just comes out of no where. The first time it happened. I nearly fell off my chair and screamed like a little girl. From then on every time I picked up a human I was waiting for the alien to pop up. It was nerve wracking because it was random. So you never knew when it would happen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8opv5u9nf0
  • Orionsaint - November 2, 2009 12:50 a.m.

    You guys missed a good one. Rescue on Fractalus for the Atari 5200 and Commodore 64. Created by Lucasfilm games. Yeah prelucasarts. It was released between 1983 and 85. Yeah after the great Video Game crash and before Nintendo rose from the ashes like a Phoenix. Essentially the dark ages for console gaming. I picked it up at K-mart for $9.99. This was the first game to genuinely scare me. On the surface it seems simple enough. Your spaceship launches. You go through a planets atmosphere and shoot alien turrets over mountains. Occasionally a human needs rescuing. You land your ship and you watch as the human comes running towards your ship and comes onboard. Yay! You rescued him. Then you rescue a few more. Oh look here comes another human AHHH!!!! WTF!!! An alien pops up in front of the screen and smashes your ships window and you die. This comes as a total shock. No where does it say in the manual this will happen. It just comes out of no where. The first time it happened. I nearly fell off my chair and screamed like a little girl. From then on every time I picked up a human I was waiting for the alien to pop up. It was nerve wracking because it was random. So you never knew when it would happen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8opv5u9nf0
  • lorchan - November 2, 2009 12:21 a.m.

    OH GOD THE UNCANNY VALLEY USED FOR GOOD. Anyway, I REALLY want to play The Path, now. And read more Poe, but that's beside the point.
  • axelgarcia1 - November 1, 2009 5:46 a.m.

    @Cyberninja your right, but that still wasnt the scary part, the scary part was the way the old man still haunted the guy... but that was just his conscience
  • Fuhjem - October 31, 2009 2:48 a.m.

    Any ever play Exmortis? Scared the living hell outta me when it came out.

Showing 1-20 of 76 comments

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