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.




  • FalseNegative - October 26, 2009 11:09 a.m.

    Your right, I've never even heard of any of these games. Oh, and first first! Sorry.
  • mattol58 - October 26, 2009 11:28 a.m.

    good article
  • PinkLenny - October 26, 2009 11:31 a.m.

    good comment
  • zer0hvk - October 26, 2009 11:34 a.m.

    good comment on that comment great article, might check out some of these games!
  • CheeseFiend - October 26, 2009 12:10 p.m.

    Holy crap, The Dark Eye looks scary, i might get it, even though it may give me nightmares
  • Trg564 - October 26, 2009 12:16 p.m.

    Thats some pretty freaky stuff there, I am now slightly afraid of puppets. Damn those things look scary
  • bonepicker - October 26, 2009 2:44 p.m.

    WTF HAUNTED HOUSE!! Lmao that game is no where near scary. It's(god I hope I got that right)bot even that fun lol.
  • Jacob816 - October 26, 2009 3:03 p.m.

    Ugh, another unnumbered Top 7...
  • NotBraze - October 26, 2009 3:25 p.m.

    The concept for The Path is absolutely brilliant! Regardless of the quality of the rest of the game (which I can't comment on, since I've never played it) it's a remarkable idea and someone should take it and use it in a different context.
  • garnsr - October 26, 2009 4:22 p.m.

    God, I hated Haunted House. I could never figure out what the hell was going on, but everyone seemed to have it. And shouldn't the main reason we've never played most of these games be that they were on PC, not consoles?
  • oryandymackie - October 26, 2009 4:25 p.m.

    I think they should make text-only games for the 360. Cheap. I would be willing to pay 50p for a text-only game, and let's face it, a text adventure is something a junior programmer can do in his lunch break. But not on Live. A DISC, MICROSOFT. Pleasums?
  • TKTOWA - October 26, 2009 7:23 p.m.

    I was a little dissapointed to see that Realms Of The Haunting was not mentioned. It's an Interplay game for anyone that's interested. I proudly keep the box on my "Legendary games shelf".
  • slickmcwilly - October 26, 2009 7:47 p.m.

    I played a demo of The Path, and i must say that did not fill my curiosity of it. it was very interesting, but i didn't really know what to do in it.
  • prahanormal - October 26, 2009 8:05 p.m.

    I've played all these games, and wholeheartedly agree. These are some of the scariest games I've ever played.
  • Schnipke - October 26, 2009 8:15 p.m.

    I haven't heard of Illbleed but I have heard of the rest, and I would play all but Haunted House and The Lurking Horror. And YOur right with the mind coming up with scary stuff, I will Lose sleep Because I will get HORRIFIYING images stuck in my head.
  • Useoam - October 26, 2009 9:14 p.m.

    The Path is one of the most amazing expirences I have ever had while playing a game. It's truely original and refreshing if you can digg it. I certainly reccomend it to thoes willing to try it out.
  • CH3BURASHKA - October 26, 2009 9:41 p.m.

    "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" is the best indie porno ever.
  • H2A2I00 - October 26, 2009 9:48 p.m.

    lol @ CH3BURASHKA but i seriously want to try the path it looks so cool and wen it said which path will u take the path of needles or the path of pins i just said i need to play this
  • Amnesiac - October 26, 2009 10:19 p.m.

    The Dark Eye, sounds interesting, I might see if I can dig up a free/cheap copy. And I have No Mouth
  • Cyberninja - October 26, 2009 10:21 p.m.

    all of these look interesting and the old man in the tell tale heart wasnt killed for being ugly he was killed because of his "evil" vulture eye

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