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

The Lurking Horror (1987)

Why you never played: That’s easy. The Lurking Horror is a text-only game for DOS, Apple II and Commodore 64 that required you to read your way through. No graphics. No animation. No music. No colors beyond the black background and white font. In fact, when it was later ported to the relatively high-tech Amiga, the fanciest addition was occasional sound effects.

What’s so scary: The power of your imagination. No, really! Mister Rogers and Geordi La Forge were right – your mind is capable of producing far more evocative dreams (and nightmares) than any manufactured images on your television screen could hope to achieve. All the brain needs is proper stimulation, and since The Lurking Horror is based on the classic creature-filled writings of H.P. Lovecraft, it knows how to deliver:

Another frightening thing about the game is its disarming sense of familiarity. You play a young college student, staying up late in the computer lab to meet a term paper deadline. Except for the blizzard raging outside, the setup is normal to the point of dullness; the first half-hour is spent microwaving Chinese food and getting a hacker to help you with your homework. So when Cthulhu-inspired demons begin chasing you through academic buildings and underground steam tunnels, you’re somewhat less prepared than when you march onto an abandoned spaceship carrying a laser chainsaw.

A final note about the image above. The pictured student ID and “G.U.E. at a Glance” freshman guidebook actually shipped with The Lurking Horror in order to help enhance your imagination. Also inside the box, but not mentioned anywhere on the outside of the box, was a rubber centipede based on the creepy crawlies featured in the game. That nasty little surprise was left for players to discover on their own.

Current availability: The original box and included prizes are now out-of-print, hard-to-find collector’s items, but the game itself is readily available for download pretty much anywhere you look online.



Illbleed (2001)

Why you never played: Take your pick. First, it was for Dreamcast, but released a month after Sega discontinued the Dreamcast in North America. Second, it didn’t review well, with critics rightly noting that the controls and camera sucked. Third, it was named Illbleed. Which, in case you hadn’t noticed, is a really, really stupid name for anything.

What’s so scary: Despite the game’s many faults – which also include embarrassing typos and mismatched translation – Illbleed is a rare original in the survival horror genre, taking so many crazy and unexpected chances that you’re guaranteed to either love or hate the final experience. For example, what other scary game tracks not just your health, but your pulse rate, adrenaline level and degree of bleeding as well? What other scary game teaches you to sense and disarm booby traps instead of merely unlocking an endless series of doors? What other scary game takes a cue from Scream, casting you in the role of a horror movie fanatic that understands how these types of scenarios normally unfold?

And most significantly, what other scary game promises to make you “PUKE with pleasure, VOMIT with excitement and SHIT with fear?”


Yeah, Illbleed is a comedic parody, too… and definitely not a subtle one. You fight worm farmers, lumberjacks and a creature called Zodick the Hellhog. You collect items like Erotic Magazines and Relaxation CDs. You run across obvious references to everything from Tremors to Toy Story. The female hero wears less clothing the more you play, and the villain is eventually revealed to be her long-lost father. At some point, a huge monster you were hiding from is unmasked as a robot, controlled by an amusement park employee… who is then unmasked as a robot himself.

All of this over-the-top bizarreness adds to Illbleed’s fear factor, however, especially when you realize the game’s designers are willing to break convention – and the fourth wall – in order to shock you.

Current availability: Amazon sells new and used copies for less than $15.

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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