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.




  • 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

Showing 1-20 of 76 comments

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