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Whether they’ve advanced menacingly toward our camera lenses, hidden their faces when we look at them or just sort of hovered aimlessly, ghosts have been a semi-constant threat in videogames almost since the medium was invented. One of the great things about games, however, is that they’re a way to explore unusual viewpoints – and every once in a while, they give us a chance to see through the eyes of these undead phantoms, and find out what it’s like to flit insubstantially through an earthly plane that’s perpetually, almost comically afraid of us.
Only a handful of games have actually offered a chance to see things from the proverbial Other Side, but these are our favorites.
Haunted the living in: The Sims 3
When a man and a woman love each other very much, they can go under the covers (or into a hot tub, tree house, tent, or sarcophagus) and WooHoo, and sometimes something magical can happen. In nine months (or a few days, whichever), they have a baby! And if the man or woman was actually an undead specter, the resulting child is, well… a ghost.
Yeah, a ghost. In The Sims 3, you can not only control ghosts as playable characters after Sims die, you can have a ghost bang another Sim (presumably through Whoopi Goldberg’s body) to give birth to ghost babies. You can also drink a ghost potion during pregnancy to turn the Sim with child into a Sim with ghost child.
Ghost-baby Sims actually age like normal Sims, going through adolescence, maturity, and all of the other stages of Sim life, and they eventually even die of natural causes. That’s the only way, though – they can’t be starved, drowned, burned, or killed in any other way. Ghost babies are just like normal babies, except they’re transparent, impossible to kill, and remarkably horrifying.
Haunted the living in: AMBER: Journeys Beyond
In this underrated point-and-click adventure game from 1996, the ability to play as a ghost isn’t portrayed as fun, cool or zany… just sad. And the three spirits you possess as a paranormal researcher aren’t cartoon sprites or superpowered monsters… they’re believable human characters who died in believably human (though still horrifying) ways.
Margaret, wife of a soldier fighting in World War II, committed suicide upon learning that her husband had been killed in battle. Edwin went sledding with his teddy bear, but ended up drowning in a frozen lake after the ice cracked. Saddest and scariest of all is Brice, a simple-minded gardener who grew obsessed with his employer’s daughter, then murdered her, her family and himself when she refused to accompany him on an imaginary trip to space.
AMBER: Journeys Beyond is about as realistic and grounded as the concept of “playable ghosts” can get. What’s most unique and macabrely fascinating about the game, however, is that these fates aren’t revealed at first. The ghosts don’t realize they’re dead or remember how they died – it’s up to the player to explore each life, put the pieces together and solve the mystery, thus helping the confused souls accept their fate and move on.