With the season of horror well on the way, it’s a great idea to celebrate it with a heavy dose of terrifying video games on a dark night with the lights turned off. The time’s never been better to try and get yourself as close as possible to a heart attack.
Although the horror genre is far from lacking good games that could do exactly that, the ‘perfect’ horror games are pretty rare. With every perfectly crafted, well-developed, and masterfully executed horror titles there are just as many (Probably there are several times more) of horror titles that are not only lackluster but outright lame to play. Consider them posers that try to replicate the primal sensation of cold fear only to come several miles short of the goal to end up as being bland and boring. Just like in the horror movie industry, the quality of horror video games can run from being brilliantly done to absolutely atrocious (And not in a good way).
In this guide, we’ll be using the reputable scores from Metacritic as the baseline for our judgments of the games that you must avoid when you’re trying to pick up a horror game. Here are ten games that the most horrifying part about them is that they even exist at all.
Don’t Knock Twice (Nintendo Switch Port) - 39
This first-person horror VR title can be played on all popular VR platforms from the PSVR, Oculus Rift, to the coveted HTC Vive. Though the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game can only be said as weak to mediocre if you were to play this game on the Nintendo Switch ... it’d turn into a steaming pile of frustration and regret that you ever bought it at all.
The game’s without its good point being that it’s one of the earliest game titles to be released on a console system that’s often considered to be family-friendly. We give it credit for catering to a largely neglected audience. However, the slew of technical failures and issues that it came pre-packaged to the console killed the entirety of the experience and turned the game into a game that’s almost impossible for anyone to genuinely enjoy playing.
Ju-On: The Grudge (Wii) - 39
Ju-On is a classic franchise on both the silver screen and the small gaming monitors. Just like the malignant spirit of the Grudge, the franchise simply refuses to die even after so long. If we were to combine all of the American and Japanese movies that were released in the past, we would have a stunning total of 12 different movies. That’s not even including the upcoming The Grudge that’s set to premiere in 2020. But while some of the sequels in the franchise have become somewhat ... unexciting, the franchise visibly took a head-first plunge to the bottom with the atrocity that is the video game adaptation to the Wii console system in 2009.
As a Wii exclusive, Ju-On: The Grudge was meant to be a monumental project that’s going to celebrate the spirit (Figuratively) of the franchise. Even though for fans of the franchise it’s definitely cool to be able to directly take part in this grim and horrifying Japanese-Esque horror lore, the game simply didn’t do anything right for anyone to give it the praises it should’ve deserved. The incoherent mess that is the control scheme made navigating the environment an entire challenge in itself. Meanwhile, even for the notorious reputation of the Wii lacking graphical prowess ... the game still managed to pass on as being visually stale.
Escape From Bug Island (Wii) - 37
Capcom was a company that took a lot of the common horror tropes like zombies and dinosaurs then fleshed out brilliant games for both. Naturally, trying to distinguish itself, Spike turned to a completely new theme when they’re trying to make a Wii-exclusive horror title: Bugs. The game was released after Resident Evil 4 already hit the market and the visual nuances and style of Escape From Bug Island would even be considered as outdated and unappealing in the time of the GameCube let alone newer generations of consoles. All of the strategies the developers tried to use to scare the players were instantaneously obliterated due to the disorganized and chaotic control scheme as well as a laughably bad graphical engine.
Other than that, though, the game actually has some promises had it not been for these downfalls that more or less ruined the game single-handedly. The plot and concept behind the game were good enough to be featured on an enjoyable B-list movie. If the gameplay was even marginally enjoyable, it even might have been worth renting out.
Agony (Xbox One) - 34
I’m not kidding: This game held a lot of promises when the developers first came out to ask for crowdfunding on Kickstarter. The trailer that they proposed to the masses involved a lot of freaky, atrocious designs but very well-crafted character designs. Agony at the time seemed to promise quality, a horror-filled trip through the bowels of Hell splattered with ultra-violence and darkness. It’s not the kind of game that you must have a good taste to enjoy and rather an irreverence, straightforward experience for those who crave an in-your-face, rapid fix of horror.
On paper, the idea of a horror game that held nothing back, targeting primarily the matured audience is a pretty enchanting thought. However, the gameplay of the game itself must still be well-developed and well thought out before it could be considered as a game worthy of playing through. This is how Agony fell like a sack of bricks. The game relies too much on the nasty graphics to try and scare the players, leaving the gameplay to become uninspired and boring. Imagine that stretched over a surprisingly long and boring campaign and you’d see how it’s going to be a game that you’re never going to finish. You only need an hour or two before you’re completely immune to all of the graphic imageries and the only thing in your mind would be to shut down the game for good and ask for a refund.
Weeping Doll (PS4) - 32
It’s easy to see just how fitting Virtual Reality is with horror games. It’s like VR was made specifically to cater to this genre. Though it can be said that any genre can receive a mighty boost in immersion thanks to VR, horror is the greatest benefactor of all since the horror experience is considerably more personal. With the goal to frighten the players and the characters as best as possible in mind, horror developers had gone ham with the new gaming tech.
Weeping Doll is kind of a supermarket-sample of what horror VR games could look like in the future. While Sony’s got plenty of affordable VR hardware that could make access to the medium easier for everyone as well as its console’s game library didn’t exactly lack quality horror games. Weeping Doll - released 2016 - is way too short to be anything substantial other than an amusing proof of concept.
Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green (Xbox) - 32
Though you could definitely say that this game’s far more fitting being described as an action-shooter than a pure-bred horror game. Since it’s directly tied to George A. Romero’s famous Land of the Dead - the very movie that kick-started the zombie sub-genre - it’s safe to say that Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green is fair game to bombard.
The game’s a prequel to the movie, setting at the time of the beginning of the zombie pandemic sweeping through the area. It’s not a new concept and has been covered thoroughly by many other games and franchises. Unfortunately, the game didn’t even work as an expansion of the universe or did well at being the very thing it was trying to be: A pulpy shooter. The horribly designed gameplay filled with repetition that’s visibly uninspired as well as often unresponsive only managed to make it worse.
ShellShock 2: Blood Trails (Xbox 360) - 30
It’s not easy to try and capture something so sophisticated like the psychological terror in the violence of the Vietnam War. But it was an ambition that ShellShock 2: Blood Trails hoped it would be able to get right, showing itself to be far more ambitious than any of the games of the era. Unfortunately, as you might have already expected, the end result was way short of their goal.
If you were to look at it from a shooter perspective, the game visibly lacked a lot of the fluidity and sharpness that an FPS game must definitely have at the time it was released (2009). Then if you were to look at it through the horror-centric lens, the horrible level design and the bad injection of zombies into the game and the plot blew any potentials that ShellShock 2 could have sky-high.
Vampire Rain: Altered Species (PS3) - 30
When the game was ported to the PS3, the developers attempted to make a wise business move by renaming Vampire Rain to Vampire Rain: Altered Species. It was probably a tactic to try and segregate the PS3 port out from the coldly received Xbox 360 version of the same name. But in hindsight, though, considering the fact that the PS3 got even worse reviews than the Xbox 360 version ... the tactic really didn’t pan out well for the studio.
Vampire Rain was a feeble attempt at combining the militaristic, stealthy atmosphere of classic franchises like Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell with the atypical values of a horror game. Looking at it from a conceptual point of view, trying to remain hidden and stealthy among a world filled with vampires in disguise was indeed an interesting idea. Yet the game failed horribly when it comes to the technicalities. If you have a game with AI that seems brain-dead from the very get-go you already know that you have a disaster at hand.
Guess what, though?
That’s not the only thing that’s bad about the game. The list’s too long for us to even mention.
Amy (Xbox 360) - 25
If you were around at the time after its release, you would know that Amy immediately gained a horrible reputation among the community to the point of becoming notorious for its awfulness. The entire point of the game was to be in the shoes of Lana - the protagonist - as she tries to lead and protect the titular Amy through a town infested with zombies. Looking at the game it’s hard to believe that Amy was actually released in 2012. The game should’ve been one of the titles hidden in the bargain bin after Sony officially pronounced the death of the PS2.
Even when you were to compare Amy with a multitude of horror games that were released almost a decade prior - many of which were the inspirations behind the game themselves. Amy failed to even compare to some of the most mediocre and even outright bad horror games of the time.
Alone In the Dark: Illumination (PC) - 19
A long, long time ago back when gaming was still young: Alone in the Dark is a name that was spoken with the same kind of reverence as one would speak about Resident Evil and Silent Hill today. The 1992’s release of the game still remains as one of the best horror games to ever be released at the time and it fully deserved the status of being one of the hallmarks in the growth of the industry. Even when the franchise began to weaken into the new millennia, the plummet that killed the franchise completely came in 2008 with the appalling reboot: Alone in the Dark: Illumination. So bad was the game that the franchise transformed from being a legend to being a complete joke.
The game was released exclusively on PC with the entirety of the co-op centric game focusing on finding the correct items to light up the level so that the monsters surrounding the players can be damaged. These are the only similarities to the original Alone in the Dark that Illumination shared. Otherwise, the new game was a failure of a mix of several first-draft features and details that all neither sounded as if they were seriously considered, well-prepared nor executed with care.