It is well documented that I am a wuss when it comes to horror. I tend to avoid scary movies and video games despite loving Halloween. Anything spookier than Halloweentown tends to keep me up at night. While Halloween might be over the spooky season seems to be continuing with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina getting a Christmas special and Krampus getting a new movie in his horror anthology with Krampus Origins. In that vein, here are the five scary games that despite not being horror games, I cannot play too late into the night.
I have spoken about BioShock in the past and it is my favorite game of all time. It is also probably the scariest game on this list. BioShock is a first-person shooter that takes players through the now destroyed world of Rapture, a dystopian Libertarian society under the sea. In the game, players must take on nefarious and downright creepy characters including Dr. J. S. Steinman, M.D, a plastic surgeon who lost his grip on reality after becoming addicted to ADAM.
While traversing through the decrepit medical facilities and facing Splicers, Steinman’s work and his new dedication to perfectionism in the field of plastic surgery is evident by disfigured bodies littered throughout the world. Bioshock is a deeply unsettling game that plays with the themes of political dystopia, addition, and breaks within the human psyche. The game’s sound designs create the illusion of Splicers being closer or farther away than they actually are making it easy for enemies to sneak up on you. The constant voices of Splicers throughout the game without being able to pinpoint their location kept me on edge.
Another scary game that totally shouldn’t be is Dishonored. A lot of the same creative team who created BioShock later went on to Arkane Studios and worked on the Dishonored series so it’s understandable the two share a lot of the same DNA in regards to how it approaches its unsettling themes. Dishonored is a stealth action-adventure game published by Bethesda that follows Corvo, the bodyguard of the empress, as he works to redeem his name in the plague-ridden, steampunk inspired industrial city of Dunwall.
The game also features an eerie system of supernatural abilities given by the mysterious figure The Outsider. The environments of Dishonored are often deserted and decrepit buildings amongst the city line that tell a story of death and violence. The environmental storytelling and the chaos system within the game gives it a dark and frightening tone despite not having any traditional jump scares. The level of the Flooded District contains the harder enemies type of the whole game and in a game already reliant on first-person stealth and traversing, that is saying something. Daud’s asssassin’s left me anxious and constantly feeling like I need to look over my shoulder.
3. Fallout 4
The second Bethesda title on my list, Fallout 4 comes from a line of other kooky and scary -adjacent games in the franchise. While most do not consider Fallout 4 to have the same unsettling tonality as previous entries, certain areas of Fallout 4 are downright terrifying.
Bethesda tells its best stories through environmental storytelling and the Fallout series is no different. While exploring the apocalyptic landscape of Boston, players can stumble upon The Pickman Gallery. The gallery is filled with the mutilated corpses of raiders whose blood and organs have been transformed into art by Pickman. The three-story building is like visiting the Louvre during a fever-dream from hell. Through the environmental storytelling, the player slowly learns of the audacities Pickman has committed for the sake of art. While there is a whole list of creepy locations to find within Fallout 4, The Pickman Gallery tends to stick out as the most unsettling because of it’s more blatant use of “gorror” type tropes. In the end, the player can choose to save or kill Pickman. Bizarrely enough, he is incredibly kind if you save him and offers you the key to his safe.
4. Batman: Arkham Asylum
The best Batman stories within any medium are ones that incorporate elements of horror and Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum did that beautifully. The game follows the world’s greatest detective as he unravels Joker’s plan to take over the Asylum and cause pandemonium. In addition to the bizarre and disquieting atmosphere of the Asylum itself, players must defeat Batman’s creepiest villains including Victor Zsasz, a serial killer who marks himself after completing a kill, and Scarecrow, also known as Dr. Jonathan Crane. Scarecrow has a background in psychology and uses it to torture people accordingly.
Unlike defeating Zsasz, Scarecrow fights Batman within Bruce’s disturbing hallucinations. Within the hallucinations, players are often moved into a first person to experience the scares up close and personal. Bruce witnesses his parents’ corpses in the morgue and in one of the greatest fourth wall breaks in gaming history, Scarecrow’s fear gas causes the screen to appear as if your game console is crashing. Defeating Scarecrow requires players to traverse through various nightmare scenes vastly different from the rest of the game’s mechanics.
5. Final Fantasy XV
Probably the biggest surprise on this list and the biggest surprise for me when I played it, Final Fantasy XV has some scary games levels. While I have not played the “updated” version the game’s Chapter 13, the original segment is terrifying and almost made me put down the game completely. Within the chapter, you are separated from your party and basically defenseless minus one of the worst weapons in video game history, a ring that uses an exuberant amount of MP.
The level has player meandering through eerie hallways using a flawed stealth mechanic while avoiding having to face tough enemies. The level is fairly long and features jump scares the rest of the game lacks. The end of the level culminates with an extremely difficult boss battle with Ravus Nox Fleuret, the high commander of the Niflheim Empire’s army, who looks like he would be more at home in Resident Evil than a Final Fantasy game.