The blog of author Dennis Cooper

DC’s Pop-Up Museum of Lesser Known Horror Video Games *

* (Halloween countdown post #2)

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Anatomy (2016)

‘Made by the indie developer Kitty Horrorshow, Anatomy is a 2016 psychological horror game that can be downloaded on itch.io. During the game, the player explores a dark house while listening to audio tapes that talk about how a house is similar to an organic body. As the game continues, the house becomes more distorted with glitches and fleshy walls.’

 

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I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995)

‘Based on well-known science fiction author Harlan Ellison’s short story with the same name, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a horror point-and-click adventures game released in 1995 for the MS-DOS and Mac OS. The game is about an evil sentient supercomputer named “AM,” who is voiced by Ellison, that recently wiped out all of humanity except for five individuals. While facing their traumas and flaws, the human characters must properly solve puzzles and ethical dilemmas in order to defeat “AM.”‘

 

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Echo Night (1998)

‘In 1998, FromSoftware, which is best known for the Souls game franchise, released a horror adventure game for the Playstation called Echo Night. The game follows Richard Osmond as he investigates what happened to the vanished ship Orpheus. After the player gets supernaturally teleported to the ship, they will need to solve puzzles, avoid hostile ghosts by turning on lights, and work with other ghosts to get “Astral Pieces.”‘

 

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White Day: A Labyrinth Named School (2001)

‘Originally released only in South Korea in 2001 for Windows, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a survival horror game about a high school boy named Lee Hui-min who decides to visit his school at night to deliver a White Day gift to his crush. But after he enters the school, he gets trapped in the school and must solve puzzles, make dialogue choices, and avoid enemies such as killer janitors and ghosts in order to escape.’

 

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The Path (2009)

The Path is a 2009 psychological horror art game that is a modern reimagining of the well-known fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. In this PC game, the player chooses from one of six sisters to take a basket to grandmother’s house. The game gives one rule: “Go to grandmother’s house and stay on the path.” But the player has to break this rule and go into the woods in order to find items, meet their own unique “wolf,” and eventually get the “ending” after playing as each of the girls.’

 

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Harvester (1996)

‘In 1996, the point-and-click adventure horror game Harvester was released for MS-DOS. The game follows amnesiac eighteen-year-old Steve Mason as he explores the disturbingly violent town of Harvest. While interacting with creepy characters and investigating strange locations, the player can choose to either solve puzzles or just kill NPCs to progress.’

 

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Siren (2003)

‘Released in 2003 for the PS2, Siren is a stealth survival horror game where the player controls ten different characters who gain the ability to see and hear what other creatures see and hear. This “sightjacking” ability is used to help the characters survive against zombie-like creatures called “Shibito” and escape the recently devastated village of Hanuda. Over the course of three in-game days, the player will switch between the different characters and complete objectives in the levels to unlock other objectives and levels.’

 

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Sweet Home (1989)

Sweet Home was one of the first horror games to exist as well as the direct inspiration for Resident Evil (Biohazard). Released on the Nintendo Entertainment System (Nes/Famicon), it was based off a crappy Japanese horror movie of the same name. The game was developed by Capcom who managed to make this tie-in game of better quality than the movie. While the game is the foundation of modern horror games (Resident Evil 1 started development as a remake of Sweet Home) it actually stands on its own as a fairly unique horror title. The game at it’s core is an RPG with horrific imagery for it’s time. You play as five people making a documentary on a deserted mansion and it’s legends. They get trapped inside as evil forces from the mansion attack them (from zombies and dogs to possessed dolls and spirits), leading to them having to survive and get out. Since you control all five characters, switching between them at will, you have to help all five escape. If a character dies in the game, they are dead for good and there is no way to revive them.’

 

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Clock Tower (1995)

Clock Tower was one of the founders of the gaming trope of being stalked by a villain through a game, and it pulls it off wonderfully. It has great suspense and is a classic horror game that unfortunately never got to see it outside of the shores of Japan. It is a cult classic, and a fantastic early attempt at the horror genre that brought some unique elements as well to the point and click genre. It has multiple endings, a simplified point and click control scheme for the Super Nintendo, and some interesting ideas and puzzles that makes the player more involved with their character. A type of horror game we don’t see very often which might be best described as an simulation of slasher films from th eyes of the defenseless hero/heroine.’

 

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Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002)

Eternal Darkness received universal acclaim on it’s release, including several nominations for game of the year and won the award for, “Outstanding Achievement in Character or Story Development,” as well as nominated in other categories including console game of the year and best art direction, at the 6th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards (a recognized game award event that happens annually). Eternal Darkness is a very intelligent and engrossing tale that transcends ages and perspectives to talk about something greater than all of us, very much in a Lovecraft style, and con it with some ingenious innovations for a survival-horror game. The Sanity Effects are the stand-out innovation, randomized and intense effects that do a great job at making the unexpected happen around every corner while still retaining good design and clever puzzles. Probably one of the most underrated games of last generation.’

 

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Yume Nikki (2003)

Yume Nikki is a freeware indie game for the PC that stars an open-world dreamscape. Developed in the easy-to-use Game Maker (2003 edition), this is a quality title that has a cult following and takes gaming in a different direction. There is no spoken line of dialogue through the entire game, and more so there is no action in the game. The game involves a beautifully designed dream world to explore as you search for 24 “Effects”, things that change and transform our young heroine. You may collect these effects in any order and approach the world however you like. Many secrets, bizarreness, and mystifyingly creepy locations and creatures litter the world to discover. Atmospheric, exploration-based, and chilling at points, it captures the essence of dreams and nightmares beautifully.’

 

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Rule of Rose (2006)

Rule of Rose is a Playstation 2 horror game that is set in England in the 1930s. You take on the role of Jennifer, a 19-year old young woman who, while following a mysterious boy, gets pushed and trapped in a coffin by some strange girls wearing paper bags over their heads. She awakens on an air ship she can’t escape from that is ruled by an order known as the Red Crayon Aristocrats. She must make a monthly offering at the threat of death while trying to figure out the mysteries and memories locked away in this place. She is accompanied by a dog she saves and throughout the game she must solve puzzles and face some strange monsters while figuring out the underlaying themes of this place. This game received controversy over the violence, lesbianism, and cannibalism themes of young girls found in the title.’

 

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Deadly Premonition (2010)

‘Those who like Twin Peaks will like this game off the bat as it has a lot of inspirations from it. However, this would be a game for those who want a good yet quirky story and can enjoy a flawed experience. If you can’t get past the flaws a game might have or get enjoyment out of a game with some clunky gameplay, then this is not for you. This is for you if you really liked games that came out in the late 90s and early 2000s that took risks and told over-the-top stories and experiences that were out of the ballpark. The game is cheesy, but in a good way. It’s not so bad that it’s good, rather than it is as brilliant as it is terrible and those that can look past some terrible gameplay parts (combat just should of not existed at all) will find something truly brilliant.’

 

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Hellnight (1998)

Hellnight (Dark Messiah in Japan) is a Playstation horror game that came out in Japan and Europe. It takes place in Tokyo near the end of the millennium in Gigapolis, a city sporting a spiraling huge subway and sewer system. Our unnamed protagonist is being chased by some strange cult who are trying to kidnap him for unknown reasons, with him barely escaping their grasps onto a subway train. At the same time a strange lifeform breaks free from a research lab, kills a researcher, and evolves into a zombie-like creature as it escapes. The monster gets in the way of the train and crashes it, and then commences to kill off any survivors left alive from the crash. Our hero makes a run for it, an ability he is quite good at, with another survivor, a school girl named Naomi Sugiura, as the two of them escape together. However, the strange creature evolves again into an exoskeleton-like body that is faster and follows them into the sewers known as, “The Mesh.” Here people who have left public society live a peaceful life away from the ruckus and troubles of the mainstream living. A lifestyle that is about to get much more dangerous, we might add. Players play from a first-perspective role though they have no means to fight or defend himself. There is only one monster in the game, the mutating life form, and any contact with the monster will result in death.’

 

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Lone Survivor (2012)

‘In the age of the independent game developer, Jasper Byrne of Superflat Games successfully brings survival horror to the world of 2D pixel-art sidescrollers with Lone Survivor. In the game, players are cast in the role of “You,” a mysterious man who wears a surgical mask and camps out in a decrepit apartment building amidst a post-apocalyptic setting. In keeping with the theme of survival, players will regularly need to make sure that You is fed and well rested in order to continue on in the story, which involves either engaging with or slinking past monsters that call to mind a serious Silent Hill vibe. Players can also expect to ultimately view several different endings to You’s dark and frighteningly hallucinogenic existence.’

 

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Martha Is Dead (2021)

‘I don’t think I’ve played anything that’s quite as hot a mess of stuff happening as Martha Is Dead in a long while. After two hours playing the game’s opening, I feel like I need more time to digest everything this psychological horror game tries to do. There are long, text heavy plot expositions, or strange first person endless runner forest sections where you spell out story points by chasing words through the trees. Then there are dreamily, surreal, heavily metaphorical cutscenes inspired by the Italian horror style of Dario Argento and Giallo films. And, sometimes, you get to play a bit of the game. Which is ostensibly a walking sim set in Italy at the close of the Second World War as a family deals with the death of a daughter who drowned in a lake.’

 

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Outlast (2013)

Outlast and its equally chilling prequel DLC Whistleblower are here to help usher in the new age of survival horror video games. Playing as journalist Miles Upshur, players are tasked with investigating the psychotic Mount Massive Asylum and exposing the underlying horrors within. The catch is that Miles is incapable of fighting back the villains who inhabit the asylum, and only relies on his notebook and camcorder to advance through the building and document the grisly truth. Throughout the adventure, you’ll use the night vision mode on Miles’ camcorder to better navigate particularly dark areas, and this makes the game’s action look so realistic that it’s impossible not to feel a little unnerved.’

 

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F.E.A.R. (2005)

F.E.A.R.remains one of the most memorable horror experiences to date, in no small part due to the fact that the entire story revolves around a creepy little girl named Alma, who just so happens to closely resemble that creepy girl in The Ring. There are more than a few lasting scares contained within F.E.A.R.,and they’re all strung together nicely by Alma’s story. Don’t play this one with the lights off. Seriously. Don’t do it.’

 

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The Suffering (2004)

‘In The Suffering, players take control of a prisoner named Torque, who has been given the death sentence for murdering his ex-wife and two children. The action of the game takes place in the island setting of Abbott State Penitentiary and its surrounding island areas, where Torque must battle hordes of monsters to prove his innocence. Plagued by visions of his deceased family, Torque must make a number of morality decisions throughout his escape, and can even turn into a monster himself through filling a special insanity meter. A horror-action game at heart, The Suffering excels in both its monster designs and level layouts that have you progressing through dim prison corridors one moment and moving through the dense outer wildlife the next.’

 

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Project Mara (2021)

‘“Based on real lived experience accounts and in-depth research, our aim is to recreate the horrors of the mind as accurately and realistically as possible,” Ninja Theory commercial director Dom Matthews wrote on xbox.com. “Project: Mara will be an experimental title and a showcase of what could become a new storytelling medium. [Project: Mara] will be heavily based on research, interviews, and first-hand accounts to recreate the horrors of the mind as accurately and believably as possible,” Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades says in a behind-the-scenes development video diary. “At the heart of it is the character that drives it. The game only features one character and one location.”’

 

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OMORI (2020)

‘Players will explore a strange and colorful world in OMORI. As players navigate through the world, they will uncover plenty of secrets in addition to a look into how friendships can fall apart. OMORI covers themes such as depression and anxiety and self-destruction, and how the characters cope with loneliness.’

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** David, Hi. Well, thank you. I have this feeling that you’re un-upstage-able. xo. ** Misanthrope, To edit one’s future is foolhardy. Yes, I remember that other evening too. It makes me very sad thinking about it. Poor Nicholas. Ah, David remains David, it sounds like. I hope you did manage to find some George time this weekend. I think you need to go beyond thinking about King’s Dominion’s Halloweenfest and buy your god damned tickets! ** Bill, Oh, right, the Folsom thing. The masters and slaves whom I’ve been nitpicking my way through of late are as giddy as school kids about it. How did you manage to entertain your houseguests without the help of leather men, and vice versa? ** David Ehrenstein, Took the words right out of my mouth! ** Morgan M. Page, Hi, Morgan! Welcome to here, and thank you very kindly! No, I wasn’t thinking about autofiction really. It’s  a novel I’ve been wanting to write for decades. Thank you again. How are you? ** Dominik, Hi!!!! I hadn’t paid much attention to him before so my first real spurt of thinking about him came during the VMAs wherein he seemed like an obnoxious asshole, so his looks alone didn’t register as I think he intends. That poor kitty. That poor asshole doomed to live out its life as a 2020 time machine. What a boner killer. Three year-old Love watching ‘Hellraiser’ and sucking his thumb, G. ** T, Hi. I’m sure I’ve had some kind of anal post here before if not several. Oh, man, thank you so much about ‘I Wished’. It’s so beautiful what you wrote. I’m very touched. How was your weekend? What’s in your immediate future? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hey, Ben. I only didn’t include that Anthea Hamilton piece because I used it in another post, but, yeah, it felt MIA. ** Steve Erickson, Ha ha, I actually thought for a moment about putting that butt plug in the post, but … I remember that LeShaun track. It should have been a ‘Wap’. And I do feel lucky, yes, ha ha. ** Okay. Halloween returns to the blog today on behalf of you gamers and non-gamers alike. See you tomorrow.

11 Comments

  1. David

    Did you have a nice weekend Dennis? I was in Folkestone… i went into the sea again it was exhilarating.. the scissors made me laff in this post… just done a sketch last week showing scissors… whilst in line to get into the duran duran concert I told you about.. (took an hour)… I/we all passed a hair college where in through the window… you could see folk cutting the hair of female dummies… heads only on supported sticks with what looked like beards as well… very surreal… saw this on day one… the second visit to the concert the lights were out but you could see the dummy heads on tables…. when i heard about the ‘Perm university’ shooting inccident several days later I couldn’t help thinking….. “Oh….” I am going to a Greek island at the end of the week…. can’t wait!! It’s been raining in London but the sun has just come out… lovely… looking forward to more halloween posts!! Cheers pal x

  2. Dominik

    Hi!!

    I’ve been proofreading various video game scripts all day, so this is a timely post. The only difference is that a lot of these actually look tempting while I always work on pretty horrible straight porn games. The real horror, haha.

    Awh, your love is so sweet! Thank you! Love trying his best to look casual as he’s crawling toward you like this guy: https://tinyurl.com/c2asw4yu, Od.

  3. _Black_Acrylic

    As a non-gamer I had no idea that Horror Video Games even existed, so this post is quite an education. Some evocative images presented here for sure. Come to think of it, I know Sypha was keen on an old NES game called Uninvited where players would be see text detailing their agonising death.

  4. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Some of these are creepy. Duh. But man, I haven’t played a videogame of any sort in ages. :'(

    Hahaha, we shall buy them soon. Gotta get everyone on board.

    Yep, David is still David. Supposed to be starting his new treatment program tomorrow. We’ll see. He’s so oblivious and helpless and clueless. Like, he’s got a fucking phone and never seems to know he can just look something up. It’s weird. For instance, he lost his driver’s license a few months ago, can’t find it anywhere. It never dawned on him to go online and order a new one. “Huh?”

    Poor Nicholas. I was thinking about him a bit this weekend.

    So my other—and last—story, and remember this isn’t nostalgia so much as a funny story I remember: You did that reading at Fales. After, we went out to smoke. This young goth-y girl was standing a few feet away. Kept looking over, obviously a huge fan. She finally asked you for a light, and then you two chit chatted a bit. With her, and keeping his distance with a wary eye, was her extremely cute little boyfriend.

    Well, next day, I go to meet Jason (Insidetheroar) and walk up to a crosswalk to wait for the walk sign. I look over and there’s the same boy that was with the girl the night before. He looks at me, recognizes me, and his eyes grow wide. He glances up at the sign, which has just turned white to walk, and takes off like a dart, actually fucking running away from me, hahahaha. What have you done to the children, Dennis? 😉

  5. Sypha

    I’ve heard of a few of these, but the only one I’ve actually played (as mentioned a few days ago) is ETERNAL DARKNESS. Oddly enough I’ve never played YUME NIKKI but I made a reference to it in my 2nd collection, for reasons which I forget. I believe the last horror game I played (and it was actually a replay) was AMNESIA: THE DARK DESCENT, though I suppose that SUPER CASTLEVANIA IV (also a replay), while not a scary game per se, utilizes the iconography of horror (more Gothic than survival, but I digress).

    I think the scariest game I ever played (to the extent I wasn’t even able to finish it was) SCP: CONTAINMENT BREACH. The FIRST horror video game I ever played was DRACULA for the old Intellevision system back in the early 80’s…

  6. Alexandrine Ogundimu

    The only one of these I’ve played is F.E.A.R and it was a thrilling experience. The contrast between the intense shooting where you had all the power and the Alma sequences where your bullets did nothing really sold the horror for me. Being disempowered in a horror game is the best way I find to create that kind of tension.

    I opened this list expecting to see another game from the same developer called Condemned: Criminal Origins, which was a way more intense pure horror experience that I found super compelling in its treatment of forensics and police work. By the end it starts to devolve from buttoned down serial killer psychological horror into inexplicable magical realism which is a shift I haven’t seen any as well anywhere else. I’d highly recommend it if you liked F.E.A.R.

  7. T

    Hey Dennis. Oh, not at all, it’s a beautiful novel!

    I have literally zero experience with games – my mum had some strange ‘brain rot’ vendetta against them when we were growing up but even beyond that I’ve really got into them. Feel like it’s a massive and cool area of culture that is just passing me by. I bought a new laptop today to replace my old knackered one, and thinking I might be able to play some of the more recent versions of the above if I can get PC versions online.

    With regards to my immediate future, the long-awaited move to Paris is happening tomorrow! Which kinda dominated my weekend also. As expected I’m a little more stressed than excited about the travelling, but once I’ve managed to cart all my shit across the various trains to the new place, all will be well in the world… Wishing you a Tuesday that’s like a suitcase stuffed to the brim with some wonderful thing of your choosing, but is feather light all the same.

  8. politekid

    dear dc, happy halloween run up, and ahahaha! my favourite kind of list. i hope you don’t mind if i throw some of my favourites back at you?

    Viridian Room (2004) — https://archive.org/details/viridianroom_202012
    (Toshimitsu Takagi followed up his wildly successful Crimson Room with this, possibly the greatest subversion of the escape-the-room flash game genre ever made. Genuinely unsettling and as sparse as an Ozu film. A genuine masterpiece.)

    The Chzo Mythos: 5 Days a Stranger, 7 Days a Skeptic, Trilby’s Notes and 6 Days a Sacrifice (2003-7) — all available to download here: http://www.fullyramblomatic.com/donate.htm
    (Four homebrew LucasArts-style adventure games, which develop a surprisingly dense pseudo-Lovecraftian mythology. It gets a bit up its own arse by the last game, but it’s a lot of fun with some real scares. The guy who designed it, Yahtzee Croshaw, is a successful games journalist/humourist now.)

    Dark Seed (1992) — https://www.myabandonware.com/game/dark-seed-1dl
    (Another adventure game, based on H.R. Giger artwork. Giger demanded higher resolution graphics for his art, forcing the developers to reduce the colour palette to 16 colours. A beautiful looking game.)

    Dracula: The Resurrection (1999) — https://www.gog.com/game/dracula_trilogy
    (The plot continues after Stoker’s novel ends, as Jonathan Harker travels to Transylvannia to save Mina. Late 90s 3D graphics, Myst-esque immersive environments. Very campy, very fun.)

    The Typing of the Dead (2000) — https://www.myabandonware.com/game/the-typing-of-the-dead-bee
    (A version of the House of the Dead 2 arcade game designed to train you in touch-typing. Shoot zombies by correctly typing the words and phrases floating above them.)

    Blair Witch, Volume 1: Rustin Parr (2000) — https://www.myabandonware.com/game/blair-witch-volume-i-rustin-parr-c5k
    (Did you know there were _three_ Blair Witch games in the early 00s? They weren’t… fantastic. But some of the ideas & aesthetics are interesting, and I remember seeing this one for sale in a second hand shop when I was about 12; the box made it look terrifying. Great marketing department.)

    Finally, a couple of games in early development which I’m excited about:
    World of Horror — https://www.gog.com/game/world_of_horror
    (Heavily inspired by Junji Ito with an impossible-looking multi-window interface)
    Faith: The Unholy Trinity — https://store.steampowered.com/app/1179080/FAITH_The_Unholy_Trinity/
    (8-bit style game [but stunningly-designed 8-bit] about demonic possession. The first chapter was released in 2017 on itch.io — https://airdorf.itch.io/faith — and the third chapter is coming out soon.)

    i hope you’re well! i’m in the middle of a crunch period with a lot of work and editing, but i’ll come and hang out properly soon x

  9. Bill

    There’s some lovely artwork in these games. Rule of Rose looks great. And the little guy with the scissors in Clock Tower is creepy.

    Somehow I don’t see a lot of your slaves being into Folsom, haha. Neither are my friends, but there are things not involving leather men to do around here.

    I’m really enjoying the new Brian Evenson collection, probably his strongest one since the Windeye/Fugue State period. He also seems to be exploring some slightly different themes.

    Bill

  10. Lynne Tillman

    Dearest Dennis, So impressed by your blog, and how it encompasses so muc, and admire it, and love your support of writers. I’m ordering I WISHED with real happiness, can’t wait to read. Have been living in Hudson, NY, since lockdown started March 2020; the quiet helps, when it didn’t in the past. Maybe we could do a phone call, facetime or some such? Id love to hear your voice. Love from your lynne

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