#5 Resident Evil
I played the reboot of this on Nintendo Game Cube. The graphics were outstanding (back then), but the plot and the acting were terrible. Why was RE so great then? This sounds funny, but this game achieved greatness for its awkward gameplay. What can be more frightening than a biological creature endowed with supernatural power coming after a soldier who hardly makes a 180 degree turn in ten minutes? The beasties came at you and the lagging, frustrating controls made it that much more intense. Some critics have found fault with it (and in subsequent games, RE 4, there is an over-the-shoulder POV change that makes targeting enemies easier), but I think this was a brilliant choice. There were already games out there with characters doing flips and responding in a blink. RE’s clumsiness was intentional. You have to survive with what you are given: very little health regeneration, scattered save points, formidable enemies, and the reaction time of a freshly sedated grizzly bear carrying an amorous silverback gorilla on its back.
#4 Silent Hill 2
Although I loved the fourth Silent Hill (The Room), I really have to say I fell in love with this game in the second installment. Pyramid Head and legions of creepy nurses with twisted faces and disjointed arms and legs brought an element of Japanese horror into the gaming world and I loved every freaked-out minute of the elusive story.
#3 Bio Shock
The city of Rapture is like no other place you’ll ever visit. This could have been a straight up water-based science fiction vehicle, but instead was set in the past, in an almost a steam-punk inspired underwater city, recently annihilated by its devious genetic technology and strange socioeconomic theories held by its master and creator. The Big Daddy and Little Sisters remain iconic and although they weren’t exactly as scary as the genetic freaks known as the Splicers, you knew in order to get ahead in the game, you had to address the fearsome Daddies and deal with the spine-chilling Sisters, and that was daunting in such a watery hell as Rapture.
#2 Alan Wake
A much more recent game, but one that captivated and WAY spooked me out. Alan Wake is set up like a very intense, confusing, yet captivating television show. Its strength isn’t really in gameplay, but more in story. At any given moment there are questions darting in and out of answers and just when you think you have a firm hold on what is really happening to Alan, the rug is pulled out from under you. It’s like a more engaging and grounded David Lynch manifestation. Its conclusion is very unsettling to say the least. I want a sequel. Now.
# 1 Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Oh my beloved Lovecraftian darling! Why oh why weren’t you a bigger hit? You had a Skeletoresque villain who filled a tower full of dead bodies, top to bottom! That should have counted for something! Back on the Game Cube, Eternal Darkness was a video game experience like none I’ve ever had before. It was gory, scary, intriguing and constantly evolved throughout the game until the end. You had a sanity meter that once it ran out, things would go wrong with your game (or seem to). The walls would melt, you would shrink, or the game would freeze and an error would come up saying all your saved data had been erased. Sadistic right? The plot centered in an old house and followed the lives of multiple figures throughout historical eras. Each character had different weapons (per their era) and different good and bad attributes. They could all build and cast spells they learned—as well you could take different runes and create your own versions of spells too. When you cast a spell these demons would chant in the ambience. I remember their gravelly tone like yesterday. Paraphrasing: Kokorusan-Chartuuga!
Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s newest novel, DUNGEON BRAIN, is available now.