Horror movies and games are in rotation in my house year round, but for many people the month of October is THE horror month and they try to cram as much horror into their lives as they can. If you're an Xbox 360 owner, getting your horror fill is surprisingly easy, particularly if you use the many video apps available, but for this article we're just going to focus on games.
What Is Horror?
For the purposes of this feature, "horror" doesn't have to mean "scary". Truth is, there are very few actual scary videogames, particularly on Xbox 360, because they typically are either fairly repetitive and predictable past the first hour or so, or your character is rarely in any actual danger. Instead, we'll just focus on horror themes - shock, fear, violence, gore - or creatures - zombies, monsters, demons, etc -, of which there are plenty of games to choose from.
Dead Space is one of the scariest games out there - for the first hour until you realize the pattern the game follows so you know where and when to expect enemies. But for that first hour? Man! So good. Dead Space 2's
horror status suffered a bit due to this, but also because the monsters just weren't scary anymore after you already killed a few thousand of them.
The original Gears of War is actually crazy scary the first time you play through it. The enemies are horrifying. There is lots of gore. And the game seems like it was built with a survival horror mindset. The two sequels veered more into general action game territory rather than horror, but the original Gears offers some really great tense moments that are worth experiencing if you haven't already.
EA / Valve
Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 would earn a spot on this list almost purely for horror themes - lots and lots of zombies - but in between the frantic moments of fighting off hordes of the undead, the L4D games offer some really intense and frightening quiet moments as well. Reading messages from other survivors and trying figure out how your group will survive is cerebral and awesome and horrifying in a "28 Days Later"
kind of way. Or when you're walking through a quiet area and can hear a witch wailing in the distance, but you can't see her yet, is incredibly tense because you know one wrong move could very well get you all killed. Good times.
The first few hours of Fallout 3 or Fallout New Vegas are very intense and frightening. Basically everything out in the wasteland can easily kill you. Yeah, you do level up and get overpowered pretty quickly, but encountering a giant radscorpion or yaoguai or deathclaw when you aren't prepared for it early on can really ruin your day. New Vegas ups the ante quite a bit by making the enemies (especially deathclaws, giant radscorpions, and cazadores) an actual real threat to easily kill you even if you're powered up. When you have a deathclaw pop up in the distance on VATS in New Vegas, you run the other goddang way.
Minecraft? Heck yes, Minecraft. Sure, all you hear from people that play it are stories about digging holes or building awesome stuff, but that is all happening during the daytime. At night the blocky hillsides become home to spiders, zombies, skeletons, and Creepers and if you aren't either equipped for a long fight or willing to just hunker down and hide, the monsters can and will kill you really easily. Your first few nights in Minecraft are scary as Hell!
The Dead Rising series is all about zombies and killing them in the craziest "Braindead"-inspired ways possible. Dead Rising 2
and DR2: Off the Record
are a little more straightforward and on the nose and not really scary. The original Dead Rising, however, offered some genuine horror in the form of a number of psychotic survivors who all snapped and are essentially using the zombie apocalypse as an excuse to kill as many living people as they can along with the walking dead. The psycho encounters in DR1 are easily the best parts of the whole series.
Doom 3 (the OG Xbox version is backward compatible on X360, but it is also getting an HD remaster in the form of Doom 3: BFG Edition
) took the already scary basic concepts of the Doom series and wrapped them in a fantastic (and dark) new survival horror driven wrapper (in the dark). Creepy voices echoing down hallways. Scary notes everywhere to help you piece the story together. Lots of blood and gore. Monsters pouring out of every dark corner. Doom 3 is pretty darn awesome and scary.
Resident Evil kissed its survival horror days goodbye long ago, but even with a more action-oriented approach these games still offer some incredibly tense and fun moments. The opening village scene in Resident Evil 4 is one of the most intense sections of any game released in the last ten years, for example, and RE5 is actually full is similar moments. Resident Evil 6
stumbles a bit overall, but even it has its moments of genuine tension that have you dreading what is coming around the next corner. You can play RE: Code Veronica, RE4, RE5, and RE6 all on Xbox 360.
Dark Souls is a perfect example of a game that isn't scary in a traditional horror way, but is super intense and you dread what the next enemy encounter might bring. Horror is all about building tension and Dark Souls is a game that maintains an ultra high level of tension the entire time you play it. When you first start playing, it is honestly exhausting. But in a totally good, totally satisfying way.
Your first trip through Alan Wake is one of the most genuinely frightening experience on Xbox 360. The game makes effective use of psychological horror better than just about any other game on the system rather than using jump scares like most games do. It is very creepy and scary. At least, for the first time you play through it, that is. Repeat playthroughs aren't scary since you know what to expect, but if you haven't played it yet, or it has been a while, Alan Wake is nice and frightening.
The Condemned series has been long forgotten since we haven't seen a new game in long time, but these two titles are still among the best real horror games on the Xbox 360. A store full of creepy mannequins in the first game and running from a bear in the sequel are two of the most memorable scary moments of this entire generation and are but two small sections in two games with even more horror to offer.
Other Xbox 360 Horror Titles
We tried to pick the best and scariest horror-themed titles on Xbox 360 for this list, but there are lots of others as well. The first BioShock
is very creepy. The original F.E.A.R.
game is still very scary and effective (more than the sequels though FEAR 2 definitely has its moments). There are three Silent Hill games available on Xbox 360, Homecoming, HD Collection, and Downpour, which are all decently scary, but not particularly polished or fun to actually play.