5. Bioshock- Dr. Steinman
BioShock in itself is a pretty tense game; a madman puts himself in charge of his underwater dystopia known as Rapture and all those within are either already dead or maniac ADAM addicts. And you’re stuck inside. Luckily you have plenty of weapons and ADAM-enhanced powers to defeat both addicts and big daddies alike. Though sometimes weapons aren’t enough to calm you down from the terror on the other side. Dr. Steinman, a plastic surgeon gone rogue, is completely obsessed with the idea of beauty. Which is only made more apparent the further you travel into his lair. Dr. Steinman may be killable, but that doesn’t make his encounter less terrifying. When first entering the surgery room you’re greeted by a bloody message written by the doctor himself, “Above All Do No Harm.” A little paradoxical, but that’s BioShock for you. More bloody messages about beauty can be found on the way to the doctor, along with an increasingly insane self-rant. The final area where you can actually fight Dr. Steinman may be the most disturbing part of BioShock. You find him bent over the still-living body of a woman trying to “make her beautiful.’ He grows frustrated that they always come out wrong, ranting to himself that “that one, too fat! This one, too tall! This one, too symmetrical!” But strung up on the walls, as if on crucifixes, are the people he deemed unworthy. A chilling scene before he sees you, calls you ugly, and then tries to murder you. Thankfully, Rapture is full of weapons, otherwise you’d be next on that wall.
4. Emily Wants To Play
What’s so terrifying about your run-of-the-mill house? Probably nothing. With cloud blue walls, moving boxes, and welcoming furniture throughout the house, Emily Wants to Play presents a nice home. As a pizza delivery boy on his final stop of the night, Emily’s house quickly turns from eerily silent to frighteningly murderous. Everything about Emily’s house sets up a horrific atmosphere – from the front door slamming shut and locking behind you, to the flickering lights and broken glass, to the odd and creepy dolls scattered throughout, and ending with the simple words: “Let’s play at midnight ” scrawled on the whiteboard in the kitchen (not to mention the assorted sound bites and scraps of paper strewn about), Emily Wants to Play is enhanced by its intense horror and non-stop abuse. This is one game that pushed me to my limits, and it was in great part due to its nerve wracking atmosphere.
3. Outlast- Insane Asylum
What’s worse than walking through an abandoned asylum at night? An actually-not-abandoned asylum at night. Outlast lures your character, Miles, into the depths of an insane asylum for the chance to break an investigative story on the unethical experiments performed on its patients. When finally arriving there, you encounter a dying officer who explains that the disturbed patients of the asylum have escaped and are slaughtering all the staff within. Who wouldn’t want to continue into that grisly scene?! The patients in the asylum are dangerous and you’re completely unarmed, which lends a more terrifying atmosphere. It’s easier to be less scared when you have a shotgun strapped to you. Your only defense in Outlast is to hide and pray that these monsters don’t find you hidden in the shadows. The lack of weapons and the thought of how unprepared Miles is to deal with the asylum makes you feel like anything can jump out and grab you, the player, and suck you into depths unknown. You quickly find out what’s happening in the asylum, though; a malevolent entity created from the torturous experiments patients endured is killing everyone inside. And you somehow to have to escape an otherworldly creature. Outlast is definitely capable of making you sleep with the lights on, but it’s the end that really leaves you with an uneasy feeling.
2. Amnesia: The Dark Descent- The Mansion
There are few horror titles that are as effective and downright terrifying as Amnesia: The Dark Descent. A first-person puzzle game at its core, the game’s presentation and atmosphere are as good, if not better, than some big name Hollywood horror films. While the monsters and lack of combat options make the game incredibly tense, it’s the mansion in which you play that creates most of the unease. Your lantern’s dim light reflects softly off the old stone and wood, casting shadows here and there that are always feeding into your paranoia. Each area is so uniquely twisted and ominous that progressing on to the next part of the mansion always seems like the most daunting task in the world, but deep down in your heart, you know the only way out is go further into the unknown. Be sure to ration that lantern oil.