Video games can often be an intense medium, somehow immersing us in a reality different to our own, titillating as many senses as possible. With this, it’s no surprise that a few games have managed to exploit this, completely turning our understanding of the game on its head and toying with the player. Although games have made us panic with fear or overwhelmed with emotion, the games in this list go above and beyond in how they manage to truly play with a gamer’s mind.
10. The Evil Within
On the spectrum of hopefully to disappointing, a lot of gamers out there will tell you The Evil Within was quite disappointing. Be that as it may, the major Bethesda title still managed to turn some heads for the better. Throughout the length of the in-game campaign, The Evil Within would throw all kinds of horrific scenarios at you that were both unsettling and, quite frankly, disturbing. Sebastian Shaw may be the main character in the game’s plot, but the player is the one feeling the full effects of the nightmare realm that Shaw inhabits. Yes, whether it be the mangled monstrosities from the beyond the vale of space and time or the scary dog from chapter 7, there’s a little horror in here for everyone.
~ Ethan Butterfield
Government funded projects in horror games have a nasty habit of being not such a hot idea in the long run. This is especially evident when you factor in creepy ghost children in the mix. One such terrifying supernatural entity is Alma from the F.E.A.R franchise. F.E.A.R is a series well-known for getting into the heads of players. Some may call the game underwhelming with its use of cheap jump scares and the like, but I think it does a wonderful job with it’s patiently executed style. You never knew when Alma is going to take you into a hallucination that starts making you question your very sanity.
~ Ethan Butterfield
8. Batman: Arkham Asylum
One of the most iconic elements of Batman: Arkham Asylum is the Scarecrow sections. This insane doctor provided the Caped Crusader with no shortage of psychological torment during his mission at Arkham, including revisiting the scene of his parents’ death. The highlight comes later in the game, where Scarecrow fakes a game crash and sends you back to a warped version of the opening cutscene. This moment not only scared the pants off of unsuspecting players, but it demonstrated why the Scarecrow is so effective at what he does. Up to this point, he’s only been screwing with Batman as a character. But now, he’s messing with you as a player, with fake game over screens and misleading advice (remember to use the middle stick to dodge Joker’s attack!). Scarecrow provides the player with a shocking wake-up call, and does it in fine style as well.
~ Daniel Hein
7. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
The Metal Gear series is notorious for breaking traditional gaming conventions to deliver a jolt to gamer’s heads. Nowhere is that more prevalous than in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. This game is infamous for screwing with the players even more so than the first Solid did. For the first 75% of the game, things seem relatively okay, even with a complex and detailed plot. But the last quarter of the game takes a deep, confusing turn when Raiden is stripped (literally) of his stuff and his commanding officer starts spewing nonsense at him and referencing previous games. Even as Raiden continued on through the final sections, the game throws everything it can to mess with the player (for example, the “Fission Mailed” fake game over screen). It’s a wild and bizarre ride for sure, but It’s one that definitely left it’s mark on gamers everywhere.
~ Daniel Hein
6. Condemned: Criminal Origins
There are a plethora of factors in games we take for granted, especially in the horror genre. Despite knowing when to expect a jump scare or creepy scenario, there is typically an idea of understanding what to be scared of. Condemned does things differently, employing a series of sensory distortions that really require the player question what is happening. Shadows will move, people will appear and creepy mannequins will come to life. The gloomy aesthetic and depressing undertones make Condemned a rather dark experience, but forcing the player into not trusting the game adds to another layer of fear.