Some say the horror genre is dying. As more games try to appeal to the widest possible market, the number of truly terrifying games has dwindled. Apparently, not everyone enjoys the anxiety that comes from playing games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, where you're always afraid to open a door out of a fear of what's lurking behind it. I grew up playing horror games and, over the years, have watched the genre evolve. Every franchise changes—sometimes it's a good change, and other times it's not so good. Here are the ten games that were memorable because they either breathed new life into a series or came close to killing it off entirely.
Resident Evil 2
I came so close to giving this spot to my personal favorite game in the series, Resident Evil 4, because never before has a sequel come along to completely rebuild a series from the ground up—a series that was still critically acclaimed, too—in such a successful way. Even so, I still have to give this to Resident Evil 2. With RE6 out now, I've found myself feeling more and more nostalgic for the good old days, when the puzzles were satisfying, the horror was palpable, and even the cheesy dialogue was enjoyable. Of the "old school" Resident Evil games, RE2 is arguably the best, and for that, it deserves a spot on this list.
System Shock 2
I played the crap out of System Shock, even though I didn't play it until after I had beaten its sequel about a half dozen times. The first game was incredible, but its sequel—which includes a plot twist I'll never forget and an evolution of a villain (or villainess?) that is the rogue A.I. SHODAN—holds a very special place in my heart. I can only hope the series gets new life, and not just through obvious inspirations (GLaDOS) or "spiritual successors" (BioShock).
Dead Space 2
Dead Space blew my mind back in 2008. The Necromorphs were thrilling, and "strategic dismemberment" has since become a term I've tried to inject into every possible conversation. "Have any plans for this weekend?" someone might ask, to which I'll reply, "Oh, you know, I might see a movie, get some writing done, possibly sneak in a little strategic dismemberment if I have time." I usually pride myself for my ability to pick a game apart, especially if it's a horror title, but at the time, Dead Space was the perfect horror game.
Then Dead Space 2 had to come along and blow my mind yet again. It brought with it a beautiful blend of action and horror that, I'll admit, had me worried at first. I was worried one of my new favorite series has changed into something less recognizable—something… Resident Evil 5 in flavor. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. Dead Space 2 had it all: the storytelling was significantly better than the first game, the visuals were stunning, the sound design was pure aural pleasure, and the strategic dismemberment felt even more satisfying.
Siren: Blood Curse
When I first heard that several key members of Team Silent—the team behind the original Silent Hill games—was working on a brand new survival horror game, I'll admit I might have gotten a little excited. Then Siren came out, and while it was definitely flawed in that clunky and somewhat-uncomfortable-to-play "survival horror" way, I still loved it. Then Blood Curse came out and, despite being a "reimagining," it felt like an entirely new game. It looked and played better, and the entire experience was streamlined so as to make it more intuitive. It worked, and I was hooked. Hopefully, there's still someone in the gaming industry brave enough to keep this series going, because it's absolutely terrifying.
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
There's a lot to love about the Fatal Frame series, but its best feature, to me, is your weapon, the Camera Obscura. It's a brilliant mechanic that set this series apart from the rest when the original Fatal Frame released way back in 2001. When Crimson Butterfly released two short years later, I had no idea how much better the series was going to get. Fatal Frame II is still one of my favorite horror games, because it's one of the few that mixes a haunting story (literally) with such beauty. It's a truly mesmerizing game.