As a writer myself, I hold a special place in my gaming heart for Alan Wake's titular protagonist. Unlike Alan, though, whatever I write doesn't come back to haunt my very existence. Like most good horror game leads, Alan is relatable above all else; he's neither physically demeaning nor a prodigy of any sort, he's just an ordinary-seeming guy (bestselling books notwithstanding) facing an extraordinary problem. Also, for what it's worth, I can tell you that nothing is more horrifying to a writer than the idea of a long-term case of writer's block. Yikes.
The Left 4 Dead titles are technically more like shooters than true horror games, but anyone who has ever played one can describe the pure dread that arises whenever the Witch is nearby. She may not appear like much of a fight at first, but startle her in even the slightest and the Witch goes into a blind rage, unveiling her enormous claws and attacking nonstop until any and all survivors are zombie food. Move silently and you'll be fine, but good luck if you decide to disrupt her personal space. Hell hath no fury like an angry, mutated teenage girl.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent seemed to come out of nowhere back in 2010, but the unending onslaught of terrible, disgusting, and horrid things it throws at the player soon made it a classic amongst horror game fans. A big part of that success came from the Gatherers, the game's primary villains. Servants of the antagonist Alexander of Brennenburg, these deformed humanoids come in two types: Servant Grunts and Brutes. The latter are the tougher foes to get past, but it's the former who may leave the most lasting mark in any player's mind. Their horribly disfigured eyes and jaws are just plain creepy looking, and will make adventurer think twice about skipping out on that next dentist's appointment.
The cult favorite System Shock games, particularly System Shock 2, are now considered a hallmark of psychological video game horror, a fact largely made true on the strength of their rouge A.I. villain, SHODAN. Short for Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network, SHODAN is scary because of how heartless, literally, it is. An A.I. with a god complex is bad enough, but the fact that SHODAN is powerful and omnipotent enough to back up its evil intentions is horrifying. It doesn't matter where you go or what you do, SHODAN will always be watching.
No list of iconic horror game characters would be complete without Silent Hill's uniquely horrifying monster man. Points go to Silent Hill 2 designer Masahiro Ito for creating a character that really doesn't look like any other creature before it. The pale skin, bloody apron, massive knife, and, of course, pyramid head make Pyramid Head a frightening sight to see, to say the least. The fact that he's really just a mental manifestation of protagonist James Sunderland's inner grief adds a psychological dimension not found in most other horror game villains. As such, he literally can't be killed. That's freaky.
Date: October 25, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*