Tag Archives: horror games

When I Was A Kid, Spider-Man On Genesis Was The Scariest Shit

Like a lot of people around this time of year, I spend a lot of October thinking about being frightened. This is pretty new for me. I was a nervous, fearful kid who grew up as a teen in a religious home, so I spent my entire youth avoiding horror either by choice or by compulsion. As an adult, I’ve started to delve into horror, to wrestle with its ideas and the fears of my younger self—watching movies and playing games both new and old, reflecting on what scared me then and what scares me now.

One of the first games to scare me wasn’t even a horror game at all. It was Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin, a 1991 Sega Genesis game that had Spider-Man, framed for planting a bomb in New York City, on a mission to hunt down some of his most famous villains in order to get the keys necessary to disarm the bomb.


Unlike a lot of superhero games of the ‘90s, Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin wasn’t a loud beat-em-up or a colorful platformer—it was moody, and dedicated to being as faithful an adaptation as a 16-bit video game could be. Character models were remarkably detailed, and illustrated stills that were shown between levels strove for comic book fidelity. It’s soundtrack was spare and brooding, and its animations had real weight.

I loved the game, because I loved Spider-Man. But I could never get past the second level, down in the sewers, because I was terrified of the Lizard, and always shut the console off when he appeared.

Looking back, the Lizard isn’t that fearsome-looking—the character model for Doctor Octopus is far more imposing—but it worked. I quit every time. I would quit even faster when I tried to play the game on Nightmare difficulty. That added Venom to the first stage, which scared me even more.


It’s funny that I kept trying to play this game when there were only about 15 minutes tops I could spend actually enjoying it. I suppose I wanted to try, if only for a little bit, to be as brave as I thought I had to be in order to be a hero, hoping maybe one day that I would wake up and somehow discover that courage grew in me overnight.

I don’t frighten like I used to, but that chill I felt when I pushed myself to take on something I knew would scare me, the chill that I always succumbed to because I wasn’t as brave as I wanted to be? I’m always afraid it’ll come back.

Source: Kotaku.com

15 Years Later, I Was Finally Brave Enough To Finish Doom 3

After the recent surprise release of Doom 3 on PS4, Xbox One, and Switch I felt I needed to finally accomplish something I had been putting off for too long. It was time to load up Doom 3, start a new game and finish this thing. I tried before when I was much younger and fear stopped me dead in my tracks. Now I was older, braver and ready to kill all the demons and get this monkey off my back.

But first, let me take you back nearly 15 years ago when a young Zack discovered news of Doom 3 coming to Xbox. I had enjoyed playing the original games on my PC and was excited to play another Doom and this time, I would get to do it on my Xbox. That sounded great to me! Not long after this, I received issue 44 of the Official Xbox Magazine and it had a demo on it of Doom 3. The disc had a few different demos, including one for the now-forgotten Darkwatch. But the one I was most excited about was a small demo of Doom 3. At this point, May 2005, Doom 3 had been out on PC for about a year. But I didn’t have a computer that could run and so this was my first taste of Doom 3. I was ready, or so I thought.

Back in 2005, it wasn’t easy to just watch gameplay footage of a game. Especially if, like me, you had dial-up internet still. So I went into Doom 3 basically knowing very little about it beyond the trailer on the demo disc, which looked a little scary.

The demo was terrifying.

The way the game built up the dread and atmosphere was very effective, especially if you were 13 years old and alone in a dark room in the middle of the night. I remember feeling more and more paranoid as I played. Something was watching me. I always felt that sense of something hunting me. Eventually my panic and fear grew too large and I turned the lights on and quit the demo. I came back later and ended up finishing the demo, but I was scared. What would the full game be like?

The answer was: Even worse!

Playing through Doom 3 was hard for me. It scared me enough that after 30 mins or an hour I would end up having to take a break. Walk away from it. Play something else or go outside or watch a movie. Anything to escape Doom 3.

The darkness really scared me. In the original Doom 3, you could only use your flashlight by lowering your weapon. So to see in the dark areas of the game, you would have to go in defenseless. If something did pop up you would then have to drop your flashlight and fire blindly into the inky darkness, hoping whatever you were shooting would die before it got to you. This rhythm of combat caused me to get more and more anxious and afraid as I played, which is why I needed frequent breaks.

Eventually, I made enough progress that I reached Hell. Then I found myself surrounded by screams and yelling, fire and brimstone and deadly demons. Oh, and at this point in the game, Doom 3 takes away your weapons and only gives you some of them back over time with limited ammo. 13-year-old Zack had enough. After pushing through to this point, losing my guns and being surrounded by pain and suffering was too much. I shut Doom 3 off and never returned.

As the years went by, I would think about playing it again but never really did. When the BFG Edition was released in 2012 I messed around a bit with it via Gamefly, but too many other games distracted me from playing it more. Honestly, my brain was also holding me back. Some part of my mind still remembered the pain and trauma the game caused and was keeping me away from it.

So with the announcement of new ports and after years of not playing Doom 3 or finishing it, I was ready to beat this damn game. I bought the new release of Doom 3 for PS4, loaded it up and began. 15 years later, now equipped with the BFG Edition’s flashlight mod, I found Doom 3 fun to come back to and not as terrifying as before. When I reached Hell again last week, this time as an adult, I found myself getting nervous. A weird residual fear of the last time I was in Hell in Doom 3, that my brain couldn’t shake. But ultimately, it wasn’t as bad as my younger self made it out to be.

A few days ago I finally beat Doom 3. (That last boss fight wasn’t hard and also was really mediocre!) I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I now feel inspired. Maybe I’ll go back and beat Silent Hill 1? That game also scared me too much the first time I played it. Or I might go back and finish up some other scary game from my teenage and childhood years.

Besides, these days I’m more afraid of the real world and the assholes in it than some demons or weird monsters.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Glass Staircase Gets Why Retro Horror Games Worked

Here’s the first ten minutes or so!

The Glass Staircase, released last week for PC and Mac, tries to capture the feeling of classic horror games like Clock Tower and Silent Hill. When I saw my coworker Luke Plunkett post the trailer on Kotaku, I was intrigued. My early time with The Glass Staircase has been tense, revealing a moody game that silently waits until you’ve finally relaxed before killing you.

Capturing the essence of fixed-camera horror games can be tricky. It’s not simply about having tank controls or adding a little bit of fog to your game. The Glass Staircase has those things, but it also understands the value of a good slow burn. You play as a group of children inside an run-down manor. One by one, you are made to explore and perform simple tasks: Grab this package that was delivered, light all the candles in the house.

But something’s wrong. A dark force lingers just out of sight, and when you least expect it, tragedy arrives. In my first hour or so with The Glass Staircase, two of my playable characters seem to have died, and I’m sure that more deaths are to come. It results in a sort of Groundhog’s Day loop. Each new day starts calm before slowly shifting to something more sinister. That cyclical structure might allow me to get to know the manor grounds better but it can’t prepare me for bloody monsters.

What I appreciate about The Glass Staircase most at the moment is how it uses space. One of the things I love about games like Resident Evil is how the fixed camera perspective is used to create a sense of alienation and dread. You don’t really know what’s down the hall or around the corner because you can’t see it. Games that shift perspectives, like the recent Resident Evil 2 remake, have their own tricks for keeping things tense—enemies that stalk you, gory combat—but they miss out on this particular brand of unease.

For instance, one early part of The Glass Staircase involves a hedge maze. The camera makes it all the more easy to get lost, which is uncomfortable and even a bit frustrating. It also means that the maze can shift off-camera, or add a terrifying monster right out of frame. It’s smart, using the limitations of early horror to create a memorable set piece.

I’ve not progressed far enough to get to the gorier bits teased in the trailer. I haven’t picked up a gun and shot a shambling husk-creature yet. But The Glass Staircase has proven a solid student of the slow burn. Whatever explosive confrontations await, there’s been plenty of silent wanderings to go with it. That’s some solid horror game design, sure to please anyone eager for a fresh scare.

Source: Kotaku.com

The Difference Between Horror Movies And Horror Games

Kotaku Game DiaryDaily thoughts from a Kotaku staffer about a game we’re playing.  

I hate horror movies. I hate having to sit and watch as helpless people walk headlong into traps or hide fruitlessly from killers. I hate the moments of quiet leading up to the next jump scare. But I love horror games. I review them enthusiastically. So much of the distinction comes down to doors and corners, and choosing for myself when to push through to the other side.

In horror movies, I have to watch an otherwise smart character do something stupid. There’s a monster is on the other side of a door. I know it is right there, and I know the character should just turn around and run. But they creep closer to the door anyway, until it bursts open and they are pulled screaming into the darkness.

In the horror games I like, doors and corners are bold and important lessons in player empowerment. I decide when to go past them. Our ability as players to choose when we confront danger radically alters the nature of horror in games when compared to other media.

I think about this when playing great horror games like The Evil Within 2. It was also on my mind as I played the recent Resident Evil 2 remake. While some of Resident Evil 2’s thrill rests in being backed into a corner and overwhelmed by foes, another equally intoxicating aspect involves the moments when you decide to press forward. There had been times when I knew a licker was in the hallways and I made the choice to enter and run through, not stopping to fight. My successful rush from one doorway to the next was made all the more exciting for the moment when I worked up the courage to take the first step. While playing as Claire, I once had to rush from one side of the Raccoon City Police Department to the next. I ran to grab a key item and never slowed down. If a zombie was in my way, I shot their knees or head and pushed by. I evaded the dastardly enhanced enemy Mr. X by baiting him to punch at me and then ran around him. That fearless rush started in a safe room and began when I looked at the door and decided “Okay, let’s do this.”

Horror games don’t always give you control. I wouldn’t want them to. Resident Evil 2 disempowers players in an exciting way when taking these decision-making moments away from you. One reason Mr. X is scary is because he often robs the player from having these moments of deliberate action. In my review I mentioned a moment when I had been waiting behind a door and hoped he would leave the room I needed to enter. Instead, he burst into the room I was in, which had been a safe space up until that point. Whereas interactivity had previously assured me that I could engage with the world and its threats when I was prepared, Resident Evil 2 took that away from me and created its scariest moment. The idea that this massive Tyrant could enter any space or burst through a wall radically altered my relationship with the game. And while I sometimes found that Resident Evil 2’s revamped controls empowered me enough to deal with him, there no denying that Mr. X’s fundamental refusal to allow me to wait and open the door when I was ready helped create genuine horror.

I think about Resident Evil 2’s various doors and how often I was able to decide when it was time to take a breath and cross the threshold. I think about how its camera changes ensured I had eyes on the threats before me. In those moments, I see the ways in which I find video games less terrifying than movies or books. But when Resident Evil 2 removes choice and control, I also see the ways in which it pushes horror forward. Movies are straightforward. We are observers who lack power and control. Games empower us. Most of the time, they give us the guns and let us open the doors. It changes the horror experience, often into something more manageable. But games scare me most when, like movies, they open the door before I am ready.

Source: Kotaku.com