The 31 Horror Games of October: Part 1

Horror may be gaming’s most effective genre.

While you can put a book down, or tell yourself its just a movie, there is an element of participation involved in games that makes the scary ones that much worse. Even if it is in the virtual sense, you are the one in the game, and the horrors are happening to you.It may have taken a while for developers to truly catch on to the potential of the genre, but ever since there has been a tidal wave of terror that has left many a gamer fumbling their controllers in a cold sweat.

As October rolls around then, and Halloween dawns on us, it is time to celebrate the greatest horror games of all time. I’ve got a list of 31 total, starting here, one for each day of the month. They are loosely ranked, with the main factor being the overall experience.

Although, being absolutely terrifying also doesn’t hurt its standings.

31. Deadly Premonition – Awful graphics, controls, gameplay ideas, acting, and just about every other technical malady you can think of plague this game. But, just like horror movies, not everything has to be perfect for a title to be memorable. There is just something so compelling in the way that “Deadly Premonition” handles itself, as it clumsily (but oddly beautifully) blends horror and black comedy in an open world environment. The game’s story is completely out there, and sucks you in just to see what’s next. It’s almost like the developers intended to make a bad game, but accidentally ended up with something greater than the sum of its parts (much like many a great B-Movie). You’ll either love this game or despise it, but it is impossible to forget, and makes for something every gamer must try even if you hate yourself for doing so.

30. Nocturne – In what will be something of a reoccurring theme on this list, “Nocturne” is brimming with flaws. Sporting one of the worst  cameras ever in a video game, and some equally bad controls to match, “Nocturne” is slightly unplayable these days. But if you gut your way through it you will find some of the best horror environments of all time. Carried by the games great story, “Nocturne” comes off like a mix of the “X-Files” and the old Hammer horror films of the 50s. A technical disaster that did so much else right, this is one game that is begging to be revisited.

29. Dino Crisis 2 – The first “Dino Crisis” looked and felt a lot like “Resident Evil” with dinosaurs. It was fun, and had moments of genuine creativity, but the series peaked with “Dino Crisis 2.” The survival concept of the first game went almost completely out of the window, and in its place came pure action bliss, as “Dino Crisis 2” became one of the few, and greatest, arcade style horror games of all time. The variety of weapons, enemies, and levels turns the game into one new fist pumping moment after another throughout the, all too brief, runtime. It may not be scary enough to go higher on my list, but it’s fun enough to still warrant playing through to this day, which is not something you can say for a lot of similar games from that era

28. Siren– The Japanese have a good mind for horror, and “Siren” is definitely a pure Japanese horror game. While the game more than liberally borrows from “Silent Hill” in many aspects (especially the story) the look and feel of the game carry an appropriate level of dread. Bonus points are applied for the great “Sightjack” feature that allows you to take over the view of an enemy in order to best avoid them, which is necessary as they can’t be killed in the strict sense. At the end of the day, “Siren” is undeniably a clone of many superior works, but the things it copies are so rarely copied in video games that it still feels fresh.

27. Alone in the Dark – In general, video games do not share the same luxury of fine wines, and tend to age horribly. Long cited as the first survival horror game in the pure sense, “Alone in the Dark” isn’t necessarily unplayable, but its dated gameplay and graphics take much of the original impact away. More than just a textbook video game entry however, there is still a lot of great design decisions to be found in “Alone in the Dark’s” carefully constructed house of scares. Much like an old black and white horror flick, what this game has lost in fright, it makes up for with an odd charm and timeless sense of style. It’s impossible to call yourself a horror fan and not give the original “Alone in the Dark” a go.

26.  Rule of Rose – If famed horror director Dario Argento made a horror game, it may look like ‘Rule of Rose.” One of gaming’s few entrants in the psychological horror genre, “Rule of Rose” is a disturbing romp through an abandoned orphanage that features an almost incomprehensible plot that actually makes the entire experience better for the dreamy effect it creates. I’ve rarely played a game that felt so unnerving, and makes you feel as unwelcome. Unfortunately this is another case of bad design ruining the overall game, as “Rule of Rose” puts its full effort into story and style and leaves players to suffer through a general gameplay hell that will make all but the most patient give up in disgust. It still remains too unique to be anything less than noteworthy, though.

25. Slender: The Eight Pages – I almost feel bad putting such a new and simple title above something like “Alone  in the Dark.” However, “Slender” truly is horror design at its most pure. Featuring one enemy, and no combat system, the only thing you can really do in “Slender” is walk and collect the eight pages that are scattered about. But every turn could make you face to face with the Slender Man himself, which could spell your doom, and ensures you will be jumping constantly while playing. Uncompromisingly terrifying, this is minimalist game design at its very best, and with any luck will start a new trend of horror games not trying to rely entirely on action gameplay as a backbone.

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Reducing global ult range doesn’t solve the design problem


Among the big changes slated for upcoming League of Legends patches is a rework to the global ults in the game, most notably the ones that that teleport the player to a new location. Riot has said in several places (none of which I can seem to find, though this quote from Phreak serves as an indicator of the design decision) that they want to limit the range of what are now global ults so that they work more like Nocturne’s Paranoia. The problem, of course, is that this doesn’t solve the problem with global ults.

Globals suck because they allow players to effectively be in two places at once. As Phreak mentions in the quote linked above, TF and Shen can go push bot during a mid stalemate, all the while planning to port mid when needed. They present all the defense necessary for mid lane while still being able to push bottom. This scenario isn’t completely fixed by limiting the range of those ultimates, but teamfights aren’t the only thing affected by semi-global ults.

When players can gank in a 3500 unit radius around them, they don’t have to play with any kind of foresight or worry about positioning. They can linger longer in the jungle. They can finish that dragon before defending a tower. They can spring out of the jungle from beyond ward range for the gank. In short, it encourages lazy play from less skilled players and offers masters of the game an easily exploited advantage. It’s also just not a lot of fun to play against.

Personally, I’d love to see the global ults removed. They’re too strong for skilled players and don’t provide the learning hurdle for map positioning that new players need.


Champ of the Week: Nocturne Wrap Up


Once again, I spent much of my Champ of the Week playtime early in the week, knocking out quite a few Nocturne games with very poor results. One of the problems with strong, popular champions, at least as it pertains to this feature, is that I can rarely get them in ranked. These champions will be banned often, which means reverting to normal games for testing. That’s not all bad, but if I can say one thing for ranked it’s that teams attempt to put together a decent comp at least 50 percent of the time. I can’t say the same for normal, which is why my early Nocturne games ended so poorly. Nocturne is definitely not the kind of champion that can just flat out carry anything. The bruisers are still too strong when played en masse, especially if Nocturne’s teammates are all as squishy as he is.

That said, it still happened. I still had a couple games with solid team composition and in those games I was dominant. I was particularly thrilled to have a game last night in which I was paired up with a Twisted Fate. Our combined ganking power was just too much for our opponents. Nocturne’s ult is a big part of what makes him strong. He doesn’t have to worry about positioning for teamfights. All he has to do is get within the general vicinity of a fight before ulting onto anyone in vision. I would often wait until fights were virtually over before heading in, making sure the enemy team had burned summoner spells and ultimates and cutting up low-hp targets.

That’s really where Nocturne excels; he absolutely trashes low health, low armor targets. He is slated to catch some nerfs tomorrow, but he will retain the damage steroid on Duskbringer, despite the nuke nerf. I’m not sure I need to say much more about the champion than what I’ve said in other posts – his kit is just too overwhelming for most champions to handle.

As for the one thing I would change, I think it would be his ultimate. It just needs to be changed, completely. The rest of his kit is strong enough on its own – he doesn’t need a global vision reduction along with a huge radius dash for positioning. Give him a weakness. Make the people playing him actually think about their positioning.


Champ of the Week: Nocturne

Frozen Nocturne.

I realize it’s Wednesday, so this seems a little late, but I’ve been playing Nocturne a fair bit this week. Also, our discussion last week fueled me to make him this week’s Champ of the Week. To be fair the wraithy wonder, I haven’t spent many consecutive games with him. Unfortunately for the world that thinks Nocturne is balanced, that’s usually how I get proficient at champs, and I already feel like I can control games with him.

My basic design concerns are his rapid scaling, his ability to affect teamfights on a global scale (that ult is nasty even just as a blind), and the survivability offered by a short-cd spell shield.

I think it’s important to remember that balanced in the current meta does not necessarily mean balanced. I have played Nocturne against some very tanky teams and done poorly – it’s tough to be successful with any semi-soft champion against Malphite/Singed/Rumble +2. To me, balance in Nocturne’s case means when (if) the tanky meta gets a nerf, does he burn through squishy characters too quickly? Does he reach a godlike farm level too quickly? For now, I think the answer to both of those questions is yes.


How does Nocturne remain unnerfed?


I feel like this post is particularly appropriate following my Gangplank discussion because the two characters occupy relatively the same position on a team. Both are meant to eat up carries, it’s just that Nocturne actually has the tools to do that and Gangplank doesn’t.

I understand he isn’t seen a lot in ranked games right now, but that’s only because he’s getting banned. Every time I see him in a normal game I cringe, knowing that it’s just a matter of time before his farm is too much to handle. Often that’s somewhere around level nine, which is just too damn early. The big problem is his kit, which is utterly ludicrous compared to a lot of the characters out there. I know I’ve given the breakdown before, but it is just dumbfounding to me that he remains in the game as he was released. He still has a fear, a spell shield, an attack speed boost, an attack damage boost, a slow, a movespeed buff, a dot, two scaling physical nukes, a self heal, a global vision reduction, and a nearly global dash. All of that from four skills.



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