Survival horror games have a unique way of getting under your skin, leaving you in a cold sweat, with a racing heart, and an all too familiar sense of dread. Fans of the survival horror genre know the best games are more than superficial jump scares; they are immersive experiences that keep you perched on the edge of your seat from the word go until the end credits roll. The following three survival horror video games are considered to be spine-tingling classics.
Silent Hill 2 (2001)
If you only had the chance to play one survival horror game in your lifetime, Silent Hill 2 would be at the top of the list, despite its 2001 release. Developed by Team Silent and published by Konami, Silent Hill 2 is 22 years old, yet it is still the title other developers look to emulate when they create their survival horror work. Seriously, it is that good, and there is no doubt that the upcoming remake/remaster will be a favourite with online sports betting sites to win scores of awards if it lives up to the original.
Silent Hill 2 plunges you into the shoes of James Sunderland, a man who receives a letter from his late wife, Mary. The letter beckons Sunderland to the fog-shrouded town of Silent Hill. Sunderland is blissfully unaware he is about to embark on a nightmarish journey into the darkest recesses of the human psyche.
The game’s intricate narrative and deeply flawed characters set it apart from other survival horror games, many of which rely on jump scares and gore to get players’ adrenaline pumping. The town of Silent Hill itself is a character that shifts and warps in response to the fears and guilt of the protagonist.
The mysterious fog makes it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of you, and you get glimpses of some truly horrific and unsettling creatures. Just wait until you bump into the Bubble Head Nurses, mannequins, and arguably the best enemy in any horror game, Pyramid Head.
Silent Hill 2 is a masterpiece in psychological horror, enhanced by terrifying enemies and a haunting soundtrack that stays with you long after you put down your controller. The game proves that true horror lies in the depths of our minds, and fans of the original are tingling with excitement for a next-gen update, which should arrive in 2024 or 2025.
The Last of Us (2013)
The Last of Us is an action-adventure game that falls under the survival horror category. Anyone who has enjoyed playing The Last Of Us, either the 2013 original or the 2022 remaster, will attest to it being one of the greatest video games ever.
The game is set in 2013 during an outbreak of a mutant Cordyceps fungus ravaging the United States. Humans become aggressive, blood-thirsty creatures once the fungus takes over their brains, leaving the planet post-apocalyptic. You take control of Joel, a smuggler tasked with delivering the most precious cargo: a girl named Ellie, who is thought to be the only person on the planet immune to the deadly fungus.
Aside from bone-chilling enemies, the true horrors of The Last of Us lie in the incredible characters of the two main protagonists and the scarcity of weapons and supplies. Joel and Ellie are brilliantly written and fully realised, and you witness the evolution of the characters as the game progresses. You legitimately feel for both characters and spend most of the game petrified at the prospect of losing one of them to a cannibalistic foe.
Weapons are rare and have a limited lifespan, making you feel vulnerable and alone. The same is true for healing products and other items, meaning you are often one hit away from seeing one of the characters you love come to a grizzly demise.
The Last of Us television show stayed true to the video game while adding a couple of new story arcs. We suggest playing through the game before watching the award-winning show because it is one of the best adaptations ever seen.
Alien: Isolation (2014)
“In space, no one can hear you scream” is an iconic line from the 1979 cult classic Alien, which Alien: Isolation delivered to gamers in 2014. Previous games based on the Alien franchise went down the route of gun-totting marines and high-octane action, but Creative Assembly took an entirely different approach, and the results are genuinely terrifying.
You take control of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley from the movies, aboard the stricken space station Sevastopol, which has fallen into chaos following the arrival of a deadly Xenomorph. The game’s attention to detail is astounding, recreating the retro-futuristic aesthetics of the original film.
Alien: Isolation does a stellar job of always making you feel alone and vulnerable. The Xenomorph is frightening because it cannot be killed, and its ground-breaking artificial intelligence turns it into an apex predator. The alien reacts to the quietest sounds and can even hear you breathe or speak through your headset or the microphone on the PlayStation’s controller! The fact the Xenomorph is unescapable and it seeing you is a guaranteed one-hit kill adds dense layers to the atmosphere.
Having played the game to its conclusion, I can honestly say Alien: Isolation made me scared like no other survival horror title. I have spent upwards of 20 minutes hidden under a hospital gurney or tucked away in a locker while the Alien unpredictably prowls outside, hoping to sniff me out. It is incredible.
Survival horror games have come a long way since their inception, and the three titles in this article represent the genre’s pinnacle. Great horror games are not only about scaring you in the moment but also create a long-lasting sense of dread and unease that lingers long after switching off your computer or console. They deliver unforgettable scares and chilling experiences and introduce you to characters that stay with you forever.
Once you have dared to fire up Silent Hill 2, The Last of Us, and Alien: Isolation, dozens more iconic survival horror games are waiting to chill your blood. Check out the Resident Evil series, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and Outlast for more goosebump-creating titles.