Okay, this is a list of games that scared me personally, not the scariest. I’m aware that there are people who would find the omission of classic horror series like Silent Hill an oversight, but I’ve unfortunately never played them myself, so am in a poor position to judge. So here’s the ones that gave me the tingles, personally.

5) Ico – Yes, I know, this isn’t a scary game. But I don’t recall many other games that created the sense of anxiety and fear I often felt while playing it. Guiding the helpless princess around, those smoke monsters swarming, and her unintelligible cries of alarm as they’d start dragging her down one of those dark holes… very unnerving.

4) Phantasmagoria – Yeah, okay, the game was awful. Bad plot, awful acting, laughable dialogue. But we were all taken up with the then-trendy idea of using real motion video within a video game, so we were all willing to look past that. The game’s murder sequences are still disturbing, far worse than most stuff that draws criticism today (largely because it was acting and special effects rather than CGI), proving that beneath the honey and flowers of King’s Quest lurked a truly sick mind in Roberta Williams. I’m not sure if the trowel or the force-feeding to death was the worst.

3) Bioshock – More creepy than scary, this game still generated a lot of fear in the right moments for me. The opening sequence, when you’re just trying to orient yourself and you’re trapped, motionless in the bathysphere as something half-glimpsed and disturbing begins to crash into the sides of it, is one of the most memorable opening sequences I’ve ever seen in a video game. And the first time you face down a Big Daddy is one of the most intense and stressful moments I’ve experienced.

2) Resident Evil 4 – There may be scarier Resident Evil games, but this is the only one in the series I’ve been able to play – the control system in the earlier games was just too frustrating. Not only is RE4 one of the scariest games I’ve ever played, it’s also one of the best. This was the first game where the music score really had the ability to give me the shivers, and the first time I casually and easily dealt with a slow, shambling villager and had its head explode into a grotesque, fleshy, bladed arm which proceeded to decapitate me… classic.

1) Dead Space – Okay, this is a recent game that I’m currently playing, so its inclusion feels somewhat forced to me. It hasn’t had a little time to sit back in the subconscious and prove itself creepy over time with me. But I’ve honestly never played a game that so unnerved me, late at night, with the lights off and the soundtrack pumped. The sound design of the game is a huge part of this – half-heard whispers, ominous creaks, bangs, and groans, and ironically, the frightening lack of sound other than your own suit when you enter a vacuum. The lighting design is the best I’ve ever seen in this kind of title, not too bright but more importantly, not too dark – I don’t feel like I’m constantly peering into gloom. And the critters and gore detail is out of this world, as should only be proper in a game featuring “strategic dismemberment”. It really is the inspiration for writing this list, and as such, deserves the #1 spot on it.

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