The list, in no particular order:
Wes Hall 7th Guest - This Myst-era ('92) horror/puzzle game kept me up long past my bedtime many nights during my middle school days. Released at a time when full-motion video was just starting to appear in video games, 7th Guest used this new technology at every possible opportunity - with extremely frightening results. I can remember sitting wide-eyed in the glow of our 14" monitor, holding my breath and tightly gripping the mouse of our 90MHz PC whenever that dreadful 'whirrrrrr' came from the 2X CD-ROM drive. I guess the element of surprise was lost, but the feeling of suspense was definitely in full force. Something really scary is about to happen... any second now... just give it ti-- AUGHH!!!!
Jim Adams Resident Evil - This was probably the first truly "scary" game I played. Many scenes stand out, but the dogs crashing through the windows left a permanent mark on my soul. This may be why I'm a cat person.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem - The "sanity meter" in this game was revolutionary - and it scared the [ expletive deleted ] out of me. The more spooky stuff your character saw, the faster their sanity depleted. When they had none remaining, all sorts of bad things started to happen.
Fatal Frame - Styled like a Japanese horror movie, this game had you fighting demons and ghosts with a camera. Yeah, you killed these monsters by taking their pictures. Or you tried to, anyways. I'm not sure if I ever finished this game because it was just too scary (and/or hard).
Charles Phillips Silent Hill 4: The Room - You are mysteriously locked in your own apartment. No one can hear your cries for help. And the only way out is through a hole in your bathroom wall that leads to - of course - a realm of the undead. The soundtrack and the cut scene imagery make this game one of the scariest games I've ever played. Not to mention the feeling of complete isolation...
Bioshock - You're trapped in a failed underwater utopia known as Rapture and you must escape. I love the way the game pulls from such ideas as found in 1984, Logan's Run, Citizen Kane, etc. But as far as being scary... you can't beat being stuck at the bottom of the ocean being hunted by the likes of genetically engineered drug-addicts. The late 40's early 50's background music is extremely creepy, but the lighting effects steal the show. Pair that with the lumbering Big Daddies and the zombie-like Little Sisters and the game oozes a constant sense of the macabre.
Daniel Hendley Bioshock - As you're walking along you hear small beings shuffling around in the shadows, little girls' voices off in the distance, and even the more scary sound of "Mr. Bubbles" storming after you. The atmosphere of the game has been generated very well: You're always walking around corners wondering what will pop up and come after you next. Even things that seem very innocent - such as a woman standing over a baby carriage - turn very deadly as she spins around and starts shooting at you with a revolver. Let yourself get too immersed, and you'll find yourself jumping from shock as you slowly peer around a corner to find something running after you.
Nathan Cox Silent Hill - Oh. My. God. It's you and a freaking metal pipe against flying creatures. See those faded white child-like things? They're out to kill you. Outside, things keep getting closer to pitch-black, and in the classrooms you hear ghostly children's cries... Keep looking for your daughter, she's... right... there...
F.E.A.R - Cue the maniacal leader who can psychically control dozens of soldier drones. Don't like hearing voices around you, or music that gets under your skin? Then I wouldn't turn on the surround sound if I were you. There's always something to jump at, like bodies falling down air vents, elevators full of enemies, creatures that strike before you can see them... Oh! And an enraged little girl's ghost, who comes after you when you can't run away.
Jeff Somogyi Haunted House - Yes, the one for the Atari 2600! What? I was five years old! Like you've never been scared by something tame at that age? But, is it tame? I mean, it does have a spooky pair of floating eyes (you), bats, spiders, and a ghost. Oh, and when your match got blown out by the "howling wind" it was totally creepy, knowing that something was on it's way to kill you. This game started my love affair with scary video games. To this day, I can get a bigger fright out of a mild video game than I can from even the most scary movie.
Resident Evil 2 - I'd never played the first in the series, but when my friend who had a Playstation suggested I give it a whirl, I was all, "Sure!"
"Oh! and it's scarier if we turn the lights off, too!"
"Oh, and I'm gonna turn the music up, loud."
"Uh huh... okay."
"And, don't worry, I'll talk you through the first couple of stages."
"Uh huh. Thanks"
A little bit later, after having my face gnawed on by a few zombies, a couple of re-starts, and a few mild scares.
"Now, just head up those stairs..."
But he said it a little too nonchalantly.
"Okay... Why? What's up there? Don't lie to me!"
"Oh, don't worry about it."
I didn't believe him, but I slowly approached the stairs, anyway. I don't remember if I climbed the stairs, or not, I just remember something snarling, off to my right in stereo. Then the something came through the boarded up windows and scampered along the ceiling. I screamed. I threw the controller. I had the best time ever.
Jeff Somogyi is a dealnews Senior Staffwriter and a big 'ole scaredy-cat when it comes to video games. (Except Resident Evil 4 - that one's just scary in how BAD it is.)