For as long as there have been human beings, there have been individuals who find fear fun. Scary stories have been shared for millennia, terrifying tomes have been penned for centuries and macabre movies have ruled the silver screen for decades. Now in the 21st century, it seems that horror games have truly carved out their niche within the entertainment industry, starting with survival horror but also expanding to other genres.
Not only do horror games created by large companies and small developers alike sell incredibly well, but there are now hundreds of blogs and YouTube channels devoted entirely to these types of games, many of which have huge audiences. On platforms such as Twitch, you can actually watch people play them live, and even see or at least hear their often scared reactions to jump scares and gory scenes. Even more niche gaming fields such as augmented reality (AR) and iGaming have made sure to incorporate horror games in some form or another and have made them accessible to players.
So, where did the rise of horror games begin?
While horror games were particularly rare in the 2D game era, there were a few that allowed horror fans to experience fear like never before such as Monster Maze (1982) and Lurking Horror (1987). In 1989, a video game based on the Japanese horror film Sweet Home was released and while the technology to truly create an immersive experience may not have existed yet, the game truly influenced the genre.
By utilising classic storytelling methods such as diary entries, creepy imagery and even death scenes, Sweet Home the game created the necessary tension needed to create an outstanding horror game experience. Plus, Sweet Home had many mechanics that are still used today including multiple endings and quick time events, thereby ensuring that the gameplay itself made an impact on the industry.
Sweet Home was so influential that it inspired many of todays most popular horror titles including the original horror-survival game – 1996’s Resident Evil. While its predecessors had experienced their own levels of fame, no horror game had ever impacted the gaming community as thoroughly as Resident Evil did, which is why many believe it triggered the golden age of horror games that continues to this day. It was terrifying, intense, graphic and, most importantly, offered players an entirely new experience that only the most courageous gamers dared face. Still, horror gaming had a lot further to go.
By the late 90s, horror movies and thriller novels were also increasing in popularity, which in turn led to other forms of media embracing the genre. Really, the only subsector that never seems to have really created truly terrifying games is iGaming, though they do have some tame ones which offer thrills of a different kind. For instance, bgo slot games are organised into genres so players can easily find the more supernatural options such as Halloween Fortune or the Day of the Dead slot as well as those based on fantasy movies like Blade. While these may not knock your socks off with scary scenes, there is something to be said about the heart-pounding excitement casino games offer. Online casino games are a very competitive sector though, and that brings innovation into the game. Maybe it’s not long until we see a jump-scare type of slot released, but for now most casinos tend to compete on the level of sign-up bonuses, with bgo currently offering new players £1,500 worth of welcome bonuses. Elsewhere online, Dark Spin at Casino City and Haunted House at Caesar Games are very popular amongst the iGaming community as they offer quick thrills to an ever-growing online audience.
In 1999, three years after Resident Evil, Silent Hill was released. Instead of action, this new game delivered psychological thrills through its disturbing, fleshy story line and eerie imagery. There was no warning when the silence would suddenly erupt into chaos, and as you usually stumbled around in darkness with nothing but a flashlight the feeling of helplessness and dread was often unbearable. Needless to say, horror gamers loved it.
By the time the first HD consoles were released in the mid-2000s, horror was an established genre within the gaming industry. Finally, technology had developed enough to provide fans with high quality graphics and music to accompany scary storytelling. However, this also marked a significant change within the field as games like Dead Space changed the horror formula that had worked so well for years. Instead of focusing on horror, Dead Space was mostly action-based and, due to the success of the game, this became the norm.
Fortunately, indie developers took notice of this and began to create their own horror titles that used the older formats. Games like Amnesia: the Dark Descent became incredibly popular and lead to the creation of Soma, Outlast, Slenderman and other titles that we enjoy today. Now, with so many different games to choose from there is something for everyone: do you prefer classic, retro horror games or games like those at bgo where thrills are experienced in a different way? Perhaps you’re a fan of the newer editions that focus on action over horror?
The big question we face now is where will horror games go in the future? With the introduction of augmented reality and virtual reality, the experiences are sure to become more immersive than ever but will the quality of the stories be as great? We’ll just have to wait and see.
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