The long and twisted evolution of horror video games

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Horror is one of the most popular game genres today. Scary games are especially popular with the streaming generation, who love to watch their favorite content creators panic. However, we wouldn’t have those countless jump fear reaction videos featuring the resident Evil 2 remake of Mr. X without years of fear-filled trial and error. Over the past decades, many trendsetters have relied on the innovators of the past. This trend continues even now with games like Resident Evil 7, with clear sound TP inspiration.

And it all started in the 1970s.

Come to the house

The horror world of video games spans many different subgenres born over the years. Many see the 1972 title Haunted house for the Magnavox Odyssey as the first fear-filled gaming experience – if you even consider a screen overlay to be a horror game. There were other very early attempts at the genre throughout the ’70s and early’ 80s, including various text-based games, pixel-filled movie adaptations for the Atari and NES like Friday 13 and Halloween, and of course, legendary IPs like Castlevania and Ghosts and Goblins. But no game has perfectly conveyed the feeling of a horror movie in the virtual playground until Splash.

Splash is a 1988 arcade beat ’em up that is best described as an’ 80s B horror film turned into a video game. You play as Rick Taylor, a man on the verge of death who pairs up with a symbiotic demon mask called the Mask of Terror. Together you slice, punch, and brutalize your way through a giant mansion to save your kidnapped girlfriend who must be sacrificed in an unholy ritual.

Gambling was the bloodiest thing many had ever seen, and that gore was its biggest selling point. It was unheard of, especially at a time before the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Its TurboGrafx-16 port sported a parental warning and a message on the box that said: “The horrific theme of this game may be inappropriate for young children … and cowards.”

Today, Splash lives as a cult classic from the past, the start of a classic horror game series and one of the ancestors of the horror game genre.

house crawl home

While Splash laid the groundwork for gore and monsters in the horror game world, it was primarily an action game with the only element of survival being untouched. The origins of the most famous horror genre, survival horror, date back to the early 1980s with NEC’s PC-6001s Nostromo, Atari Haunted house, and the ZX81 from Sinclair Research 3D monster maze. These three titles introduced the world to a new kind of game where things couldn’t be resolved through violence, but through passive progression, with an emphasis on solving puzzles and using stealth to bypass. the assailant.

The elements introduced by these titles finally came together on the Nintendo Entertainment System with the 1989 Capcom game,Sweet home. This classic JRPG based on a Japanese horror film of the same name introduces the player to a group of five filmmakers exploring an old mansion full of ghouls, ghosts and specters. There is only one goal: To escape with your life.

To do this, players find items to place in their limited inventory and solve puzzles throughout the mansion while fighting or dodging creatures of darkness. Bad play and one party member can bite the dust permanently, leaving one less member to help on the trip. This game is cited as one of the first to tell a long horror story and does so with diary pages found throughout the game.

Evil is born

If many of these details sound familiar to you, it is because so many Sweet homethe features of were a direct inspiration for what would become the king of horror games, the 1996s Resident Evil, which was originally supposed to be a Sweet home remake for a new generation.

All the glory for inspiring the revolutionary resident Evil series cannot be credited Sweet home Nevertheless. There are also EAs Firestart Project and Infogrames’ Alone in the dark. These games have fleshed out classic survival horror tropes even further. Features like full narration, dynamic music, limited ammo that barely scares hard-to-kill monsters, pre-rendered backgrounds, and a simple human main character are all here. And no one can forget the years 1995 Clock tower, which introduced the world to Scissorman, as well as more stealthy elements in the genre, and pushed the idea of ​​multiple endings, which was also featured in Sweet home and the years 1993 Splash 3.

Finally, in 1996, the king ascended his throne and resident Evil hit shelves everywhere, coining the term survival horror. New genre elements have all been brought together, with multiple paths, various endings, mansion setting, optional character deaths, stories based on diary entries, puzzles, optional enemy encounters, ammo limited, pre-rendered backgrounds and more. in an amazing Jill sandwich.

So, with so many snippets from other games, what resident Evil bring to the genre? The tank control system, which became a horror staple seen in many Resident Evil clones that followed. These games ushered the world into a new era of digital horror – an era that spawned many daring titles in the horror genre and also reborn others as behemoths.

Terror has evolved

After Resident Evil, there were titles like Square Enix Parasite watch and the beat’em up / shooter / horror mix exclusive to Dreamcast Blue stinger. Among the various titles inspired by Resident Evil, there is that of 1996. Corpse Day. This indie horror title has invited players into the world of psychological fear. The game moved away from the typical Western B-movie horror that many of these games favored and took a more Japanese film-inspired approach.

This style has been taken even further with the years 1999 silent Hill, which puts atmosphere above all else, its strongest asset being its screen-obscuring fog and grim storytelling. Its Japanese horror influence spawned series like Fatal frame, another unique horror game that involved taking pictures of ghosts.

The western market has also taken on the horror genre. Games like The thing and Loss gave a new vision of fear. Once again the genre returned to this Splash brought to the table, as American entries into the survival-horror genre placed a heavy emphasis on action and the ability to fight opposing forces head-on. It also spread to Japanese markets when Resident Evil 4 changed the genre with an emphasis on action.

No one could miss Resident Evil 4 and how it was changing the genre when it was released. Suddenly survival horror meant you could take down creatures as long as your inventory was correct. You were no longer helpless. Other titles followed in its bloody footsteps, such as 2008 Alone in the dark. Many saw the genre become less horror and more action-packed until FEAR and Dead space released in 2005 and 2008 respectively, showing that cinematic action and true horror could still play together and deliver a spooky product.

Modern fear

The following years saw the genre continue in this vein of action until the indie scene began to take the genre back to its roots in the 2010s. True survival horror games like Amnesia, Slim, and Nightfall threw aside the action-packed gore and took the John Carpenter Halloween approach focusing on the atmosphere and the fear of the eye of the mind. This was also seen with 2014 Five nights at Freddy’s, the current lord of independent horror franchises.

That same year would also be when the genre saw another massive innovation with the release of Konami’s canceled Project Silent Hill, a playable trailer for a future title that nicknamed fans TP. The demo introduced the world to another evolution of the genre, taking elements of classic Japanese horror, mixing them with the first-person nature of games like Slim, and giving them the production value of an AAA Western title – with Hollywood star Norman Reedus in the lead role to boot. Even with the title canceled shortly after the demo was released, TP was memorable enough to immediately change the world of horror games. Its formula has even been used in Resident Evil 7, a title that brought the series back to its roots and its throne. Even the founding ancestors of video game horror are still influenced by their peers.

Now we are back where we started with the Resident Evil series being the star of horror innovation and others following behind. Other subgenres have sprung up over the years like the multiplayer horror genre as seen in Nightmare on Elm Street, Left for dead, and Back 4 Blood.

Like any genre, horror is constantly evolving, and I can’t wait to see how the developers find the next way to make us scream.

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