10 of the best survival horror games

These games taught us every trick in the survival horror handbook. Treat yourself to a quick recap

At times atmospheric and haunting, at others bloody and fierce, these are the games that brought our nightmares alive...

Resident Evil

(PlayStation, 1996)

The game that defined the genre, Resident Evil pits a team of law-enforcers against a spooky mansion packed to the rafters with zombies, mutated spiders and biological experiments. The haunting soundtrack combined with eerily beautiful backdrops that begged to be splashed with undead blood.

Silent Hill

(PlayStation, 1999)

A desperate father searches for his daughter in the streets (and secrets) of a town possessed by demons. Too easy? A dense fog has enveloped the town and your weapon is a rusty pole. Terrifyingly limited visuals and an evocative score conspired to rival the suspense of a Japanese horror flick. Spare pants were advisable.

Alone in the Dark

(PC, 1992)

The original mansion-based zombie-fest coined the term ‘survival horror’ and inspired a generation of imitators. It lacked the ability to curdle blood as effectively as later titles, but first counts for a lot. You began your assault unarmed in the spookiest room in the house – the attic – but things looked up once you found the kitchen knives downstairs.

Dead Rising

(Xbox 360, 2006)

Frenzied horde of zombies, meeet American shopping mall. The rehashed Dawn of the Dead plot sees players fighting for survival until the rescue chopper arrives three days later. You can spend those days trying on clothes if you like, but the preferred method is increasingly creative zombie genocide using pretty much anything you can pick up as a weapon.

The House of the Dead

(1996, arcade)

This zombie shoot-em-up used light guns in place of traditional controllers and encouraged regular reloading to beat a succession of ever more evil creations. The House of the Dead became an arcade classic and would eventually inspire the likes of Resident Evil Survivor.

Dino Crisis

(PlayStation, 1999)

Capcom threw a Jurassic-sized spanner in the works with Dino Crisis. From the brain of Resident Evil’s Director Shinji Mikami, it swapped slow, ambling enemies for lightning-fast velociraptors and rendered backgrounds in full polygonal 3D.

Left 4 Dead

(Windows, Xbox 360, 2008)

Smoking the living dead is always more enjoyable with company. That was more or less the development pitch for Left 4 Dead. Arguably the best multi-player FPS in the genre, it presses the same buttons for gore chasers that Call of Duty does for armchair squaddies.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

(Xbox 360, 2005)

Inspired by the twisted musings of HP Lovecraft, Dark Corners of The Earth is a journey into the darker side of sanity. Unsurprisingly for a title from the same studios as Oblivion and Elder Scrolls, it looks like it’s been torn straight out of a dusty novel. It’s no button-mashing shooter, but it will refresh the murder mystery parts other games can’t reach.

The Thing

(PlayStation 2, 2002)

Bizarrely a sequel to the 1982 film of the same name, the game starts three months on, back in Antarctica. You lead a squad bound in a common quest, but should a team-mate start acting strangely, it’s up to you to finish him off. Shoot someone on a false suspicion, though, and you’ll lose the squad’s trust. A quirky mixture of politics and critter killing.

Clock Tower

(SNES, 1995)

Your character is an orphan girl on her way to her newly adopted home. Sounds pretty tame, right? Her new home is one of those massive spooky mansions. If that’s not bad enough, on arrival the lights go out. Then it transpires a scissor-wielding maniac has killed her orphan friends. Who says point and click games can’t be scary?

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