With Halloween barreling toward us unrelentingly like a masked killer, now seems like the best time to take a look at the horror genre in the video game space. As an ever eager horror fan myself, I think others may agree that there has never been a time where fans thought the number of horror games in existence has been sufficient. They're a bit niche, for reasons that may be obvious. Most people want to feel empowered from their games, not vulnerable. But for fans of scary games, there is and always has been room for more fresh ideas in the horror space.
Lately the genre has found some success by adapting well known horror commodities into games. Titles like Friday the 13th: The Game
and this month's TA Playlist
game, Alien: Isolation
have given us familiar faces and settings and memorably made them work as video games. This got us thinking about other spooky properties that could work as games. We came up with a list of scares that we feel would translate well to gaming but with a century of horror movies to be considered surely there are some we didn't think of. Let us know your pitch for horror adaptations moving from the big screen to your home theater.Please assume spoilers are present for any movie on this list!
It Follows as an endless runner
In practice this one may be the least exciting of them all for console gamers, but the coupling of It Follows
' premise with the mechanics of an endless runner just makes too much sense. It's actually what inspired me to deliberate on this subject further. It Follows
is an apparently polarizing recent horror, though I found it to be the best genre addition in a long time. The game could be done for mobile platforms where retro graphics and sounds fit perfectly alongside the game's eighties mood even as it takes place in present day. Constantly ducking and dodging the unnamed shapeshifting monster could capture that feeling of never feeling like you're safe. Sure the film's commentary on adulthood and aging would be missing, but as a fun and not too serious take on the indie hit, it could work.
A detective thriller featuring Hannibal LecterManhunter
and more famously Silence of the Lambs
gave us one of horror cinema's most famous faces in Hannibal (the cannibal) Lecter. The carnivore with the illegal cravings spends several movies assisting special agents in tracking down other killers. He lets them into the mind of a psychopath, often teasing them in his own twisted way, but sometimes working as even a sort of anti-hero of sorts. Putting players in the role of another FBI agent tracking a serial killer and seeking the aid of Hannibal could work wonderfully as a detective thriller. Give us crime scenes to analyze, action sequences with the villain, and dialogue options with the always mesmerizing cannibal and we could have our own L.A. Noire
, and given the famous villain, probably one that is more unnerving and even grotesque at times.
A Nightmare on Elm Street with asynchronous multiplayer
There was once a game based on Wes Craven's seminal slasher, but it's not controversial to say it hasn't aged well. With the success of games like Dead By Daylight
and Friday The 13th
, it seems only one of genre's elite baddies is missing: Freddy Krueger. The burned predator with an iconic glove of knives eventually lost favor with many fans as his movies began to resemble the killer practicing his solid five minutes of stand-up. The one-liners just got too corny. But the first few movies still hold up and it's undeniable that the villain is beloved among horror fans to this day. A game like those mentioned but set in Springwood would be an obvious start, but it could be built on further using Freddy's unique plot devices. Much of the series takes place in a dream world where Freddy is most powerful. Putting players on a map against Freddy but having to weave through an ever-shifting dream world could be a fun twist on the format. You could even allow the world to shift back and forth between the dream world and reality, reminiscent of Silent Hill
's Otherworld sequences.
The Belko Experiment as a battle royale in an office
No genre is experiencing growth like the battle royale currently overpopulating Steam and soon to do the same on consoles. The most famous of these, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
, pits a swarm of players on an expansive map and asks them to survive as the boundaries slowly close around them. Recent thriller The Belko Experiment
was billed as "Battle Royale
meets Office Space
" and that's exactly what it is. As office workers slaughter each other to be among the survivors, painting their cubicles red with blood, few stop to consider their actions as self-preservation kicks into high gear. A battle royale game set not across a sprawling landscape but in a vertical tower of terror like an office building could be a unique take on the genre. Swivel chairs, staplers, and fax machines could all be used as instruments of death as the winner finds not that promotion or pay bump they were looking for, but just the good fortune to be the surviving office employee.
Don't Breathe as a stealth-horror
A surprisingly suspenseful thriller from 2016, Don't Breathe
tells the story of three amateur crooks who decide to break and enter into the home of a supposedly easy mark, an old blind man, only to find the man has extensive combat training and even in his seemingly frail state can more than hold his own against a trio of delinquents. To play as either the homeowner or the crooks would be fun here, and it may even work best as a 4v1 game a la Evolve
. The crooks try to sneak in while the blind homeowner uses his heightened sense of hearing and skilled marksmanship to eliminate them swiftly. It could be presented as a darker, more photorealistic play on the ideas behind Hello Neighbor
against cunning AI. Making noise detection a major gameplay mechanic could be as suspenseful as it was in the movie. A sequel is on the way too. How about some promotional material on consoles?
The Blair Witch Project in the vein of Outlast
It's evident The Blair Witch Project
is to credit (or blame if you're not a fan) for the long run of faux found footage films we've seen since its debut nearly two decades ago. While many horror games have also moved to the setup of defenseless protagonists running away in first person, no series has delivered something more Blair Witch
-like than Outlast
. Just as how Tomb Raider
which in turn inspired the new Tomb Raider
we could see a similarly cycle of inspiration with Blair Witch
. Putting players alone in the woods of Burkettsville, Maryland to explore the legend of the witch only to horrifyingly find she is very much more than legend could be remarkably atmospheric if done right. Faulty GPS, an antagonistic day/night cycle, and the ever lurking presence of the witch would send shivers down the spines of even the most ardent genre fans.
Romero's Dead franchise with unique aesthetics for each movie
One of two games that got me to upgrade to the Xbox 360 back in 2008 was the original Dead Rising
. Capcom's take on Romero's Dawn of the Dead
, was fun but flawed. Mostly where it differed is in its tone. Romero's famed franchise of zombie movies has always taken itself seriously, while Dead Rising
is happily goofy. A true Dawn of the Dead
game may seem redundant in a world where Dead Rising
already exists, but in the framework of a full Romero game universe, it could do well. The most exciting ideafo for Romero's Night/Dawn/Day trilogy — let's discount the others thereafter — is how the studio making the games could create each game with movie- and era-specific aesthetics. Night of the Living Dead
could be in black and white, with Dawn
capturing the seventies mall looks and Day
representing the military bunker in the eighties. The movies each encapsulated the mood of their respective moments in history and were not-so-subtle critiques of American culture at each stopping point. That could be retained too, and in fact would go to great lengths to make the games stand out from what is already a deluge of undead fiction in video games. Each game would play differently to an extent not often seen in video game franchises.
The Masque of the Red Death as an MMO
When I read Andrew's review
of The Sexy Brutale
I got strong Masque
vibes, and since then I've been thinking it would make a cool video game. Admittedly it's more famous as a written story but like a lot of his work, Poe's Masque
was adapted into a famous Vincent Price vehicle in the early years of film, so it counts! A Masque of the Red Death
video game could put players in the same setting as the story, a ball for rich socialites while the world outside succumbs to a swift and macabre disease that makes victims sweat blood. As the ball attendees become anxious of letting anyone into the party that may be infected, Death himself arrives and kills off the party quite violently with the disease. In an MMO style, dozens of players could attend the masquerade and try not to contract the fatal illness. With everyone in costume in a massive mansion belonging to Prospero himself, keeping track of who is ill and keeping them at a distance with few defenses other than running away from them could be a paranoia-inducing multiplayer experience. It would play like a mix of PUBG, Plague Inc.
, and Assassin's Creed
multiplayer, demanding you outsmart the partiers and hide in plain sight as the Red Death itself as you try to kill off the entire crowd through direct or indirect means.
These are surely just some of the horror properties ripe for gamification. Which other horror movies would translate well to our gaming libraries?