5 Fundamentals That Make A Great Horror Game Great

Frights are like a curry. Some people like a korma, nice and mild or a balti with a bit of a kick. Others prefer their horrors stronger like a vindaloo, both though still require a change of underwear. We all have limits though when it comes to them. Today I want to look at key components of horrors, the spices if you want to keep with the curry analogy. While all these components may not always be featured in every horror, when used well they can be good enough on their own.


What goes bang bang bang in the night? My neighbours! Not the fun kind even, I mean stomping round like T-rex’s trying to squish a flea. Sound is among one of the strongest senses. If someone tries to describe a smell to you, a flavour or even a texture, it’s not an easy thing to replicate in your mind. We are more visual and sound based when it comes to imagination. It’s easier to associate that with a previous noise or image we’ve seen.

When it comes to imagination and horror games like to feed off of that talent of ours. Imagination is our own worst enemy at times and to be quite frank I thought of giving it its own space on this list but it factors into so much of horror games that it needs to be broken down with these choices I’ve made.

Sounds in games don’t have to do much. We do the rest. *Tink*, as something hits the floor in a game, I stand completely still and stare into that vicinity for minutes until I’m brave enough to move the character closer. What is there is a pesky rat, what I imagined, was 3 shark toothed goblins riding spiders. And I don’t mean 3 spiders, I mean a swarm of millions of arachnids lifting the goblins up with their long, black legs. Feeling itchy yet? Thank your imagination for that.


Now with sound and imagination, comes the dread. A typical horror will have sprawling levels with lots of nooks and crannies. More than likely the game will be dimly lit and lighting used effectively to bring the shadows out to play. That’s when the dread will set in.

This usually occurs happens pretty quickly in horror games. It doesn’t give you time to relax, especially in the beginning. At the start everything is new to you, you don’t have a lot of weapons or a weapon at all. The beasts or dangers lurking ahead may not be revealed yet and so whatever your mind concocts will be primed to your personal fears.

The start of the game is usually bombastic in the beginning. Something needs to set the pace and similar to books, games need to make a good first impression. The dread you feel imbues you with curiosity. You want to play the game and dread is similar to ripping off a plaster (band-aid), get it over with and hope for the best. But, a game done well will then lead to……

Build up

A horror game needs to retain its scare factor. Otherwise it isn’t a horror game any more. The original Bioshock had that issue for me. The first couple of hours I was a twitchy mess. After a certain point though and once I had more guns than the army I wasn’t phased any more.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing as Bioshock is a great FPS as well as a horror but a full horror needs to build on what it starts. From start to finish the player needs to nearly always be on edge. Having lulls is a good tactic though when used well, it doesn’t need to be 150mph every second. A haven is also a great time to do a cheap scare. Like Dead Space (2?) having a save spot with a surprise Necromorph. Cheap but memorable.

Resident Evil does a fantastic job of this with the safe rooms. That calming music, the opportunity to save and the brightly lit room give a chance of respite. Every player gives a sigh of relief when they find a new safe room. They can calm down for a bit but then they have to go back out into the mansion. That’s the build up aspect again, because if you’ve found a new safe room, that means you haven’t seen what is to come. The new horrors around the corner, which…..


…….are waiting in the shadows for you. Monster designs are crucial. If a monster isn’t scary, it’s not a monster. There don’t need to be thousands of monsters or monster designs in your game. One truly terrifying beast can carry it.

What makes a good monster? The unknown or something so mundane that when it’s different it’s unnerving. Resident Evil Remake does a great job of this is my mind. Zombies on their own are a classic horror enemy. Slow, lumbering and resilient. That aspect of them is scary but the fact that they can infect a person so easily is where I think their terror stems from. Similar to how Dracula was an analogy to STI’s, zombies represent a sickness. Nobody wants to get sick. It’s practically universal among all life and so everyone fears that aspect of zombies.

But zombies are a tried and tested monster which some may be a bit bored with, that’s where the Crimson Heads come into play. We became so use to the zombies of Resident Evil that when a variation is thrown in, it scares the bejesus out of us. Me especially. It’s a classic monster taken to a new level. Slow is now fast, easy to dodge is now horrifying to run from.  That shake-up keeps things fresh and taps into a particular fear. We all fear something. Monsters are just things that take advantage of those fears.


It’s obvious really. Be it a diary entry detailing a man’s personal transformation into a brain dead zombie or a mechanical bear lunging at the screen. A horror game needs to be full of scares. They can be subtle and intended to get under your skin, or a full on jump scare.

While some may call jump scares cheap and I will admit the Five Night’s At Freddie’s series isn’t really my thing, they still get me good. They’re effective but not long lasting in my opinion. Resident Evil has very few jump scares and is remembered as one of the best horror series. Again, that is the dread and build-up in big effect.

But everyone who played the original RE remembers the dogs jumping through the window or the time in Resident Evil 2 where there is a zombie in the door transition screen. The entire game before it didn’t have that and so everyone assumed the door transition was a sanctuary. Wrong! Heart attack city that was. So jump scares are just as good but a balance is the perfect recipe.

You need the calm before the storm to truly appreciate the savagery of the storm.  But anyway I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and feel free to let me know yours in the comments. Did a particular monster scare you or what scares you the most in games? Halloween season is upon us, let’s get scared together.


5 Locals That Never Fail To Scare Me In Games

That’s Low-Cal’s not Low-Cul’s although Low-Cul’s are pretty terrifying too but don’t tell them I said that. But that’s a list for another day! Today is all about places of fright. The locations in games that require multiple sets of boxers to get through. So let’s start at something we’re all familiar with.


Yes, scary then and scary now but for different reasons. Back then it was just the fear of a test or being the latest happy slapping victim. Honestly, happy slapping, what was that about?!

But as adults, why are we scared of schools in games? I believe it’s because we know what classrooms are like, bright and full of noise. In games they tend to be dark and silent. Or brightly lit but empty. We never see classrooms like that in real life. It’s unusual for it to be like that.

A large part of our childhood’s are sat in class and those memories are ingrained in our minds. And so in games when they aren’t portrayed like that, it’s unnerving. Also, because dead Japanese girls with long hair seem to live there.


Similar to schools, we see fairs and circus’ as lively and colourful places. They are lit up like beacons to the gods and full of a cacophony of sounds. In horror games those elements tend to be subdued to the point of almost non-existence.

The colours will be gone from the tents and rides. The swarms of people will be silent or a faint whisper. And the heaving circus will be a desolation to only you. That is why I believe it is effective in horror games. A place that is usually full of life is just plain eerie when viewed the opposite way. And then there are the clowns.

Clowns are abominations. If you’re a clown reading this, I am terribly sorry to insult your profession but you scare the hell out of me and everyone else. A clown’s persona is fake. Nobody is ever that happy. Humans, we are perceptible to lies. We have to be, it’s survival of the fittest and the unfit will use tactics to get the upper hand. Lying is a handy tool there.

Clowns are scary because we can detect that something isn’t right. Something in the back of our brain says that the thing before us, isn’t what it’s pretending to be. That feeling intensifies if you make eye contact with a clown. When you see it with people around it’s off putting but whatever you’re at the fairground, you have the crowd cover. If the clown looks at you though, your mind starts freaking out. It knows that this fake thing knows you are there. And if you’re ever alone with a clown, well…..let’s hope that never happens. *Honk honk*


I’m a bad swimmer. I’ll be the first to tell you that. The water makes me feel helpless. Not showers though, showers are fine, I love showers! I put my hands a certain way and water shoots from my finger tips like I’m bloody Waterman, aquatic hero number 1.

But the ocean? That large expanse where my speed and strength are dulled and the things in the ocean are faster and stronger than I am on land. No thank you! As humans, we are constantly looking forward. To the future and literally. How often do you look above? Not a lot right, why would you, it’s not like a lot of things can attack you from above. But in the ocean though, there are so many fast things that love to shoot up from the dark depths and nibble at your toes. Your feetsies are never safe. Just remember that the next time you go for a leisurely swim.

Couple that with the fact that in video games the controls tend to be inferior to the main gameplay. That definitely doesn’t help. You know what else doesn’t help? Goddamn playing an increasingly stressful and quickening piece of music that makes me forget how to play as a blue hedgehog. You struggle to wake up in the mornings? Put that Sonic is about to drown music as your alarm and you’ll have a heart attack every morning.


In space, nobody can hear you scream. I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said that. A very wise man. Space is like being underwater but cranked up to 11. In the ocean at least you can be naked. In space you need tons of heavy equipment and technology. Too much hassle.

But space is very similar to the ocean. It’s a vast emptiness with very little room for error. Not only that but we don’t know what space hides. The deep abyss that is our ocean we have a rough idea of what dwells there. Freaky light show jellyfish and ugly fish with razor sharp teeth and hundreds more of natures rejects. Space though, different story.

In fact, many stories, the stories that we humans have created. And let’s be honest, most of them aren’t nice. Space is an unknown and we don’t like the unknown. Our imaginations thrive in the unknown and so over the decades, in media we’ve concocted many beings of pure terror. The stuff our nightmares have nightmares of. And where do we say they live? In space. Why not?! We have no idea if a Xenomorph is a real thing. The universe is forever growing and so if we say there is an alien that bleeds acid and lays its brood inside our flesh, the sheer odds are that that does exist somewhere. Let’s just hope in our lifetimes we never find out if that is true or not.


Dreams/hallucination’s. Is there a thing as a bad dream or does a bad dream just automatically become a nightmare? I’ve had dull dreams before and then I wake up so I suppose that’s a nightmare. Living a dull experience subconsciously and then waking up for work. Yeah that’s pretty scary.

In dreams (one of my favourite songs by the way, funnily enough it featured in Alan Wake, a horror series. See it all ties back together), we are ourselves but not ourselves. We are in places we know but they’re different. Everything is off in dreams and even hallucinations. Sometimes we realise that, other times we know there is an anomaly but we don’t know what it is. Other times we believe the world we are presented with is the correct one. That unknown state of being is terrifying to me.

In dreams, sometimes, you having marbles for eyeballs and tongues for fingers seems perfectly acceptable until you wake up. And when you wake up, are you sure you’re awake? You thought in the dream that tongue fingers were the norm so what’s to say that what seems normal to you now isn’t really normal? Are you reading this article now? There’s only one way to be sure, leave a comment and check back tomorrow.

No I’m kidding, you’re fully awake and you just read my innate ramblings about dreams. Scary thought though isn’t it! I’ve just noticed actually that dreams aren’t used as often anymore as hallucinations are. Batman and Spiderman come to mind of the titular characters seeing things when awake. It’s basically dreaming though, it’s all in the mind. Anyway, just a random thought. I hope you enjoyed the read and feel free to drop a comment and let me know what places in games give you the heebie jeebies. Thanks for reading.

Trivia Time- Deadly Premonition, Tell Me Your Secrets, License Plates

So to end my Halloween Trivia Time marathon, I thought I’d end on a high note. And what better high note than Deadly Premonition. I will be talking spoilers in this article so read on at your own peril. This game is a masterpiece. Not in gameplay or graphics, you’d have to pay me a lot to say that, Swery. Swery being the creator of the wonderful world of Deadly Premonition. The game centres around Detective Francis York Morgan. Although he prefers to be called York, everyone calls him that apparently.  He is a film loving detective who has been assigned a case in the middle of nowhere. A little town called Greenvale, where a local woman has been found murdered.

Who wouldn’t want this guy investigating a murder.

Mystery and intrigue ensue and York must uncover the mysteries of this town in order to try and put a stop to a string of gruesome murders. It is a very strange game filled to the brim with quirky characters. There in lies the beauty of this game. It is unbelievably rough around the edges and a slog to play at times but the world and its absurdity are unlike anything I’ve played since. The town is full of weird people and you’ll get to know these people very well. As you play through the game, you’ll see different characters going about their own lives. Each character has a daily routine that you can follow and keep track of. You’ll see them in a diner or at a shop, perhaps at a bar or more commonly you’ll see them whizzing down the road and full on driving into your car. Remember, I said this game was janky. But as your fellow neighbour drives off your bonnet you might notice a strange combination of letters and numbers. The license plates of these residents not only form words, but also a trait synonymous to them or even a clue or two about their involvement in the murder mystery.

Deadly prem license plate

The basic patrol cars around Greenvale have the license plate ‘VIDGMES’, which considering you’re reading a video game article, I believe I don’t need to solve this riddle for you. Nick Cormack, the local diner chef has ‘GR8COOK’, which is very boastful and also a plate that made me do a double take because of my filthy mind. Perhaps the most on the nose plate though and the most damning in a game about finding a murderer is George Woodman’s license plate. George Woodman, for those who haven’t played the game, is the local rugged cop who helps York in his investigation into the murders. But, this whole time George wasn’t who he seemed and in the end, we find out that George was involved in the killings. Not only that, George likes to flaunt his murderous ways to the whole town for all to see. Not only is George revealed to be a late game bad guy, but his license plate was laughing in our faces about it. His license plate reads ‘HESTHE1’, which in case you’re struggling, reads as He Is The One. You smug so and so, George.