As 2018 comes to a close, so too does this trilogy feature. Here we have the last couple of picks amongst the ranks of horror video games that I was blessed with the ability to pick up digitally. Hopefully, you’ll come away from these features with something new to add to your library and try out.
New to this series feature? Then check out Part 1 and Part 2 like, right now!
So let’s bring 2018 to a close with these final picks, shall we!
This one’s for Sam... (ed - Oh shucks, thank you!) Well, not really (ed - Hey, it's the thought that counts...). For as much as our esteemed editor loves all things borne of blood, Bloodborne strides on through atop its own colossal legs. If Lovecraftian horror and Dark Souls had relations, Bloodborne is the resultant twisted, nightmarish, gibbering baby. And ask just about anyone who has played it, and they will attest to its greatness. Bloodborne doesn’t just have tight combat mechanics, but like Dark Souls, its story is up to the player to discover, it’s lore scattered across the world and leading to some truly messed up revelations concerning the nature of reality and your place in it. Visually the game is an absolute treat, a Gothic nightmare raised to impossible heights in level design and atmosphere, with grand cosmic horrors just lurking beyond the veil of your perception.
Castlevania: Symphony of The Night:
This is, without doubt, the greatest Castlevania game ever made. It’s also, for me, the greatest Metroidvania horror-platformer ever made. Even today, Konami’s masterpiece is still a gorgeously-animated, tightly-designed piece of action-RPG-platforming. Players take on the role of Alucard in his attempt to finally put an end to Dracula’s curse by storming his castle and laying to rest all the nasties residing within. Now while Symphony isn’t the first 2D platformer to indulge in the Metroidvania design of needing new items and powers to access new areas, it’s certainly the most well designed one, still showing all comers today how it’s done. Symphony of The Night now graces multiple platforms so there’s no excuse for you not to play it, though if you can, get your hands on the original PS1 or adapted version of the game as it contains the hilariously hokey dialogue that, for some reason, Konami decided to edit in later releases. It’s as essential to the experience as hearing how Jill is the master of unlocking. I play this at least once a year.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2:
An under-appreciated gem, Lords of Shadow 2 failed to set the sales charts alight. The Lords of Shadow series tells Dracula’s origin story and it’s a fantastic one at that. Lords of Shadow 2 ditched the first game's linear level design in favour of a full 3D, semi-open world Metroidvania and gave me the 3D Castlevania game I’ve always wanted. Adapting a 2D design into 3D is no easy task, as many games have proven, but Shadow 2 got it right in pulling Dracula’s labyrinthine castle from 2D into 3D, with all the requisite areas requiring new powers or items to access. The wonderful exploration and 3D rendition of Dracula’s castle, along with some tight vampiric power-based combat and a tragic story, has made Dracula’s fight to defeat the Devil a classic in my eyes.
Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil:
Doom 3 resurrected iD’s flagship franchise in a completely new direction that no one saw coming and divided the fan base over whether or not it was good, or a misstep in bringing Doom back to the masses despite the amazing technology powering it. iD turned it’s vicious first person shooter into a jump-scare laden, atmospheric survival-horror shooter that made certain Mars wasn’t the destination spot you wanted to go to. Eight months later, Nerve Software took us back to Mars with the game's expansion, Resurrection of Evil which placed players in the shoes of another UAC Marine investigating the main games events two years later.
Resurrection took a world design step backwards, ditching the meticulous design that iD put into the environments in favour of faster combat and more enemies on screen. Nerve managed to maintain the nightmare atmosphere that I think we all now associate with Mars, while introducing new gameplay mechanics such as a physics-based gun, hellpowers, more enemies on screen, more bosses, tighter level design for more furious combat, and an adrenaline shot up the gunplay butt. Gone were the survival-horror mechanics in favour of combat that made Resurrection of Evil the game that Doom 3 should have been (ed - for what it's worth, I still consider DOOM 3 one of the best first-person survival horror games when played on harder difficulties).
I love Illbleed, and not just because it introduced me to the magical adventures of Fall Down Bear, but because it was a total breath of fresh air in the survival horror market when it was released on Dreamcast back in 2001. Resident Evil’s lineage was still showing up in many games aiming for the crown and Illbleed took a different approach to the horror genre by going in for full 3D environments, trap-based gameplay and a sense of humour skewering popular horror movie genres. Players took on the role of one of four characters (with one available in the beginning and the rest needing to be saved in the various levels) tasked with surviving a horror amusement park for $1 million dollars.
The trick was to make it through the occasional combat and trap filled levels without dying, either through bleeding, from fright or running out of stamina. Players could mark locations to safely negate a possible trap using adrenaline but the resource for doing this was finite, meaning you had to take the levels at a slower pace, paying attention to your sight, smell, hearing and sixth sense markers to avoid traps. With good and bad endings, and not been able to see all traps in one playthrough, Illbleed promoted multiple runs through its movie-inspired locales. Illbleed failed to make a sales mark, but has since garnered a cult following.
Gabriel Knight: Sins of The Fathers:
It’s back to 1993 and the point-and-click genre with this classic piece of horror gaming. Published by Sierra On-Line and featuring some top-tier voice acting on its CD version by the likes of Tim Curry and Mark Hamill, Sins of The Father was the first part in the Gabriel Knight series. The story followed the exploits of rare bookstore owner and struggling writer, Gabriel Knight, as he gets himself involved in a string of voodoo murders that may point, ultimately, to his destiny. Gabriel Knight was, and still is, a mature piece of storytelling, and for all the right reasons rather than it having it’s fair share of horror and gore.
Featuring gorgeous 2D environment art, the New Orleans setting of the game provided a taste of the exotic, while the storyline allowed for two endings and some nasty ways for the player to die. A 20th Anniversary Edition was released in 2013 featuring updated graphics, a remastered soundtrack and new puzzles and gameplay. Afficionados of horror games should track this down (ed - you can get both the original version and remaster on GOG). Whether remastered or not, it’s an essential play for anyone looking for mature storytelling and great writing.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines:
Like the mythical creature on which it was based, Bloodlines has become somewhat of a legend itself. What should have been the greatest vampire game ever made, if not one of the greatest period, was a technically-broken, unfinished mess on launch that very few people played. Despite the numerous bugs, unfinished quests, and missing areas, Bloodlines was a frustrating, but fantastic experience. Players took on the role of a newly-minted vampire who finds himself, or herself, plunged into the murky world of vampire politics and wars between the different vampire races.
Bloodlines was an ambitious undertaking allowing players to choose their gender, vampire type, power set, and pledge their allegiances to different vampire clans through violent or non-violent means. It would take too long to list all the things that Bloodline set out to do and the freedom it allowed the player in it’s semi-open world setting. Just know that since it’s release, Bloodlines has become a cult classic with an unbelievably dedicated following. Fans are still patching the game to this day, re-adding all the unused content that original developer Troika couldn’t as they ran over budget and were forced to release the product unfinished. The unofficial fan patch is considered a must have and the basic version of it is now lumped in with the GOG copy of the game. Now is the perfect time to revisit this flawed gem.
Dino Crisis is one of the best sci-fi/horror titles that Capcom worked on that wasn’t Resident Evil. Well, in many ways it was, just with Capcom substituting dinosaurs for zombies and full 3D environments for pre-rendered backdrops (though with static camera angles still in play). Dinosaurs usually make everything better and that’s certainly the case for this survival-horror game that had players investigating a laboratory on an isolated island that has somehow become infested with the rampaging, carnivorous lizards. The survival horror tropes are still in play: limited ammo, finding keys to open doors, and inventory management, but somehow Dino Crisis made for a fun, challenging playthrough that I’ve returned to time and again. Along with Onimusha, this is the other Capcom IP that players want a new game in or a remaster. Two sentiments I wholeheartedly support.
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