A lot of things come to mind whenever I think of all the contributing elements that surround the world of horror. A rich and immersive storyline, however, isn't usually one of them. At least, it's not a defining factor that springs to mind whenever I recall the last however many horror games I tiptoed through. To me, it's more the case of having endless jump scares and chase sequences that have helped define the genre throughout the decades. A story, though? I mean, it's an afterthought for most.
Not saying it's impossible to implement a fleshed out plot within a horror game or anything. It's just that, well, it's somewhat rare in this day and age, as most developers resort to textbook scares instead of actually drawing up new and refreshing story-driven content. But then, these five, on the other hand, defied those very words, and actually went on to produce genuinely riveting story arcs. And, you know, they were just as scary as any bog-standard entry in the horror genre, just with a little more, I don't know — oomph.
5. Alan Wake
It starts with a writer. Of course, it just has to. Because we all know a great horror flick can only begin with an up and coming author that's secretly on the hunt for their next big book. And what better way to source some new inspiration than to settle down in a remote district where electrics have taken flight and the only company available is what's in the room with you? Heard it before? Sure you have. But Alan Wake tells it differently.
This story-driven horror takes place in the remote town of Bright Falls, a place where small town folk live and prosper from the simple things in life. When Alan Wake, a celebrated horror writer, comes to town, things take a sudden turn for the worse. The light on Bright Falls plunges into darkness, and the whole region is quickly engulfed in shadows and dissaray. With no recollection of the events that have taken the town by storm, the writer is made to solve the underlying problems that run deep beneath the roots of the region.
4. Until Dawn
When the curtain was first lifted and Until Dawn was presented, we immediately thought the same thing: cliché, cliché, and more clichés. Understandable, considering the whole concept just screamed of every single slasher flick that came out since the early seventies. However, it didn't stop us from looking into it, and eventually, picking it up to see for ourselves. Little did we know, of course, was that Supermassive Games had actually produced gold.
Based around the mountaintop district of Blackwood, five friends return to a cabin on the anniversary of their friends' deaths. After arriving, an unusual curse that scours the region comes into play, leaving the friends to fight for survival hour by hour. Every choice you encounter affects your story, and every missed QTE can lead to drastic consequences. The question is: who will survive until dawn?
We've seen a whole bunch of walking simulator and stealth crossbreeds over the years, which is why selecting just one of them to help bolster this list isn't the easiest thing to do. But having said that, there's a reason why I'm drawn to SOMA, and it isn't because of the abundance of BioShock references, either. In fact, it's more for the story it told, and the conclusion that had me looking up discussions on Reddit for four hours straight. Something about it just, I don't know, ticked all the right boxes.
SOMA follows Simon Jarrett, an unlikely protagonist that finds himself stranded in an underwater research facility. After making sense of his predicament, he is led around the nooks and crannies of the not-so vacant ocean blue labyrinth, forced to establish a future worth holding out for. However, with the promise of a better life not being set in stone, it all boils down to a flip of the coin. What will you do to beat the odds?
2. Among the Sleep
We can all agree that every horror game needs a USP. Even if it's copying a whole bunch of jump scares from a dozen other games in the genre — it still needs some sort of selling point to help sway the sales. For Among the Sleep, of course, it was the fact that players took on the role of a two-year-old toddler. Not something we came to expect when browsing through a pile of up and coming horror games, that's for sure. And yet, that USP is partly the reason why everyone flocked to it way back in 2014.
Waking from an unusual dream, the toddler is made to seek out his mother's embrace in the dead of night. However, being a child with a very hyperactive imagination, surroundings begin to take another form, and the lucid dream soon becomes a bitter reality. There's far more to these visions than what meets the eye, that's for sure. Time to be buckle up and brave the unknown, kid.
1. Blair Witch
If you're a die-hard fan of déjà vu, then you'll love Blair Witch. If you're a die-hard fan of déjà vu, then you'll love Blair Witch. Why? Because other than having to crack the mystery of a missing boy in one of the creepiest forests in the known world, you'll also have to keep a lid on your sanity as you plunge into a decrepit void that has no ladder leading home. Oh, and there's a witch down there. You won't see her, but when your mind is already playing tricks on you every hour of every day — that's probably the last of your concerns, to be fair.
Blair Witch follows Ellis Lynch, a struggling ex-cop with a one-track mind for uncovering the whereabouts of missing nine-year-old boy Peter Shannon. After entering the Black Hills Forest, the last known location for the boy, things soon start to spiral out of control, leaving Ellis to question his frame of mind. Before long, the dark entity that wallows in the shadows of the woods comes out to play. Best of luck escaping this one.
So, what's your take? Do you agree with our top five? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.