No other medium immerses you in horror as completely and as expertly as video games. The combination of creepy sights and sounds is half the story, but being forced to play through these games -- in other words, being responsible for your own survival -- is what really submerges you in the experience.
Horror games don't go easy on you by lightening the mood with colorful, happy settings, either. Here are the most noteworthy horror game locales, the places you think about long after the game is turned off and stored away.
The Hospital / Operating Theatre (Resident Evil 4)
Anyone who's ever undergone surgery will tell you that entering an operating theatre is one of life's most unnerving experiences, even when said theatre is clean, well-lit, and staffed with friendly doctors and nurses.
Nothing close to "friendly" and "well-lit" exists in Resident Evil 4's hospital location, where blood-covered walls and corpses whose faces are fixed in eternal screams tell silent tales of horrific human experiments. The experiments eventually produced the "Regenerator," monsters with cracked, grey skin and irregular, hitched breathing that may alert you to the creature's grisly presence before you even see it. Try looking behind you, if it's not already too late.
Good luck with the hunt; these gentlemen are stuffed full of wriggly parasites that make them regenerate body parts as quickly as you can shoot them off.
Acme Station (Marathon Infinity)
Bungie's classic first-person shooter technically isn't a horror game, but it has more than enough moments that make you say to yourself, "Wow, if I found myself in this situation in real life, I'd start screaming like a dying pig."
Except there is no screaming on Marathon Infinity's Acme Station, because it's a hard vacuum. It's also a maze -- a very heavily-guarded maze, at that -- which makes it difficult to track down either of the stage's two oxygen canisters.
Much as we humans like to gab about the wonders of space, the very thought of being lost in an airless hell with a rapidly-depleting oxygen indicator is enough to make even the most experienced astronaut break out in a cold sweat. Pretty stressful stuff for a space station with a name that makes it sound like it manufactures oversized springs and magnets.
The Brain Puzzle Labs (The Evil Within)
Nobody does horror like Japan, and nobody does horror games like Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. The Evil Within, which is directed by Mikami, is a third-person survival horror game that dishes up enough visual and psychological horrors to jolt you awake for a good few weeks after you stop playing it. Your brain never stops playing, dear one.
And speaking of brains, some of the most memorable moments in this unforgettable game involve grey matter. There are three puzzles that can only be solved by poking needles into live brains that still power functioning people. Not an activity for the squeamish, that's for sure, though these puzzles are surprisingly light on blood. It's the nature of the act and the reaction from the victims that makes you feel like you've just scraped all ten of your finger-nails down a chalkboard.
The human brain has no nerves, so it's not like the test subjects can feel the needles slide in there, anyway -- but that doesn't help much, does it?
2K's BioShock takes place in the underwater city of Rapture, a Randian playground that's utterly gone to pieces. Rapture delivers plenty of frights at its most basic level: There are mutated splicers whose Bible Camp songs echo down the waterlogged hallways, there are creepy Little Sisters with dead eyes and big needles, and of course there are Big Daddies who, despite their bulk, can fly at you seemingly out of nowhere and pound you into paste before you can say "Adam."
But the deeper themes in BioShock are haunting, too. How far will humanity go for its science and art if no-one is there to say "No?" How much control do we have over our own lives? And how the hell do you get out of a city that's at the bottom of the ocean?
Sevastopol (Alien: Isolation)
Though they're from the same franchise, Ridley Scott's Alien and James Cameron's Aliens are two very different movies. The latter is all about action, whereas the former is a slower, more suspenseful ride.
Alien: Isolation definitely pays close tribute to Scott's contribution to the Alien saga. You're pitted against a single Xenomorph, which may not sound like much -- but when you're a soft-skinned human utterly lacking in natural defenses, one towering, bullet-hard space-predator with acid blood and frightening intelligence is more than enough.
The Alien makes excellent use of its cold intellect as it hunts you down, too. It responds to every movement, every sound, and it won't stop looking for you until somebody (or something) dies.
At least you can run outside if things get too hairy. Oh, wait -- that's right. Space. Infinite vacuum. Sorry.
USG Ishimura (Dead Space)
Like Alien: Isolation, the critically acclaimed survival horror title Dead Space earns tons of Creepiness Points by default thanks to its setting: A comparatively tiny pocket of oxygen in the cruel, radiation-bombarded dead zone that is outer space. Unlike Alien: Isolation, however, Dead Space puts you up against an endless barrage of twisted Lovecraftian horrors called Necromorphs. These slithering, relentless lifeforms provide the right touch of atmosphere to the wrecked ship's flickering lights and crumbling corridors.
By the way, your air supply is limited. Have a good time.
The Pizza Parlor (Five Nights At Freddy's)
The security office of Freddy Fazbear's Pizza is equipped with blast doors. You soon learn why.
Five Nights at Freddy's is a game that most of us can relate to on some level. We love the idea of Chuck E Cheese's, but the herky-jerky movements of the animatronic characters are kind of spooky, to say nothing of the creaky voices that spill from those mechanized vocal chords.
Five Nights preys on our innate fear of mechanical mice, but Freddy Fazbear's Pizza by itself is sinister. Even though you only observe the venue through a low-quality camera feed, you get the impression that the joint is dark and grimy, even during daylight hours. The pizzeria looks used-up, and the children's drawings on the wall feel threatening. The empty hallways echo with the animatronics' singing and slow laughter.
It's a place that feels like it's pregnant with horrible secrets. That's not incorrect.
PT's House (Silent Hills)
Hideo Kojima's PT ("Physical Trailer") features a haunted suburban house. What dwells within is a perversion of the idyllic depiction of middle-class life pop culture feeds us, however.
You're only allowed to access a tiny portion of this house, a grim-looking hallway that's littered with clutter and bugs. Doors bulge as unseen horrors pound the other side, lanterns swing in a private breeze, and when you try to leave, you find yourself back where you started. Only this time, everything is just a little more horrible. It gets worse and worse and before you know it, you're staring at an eyeless fetus crying in a roach-covered sink.
You have no idea why you're there, or how to leave. All you know is that something is waiting to claim you, and it all probably ties back into the background radio report about an inexplicable phenomenon driving fathers to murder their families.
PT was a genius moment in game marketing: Nobody knew the demo was actually a Silent Hills trailer until an unassuming Twitch streamer finished it. Unfortunately, we all know about the fate of the game (HINT: Cancelled), and the fate of the Silent Hill franchise in general.
Maybe the true horror story at hand here is the state of the triple-A games industry. OooOooOo.