Top 5: Action Horror Video Games

(cross posted at )
These are my top picks for video games that manage to give you all the action you could want while while making you piss yourself just a little.  If I’m being honest; more than movies, more than literature it is video games that are my first and greatest influence in how I approach and understand story.

(Note: I’m encompassing survival horror under the banner ‘action horror’ cause… well, I want to.)

5. Resident Evil:

Or ‘Biohazard’ as it is known in Japan.  One of the first games to do justice to zombies.  Forget the increasingly terrible movies and remember instead the ‘holy shit’ awesomeness of running and gunning the T-Virus infected dogs… because Umbrella help you if all you had left was a knife.  Seriously Resident Evil, thank you so much for ensuring I never, ever had enough ammo.  Bonus points for the series giving up its addiction to camera angle scares (starting in Resident Evil 4) but staying just as scary.

4. System Shock

This game did not get the wide adoption it deserved.  Probably one of the best examples of video game writing I’ve ever seen.  All you have is your weapons, your wits, and your psionic powers against an army of I don’t even know whats and the psychotic AI that’s managing it it all.  Unlike a lot of the games on the list… SS remains almost entirely out of print today.  Which is too bad.

3. Bio Shock

This spiritual successor to System Shock definitely lives up to its pedigree.  An Ayn Rand flavored under the sea extravaganza which with so many delightful vignettes courtesy of the deranged ‘splicers’ of Rapture.  Granted, I do think that the final boss was a little… silly; in the way that all super steroid final bosses are.  But everything up till that point was pure gold.  Love the tension of weighing ‘should I or shouldn’t I attack that eight foot tall armored mutant over there to suck the life essence out of the little girl he’s protecting.’  Decisions, decisions.

2. Half Life

Still one of the pinnacles of the first person shooter genre.  The level of polish and care that went into the game shames 99% of the first person shooters out there.  One word: headcrabs.  Nowadays, we have two words: poison headcrabs.  Recently found out the ‘zombies’ sounds are actually a man’s screaming voice begging for help.  Neat!  Now I have more things to have nightmares about.

1. Doom

Ahh doom, you will always have a special place in my heart.  With the exception of the film Aliens, this is why we’re obsessed with with space marines battling unimaginable horrors in spaceeeeeee *echo, echo, echo*.  Looking back on it now, it’s easy to forget that the demon design used to scare me.  But they really, really did.  I remember grabbing an ‘unprotected’ key only for the walls to lower and five of these guys come rushing out throwing fireballs and making my soundblaster contort itself into the low-res language of hell.  Good times.

Honorable Mention:

Left 4 Dead 1 & 2:  Great game(s).  Pitch perfect take on the ‘infected’ style zombies.  Amazingly designed to force you to work as part of a team.  More homages than you can shake a chainsaw at.  The director AI is a thing of beauty and why I’m still playing these games a two years later.  Still, I didn’t include it primarily because there’s something about getting the opportunity to play as one of the infected that drains the horror from the experience.

So what did I miss?  What would be on your top five list of Action Horror Video Games?

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