Were older horror games scarier? It’s a question I’ve often asked my self but never gotten round to coming up with an answer. Well today’s the day when I finally answer my own question. We all love a good horror game right? Well maybe not all of us but with the spookiest time of the year right around the corner what better time to talk about all the creatures that lurk in the dark!
It’s a genre that’s packed with some memorable classics and some not so memorable flops. When a game garners that cult following, you know it’s going to be a complete hodgepodge of jump scares, memorable dialogue and cinematic cut-scenes so scary you peek at the screen from behind your hands.
To get into the unnerving mindset I’ve just finished playing ‘Die Young’ by Indie Gala, a first person survival horror on the PS4. I’m all geared up for the Halloween season, now to get you feeling the same.
So strap in and prepare for a scare as we dive into what truly makes a horror game scary.
Were older horror games scarier?
Horror stories are nothing new, I mean just think about all the different mythological stories from ancient history, a lot of these were horror stories. Like the story of Medusa or Frankenstein, humans as a race are constantly coming up with new ways to send shivers down each others’ spines.
But we’re here to talk about video games not ancient history so let’s start at the beginning for video games.
The Very First Horror Game
There is some debate on what the first horror game was, with some saying that it was a haunted house overlay for the Magnavox Odyssey console in 1972. The other side of the argument is probably one that you’re familiar with, Space Invaders (1978), some say this was the predecessor to modern horror games because of the invading alien force and the music that slowly sped up over time. It doesn’t really matter who is right because we still ended up where we are today with horror games becoming a much beloved genre in the gaming community.
So now that little history lesson is out of the way let’s get into the main reason we’re here, are modern horror games less scary than older ones? By older ones I’m talking ps2 and the original Xbox era of games just to stop any confusion going forward.
Were Older Horror Games More Frightening
No doubt if you’re reading this you’ve played at least one horror game in your life, this could be anything from Resident Evil to Dead Rising. Take a second to recall whatever game(s) it was and think, what made them scary? Or why weren’t they scary despite being horror games? Got it? Good, let’s move on.
As a society we’re subject to a lot of scary things on a daily basis, so much so that we have built up a sort of tolerance to all the common horror tropes. With the access to the internet too a lot of people see things in one day that are 10 times scarier than stuff people 150 years ago would experience in their whole lifetime.
Growing up in the early 2000s I was always set out to be a gamer and naturally I ended up playing a horror game or two before I had turned 10. The earliest of which I remember was ‘The Suffering’ on the PS2. This game freaked me out but I kept playing it because it had me hooked and there was something about the horror that caught my attention and from that point forward horror was one of my favourite gaming genres.
Going further back there were tons of really scary games on the PS1. Among them was Silent Hill which is highly regarded amongst horror fans for focusing on the in-game narrative and thematic scenery. It’s a bloody good game!
Modern Game Scare Factor
So are modern games becoming less scary? It’s hard to tell, I mean games have come a long way since the PS2 days, for instance graphics, but all these added details can sometimes take away from the horror. My biggest issue with modern horror games is a trope that is employed in every sector of horror media; the jumpscare.
Jumpscares are, in my eyes, cheap horror. Are they effective? Sure sometimes they genuinely scare me but it never lasts. They are an easy tool used by creators to instill a sense of fear and uncertainty in their player bases and they’re getting used more and more frequently like in ‘P.T.’ where most of what was scary was something popping out at you or a door slamming, and whilst that game was fun it wasn’t necessarily horrifying.
So what makes a good horror game then? Well in my opinion a genuinely scary horror game should have two things, great usage of sound, and scenario based lighting.
Let’s start with sound. For a horror game to stick out to me the way it utilises sound is important. Using the correct music for a situation (or no music at all) can put my hairs on end and make my whole body get tense. Sound can be the difference between a small fright or genuinely jumping out of your seat. Now you would think this would be perfected in more modern games but actually I don’t think it is. Modern games focus more on the designs of their monsters for the scare factor whereas the older games were a lot more limited in what they could do graphically, giving them ample time to focus on the sound or lack thereof in the game.
Now let’s talk about lighting. You would think that a horror game should be all dark colours and horrible lighting, and for some games this works, but it isn’t necessary. One of the scariest experiences can be walking around a light area feeling safe and then all of a sudden you turn a corner and there’s a dead body or a monster that has tonnes of details that you know will haunt your dreams for the next few nights. This is where modern games have the advantage because they aren’t as limited as older games. Things can change at the flick of a switch and the lighting can go from sunshine to only being able to see ⅓ of what you did seconds ago. Older games do have some of this but to a lesser extent which is a lot less impactful.
One more thing I want to talk about is graphics. Obviously modern games have some amazing graphics and can put a lot more distinction into their worlds but sometimes this can be an issue. Ever been playing a game and you don’t know what to focus on because the game is too cluttered with details and it breaks the immersion? Well with the older games you don’t have to worry too much about that, and even though there’s less detail the environments or creatures can be a lot scarier because they draw your attention and that focus that you have can be terrifying.
So were older horror games scarier? I would say yes, at the time they were released, because we weren’t as exposed to the things we are now. It takes a lot more to scare most people in 2021 than ever before so modern games have to try a lot of different methods to give people that scare and a lot of them don’t work.
Were Older Horror Games Scarier [Video]
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