Year of the Slasher.
When it comes to video game genres, horror has been in a rather noticeable slump these past two console generations. In an age where video games seek to reach the lofty heights of major Hollywood blockbuster movies, this subtle and often lesser used genre hasn’t received nearly as much love by larger Triple-A companies. That’s not to say that the industry hasn’t produced some noteworthy titles like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Condemned, and Dead Space, all of which were a master class in their respective styles of gameplay and storytelling. However, up until just recently, it appeared as if horror had become another niche genre both among the community and publishers.
Yet, this appears to be changing as 2017 is aiming to bring horror back to the glory days it once had in the late 90s when games like Silent Hill reigned supreme. Ironically this year kicked off with one of the originators of the survival horror genre when Resident Evil released its seventh core iteration in the series to huge praise from both fans and critics alike. Unlike the past three versions of this title, Resident Evil VII Biohazard went back to its scare-filled roots by forcing players to endure a night of terrors with the warped and demented Baker family. It was a smash hit and showed that even in an age where massive online shooters and elaborate RPGS ruled gaming, horror could more than hold its own both critically and financially.
This isn’t the only horror game aiming to take 2017 by storm as survival based titles such as the demon filled Agony and unsettling world of We Happy Few have culminted large followings. While these are indie titles, both were successfully funded via Kickstarter with Agony making double what developer PlayWay was asking which conveyed that there is a large interest behind this genre despite not being funded by a major publisher. Showing that these games can not only obtain widespread attention from gaming communities but also succeed after launch is and will be key to the success of this genre. While titles like We Happy Few won’t have massive billboards in Times Square like the latest Call of Duty, it helps convey that there is a place for this genre.
While horror may seem like a niche concept for gaming, it’s an important staple as many of the mechanics, themes, and idea originated or were perfected in this genre. Titles like Resident Evil showcased how to balance actual gameplay with slower, more puzzle driven moments that allow users to not be overwhelmed by the constant onslaught of the undead. Amnesia redefined the survival genre by stripping players of their weapons and forcing them to rely on their wits alone, which has been an incredibly popular tool that jumpstarted many other horror franchises such as the acclaimed Outlast series.
Themes about humanity, mental illness, and our relation to death have all been beautifully and thoughtfully explored within horror. Recent titles like Bloodborne remark upon humanities need to understand creation even at the cost of their own sanity, which was originally defined in older games like Alone in the Dark: A New Nightmare. In fact, the same game was also clearly an inspiration for the Scarecrow sections in Batman: Arkham Asylum which were hailed as some of the best moments in that game. This genre’s influences reach near and far, so it’s important to continue expanding and offering up new ideas that not only challenge our own, but help push other games forward.
Looking forward there is even more to be excited for when it comes to the terrifying titles, as games like Outlast 2 are just around the corner. While the original succeeded in bringing the Amnesia/Slender style of survival to the mainstream, it also offered an interesting story and plenty of memorable moments. Another interesting title to keep an eye on is Hello Neighbor which forces the player to try and discover what exactly their creepy resident is hiding. It’s an idea that’s clearly inspired by older horror films like Rear Window, but the cartoony design gives it an almost nightmarish quality. However, survival based horror games aren’t the only types coming out this year as the genre is receiving a rather diverse pool of titles.
Friday the 13th decides to switch things up and lets players actually take control of the masked killer Jason and stalk a handful of other users trying to survive a night at Camp Crystal Lake. While the idea is difficult to pull off, the blending of competitive multiplayer based survival horror could spark an entirely new sub-genre as the concept itself is quite unique. It’s rare players get to play the monster, so offering users the chance to be this legendary 80s horror icon seems almost too good to be true. Then there is Prey, a game that feels like a fun mix between Bioshock and Dishonored that focuses on instilling paranoia of the environment itself since the aliens known as Mimics camouflage themselves as almost any item in a level
There ‘s a lot to be excited about if you are a fan of this specific type of gaming, as 2017 is clearly bringing the scares in full force. While other horror games have risen to prominence solely on the backs of Youtubers playing them, this is the first year in ages where the sheer diversity and creativity involved could ignite another golden age of horror. We are no longer simply receiving non-combat driven survival horror games, but ones that not only tell interesting stories but offer a variety of different mechanical approaches. While there are plenty of great games already released in 2017, the most important may be the ones that send shivers up our spines.