I hate being scared.
I will never understand those fear junkies that watch all these horrible “Paranormal Activity” movies. I don’t like playing scary games or watching horror movies, and I really don’t like it when someone sneaks behind a door and jumps out at me when I come home.
However, I do get why people love Halloween, and — for this unique holiday — I have compiled a list of horror games that are so good that I am willing to overlook their frightening parts.
These games aren’t true members of the survival horror genre, a twisted group of titles that I learned long ago wasn’t for me. Instead, all titles are clever hybrids of survival horror and action themes that provide a few scares but, more importantly, a thrilling gameplay experience.
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The Condemned franchise
“Condemned: Criminal Origins” was my first Xbox 360 game. I chose it over several well-known launch titles on a whim, and I was rewarded with an absolutely unmatched balance of great action, puzzle-solving and the occasional scare.
Players control Ethan, a detective searching for the reason why a city’s homeless people are going crazy and attacking others. Ethan must use his forensic training, intuition, fighting skills and eventual psychic powers to untangle this web of craziness and ultimately take down his nemesis, Serial Killer X.
The game and its solid sequel, “Condemned: Bloodlines,” are as close as I’ll get to true survival horror. Ammunition for your guns is very scarce, and players are forced to use their wits and a combination of genius environmental weaponry, such as fire axes or pipes pulled from building wreckage, to defeat their enemies.
The storyline of the Condemned franchise gets a little convoluted, but pretty much every horror game and movie requires its fans to look the other way as far as realism and narrative go.
If you are looking for a dark, suspenseful thriller with some great action, then you will want to check out the Condemned franchise.
The F.E.A.R. franchise
I know I am alone in saying this, but the F.E.A.R. franchise is probably my favorite group of first-person shooter games out there. I’m sure I will get hate mail from “Halo” and “Call of Duty” fans for saying it, but I just don’t think you can get much better than the F.E.A.R. games.
F.E.A.R. stands for First Encounter Assault Recon, and players basically assume the role of a squadron of militarized Ghostbusters investigating psychic and paranormal events. It is very clearly a first-person shooter with ample ammunition and various creatures to blast into oblivion, but it does branch out into some textbook horror themes.
The scariest part of the F.E.A.R. trilogy is definitely Alma, a frightening little girl with omnipotent psychic powers. It is apparent from the first scene of the first game to the last scene of the last game that the player can do absolutely nothing to harm Alma, but she can tear your character to pieces with so much as a glance. And there’s something truly terrifying about fighting wave after wave of demonic bad guys only to turn the corner and see a little girl wandering down a hallway.
Unlike virtually every survival horror game, the F.E.A.R. games have a multiplayer system. Players can team up in cooperative modes or play in what I believe to be the best player vs. player matches in all of the first-person shooter genre.
If you want a well-rounded horror experience and don’t mind extreme violence or creepy imagery, I recommend the F.E.A.R. franchise.
The Left 4 Dead franchise
In a world saturated with zombie goodness, it’s important to pay homage to the video game franchise that truly nailed the cooperative horror/action undead experience.
“Left 4 Dead” was widely hailed as the greatest zombie game ever made until “The Last of Us” challenged its supremacy. I know I will catch some flak for saying this, but I think “Left 4 Dead” and its sequel are still the superior titles.
The Left 4 Dead franchise perfectly encapsulates what I want in a zombie game. Players certainly get a few scares, but it is mainly about surviving waves and waves of various creatures with whatever weapons, tools and environmental help you can find.
The Left 4 Dead games are also just plain fun. They are very easy to pick up and play for the first time, but the higher difficulties require a high level of skill and cooperation from an experienced team.
If you want an entertaining zombie-hunting adventure for gamers of all experience levels, then check out the Left 4 Dead franchise this Halloween.