Sadly, 2021 was nonetheless largely haunted by the ghost of 2020, and as such, escapism remained an important element of day-to-day life. Fortunately, there was loads of it on supply.
2021 marked an enormous yr for maybe the largest identify in horror video games, Resident Evil. Not solely did the sequence rejoice its twenty fifth anniversary, however the eighth mainline recreation was additionally launched and proved there was nonetheless lots within the tank for the franchise’s future. Elsewhere, Silent Hill 2 turned 20 with rumblings of latest entries within the franchise sadly nonetheless simply that. Nostalgia was properly rewarded in 2021, with ports and stellar remasters of revered classics reminiscent of Alan Wake, Quake, and Zombies Ate My Neighbors among the many restored hits.
While it’d be good to simply swim in a sea of hazy sentimentality, 2021 had loads of new video games to find as properly. One factor that struck me this yr was the sheer number of horror experiences on supply. A lot in order that I struggled to maintain it at simply ten. So first up, a couple of honorable mentions that, for varied causes, didn’t fairly make the ultimate ten.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood: Shallow as a puddle in so some ways, however let me inform you, I actually loved being a hulking eco-warrior who can flip into an everyday wolf and a monstrous werewolf.
Deathloop: Look, Deathloop is improbable. I adore it loads, and slapped the entire 5 skulls on it for this very web site, however it might be a bit a lot to have it adorn a high 10 of the yr for horror. Violent, bloody, and wonderful it could be, but it surely leans additional into sci-fi than horror.
The Final Stand: Aftermath: A strong apocalypse survival recreation that performs out like a critical tackle Dying Highway to Canada.
Nix Umbra: A deceptively easy rating assault recreation setup results in an unsettling, visually-captivating folks horror expertise
Jupiter Hell: Doom as a top-down, turn-based recreation? That’s primarily what Jupiter Hell is, and it pulls it off fairly properly.
Christmas Bloodbath: Proper on the demise, Puppet Combo dropped a festive rating assault recreation the place you’re a serial killer, racking up kills in opposition to the general public while dressed as Santa. Beautiful.
Proper then, onto the Greatest Horror (and sure, typically horror adjoining) Video games of 2021. Clearly, these are my private picks, and as such, if one thing isn’t right here that you simply assume ought to be, I didn’t play it or didn’t get on with it as a lot as the remainder. As ever, your individual private picks for video games of the yr are greater than welcome within the feedback part beneath!
Tormented Souls (Developer: Twin Impact – Format: Multi)
A throwback survival horror with a PS2-era angle, Tormented Souls is honest sufficient with its schlocky melodramatic try and recreate the likes of Haunting Floor and Rule of Rose to be forgiven for a few of its technical misgivings.
The work of a small studio is sort of spectacular right here, particularly within the element of its creepy outdated personal hospital setting. I doubt it is going to find yourself gaining something just like the cult standing of the video games it’s impressed from, however Tormented Souls invokes the spirit of them beautifully.
Returnal (Developer: Housemarque – Format: PS5)
Extra sci-fi motion than horror? Sure, you would certainly say that of Returnal. But my largest takeaway from it was that of horror. From the Giger-esque environments of its alien world of Atropos, to the cosmic horror monstrosities that inhabit it, and within the unusual occurrences that blight protagonist Selene, Returnal is all ambiance and dread.
What actually sells it’s the punishing arcade-inspired fight. Each motion feels necessary to Selene’s ongoing survival, and realizing the consequence of falling to the tendrils or vitality blasts of considered one of Atropos’ nastier inhabitants is a visit again to the beginning that manages to be exhilarating the place it might simply have been irritating.
Again 4 Blood (Developer: Turtle Rock – Format: Multi)
To attempt to seize the lofty heights of Left 4 Lifeless is a daring alternative, and this yr alone, there have been a couple of makes an attempt, however for Turtle Rock Studios, to take action was private. Having its personal storied historical past with Valve’s zombie shooter sequence, there was a lot expectation at hand when it introduced Again 4 Blood.
Was it met? No, it by no means actually might, however the effort to proceed that legacy is honest, and at its greatest, Again 4 Blood doles out explosive, nervy co-op motion in spades.
Bloodwash (Developer: Black Eyed Priest, Henry Hoare – Format: PC)
Torture Star revealed this punchy, dirty slice of retro horror set virtually solely in an remoted laundromat at midnight. The remit of Torture Star is brief sharp horror video games with an unsettling throwback aesthetic and Bloodwash ticks these bins while nonetheless managing to be its personal factor.
What I particularly take pleasure in about Bloodwash is how properly it captures the sensation of present within the mundane in the course of the hours when everybody else is asleep or partying. Bloodwash’s 24/7 laundromat and neighboring shops exude a seedy, again of past ambiance lengthy earlier than a killer reveals up.
In Sound Thoughts (Developer: We Create Stuff – Format: Multi)
To make any form of assertion in first-person horror video games lately, you both must shake up the same old concepts or present a meticulous understanding of the right way to make the most of them correctly. Each collectively could be good, although…
In Sound Thoughts largely goes for the previous, by carving its trippy story into a number of distinct sections, every knowledgeable by the psychological problems with a specific affected person of the psychiatrist protagonist, who’s himself cursed with a supernatural entity forcing its means into his psyche.
Sure, there’s smatterings of the trope-laden stuff that makes you roll your eyes, but it surely’s used as cement for the extra fascinating bricks of ingenuity and vibrancy used to construct the home of In Sound Thoughts’s usually psychedelic journey into insanity.
Sunshine Manor (Developer: Fossil Video games – Format: Multi)
Whereas Sunshine Manor takes extra apparent inspiration from video games reminiscent of Earthbound and Undertale, its spooky mansion setting, filled with ghosts to bust, and secrets and techniques to uncover, brings to thoughts Luigi’s Mansion by means of Resident Evil’s Spencer Property.
Key to the sport’s attraction, nonetheless, is its darkish humor positioned subsequent to its cute 8-bit visible fashion. You definitely wouldn’t count on a recreation a few psychic baby surviving a home of a possessed serial killer and spirits to look this cute.
Resident Evil Village (Developer: Capcom – Format: Multi)
Doubtless, Resident Evil Village is the largest horror recreation of 2021, and such expectations hold heavy on it. So it’s fairly a reduction that Village doesn’t get too slowed down with that weight, and provides surprises among the many familiarity.
Certain, stepping into anticipating a complete heap of meme magnet Girl Dimitrescu would go away you disenchanted, however I’d argue the sport’s strengths lay away from the tall vamp. Village finally ends up getting the steadiness of absurd melodrama and gore-splattered nastiness that makes an excellent Resident Evil nearly proper.
Within the recreation’s second space I discovered among the best issues to return out of a Resi recreation in years, and it’s a departure from formulation as well. You understand the place in case you’ve performed it. How might you neglect?
Spookware (Developer: Beeswax Video games – Format: PC)
The extra observant (or simply extra invested) amongst you would possibly have a look at Spookware on this listing and go ‘hold on there for a minute, you place this in final yr’s honorable mentions!’ and also you’d be proper in a means. That is nonetheless Spookware within the sense it has the identical primary concept of a goofy horror model of Wario Ware, but it surely’s a complete different recreation that’s larger and higher.
Now the Wario Ware-style micro-games are simply an ingredient in a genuinely amusing RPG a few trio of skeleton brothers happening an afterlife-changing highway journey that takes in highschool commencement, cooking, and a homicide thriller on a cruise ship.
The whole lot that made the comparatively small iteration of Spookware from final yr so endearing is current right here, and boosted by a correct fleshing out of the world the micro-games inhabit.
Mundaun (Developer: Hidden Fields – Format: Multi)
I have to admit, regardless of loving the pencil-drawn fashion of Mundaun, I discovered it a tricky recreation to get into at first. Fortunately I acquired to some extent the place all of it clicked and have become one of many yr’s most original horror recreation setups.
Exploring a rural Swiss mountain city rife with cult exercise is an attractive premise by itself, however throwing in Mundaun’s distinctive visible fashion elevates it into one thing otherworldly. You begin with an investigation of your father’s demise, however issues take an more and more bizarre and horrific flip that stands out when in comparison with its first-person horror contemporaries.
Inscryption (Developer: Daniel Mullins Video games – Format: PC)
A card recreation you already know nothing about performed out in a candlelit cabin in opposition to a wild-eyed determine, cloaked in shadow. That’s how Inscryption begins, and for a short time, that’s all it appears to be. Then the unusual issues begin occurring. The playing cards start to talk to you, they usually supply an opportunity to flee; to present something extra away would spoil a deeply engrossing expertise.
What I like about Inscryption is the way it retains hanging little morsels of a supposed reality in entrance of you, begging you to snaffle them up and fall deeper into the sport’s mysteries. A fast spherical of its quite violent card recreation is out of the query as curiosity leads you elsewhere, and definitely not the place you’d count on. The locations this recreation goes are actually thrilling as a result of it by no means settles on one path, however manages to make a coherent complete by the point issues wrap up.
Unnerving, unsettling, compelling, chaotic, and downright mind-boggling, Inscryption is a simple alternative for my Recreation of the Yr.