Gaming’s Forgotten Faces of Horror
Does the younger generation know anything about horror in films? Ask them what they think the scariest movie is they’ll say Saw, Final Destination, or throw in the random Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees movie just to sound like they know something. Ask them anything about the late Vincent Price, Christopher Lee’s younger years, or Rod Serling, they’ll draw a blank; they couldn’t even begin to understand or appreciate how the forefathers shaped horror to what it is today.
The same is true for games. The following is by no means a collection of the scariest bunch, nor are they actually truly forgotten, but overlooked. They are those whose appreciation has fallen flat, smited either by obscurity, being out of date, or turned to dust by the driving of the awful sequel stake through the heart.
Blood I & II
In 1871, the bloodthirsty gunfighter, Caleb, joined The Cabal, a cult who worshipped the dark god Tchernobog. After becoming the cult’s high commander, Tchernobog betrayed Caleb and three of his comrades by having them executed for reasons unknown. In 1928, Caleb rose from his grave proclaiming “I live…AGAIN!” and sets out on a personal vendetta against his former benefactors.
Caleb had the ferocity of Kratos, and the eccentricities of Dante. In a word, he was pure awesome. Caleb’s quest also happened to result in saving the world and delaying The Cabal’s evil schemes, but the man with the plan regards it as mere coincidence. Armed with an illustrious collection of firearms, dynamite, voodoo dolls, and other magic relics, Caleb not only lived for vengeance, but for the kill. Whether it’s The Cabal’s demonic ranks or an innocent bystander, the anti-hero delights in whatever mayhem he can carve leaving a trail of blood from his tomb to the ends of the year 2028 – an offbeat future that unfortunately solidified Caleb’s demise into obscurity.
Nightmare Creatures I & II
Crowley was the leader of the Brotherhood of Hecate, a devil-worshipping cult that attempts to breed an army of abominations for world domination. Murdering Dr. Jean Franciscus along the way drew attention of Ignatius and Nadia Franciscus who seek to stop his plans. Crowley eventually succumbs to his own transformation, engaging the heroes in a final showdown in a burning London. Despite his defeat, Crowley returned in Nightmare Creatures II tormenting the game’s protagonist Wallace, who escapes from Crowley’s genetics hospital.
Those who enjoyed the first game would remember one of Crowley’s famous one liners:
”I hope you like…snakesss.”
Surviving a freak car accident, Laughton awoke with a bandaged face and locked within institutionalized walls. Worst off, he can’t even remember who the hell he was. As Laughton presses on within the looney bin carnival, he finds himself drifting off into other worlds, donning different identities, but always treading on the edges of madness where ever his journey took him.
Max may not be the creepiest of game characters, but he brings to light how sanity can be a priceless commodity. The things he’s seen would make most others piss their pants, curl up in the fetal position, and cry themselves to death. But not Max, and you just gotta give it up for a guy who carries the mental balls to survive through the twist and turns of insanity.
The Mysterious Lady
Uninvited was the first video game to creep me out as a youngster, a game that certainly did well on the fear factor with its technology at the time. Those who played this NES gem will definitely remember The Mysterious Lady, a.k.a. Southern Belle, a.k.a. The Lady in White, a.k.a. Scarlett O’Hara. Upon stepping into her haunting grounds, she appears with her back turned to you. Unless you have the item ‘No Ghost’, any move you make will result in her turning around and ending your adventure.
The 7th Guest, The 11th Hour
Prior to becoming the master of his haunted mansion, Henry Stauf was a drifter who one night dreamt of creating dolls. The dreams were instructions bestowed by an unknown dark force that eventually led him to crafting other toys resulting in opening up his fortune-making toy store. Children who purchased Stauf’s toys were all mysteriously stricken with a fatal illness. Before the people could act, Stauf received one final vision instructing him to build a puzzle mansion, the ground zero from which he disappeared from the living only to lure victims as a means of repaying his evil benefactors.
Before confronting the demonic toy maker, Stauf’s madness was made realize in tackling his mansion’s illustrious puzzles, witnessing the manner in which he took his victims, and hearing his constant taunts from the shadows. In The 11th Hour, Stauf was seen more frequently in overly eccentric display, even going as far as hosting a game show at the final stage – promptly dismissing him from memory.
The Chzo Mythos
The Chzo Mythos consisted of four amateur adventure games created by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw: 5 Days a Stranger, 7 Days a Skeptic, Trilby’s Notes, and 6 Days a Sacrifice.
Before becoming the series’ antagonist, DeFoe’s mother died giving birth to John. This, along with his physical and mental deformities, were the reasons why his father, Sir Roderick, chained him up in the basement of their manor and abused him throughout his entire life. John was eventually beaten to death by his father, using an African totem that held immense supernatural power unbeknownst to all, causing John’s soul to be bound to the totem and turning him into a wraith. DeFoe would return from the dead, in his father’s bloodied leather apron, wearing their gardener’s welder mask, and carrying a machete which he used to exact revenge on Sir Roderick, and his brother Matthew. Wherever the cursed totem may be taken, John will always follow, causing whatever area within its vicinity to become heavily haunted.
The Chzo Mythos was applaudable as it goes to show that you don’t need high production values to make a scary game. Despite its outdated graphics, the series is still renowned for its ability to maintain a continuous creepy vibe, using gore in proper context, and even startling players. All this was the perfect set up for gripping the player in the tingling sensation of panic when DeFoe would make his appearance, after leaving you as the last one remaining, and chasing you down relentlessly in any number of random encounters.
The Chzo Mythos was released as freeware, and can be downloaded from Croshaw’s site.
Clock Tower series
Nothing sucks more than being chased by a deformed midget with a large pair of shears. The ‘Scissorman’ title is used by multiple characters: Bob Barrows from the original SNES title, followed by his twin brother Dan. Being that the Clock Tower games were infamous for their emphasis on stealth, players couldn’t subdue the Scissorman until the game neared its end. Instead, protagonists were made to run and hide from the stalkers’ numerous appearances.
The Scissorman legacy met its unfortunate end in Clock Tower 3. The title was shared between the homicidal twins Ralph and Jemima (Scissorwoman), both ending up being more hilarious than horrifying, both appearing to have lost their way to a Soul Calibur audition.
Trivia: The producers of the first Clock Tower admit drawing heavy inspiration from the Italian horror film, Phenomena (Creepers in the US). The game’s protagonist bore a striking resemblance, and shared the same first name, of the film’s protagonist played by Jennifer Connelly.
The Stranger & Svetlana Lupescu
The Stranger was an operative of “Spookhouse”, a government funded secret organization established by President Theodore Roosevelt to combat against the forces of darkness. In reluctance with his hatred for monsters, The Stranger partnered up with the half vampire operative, Svetlana Lupescu, in tackling their biggest mission yet.
Nocturne was a game that had a lot going for it, but if it wasn’t for its mixed receptive story and gameplay, it could’ve been the Deus Ex of horror games. Still, the game is worth mentioning as it led Terminal Reality to create the BloodRayne series, with Svetlana being the muse for drawing up Rayne. Nocturne’s “Spookhouse” organization was also used in crossing over with the first of The Blair Witch Project PC games.
Shubby was the last boss in Quake, a visage of writhing demonic flesh set within a pool of lava. Its many minions, Shamblers and Vores, take up the arena, impeding your upwards trek to the teleporter that would have you tele-fragging the boss – the only possible way of killing her.
Shub-Niggurath is actually based on the nightmarish deity of the same name in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulu Mythos, first mentioned in his tale The Dunwich Horror. The deity has been referred to as “The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.”
Icon of Sin
A literal face of horror, one that isn’t necessarily forgotten, just not talked about as much anymore. The final boss of Doom 2 was known as a pain in the ass for firing countless spawn cubes from its exposed brain, birthing any number of the game’s bestiary. One way of killing the boss was having to constantly run up a large flight of stairs, throw the switch that activated a platform to rise out of a radioactive basin, and run back to down to catch the ride in order to unleash a payload of rockets into its think hole.
The other way was cheating with the code ‘IDCLIP’, where the player would pass through the boss’s face and find the impaled head of John Romero. Destroying Romero’s noggin would promptly win you the game.