Now that its highly anticipated live-action adaptation finally began airing on HBO, the hit video game The Last of Us experienced a surge of newfound interest. Specifically, gamers and newcomers alike focused on the game’s use of horror. To fans, The Last of Us is one of the best horror games of the 2010s – if not the best.
As scary and harrowing as The Last of Us and its sequel can be, they’re not the video game medium’s best examples of horror. Other zombie-themed games did some things better than The Last of Us, and some games simply belong on a whole other level of terror.
10 Resident Evil 4’s Campy Fun Hid Its True Horror
Resident Evil 4 is best remembered as a homage to campy and unintentionally hilarious B-movies, but that doesn’t mean it’s wholly devoid of terror. Whenever Leon Kennedy’s mission to save Ashley Graham slowed down, Resident Evil 4 didn’t hesitate to scare gamers with a disturbing enemy design or encounter.
The Last of Us boasted scientifically-accurate enemy designs and realistic fights. Conversely, Resident Evil 4 didn’t let reality limit what terrors the Las Plagas infection could create. Thanks to this morbid sense of creative freedom and self-awareness, Resident Evil 4 scared gamers in ways the self-serious The Last of Us refused to.
9 BioShock’s Underwater Tomb Was Just The Beginning
While it’s the most beloved and recognized post-apocalyptic zombie game, The Last of Us’ setting and gameplay are hardly original or groundbreaking. It’s a testament to the developers’ skills and passions that The Last of Us stood out in a crowded subgenre. However, BioShock didn’t face this problem because of its uniqueness.
Through the claustrophobic Rapture and its darkly political existence, BioShock gave players a truly one-of-a-kind and disturbing experience. BioShocks’ iconic twist also gave gamers an existential crisis and made them question the very structure of video games. There will be another The Last of Us, but there will only be one BioShock.
8 Amnesia: The Dark Descent Made Gamers Feel Helpless
Amnesia: The Dark Descent may be best remembered for inspiring tons of memes and imitators, but none of these diminish how expertly it crawled under players’ skins. Besides its classically Gothic horror and mystery, Amnesia terrified gamers by making them feel genuinely defenseless. This was done by forcing players to hide instead of fighting back.
Despite some scripted events and difficult boss encounters, The Last of Us still allowed players to defend themselves or even dominate their enemies. With enough skills and luck, any player could transform The Last of Us from a horror game to a thrilling ride. This was impossible in Amnesia, which made it more primal and terrifying.
7 Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly’s Amakura Sisters Weighed Heavily On Gamers
In The Last of Us, players were tasked with protecting Ellie, even though she could handle herself well. Even if Ellie often found herself in a bind, players were always sure she was safe. This isn’t the case for the second Fatal Frame game, where players had to fight off ghosts while protecting Mayu from vengeful spirits.
Even if Mayu was Mio’s (the player character) sister, her safety was never guaranteed. The player’s actions determined Mayu’s fate, for better and worse. This and Crimson Butterfly’s already creepy central mechanic of fending off ghosts with a camera were infinitely creepier and more tense than any scare Ellie accidentally got caught in.
6 Silent Hill 2 Became A Horror Classic For A Reason
Silent Hill 2 is synonymous with the horror video game. The sequel is best known for memorably tragic characters and trapping players in a uniquely eerie and existentially dreadful town. The eponymous Silent Hill was a waking and symbolic nightmare like no other. No other horror game and even Silent Hill itself could surpass what Silent Hill 2 created.
Conversely, The Last of Us’ well-developed characters and lived-in world are merely the best renditions of familiar post-apocalyptic archetypes and tropes. If The Last of Us was a good example of maximizing formula, Silent Hill 2 broke new ground by pushing its predecessor’s well-established psychological horror formula beyond its limits.
5 P.T. Was An Unforgettable, If Short-Lived, Nightmare
The now-canceled Silent Hills’ playable teaser will go down not only as one of the greatest forms of lost media, but as one of the best horror games ever made. Despite its short length and the fact that it kept reusing the same level and assets, P.T. perfectly captured what it felt like to be trapped in a seemingly endless nightmare.
In its defense, The Last of Us couldn’t emulate even a fraction of P.T.’s surreal and insidious terror because of its in-universe rules and straightforward story. Additionally, The Last of Us literally put players in Joel, Ellie, and Abby’s shoes. P.T. won as a horror game primarily because it let players experience the nightmare firsthand.
4 Limbo Perfectly Recreated A Childhood Nightmare
Besides the undead, The Last of Us derived its terror from the fears of societal collapse, and the ensuing chaos and inhumanity. Limbo, meanwhile, drew its horrors from something more primal and relatable. With its towering spiders to monstrous giants, Limbo was basically a kid’s nightmare brought to terrifying life.
Limbo hammered in these childhood fears with its haunting visuals and by making players control a defenseless kid. Worse, his defensive options were limited at best. The Last of Us scared gamers by showing a potential end of the world. Limbo, however, did better at scaring gamers by reminding them of their simplest yet most effective fears.
3 Spec Ops: The Line Was A Slow Descent Into Madness
The Last of Us and especially The Last of Us Part II are known for being grim reflections of the human condition. Joel and Ellie’s confrontations with their darkest selves is tragic and harrowing. However, it was never as nightmarish and surreal as the deceptively familiar military shooter Spec Ops: The Line.
Besides its graphic violence and bizarre nightmares, Spec Ops: The Line showed gamers how easy it was to cast aside their humanity by letting them convince themselves to commit war crimes. Since it was basically an interactive zombie movie, players knew how dark The Last of Us would get. The same can’t be said for Spec Ops: The Line.
2 This War Of Mine Showed The Horrifying Humanity & Reality Of War
Most combat-oriented games like The Last of Us showed armed conflict and violence from the fighters’ perspectives. This War of Mine took a different approach by instead letting players control the civilians who were caught in the crossfire. As a result, This War of Mine became one of the most horrifyingly and tragically human games ever made.
Despite its grim reality and hopeless setting, The Last of Us wasn’t too different from countless more gamified post-apocalyptic power fantasies. This War of Mine was a miserable experience that only got more dire with each passing level. This War of Mine will terrify gamers in visceral ways The Last of Us can’t accomplish.
1 Detention’s Scares Were Based On Real-Life Horrors & Evil
As realistic and relatable as The Last of Us may be, it’s still a fictional story. At most, it was inspired by broad human history and nature. Detention ostensibly fit this bill since it was visually indistinguishable from many other horror games inspired by Asian horror fiction. In truth, Detention’s true terror comes from its connection to Taiwan’s real dark past.
Detention is a game about the ghosts of Taiwan’s martial law period in the ’60s. This, combined with Detention’s creepy visuals and gameplay, created the kind of horror game that may be too real for some players to handle. The Last of Us’ horrors were somewhat alleviated by the escapist suspension of disbelief that Detention doesn’t have.
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