The Nintendo GameCube was a console primarily targeted at younger gamers, and yet one of the best horror games of all time only exists on it.
Horror games had a renaissance in the early 2000s. Titles like Silent Hill 2, Resident Evil 4, and many others would be giving gamers waking nightmares for weeks on end as they soaked up the horrors put before them on their screens. In between all these juggernauts of the genre, a smaller company named Silicon Knights created Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem.
As a game, Eternal Darkness was incredibly unique, with its multiple narratives, dark atmosphere, and interesting mechanics specifically made to make players feel uncomfortable and keep them on the edge of their seats. This terrific title, however, isn’t often talked about when gamers bring up nostalgic horror games. One of the main reasons for this is that the game released exclusively on the Nintendo GameCube.
Being on GameCube Didn’t Do Eternal Darkness Any Favors
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is a horror game with intertwining narratives featuring the many protagonists brought into contact with the Tome of Eternal Darkness, an eldritch artifact that records the magic and knowledge of its previous owners regarding their contact with The Ancients. The most recent owner of this book is Alexandra Roivas, whose family has long been touched by this ancient power. After the death of her grandfather, she uses the book to collect information and spells, unlocking the secrets of her family home and reading about the histories of the previous owners of the book. The game takes players throughout many historical time periods in several different locations all in the pursuit of the same goal of defeating The Ancients.
Along with Silent Hill 2, Eternal Darkness was one of the earliest psychological horror games and one of the first to use the now-often-implemented sanity meter. As the meter drops, the protagonist would experience hallucinations. Some of them would affect gameplay, turning down the volume, proclaiming that save files have been permanently erased, messing with the interface, and much more. The game was one of the first to interact directly with the player rather than just the characters within it, making for quite the unique experience. Boasting all of this, it is hard to imagine why Eternal Darkness doesn’t get as much recognition as it deserves. Much of this can be attributed to being published exclusively for the GameCube.
The game was originally supposed to be released for the Nintendo 64 but was moved to the GameCube early in its development. It was also the first M-Rated game to be published by Nintendo. The late ’90s and early 2000s were an interesting time for the company, competing with Sony and Microsoft to gain back older gamers as Nintendo’s family-friendly image reflected its consoles as being for kids. Eternal Darkness was one of the games meant to emphasize that the company had mature titles too. Compared to other mature games playable on the GameCube, like Killer7 and Soul Calibur II, Eternal Darkness was a critical hit but a financial flop that sold less than half a million copies worldwide. It’s not hard to draw the conclusion that the game could have been much more successful on another console.
Eternal Darkness Has an Undeniable Legacy
Eternal Darkness is a game that, despite its commercial underperformance, captured the hearts and minds of gamers who did play it. Its unique gameplay and dark atmosphere would go on to inspire other horror games. This can also be considered the beginnings of the cosmic horror genre in gaming with Call of Cthulhu and Amnesia: The Dark Descent on the horizon, both of which also implemented the coveted sanity meter. There have been attempts in recent years at a remake, but due to legal issues, that doesn’t look to be happening anytime soon.
Still, one can’t help but wonder what could have happened had the game been released on the PlayStation or PC. It very well might have garnered a wider audience. For now, Eternal Darkness remains a fascinating and important part of gaming history, inspiring horror games to this day, even though few have played it.
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