2020 is shaping up to be a disappointing year for horror gaming fans. While recent years have seen fewer noteworthy horror games hit the shelves, this year’s production problems caused by the pandemic have seriously impacted the number of new horror titles we’ll get in 2020.
That being the case, we thought we’d shed some light on some truly obscure horror titles that you’ve likely never played. Granted, some of these games are pretty difficult to find these days, but nobody said being a horror gaming fan was easy.
The appropriately named Obscure series just never got the love it deserved.
Stylistically modeled after classic slasher films, the Obscure series puts you in control of various teenagers with unique abilities who must survive a series of supernatural threats. Their Resident Evil-like gameplay was a little outdated even at the time of their release, but few games celebrate the joy of the horror genre quite like these.
Bonus points also have to be assigned to these games’ co-op modes, which remain something of a genre rarity but were executed to near perfection in these true gems.
Here we have another horror game that was seemingly overlooked largely due to the Resident Evil fatigue that had started to set-in by the time of its 2001 release date.
Extermination is a conceptually brilliant survival horror game that essentially combines the best bits of The Thing and Resident Evil. Much of that brilliance can be attributed to an infection system that brilliantly twists the tropes of classic health bars by presenting an alternate threat that completely changes the way you play and utilize your resources.
Years later, it’s easy to love Extermination for emphasizing the survival element of the survival-horror genre.
Forbidden Siren 2
Forbidden Siren 2 had a lot working against it. As the strangely-named sequel to the frustrating and obscure 2003 horror game, Siren, Forbidden Siren 2 struggled to convince new players and existing fans to give it a shot.
Those who have played this game, though, will likely tell you that Forbidden Siren 2 is a near-masterpiece. This complex psychological horror game fixes many of the mechanical issues which plagued its predecessor while retaining its innovative “butterfly effect” storytelling techniques and possession gameplay.
We’ve heard rumors that Sony is interested in remaking the Siren series, which would be a big win for the millions who never got the chance to experience this game for themselves.
Silent Hill: Downpour
Silent Hill 4: The Room occasionally gets the love it deserves, and Silent Hill: Homecoming is rightfully recognized as a storytelling masterpiece. For some reason, though, Silent Hill: Downpour has never really found an audience.
Granted, the game is extremely rough around the edges, but Downpour brilliantly resurrects the exploration and survival elements of the older Silent Hill games while casting you in the relatively unique role of an escaped convict who must navigate the titular town.
Downpour’s disturbing environments and muted melee combat will instantly appeal to anyone who fell in love with the first two Silent Hill games or just misses that style of horror game design.
Echo Night: Beyond
Call me crazy, but you can never have enough sci-fi ghost stories. For whatever reason, we don’t see many games that blend the scientific and the supernatural.
While that intersection of concepts immediately helps Echo Night: Beyond stand out, it’s really the title’s gameplay that sets it apart. As a first-person horror game with no real combat, Beyond was ahead of its time in terms of trends. Yet, even titles like Amnesia never really replicated Echo Night‘s looming sense of dread and excellent exploration concepts.
It’s certainly not easy to play this game today, but the effort may be worth it if you’re a horror fan looking for something different.
Ubisoft’s first horror game was casually dismissed as a lesser version of Resident Evil 4 (despite only being released two months after that game), but time has been very kind to Cold Fear.
This story of a United States Coast Guard who must navigate a ship filled with deadly operatives and their mutated crewmates immediately scores points for its innovative control scheme. Making your way through the upper decks of this ship in a storm requires you to constantly maintain your balance. That mechanic alone throws a wrench into how you would typically approach games such as this.
If anything, Cold Fear‘s combat, enemy design, and isolated locations make it more of a predecessor to Dead Space than a “rip-off” of Resident Evil 4. This one is still on Steam, so you should absolutely check it out.
We’re not going to lie to you: unless you’ve got a Dreamcast, and you’re willing to spend a ton of money on a copy of Illbleed, you’ll probably never (legally) play this game.
That’s truly a shame, as Illbleed is a genre gem. Essentially a tribute to a variety of B-movies, Illbleed sees you navigate a variety of horror-themed theaters with the help of several playable characters and their unique skillsets. The gameplay is…awful, but the music, environments, and corny dialog check a lot of boxes that many other games simply do not.
Illbleed is a rough ride, but the journey is worth it.
Michigan: Report From Hell
Now, we’d never go so far as to call this a “good” game. In fact, it’s absolutely awful from a gameplay, storytelling, visual, and voice acting standpoint.
Yet, much like Troll 2, this is one of those pieces of horror that is so unbelievably bad that you simply must witness it for yourself. You could never make a horror game this awkward, this janky, or this downright bizarre if you assembled an expert team of top developers and gave them an unlimited budget to accomplish that very goal.
That’s what makes Michigan: Report From Hell so special, though. It’s an irreplaceable misfire that argues games can also be “so bad, they’re good.”