How Horror Video Games Have Changed Over The Years

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How Horror Video Games Have Changed Over The Years

Horror video games have been among the most popular genres since their inception. For many years, in fact, developers have tried to create games that were able to instill tension, fear, and anxiety in players. With the advent of new technologies, this desire to instill terror in users has become increasingly urgent, with many independent developers who have ventured into creating horror video games. In this article, we decided to review the genre's history, focusing on the aspects that have changed over time.


The early days

The first games that can be considered horror games were quite simple, even by means of the limited technologies that were available at the time. Among these, we cannot fail to mention titles such as Haunted House (1981) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1982), the very first examples of this genre, which were nothing more than games with a top-down view that tried to instill terror in users by the use of simple graphics and sound effects. Obviously, as mentioned above, these games were very limited but still, they were able to arouse emotions in those who played them.

After that, technology started to evolve and consequently, so did horror video games. The crucial years for the birth of survival horror are the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s. These are the years of games such as Sweet Home (1989) and Alone in the Dark (1992) which can be considered the progenitors of the survival genre horror, with the implementation of puzzle game mechanics. These two titles, therefore, can be considered in all respects the forerunners of horror as we know it now.

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alone in the dark

The rise of the survival horror genre

We have to wait a few more years for survival horror to become a genre in the public domain and popular among users. With the advent of Resident Evil (1996), in fact, the genre has had a real media boom, with players and developers who have made a sort of “arms race” of the survival horror genre. Resident Evil is certainly a milestone of the genre and has contributed to its worldwide diffusion thanks also to the new game mechanics that were implemented in it. Limited resources, cramped spaces, and the fixed camera all contributed to heightening the sense of dread people felt when playing the game.

The success of Resident Evil was just one of many, as it was followed by other titles that managed to create a standard of the genre. One above all is Silent Hill (1999) which, despite detaching itself from Resident Evil due to its more psychological than action set, managed to break through the hearts of users. Another title that helped create the foundations for the genre and at the same time innovate using new mechanics is Fatal Frame (2001), thanks to the peculiar mechanics of catching ghosts with the use of the camera.

The evolution of the genre

Games like Dead Space (2008) and Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010) set new standards for horror video games. The horror in the games that were part of those created in the early days, aimed to leverage psychology rather than jump scares. With the emergence of new technologies, these games have aimed to create different experiences, based on the use of the first person and greater immersion. These two titles in this case created new game mechanics that were considered revolutionary and contributed to the evolution of the horror genre.

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In even more recent times, horror has continued to evolve continuously, always adding new game mechanics, such as the possibility of choosing how to shape the story, as in games like Until Dawn (2015).

dead space

What is the future of horror games?

The future of horror games is yet to be written. Surely, one of the technologies on which more and more reliance will be placed is virtual reality, as already demonstrated with some experiments, for example, Resident Evil 7 (2017). In fact, the use of virtual reality has taken these experiences to the next level, making even more play on the fears of the players.

Furthermore, another important aspect to consider is that of the use of artificial intelligence which could be able to create even more dynamic experiences and which could be able to create personalized gaming experiences for each type of player. Some embryonic experiments have already been conducted over the past few years, with games such as Alien (2014), but it is a technology that still needs some tweaks and modifications.

The point of the situation

Horror video games have come a long way from their inception to today, evolving rapidly and continuously. We have gone from very simple games that made use of poorly structured game mechanics, to the possibility of creating games that adapt to the way users play. There are many possibilities for creating increasingly innovative products and they will certainly become more and more over time.

resident evil 7

How Horror Video Games Have Changed Over The Years
Diana D'Estefano
Diana has been a huge fan of video games since she was a child. She started her "career" with Nintendo and then moved on to other platforms as well. Although she is a big fan of horror games, she plays almost all genres fearlessly. She writes news, reviews, guides, and features about both AAA and indie games.