People play video games for all sorts of reasons. Some people play games that cheer them up. Others play them because the games that challenge them like nothing else. And then there are those who want to experience something dark, something awful and horrifying. It’s the same impulse that drives us to watch horror movies or read a Stephen King classic. The following games are all good enough to be worth your time, but they’re definitely not for everyone — especially not kids. Check them out, if you dare.
In an underwater utopia created by an Ayn Rand devotee, what could possibly go wrong? Turns out the answer is “a lot.” By the time your character makes it to the city of Rapture, a civil war has killed the majority of the population. The remaining people are mostly either mutated soldiers or completely insane. To find out more, you’ll have to play it.
Here’s a premise you don’t hear every day. In Manhunt, you play a prisoner who was supposed to be executed by lethal injection — but you wake up. Your savior is a demented director who tasks you with carrying out a series of gruesome gang murders to create snuff films. Obviously, this game just is not for kids, or for anyone who doesn’t want to take a walk on the dark side. The compilation of executions above proves it.
3. Silent Hill
A litany of horrors awaits anyone who plays a Silent Hill game, from pyramid-headed monsters to twitchy undead nurses, to knife-wielding monster children. But the worst/best thing about the series is the way the games get in your head. Everything depicted here is just wrong, and it leaves you feeling disgusted, creeped out, and kind of violated when you stop playing. What more could you ask for from a horror game?
4. Dead Space 2
Not only is the Dead Space series full of hideous monsters ready to tear your throat out the second you make a wrong move. Not only have the developers put together some of the most gruesome death sequences ever to appear in a game. But at one point in Dead Space 2, you get a needle jammed into your eye. The operation can go right or wrong, but it’s horrifying either way.
5. Condemned: Criminal Origins
Most first-person games are shooters that have you dispatch enemies from a distance, which makes the killing feel less personal. Condemned puts a focus on melee combat, so you have no choice but to get your hands dirty. And dirty is what they’ll be when you bash enemies’ heads in with whatever implements you find lying around. Add in some increasingly supernatural horrors as you progress, and you have the makings of a dark, disturbing game.
6. Heavy Rain
It’s a premise as demented as anything out of the movie Seven. In Heavy Rain, a serial killer abducts children and slowly drowns them in rainwater. You play as the father of one of the kids, and the killer enlists you to do a series of horrific tasks in order to save your son, including drinking poison and cutting off your finger. It’s grim, man. Real grim.
7. Spec Ops: The Line
Most war games these days are about as serious as a Transformers movie, with big action set pieces that come off as more awe-inspiring than emotionally draining. That’s where Spec Ops: The Line comes in. The whole point of this game is to illustrate just how awful and destructive war really is, and to give lie to the bombastic military shooters we take for granted. Spoiler alert: It works.
8. Shadow of the Colossus
The game world of Shadow of the Colossus is one of loneliness and desolation. To save your dead friend, you must wander through a barren landscape, seeking out 16 gigantic, awe-inspiring creatures that appear to be the only living things in the land. Your job? To kill them all, removing all life from this world. It’s dark stuff, and it’s presented with an awful sort of beauty. Plus, a plot twist at the end makes it even darker.
9. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Another game with a crazy-sounding plot is Danganronpa, a game about a group of teenagers trapped in a high school with a psychotic teddy bear. The bear, with sadistic satisfaction, tells the kids only one will leave alive, and only if that student can kill another one without being caught. As the game progresses, the students drop like flies, and it’s up to you to figure who’s doing the killing. It’s dark stuff, delivered with unrestrained glee.