5 Survival-Horror Games Resident Evil Creator Mikami Needs to Play
HorrorScope is a recurring feature exploring the horror genre in gaming and drawing attention to its elements, its tropes, and its lesser-known but still scary titles.
Resident Evil is widely regarded as the franchise that more or less gave birth to the survival horror genre (and certainly named it), and the man behind Resident Evil is Shinji Mikami. The first game by Mikami’s new studio, Tango Gameworks, is a return to form for the developer — it’s The Evil Within, which is being published by Bethesda, is a survival horror game in the flavor of Mikami’s last survival horror title, Resident Evil 4.
In an interview with IGN that simultaneously announced the game and spread out quite a few details about it, Mikami said the reason he wanted to return to survival horror is that there’s just not any left in video games. Survival horror franchises are turning more toward action, he said — and that’s certainly true, given the recent changes to games such as Dead Space 3.
But Mikami isn’t quite correct on one front: Survival horror isn’t dead, dormant or otherwise empty in games right now. The triple-A space might be a desolate wasteland when it comes to horrifying offerings, but there are some serious survival horror contenders in other areas, namely the indie space.
There are some great games out there that are advancing survival horror, even if the Resident Evil and Dead Space franchises have fallen off in that department. Horror is alive and well among smaller developers and even single-person projects, and they’re pushing the genre in some exciting ways. In many of today’s indie horror offerings, you can feel the influence of games such as Resident Evil.
So here are five horror games (in no particular order) we think Shinji Mikami needs to play, to show him that survival horror isn’t dead, and to show him what kind of new experiences the genre he helped create continues to be capable of delivering.
5. Lone Survivor
Lone Survivor has all the hallmarks of classic survival horror games: tight spaces, limited resources, powerful monsters and a weak, lone protagonist. Players are trapped and working to escape a building, and then a town, filled with strange mutant monsters and awful, fleshy walls. It doesn’t help that the character may or may not be going insane. Most of your time in Lone Survivor is spent on simple things — seeking out clean water, edible food or scarce ammunition. Fights occur at times, but they’re always harrowing, usually close to lethal, and often better avoided; sounds a lot like Resident Evil.
Lone Survivor deserves Mikami’s attention because it seems to cover similar ground, both to his older works and to The Evil Within, which apparently deals with perception and psychological terror as much as real threats. It also deserves attention because it’s a side-scrolling, pixel art title by the likes of Jasper Byrne, and it’s really a remarkable game because of that. Byrne tells a strange story and creates a frightening setting with stylized graphics and limited graphical fidelity. The game shows that scares are possible regardless of how realistic a game looks, and that presentation and atmosphere are everything.
4. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Though it’s pretty well-known at this point, Amnesia deserves additional attention from everybody, Mikami included. It’s another survival horror title in which resource management plays a major role — players have to keep their lights burning largely by tracking down and making use of items like tinder. Light is extremely important to keep from, you know, going insane. It’s just as important as herbs and bullets in Resident Evil, but without the added upside of being useful in defending yourself.
Amnesia is actually mostly about hiding and running away, and these are elements that old-school Resident Evil games really only graze. Avoiding battles to conserve ammo is important in the Resident Evil series, but rare is the mechanic in any horror game in which a player has to use concealment and, in most cases, furious prayer to keep from getting ravaged by some monster. Hiding, fleeing and fighting are all elements that make survival horror work in their own unique ways, and Amnesia does a great job of utilizing them to expand its scare repertoire.
Find Amnesia on Steam.