BOO! Did I scare you? No? Well, I guess I’m never trying that ag-BOO! Still no? Maybe I should leave the spooky stuff to the horror games. 2012 has treated the genre well, and seen it branch out in some new and interesting directions. Read on, and see if your favorites made it on the list. If they didn’t, feel free to let us know in the comments! We’re always happy to discu-BOO! Okay, I’m really done now.
As an avid fan of horror games, it was exciting to see so many independent developers offering up experiences we hadn’t seen before. This list is a good microcosm of that, but I also recommend checking out Slender, The Corridor, and Alan Wake’s American Nightmare.
5. Shiver: Poltergeist (PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad)
There’s plenty to like about hidden object game Shiver: Poltergeist, but right off the bat it deserves praise for featuring an everyman protagonist. Nothing sucks the horror out of an experience quite like playing as a decked-out soldier or overpowered brute who can beat up ghosts without so much as breaking a sweat.
Shiver: Poltergeist begins with the main character learning he’s inherited a large manor house situated far away on a tiny island. Excitedly, he hops on a plane and goes forth to check out his massive new home. Because this is a horror game, he quickly learns that there’s something very wrong with this house, and that it harbors a great secret which pertains to his family. Being the curious fellow he is, he sets to work on trying to unravel that secret, encountering all sorts of frightening events along the way.
4. They Bleed Pixels (PC)
If you consider yourself especially good at video games, you probably haven’t played They Bleed Pixels. It’s humble pie in digital form, offering up an endless volley of difficult platforming sequences and deadly obstacles. But that’s not why it made this list.
They Bleed Pixels is inspired by the works of horror master H.P. Lovecraft, and it doesn’t shy away from making that known. There’s also a ridiculous amount of blood, making it quite possibly the most gruesome game released this year.
3. Home (PC)
Home begins with you waking up in a house that’s not your own. That in itself is unsettling, but the true frights come from the gruesome events you witness as you make your way back to where you live. And these events are not static – your actions dictate the role you play in them, and ultimately whether or not you’re to blame.
This is a game that’s perfectly content with obscuring much of its story from the player. Such ambiguity has a risk of becoming annoying, but Home pulls it off brilliantly.
#2 – Lone Survivor (PC, Mac)
Where do I even begin with Lone Survivor? It may look like a humble 2D sidescroller at first glance, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a game that casts cheap scares to the wayside and focuses instead on worming its way into your psyche. That’s no easy feat, but Lone Survivor pulls it off with a consistent-yet-unpredictable sense of logic. As you play, you’re left with sundry questions about which parts of the experience are real, and which are fabricated.
It may not be the most frightening game on the market, but it sticks with you in a way that few other games do.
#1 – The Walking Dead (PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad)
It’s not often I struggle with choices in video games. They’re typically very black or white, presenting players with the crystal clear option of being good or evil. The Walking Dead is different. More often than not you’re choosing from the lesser of two evils, all in the name of staying alive just a little while longer in this cruel, zombie-plagued environment.
But in a world full of desperate survivors who will do anything to live, the zombies are the least of your problems. No one is to be trusted in The Walking Dead, and most people will kill you in a heartbeat if it’s to their benefit. It’s legitimately stressful, but that’s a testament to how good a job Telltale did with bringing this world to life.
With another year come and gone, Gamezebo is looking back at the best games that 2012 had to offer. Our month-long retrospective will touch on just about every type of game you can imagine – so be sure not to miss any of it! Check out our full collection of Best of 2012 articles, and vote for your favorite games in our 2012 Reader’s Choice awards.