The modern generation of horror and zombie games have a lot of their success owed to their retro ancestors. There was a wave of fantastic zombie and horror survival games that hit the shelves throughout the ’90s–many of them weren’t perfect, but they broke the mold of how shocking game content could be.
Once violence and gore made its way to video games, it was a hit, with developers going on to produce some bloody, gory classics, such as the smash hit Mortal Kombat series, which originated in arcades, and then grew into a highly successful console series.
Zombie and horror imagery is still popular within the gaming world, being used in everything from big-budget, multi-million-dollar console productions, to online casino games that take the classic mechanic of slot machines and revamp them to include a gore-fuelled, zombie-laden twist. iGaming brands like Betway Casino offers zombie-inspired, Microgaming-developed slots game Lost Vegas, which is ideal for players looking to add a little fright to their gambling experience. Microgaming are famed for producing big-budget slots including games featuring characters from the Marvel and DC franchises. Lost Vegas is a solid offering with some novel twists, such as allowing players to choose which side they want to play on: the side of the zombies, or the side of humans. It’s an example of just how far the horror gaming niche has come, with it permeating far beyond hardcore gamer circles and into the realm of casual gaming. But the rise of the zombies isn’t just limited to video gaming. It’s expanded into all realms of popular culture and entertainment. It’s now possible to go on an immersive zombie survival experience thanks to companies like Zombie Apocalypse Live. These experiences see players put through their paces as they try and survive a zombie onslaught. If the simulation experience isn’t enough, and you’re convinced the zombie apocalypse is imminent, you can even enrol at Zombie Survival Camp, where you will be taught all the skills you need to successfully fight off the undead horde.
It’s hard to imagine these fright-filled gaming experience being possible if it wasn’t for the ground-breaking game series that helped changed perceptions to blood, violence and horror in games, which we will take a look at below.
Silent Hill was the first truly atmospheric horror game, aiming for a constant unsettling vibe, rather than cheap thrills and jumps. The gray, misty visuals give an eerie feeling throughout the game, and the plot is downright creepy.
The atmosphere is set right from the get-go, with protagonist Harry Mason involved in a car crash, splitting him up from his daughter. The story then follows Harry as he searches for his daughter throughout the seemingly sleepy town of Silent Hill. Whilst critics weren’t entirely convinced by the storyline and some of the gameplay, Silent Hill was a success, and laid the groundwork for further psychological horror games, including its smash-hit sequel.
The first Resident Evil was truly ground-breaking, and was one of the breakout successes on Sony’s PlayStation. Released in 1996, with the special Director’s Cut coming in 1997, the game mixed puzzle solving, liberal lashings of blood, and tense survival gameplay, which the series is still known for.
Resident Evil isn’t an all-out shooter gore fest. Instead, the gameplay mechanic is calculated and strategic. Players only have a finite carrying capacity, and ammo, health packs, and other useful items are deliberately made to be scarce, forcing players to think ahead and conserve resources.
This, teamed with the dark, twisted mansion setting, along with the hordes of zombies and other undead creatures and horrific creations, made for quite an unsettling experience. The original game secured over five million sales.
Resident Evil 2 generated an even higher fanfare, grabbing almost 5.1 million sales after its 1998 release, but it wasn’t without its criticism. Despite scoring very highly in reviews, critics still felt the controls were a tad clunky, but this drawback was well worth overlooking. It showed that Capcom had generated a winning formula when it came to horror games, and it was something they would roll out time and time again.
Resident Evil 3 hit stores in 1999, and was the last true Resident Evil game released on the PS1. We say ‘true’ Resident Evil game as there was Resident Evil Survivor, which is a first-person shooter designed for use with a light gun, but this offered a very different gaming style to what the series was known for. Ultimately, Survivor was a blip in the series, proving unpopular with die-hard series fans and critics.
Alone in the Dark
Alone in the Dark is ultimately the series that started it all. It gained popularity as one of the first, if not the first, survival horror games. The series placed a huge emphasis on puzzle solving and investigation, prioritizing these over faster-action gameplay.
The original Alone in the Dark games, which comprised of three games, were PC games released in 1992, 1993, and 1994, with the series making the leap to console gaming in 2001, seven years after the release of Alone in the Dark 3.
For many, the core essence of horror games was born out of the Alone in the Dark series, and their influences can be seen throughout Silent Hill and Resident Evil. However, by the time Alone in the Dark 3 came out, the series was looking tired, and the decision to not release the game on consoles definitely hurt it.
Horror games have come a long way nowadays, but nothing can take away the charm of the originals. Many have vivid memories of being scared out of their skin by PlayStation classics like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Whilst Alone in the Dark arguably came up with the loose formula for horror games, it was series like Resident Evil that took the formula and ran with it, creating their own masterpieces in the process. Do you have any favorite moments from these games? Get in touch in the comments to share them.
References & Sources
Ranker – 90s Horror Video Games
Betway Casino – Online Slots: Horror Themes
Microgaming – Software Provider
Zombie Apocalypse – Tactical Live Zombie Experience
Zombie Survival Camp – Training Camp
Feature image source – Pexels