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Obscure Video Game Frights

/ Oct 31st, 2013 No Comments


It’s Halloween once again: the time of year where frights are aplenty, fear is celebrated and candy sales are at their highest. This is also a time when gamers seek the best horror games to keep them entertained for this scary time of year. Many players will undoubtedly looking at fresh titles on the market and elsewhere to indulge in interactive frights. But it’s worth noting that horror is most often associated with the ancient and the little known. This is true of video games as there are many old and obscure titles in the genre of horror gamers desiring frights should play. The list is a long one but here are an even number of four games sure to quench gamers appetites for terror this Halloween season.

Nocturne (1999)



Summary: Created by Terminal Reality for the PC, Nocturne is a third person action game mixing action and psychological horror. Taking place from the late 1920s to the early 1930s, the story documents the operations of the secret government agency created by Theodore Roosevelt. Going under the name Spookhouse (officially known as Supernatural Domestic Defense and League of Research), the agency’s goal is to study and repel the threat of the supernatural.

Players control the Stranger: a mysterious, tight lipped and tough individual with no known past. Tasked by the agency to fight the supernatural, the Stranger must fight his way across four lengthy missions all involving humans and monsters: of all sorts who threaten humanity.

Why is it Scary: Vampires, werewolves, the undead, demons and even Frankenstein-like mobsters make a menagerie of scary creatures players encounter during the game. They all inhabit macabre and gloomy settings made frightening by realistic shadows and grim lighting effects. Frightening music, the occasional groan and surprises found on every level will keep players on their toes as they help the Stranger complete his assignments. Nocturne still remains a game that promises scares and always delivers despite its old age.

Why it is Obscure: Nocturne received mixed reviews upon release that made players sour on buying it. This, along with a lack of advertising, resulted in disappointing sales.The lackluster response demolished Terminal Reality’s plans to continue with a sequel. This is made blatant by Nocturne’s shocking cliffhanger.

The game did gain enough pull to result in a more well received crossover spin-off game, Blair Witch Volume 1: Rustin Parr, that pitted characters from Nocturne against the evils of the Blair Witch. The title was little more than an expansive stand-alone expansion and is not a direct sequel to the game.

Nocturne’s legacy does live on though. The game’s engine, as well as a few elements from the game’s story, were later used in Terminal Reality’s much better received game Bloodrayne. Unlike Nocturne, Bloodrayne has gone onto become a popular franchise.

White Day: A Labyrinth Named School (2001)

White Day: A Labyrinth Called School

White Day: A Labyrinth Called School

[adsense250itp]A young Korean student sneaks into his high school to give So-yeong, the girl he likes, candy and her missing diary back. Things seem to be going fine right up until he finds himself locked in the high school. If that’s not bad enough, it gets worse when he witnesses the school janitor beating someone to death who then proceeds to hunt down any other human he comes across. Also, the school is haunted by restless spirits.

Welcome to White Day: A Labryinth Named School. Made by Sonnori, a small group of dedicated student game designers, this Korean game for the PC is a first-person adventure mixing Taoism with Korean style horror. The result: a bone-chilling title where players must deal with ghosts and survive the night while also helping three other students trapped in the school as well. Sadly the only way out is to go deeper into the school and its sordid history.

Why is it Scary: The often mundane setting of school has been used on numerous occasions in horror games. White Day is one of the few that arguably succeeds in making it frightening. What is normally a place of learning becomes a terrifying location to be trapped in. Players aren’t in a school but a prison they must escape from.

To further make the experience more unnerving, players are unable to fight back offensively meaning stealth  is essential to winning the game. This too can be scary not just in waiting for danger to pass but lingering too long will attract ghosts who will not only do damage but are sure to result in shocks.

If that’s not enough to prove how scary it is, consider this: when released, players in Korea grew so frightened of the game they refused to keep playing. Later patches not only fixed issues but brought down the horror in response to the complaints. Even after their application, the game is still terrifying.

Why it is Obscure: White Day enjoyed a successful outing in its homeland of Korea. Its popularity led to talks regarding importing and localizing the title for overseas markets. Publisher 4am Entertainment announced in 2004 to release the game in the U.K. in translated form. The plans fizzed and as yet the game still has had no official release outside of Korea.

Unofficially the game found its way online and soon after was translated by fans into English. It has maintained a small following online which is the most common place to acquire a copy of the game given the increasing rarity of authentic physical copies.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (2005)

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

The works of H. P. Lovecraft very rarely are directly adapted into video games. Even fewer have been faithful to his original stories set in the increasingly popular Cthulhu Mythos universe. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a first-person shooter first released for the Xbox that is both and is a genuine Lovecraftian experience of terror and insanity.

Set in the 1920’s, the game’s story borrows elements from Lovecraft’s many Cthulhu Mythos stories. It also borrows elements from the tabletop role-playing game its based on as well as new original elements.

Players control private detective Jack Walters. Tasked with investigating a disappearance in the fishing town of Innsmouth, Walters becomes entangled with a cult of unnatural origin that controls the township. Walters is pushed into a battle to save not only humanity from an eldritch threat but himself as well.

Why is it So Scary: Anyone who has ever read H. P Lovecraft’s stories will immediately come to appreciate the amount of work the developer Headfirst Interactive put into recreating the macabre world of the Cthulhu Mythos. The visuals reflect the themes of hopelessness, despair and the unknown, which are the foundation of Lovecraft’s works. Players are practically living in Lovecraft’s famous universe.

The theme of insanity, a mainstay of Lovecraft’s stories, is present in this game. In true Lovecraft fashion Walters can become insane if he witness too many irrational and horrifying things.  Players aren’t just fighting for their lives but to preserve their sanity.

It shouldn’t go unmentioned that for much of the game players will be without weapons. Even when found, the game tries to discourages this as ammo is limited and enemies are aplenty. Flight and stealth are much better than fighting, which can be largely avoided. This becomes less so as the game nears its sanity shattering conclusion.

Why it is Obscure: Despite the game’s publisher, Bethesda Softworks, showing great support for the project as well as high praise from many critics, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth languished for a time in development hell due to constant delays. When it was finally released in 2005 for the Xbox it did not meet sales expectations. This is most likely due to a lack of widespread promotion.

A poor PC port of the title and the bankruptcy of Headfirst Interactive caused by their simultaneous development on two intended sequels have contributed to this game’s relative obscurity. Fans of Lovecraft’s fiction have come to appreciate the game for its faithfulness to the source material. The growing popularity of Lovecraft has also resulted in the game gaining the appreciation it didn’t fully get upon release.

Cold Fear (2005)

Cold Fear

Cold Fear

Developed by Darkworks and published by Ubisoft, Cold Fear starts off with what is a supposedly routine call for  a team of the United States Coast Guards. In this case, that call turns out even bigger as they must investigate a Russian whaling ship. Soon they become a part of  a living nightmare and all are killed by shambling zombie-like creatures known as Exocells affected by a biological visrus. Only veteran Tom Hansen survives and is unlucky enough to be trapped on the vessel.

Armed initially with the basic equipment afforded to Coast Guards, players must help Hansen survive the night and stop the Exocells and the virus that made them from reaching the mainland. In doing so they’ll also find out where it came from in the first place

Why is it So Scary: Zombies are a great means of creating horror if used right. Cold Fear is a game that does just that but does something unique also: it puts them in an environment they rarely inhabit. In this case its the ocean. Players who are used to fighting zombies on dry land will find the experience even more creepier, especially in the game’s first half due to the violent storm. Such weather adds to the atmosphere and can even be a threat at times.

Due to the locations in the game, all of which are on the ocean, scares can be intense and fights equally so given the constrained space. Players will also find themselves even more on edge as Exocells take advantage of the tight knit quarters to surprise players when they least expect it.

Why it is Obscure: Upon release, Cold Fear was met with average reviews that detracted players from playing it. It didn’t help matters either that it was overshadowed at the time by another game that had come out the same year: Resident Evil 4. The hit Capcom title saw huge sales figures while Cold Fear saw meager ones instead.

Since then a few people have come to better appreciate the game. This appreciation though is small and the game still isn’t widely known or truly accepted enough to move beyond the realm of obscure.

Jonathan Anson

Jonathan Anson

Jonathan has been a lover of video games since his father brought home a Windows 95 computer. When he's not doing that he indulges in his other passion: writing. Jonathan holds an AA degree in Journalism from Saddleback College in Southern California.
Jonathan Anson
Jonathan Anson

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