Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

Horror games have been a staple in the gaming industry for decades, providing players with a thrilling and terrifying experience. But, have you ever wondered which game started it all? Which game was the first to make players scream in fear? The answer might surprise you, as the oldest horror game has been around for longer than you might think. Join us as we take a journey through time and explore the evolution of survival horror games, starting with the oldest horror game that still haunts players to this day.

The Origins of Survival Horror Games

Early Influences on the Genre

Gothic Literature

Gothic literature, which emerged in the late 18th century, had a significant impact on the development of survival horror games. Works such as “The Castle of Otranto” by Horace Walpole and “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley featured elements that would later become staples of the genre, such as dark and eerie settings, supernatural creatures, and a sense of impending doom. These stories were often told from a first-person perspective, which added to the immersive experience and helped create a sense of isolation and vulnerability in the reader.

B-Movie Horror Films

B-movie horror films, which gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, also played a role in shaping the survival horror genre. Films such as “House on Haunted Hill” and “The Last Man on Earth” featured characters trapped in dangerous situations, often battling monsters or other supernatural enemies. These films often used cheap special effects and jump scares to create a sense of terror, which would later be incorporated into survival horror games. Additionally, the film “The Last House on the Left” directed by Wes Craven was also an influence in the genre.

Overall, both Gothic literature and B-movie horror films helped lay the groundwork for the survival horror genre by providing a rich tapestry of dark and frightening themes and imagery that would later be drawn upon by game designers. These early influences helped shape the genre’s distinctive blend of fear, suspense, and action that continues to captivate players to this day.

The First Survival Horror Games

The Legend of Zelda (1986)

The Legend of Zelda, released in 1986, is often credited as one of the first survival horror games. Although it is not a pure survival horror game, it introduced several elements that would later become staples of the genre. The game’s dark and eerie atmosphere, coupled with its exploration-based gameplay, set the stage for future horror games. Players took on the role of Link, a young boy tasked with rescuing Princess Zelda from the evil sorcerer, Ganon. Along the way, they encountered various monsters and challenges that required strategic thinking and quick reflexes.

Haunted House (1981)

Haunted House, released in 1981, is another early survival horror game that helped shape the genre. In this game, players take on the role of a character who must explore a haunted house filled with ghosts, goblins, and other supernatural creatures. The game’s creepy atmosphere and frightening visuals made it a hit with horror fans, and its influence can still be felt in modern survival horror games.

While these early games were not perfect, they laid the groundwork for future survival horror games and helped establish the genre as a whole.

The Rise of Popular Survival Horror Games

Key takeaway: Survival horror games have evolved over time, drawing on influences from Gothic literature and B-movie horror films to create a distinctive blend of fear, suspense, and action. Early games like The Legend of Zelda and Haunted House laid the groundwork for the genre, while landmark titles like Resident Evil and Silent Hill introduced innovations in gameplay and storytelling that continue to influence the genre today. Post-2000 survival horror games have expanded on these formulas, with indie developers creating unique, atmospheric experiences, and virtual reality technology offering new, immersive horror experiences. The enduring appeal of survival horror games lies in their ability to create fear and adrenaline while also offering a sense of mastery and achievement.

Resident Evil (1996)

Innovations in Gameplay and Storytelling

Released in 1996, Resident Evil revolutionized the survival horror genre by introducing innovative gameplay mechanics and a gripping storyline. Some of the key innovations include:

  • The introduction of live-action cutscenes to enhance the immersive experience
  • A unique tank control system that limited the player’s movement, creating a sense of vulnerability
  • An inventory system that required players to manage their resources, adding an extra layer of strategy to the gameplay
  • A merchant character named “Rebecca Chambers” who sold essential items to the player, providing a sense of safety and guidance in a dangerous world

Impact on the Genre

Resident Evil’s impact on the survival horror genre was significant. It established a new standard for storytelling and gameplay mechanics, inspiring countless other games to follow in its footsteps. The game’s emphasis on resource management, puzzle-solving, and exploration influenced many subsequent survival horror games, such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil 2.

In addition, Resident Evil popularized the use of cinematic cutscenes in video games, paving the way for more sophisticated storytelling techniques in the industry. The game’s emphasis on character development and narrative also helped to elevate the genre beyond simple jump scares and cheap thrills, making survival horror games more engaging and immersive for players.

Overall, Resident Evil (1996) remains a landmark game in the survival horror genre, with its innovations in gameplay and storytelling continuing to influence the development of the genre to this day.

Silent Hill (1999)

Psychological Horror and Iconic Monsters

  • Silent Hill’s (1999) approach to psychological horror was a significant departure from the traditional monster-driven scares of previous horror games.
  • The game’s story revolves around the protagonist, Harry Mason, who searches for his missing daughter in the haunted town of Silent Hill.
  • The game’s horror was rooted in the atmosphere, storytelling, and the player’s own imagination, rather than relying on jump scares or traditional monsters.

Sound Design and Atmosphere

  • Silent Hill (1999) was known for its use of sound to create a terrifying atmosphere.
  • The game’s sound design included a haunting score, unsettling ambient noises, and subtle audio cues that heightened the player’s sense of dread.
  • The game’s use of sound was so effective that it became a defining characteristic of the survival horror genre, influencing many subsequent games in the genre.
  • The game’s audio design helped to create a sense of isolation and vulnerability, as the player navigated the dark and eerie streets of Silent Hill, constantly listening for signs of danger.

The Modern Survival Horror Landscape

Post-2000 Survival Horror Games

Post-2000 Survival Horror Games have significantly expanded on the formulas established by earlier games. The advancements in technology have allowed developers to create more immersive worlds, enhanced gameplay mechanics, and more intricate storytelling.

  • Silent Hill 2 (2001) directed by Keiichiro Toyama: This psychological horror game is widely regarded as a masterpiece, featuring a haunting atmosphere, memorable characters, and a deeply emotional narrative. It pioneered the use of symbolism and complex themes within the genre, which has since become a staple of survival horror games.
  • Resident Evil 4 (2005) developed by Capcom: This game introduced a more action-oriented approach to the series, featuring faster-paced gameplay, a more focused narrative, and the introduction of a unique protagonist, Leon S. Kennedy. The game’s impact was enormous, influencing numerous subsequent survival horror titles.
  • F.E.A.R. (2005) developed by Monolith Productions: This game introduced a more dynamic, fast-paced combat system and utilized a unique “pawn” system, which allowed enemies to evolve and adapt to the player’s playstyle. The game’s focus on tactical combat and atmospheric horror made it a standout in the genre.

Indie Survival Horror Games

The rise of indie developers has led to a resurgence in the survival horror genre, with smaller teams creating unique, atmospheric experiences that often push the boundaries of traditional gameplay mechanics.

  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010) developed by Frictional Games: This game pioneered the use of sanity mechanics, forcing players to manage their character’s mental state in addition to physical health. The game’s emphasis on atmosphere and fear, rather than combat, has influenced numerous subsequent indie horror titles.
  • Limbo (2010) developed by Playdead: This dark, atmospheric puzzle-platformer is notable for its haunting visuals and eerie sound design. The game’s use of subtle storytelling and ambiguous narrative has been influential in the indie horror scene.
  • Outlast (2013) developed by Red Barrels: This game features a unique “sneaky” gameplay style, where players must avoid detection by grotesque, malevolent entities. The game’s emphasis on stealth and fear, rather than combat, has been well-received by fans of the genre.

Virtual Reality Survival Horror Games

The emergence of virtual reality technology has led to the development of new, immersive survival horror experiences.

  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017) developed by Capcom: This game was one of the first major AAA titles to be released in virtual reality. The game’s use of a first-person perspective and its emphasis on atmospheric horror made it an ideal candidate for VR adaptation.
  • The Invisible Hours (2017) developed by Tequila Works: This interactive murder mystery game is notable for its use of virtual reality to create a unique, immersive narrative experience. The game’s use of VR technology to convey story and atmosphere has been praised by both critics and players.
  • Audioshield (2017) developed by Harmonix: This rhythm-based VR game features a unique twist on the survival horror genre, pitting players against an onslaught of grotesque monsters in a high-stakes rhythm game. The game’s use of VR technology to create a sense of physical presence and tension has been well-received by fans of the genre.

The Enduring Appeal of Survival Horror Games

Fear and Adrenaline

Ambiguous Threats and Suspense

One of the key factors that make survival horror games so appealing is the element of fear. The genre thrives on creating an atmosphere of tension and suspense, which is achieved through a variety of techniques. One such technique is the use of ambiguous threats. These are situations where the player is never quite sure what is lurking around the next corner, or what will happen if they make a certain decision. This uncertainty creates a sense of unease that keeps players on edge, and makes them more vulnerable to jump scares and other frightening moments.

Mastery and Achievement

Another reason why survival horror games are so popular is that they offer a sense of mastery and achievement. These games often require players to use strategy and problem-solving skills to overcome obstacles and defeat enemies. As players progress through the game, they develop a sense of pride and accomplishment as they overcome challenges and uncover secrets. This sense of mastery is a powerful motivator for players, and helps to keep them engaged in the game even when the fear factor is high.

In conclusion, the appeal of survival horror games lies in their ability to create a sense of fear and adrenaline, while also offering players a sense of mastery and achievement. By combining these elements, survival horror games have become a staple of the gaming industry, and continue to captivate players with their thrilling blend of horror and adventure.

Storytelling and World-Building

Character Development and Backstory

In survival horror games, character development plays a crucial role in creating a compelling narrative. Players often assume the role of a protagonist who is forced to confront their deepest fears and insecurities. Throughout the game, the protagonist’s character arc is often shaped by their encounters with other characters and the environment.

For example, in the original Resident Evil game, players take on the role of Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, two members of the elite S.T.A.R.S. team who find themselves trapped in a remote mansion filled with zombies and other terrifying creatures. As players progress through the game, they learn more about the characters’ backstories and motivations, which helps to deepen their understanding of the game’s world and plot.

Rich, Immersive Environments

In addition to well-developed characters, survival horror games also rely on rich, immersive environments to create a sense of fear and tension. These environments are often designed to be maze-like, with multiple paths and hidden areas that encourage exploration.

One of the earliest examples of this type of environment can be found in the 1992 game Alone in the Dark. In this game, players explore a haunted mansion filled with monsters and traps, using a combination of puzzle-solving and combat to survive. The game’s atmosphere is enhanced by its detailed environments, which feature realistic lighting and sound effects that help to create a sense of unease and danger.

Overall, the success of survival horror games depends heavily on their ability to create a rich, immersive world that draws players in and keeps them on the edge of their seats. By focusing on character development and world-building, developers can create games that are both terrifying and memorable.

The Future of Survival Horror Games

Technological Advancements

Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) have the potential to revolutionize the way survival horror games are experienced. AR and MR technologies can seamlessly blend digital content with the real world, creating a more immersive and terrifying gaming experience. Players can face their fears in a realistic environment while still having the comfort of knowing it’s just a game. This can lead to a heightened sense of immersion and terror, as players are constantly reminded that the horrors they are facing are not just a figment of their imagination.

Procedural Generation and Playtest Feedback

Procedural generation is a technique used in game development where content is generated algorithmically rather than being manually created. This allows for a near-infinite variety of levels, enemies, and events in a game. In survival horror games, procedural generation can create a unique experience for each player, keeping the fear factor high as players never know what to expect. Additionally, playtest feedback can be used to fine-tune the game’s balance and scare factor, ensuring that players are consistently challenged and frightened by the game.

As technology continues to advance, survival horror games will become more terrifying and immersive. With AR, MR, procedural generation, and playtest feedback, the future of survival horror games is bright and terrifying.

New Directions in Game Design

Horror Genres Beyond Jump Scares

  • Emphasis on psychological terror and mental instability
  • Incorporation of new technologies, such as AI and virtual reality
  • Exploration of social and political issues in horror

Accessibility and Diversity in Gaming

  • Creation of games that cater to diverse audiences and abilities
  • Incorporation of sign language and audio descriptions for accessibility
  • Encouragement of collaboration and communication among players with different needs and backgrounds

Ethical Considerations in Game Design

  • Addressing issues of representation and cultural sensitivity
  • Consideration of the potential impact of games on players’ mental health
  • Encouragement of responsible and ethical game design practices

The Legacy of Classic Survival Horror Games

Reboots and Remakes

Classic survival horror games have left an indelible mark on the gaming industry, and their influence can still be felt today. Many of these games have been remade or rebooted, allowing new generations of gamers to experience the fear and excitement that these games once provided.

Influence on Other Genres

In addition to being remade and rebooted, classic survival horror games have also had a significant influence on other genres. Many games have taken inspiration from the formula established by these classic games, incorporating elements such as atmospheric environments, tense gameplay, and terrifying enemies into their own games.

Overall, the legacy of classic survival horror games is one of innovation and influence. These games helped to establish the survival horror genre and have continued to inspire new games even decades after their original release. As the genre continues to evolve, it is clear that the impact of these classic games will be felt for years to come.


1. What is the oldest horror game?

The oldest horror game is considered to be “Haunted House” which was released in 1981 for the Atari 2600. This game was a text-based adventure game that was one of the first games to incorporate elements of horror.

2. What was the first survival horror game?

The first survival horror game is considered to be “Resident Evil” which was released in 1996 for the PlayStation. This game was a pioneer in the survival horror genre and set the standard for many games that followed.

3. How has the horror genre evolved in video games?

The horror genre in video games has evolved significantly over the years. Early horror games were primarily text-based adventure games, but as technology advanced, the genre shifted to include more visual and interactive experiences. Modern horror games often incorporate elements of psychological horror and explore more complex themes.

4. What are some classic survival horror games?

Some classic survival horror games include “Alone in the Dark” (1992), “Silent Hill” (1999), “Resident Evil” series (1996-present), “Fatal Frame” series (2001-2018), and “Amnesia” series (2011-2016). These games are considered classics and have had a significant impact on the survival horror genre.

5. What are some modern survival horror games?

Some modern survival horror games include “Outlast” (2013), “Until Dawn” (2015), “Alien: Isolation” (2014), “Bloodborne” (2015), and “The Last of Us Part II” (2020). These games build on the classic survival horror formula and incorporate new technologies and gameplay mechanics to create a more immersive and terrifying experience.

I Remade the Oldest Horror Game

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