Horror games have been a huge part of the gaming industry since the 16-Bit era with the likes of Sweet Home, a Horror RPG game that was also the inspiration for Resident Evil. However, due to the popularity of the aforementioned Resident Evil, as well as Silent Hill, many horror games went largely unnoticed and forgotten. This is especially true on the original PlayStation.
This is a real shame because the PlayStation featured some of the most experimental and original ideas for horror games that I have ever seen. In fact, it features some of my all-time favourite games within the Horror genre. So, I wanted to bring some attention to these oft-forgotten “gems”, for lack of a better word. With that now said, let’s take a look at my top 7 obscure PS1 Horror games that you probably haven’t played.
7. Parasite Eve
We are going to start with the more well-known on this list; Parasite Eve. This was a mix between RPGs like Final Fantasy and Horror games like Resident Evil. The storyline is set within a lovingly recreated New York City during Christmas and features some of most grounded-in-reality body horror that I have ever seen. The gameplay is exquisite and the plot is intense, to say the very least.
It starts off with your heart racing and only picks up from there as well. Parasite Eve is a truly amazing game that really does show off how much experimentation and risk-taking developers were willing to take back then. Featuring truly cinematic cutscenes, a Hollywood-style cinematography to the game in general, and some truly detailed character backstories, you need to give Parasite Eve a try if you can pick it up. However, if you are in Europe like me, you’ll need to import it as we never got a PAL release of the game.
Moving on to another game that took inspiration from Resident Evil and the Survival Horror genre in general, but put its own spin on the genre, we have Galerians (which I reviewed here). Rather than playing as a police officer or random civilian trying to escape from scientific experiments, you actually play as the scientific experiment. Taking the role of Rion, you have to escape the scientific laboratory that you wake up in whilst security guards and scientists attempt to either capture or kill you. As you are just a child who now happens to have psychic powers, you feel both strong and helpless at the same time.
On top of that, you have to manage your psychic power usages as, if you use too much, you will go berserk. At that point in time, you can’t run or attack anymore and you automatically blow up the heads of your enemies, but constantly lose health as you go. Therefore, you become very powerful but also start to die. The only way to stop this is to find a special type of drug and inject yourself with it. As you can tell, Galerians is a very unique and interesting take on the Survival Horror genre that you should definitely look into.
This was always going to appear on this list, wasn’t it? After all, I’m pretty vocal that it is my favourite game of all time (you can read my objective review here and my interview with the director here). Koudelka is a mix between traditional Survival Horror games and tactical RPGs that really didn’t get enough advertising. Set in Wales at the end of the 1800s, it features everything from black magic, murder, suicide and resurrection. It deals with blind faith, love and more in a surprisingly deep yet horrifying storyline that will leave a very lasting impression on you.
Gameplay-wise, it takes a bit of getting used to. Outside of battle, it plays like a Resident Evil or Silent Hill game where you have to solve puzzles and find keys to progress through the monastery and mansion that Koudelka is set in. However, when you switch over to the battle system, you move into a grid-based tactical RPG system where you have to move characters around the board. Magic takes time to cast and weapons can run out of ammo as well, adding strategy to the game and meaning that you need to think about your survival, just as you would expect from a Survival Horror game.
4. Dark Tales: From the Lost Soul
Now we are getting to the really obscure side of this list… Dark Tales: From the Lost Soul is a first-person Horror game that was only released in Japan. It feels very much like a Myst-style game where you move around in a sort of dungeon-crawler movement pattern. It features 3 different storylines that you play through, but you can’t choose which to play when – the game has to be played in order. It features some of the creepiest polygonal graphics I have ever seen as well as live-action cutscenes as well.
The sound effects are beyond creepy, and the actors in the FMVs are perfectly cast to grab your attention and dig their way under your skin. Dark Tales: From the Lost Soul is one of the strangest games you’ll ever play, and is an experience you will never forget! Even if you don’t speak Japanese, it will still unnerve and disturb you in a way that other Horror games never have.
Sticking with games that use strange visual choices, D is a game that plays out very much like an interactive movie. You control Laura, a young woman who is investigating a hospital after her own father committed mass murder there before locking himself inside. As such, the premise of the game alone sets things up into a very tense and suspenseful situation. However, things get even strange when, after Laura arrives at the hospital, reality seems to shift and it turns into a castle!
The storyline also manages to throw in some nice twists that aren’t foreshadowed too much but also seem to fit into the game perfectly. However, the plot really isn’t the major attraction for D. It’s the gameplay. Having to traverse through the entire game without being able to save makes for one of the most stressful and adrenaline-fuelled Survival Horror game experiences you could ever get!
Whilst not specifically a Survival Horror game, Juggernaut (known as Juggernaut: Senritsu no Tobira in Japan, which roughly means Juggernaut: Terrifying Door) is a horror-themed adventure game. It’s another first-person game that focuses on item collection and puzzle solving, much like typical Survival Horror games. The story involves your character leaving his own body and entering the mind of his girlfriend, who just happens to be possessed!
You can use machines throughout the game world (a mansion, of course) to switch into either a child’s body or an adult’s body in order to get through doors and puzzles. This, as well as the generally creepy atmosphere, makes for a really memorable game. Despite gaining poor reviews upon release, due to the odd visuals and story, Juggernaut is a very original horror-themed game that you should definitely try. It’s like Marmite; you’ll either find it too strange and not want to keep playing, or you’ll adore it and become a fan of this cult classic.
The last game I want to talk about is one that, with people who have heard of it, is infamous for how scary it can be. Hellnight (known as Dark Messiah in Japan), is yet another first-person Survival Horror game, long before Amnesia and Resident Evil 7 did it. Also, similar to those games (or at least the start of RE7), Hellnight doesn’t give you any means to fight back. Interestingly, there is only one type of enemy in the game; the mutating monster. You can’t fight it, so you have to run away as fast as you can, solving puzzles and trying to make your way back to the surface.
Along the way, you will meet other characters that can help you to stun the monster, but again, you can’t kill it. Add to this the fact that your character can run out of stamina and not be able to run for a while, and you have to think strategically and carefully about where you go to escape the monster. This might not sound too difficult if you’ve played the current generation of Survival Horror games, but remember that this was on the PS1! It didn’t have the modern control scheme that you’ll be used to with the PS4, Xbox One or PC… This makes everything much harder, giving you a far stronger sense of terror.
And That’s All Folks
Those were my top 7 picks for PS1 Horror games that you’ve probably never played. They each have their own perks that add to the horror genre, and you really should experience them once in your lifetime! You won’t forget any other them, I can tell you that much…
Have you played any of these? Would you be interested in playing them? Let me know in the comments below!