Survival Horror has always been one of my favourite genres when it comes to video games. There’s just something about the innate fear and adrenaline rush that these games give you that makes me come back for more. No matter if they are more action focused or designed to just get under your skin, Survival Horror games have a way to stick with you for years after you’ve finished them. They’re just so memorable.
Admittedly, some are memorable for all of the wrong reasons, but that will be a separate feature post in the future. Today, we’re going to look at my personal top 7 PlayStation 2 Survival Horror games. So, let’s get started!
7. Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 has to be on this list, doesn’t it? I mean, it is my second favourite in the Silent Hill series. The reason I didn’t include it higher on the list is that, when I went back to it, it didn’t hold the same levels of tensions that it used to. Silent Hill 2 gave us Pyramid Head and an incredible story, but honestly, as a game, it didn’t really do that much different. The gameplay itself feels very normal, with nothing that truly stands out. It just felt like the first game with better graphics.
The music, however, is outstanding. I still listen to the soundtrack regularly. On top of this, the game does instil a sense of fear as you make your way through the town. But Silent Hill 2’s real selling point is the storyline. The characters, plot and events are all incredibly memorable and can be interpreted in many ways (except for the twist, as that is pretty clear-cut).
6. Resident Evil: Outbreak
The Resident Evil series had already received a small number of spin-offs by the time we got to the release of Outbreak. From the utterly atrocious Resident Evil: Survivor for PSX (there’s a review of this game here) to the truly dreadful Resident Evil: Gaiden for the Gameboy Colour, none of the spin-offs had been particularly good. So I went into Resident Evil: Outbreak with very low expectations. Don’t let that fool you though. The reason I ended up loving the game is that it was put together almost immaculately. Again, I have revied RE: Outbreak here, but it is safe to say it was the first spin-off done really well (note: Code: Veronica isn’t a spin-off, as it was originally named Resident Evil 3 in development, with Nemesis as a planned spin-off)!
The changes in gameplay, such as multiplayer that didn’t make the game easier, an infection rate and the ability to combine household items into weapons were all great additions to the game. On top of that, it managed to really capture the struggle and fear of being in Raccoon City during the titular outbreak. To this day, RE: Outbreak is one of my favourite games in the series, so it was always going to get a spot on this list.
5. Forbidden Siren II
The Forbidden Siren series (known simply as Siren outside of Europe) has all but faded into dust now, with the latest game (Blood Curse) coming out on the PS3 and nothing really happening with the series since then. Considering how amazing the second game in the series was, this is a real shame. Set on a lonely island that is inhabited by monstrous-looking people with murderous intentions, the gameplay is where Forbidden Siren II really stood out from the crowd.
For example, the enemies are largely indestructible. You can hurt them enough to stall them if you are lucky, but they never actually die. That means that you’re always being hunted! That, in and of itself, is a terrifying feeling. However, nothing with really prepare you for the sight-jacking ability in the game. With this, you can “jack” into enemies that are nearby to work out their positions. It is designed to make it a bit easier to avoid confrontation. But when you jack into an enemy and realise they are looking right at you, the sense of sheer dread that fills your body is unexplainable.
4. The Thing
Funnily enough, my favourite horror film of all time is John Carpenter’s The Thing. The man is a genius, and the movie is incredible. So, the fact that the PS2’s The Thing is a canon sequel to the movie (and thus also the recent prequel movie) is a huge bonus right off the bat. However, that isn’t the only reason why The Thing is featuring on this list. It also has the honour of being one of the very select few games made from movies that are actually good!
The Thing manages to capture the constant feeling of dread and loneliness, as well as distrust and psychology unease that the movie portrayed so well. You actually get the same sense of fear buried deep inside you that you would if you were in the movie yourself. On top of this, the game managed to mix slightly more action-orientated gameplay with the themes of Survival Horror without taking away from the fear itself. This is something later games in the genre (such as Resident Evil 5 and 6) completely failed to do. As such, The Thing definitely deserves a spot on this list, at least in my opinion.
3. Resident Evil 4
Okay, let’s be honest; you probably knew Resident Evil 4 was going to make this list. I mean, how could it not? It was the last true Survival Horror game in the series until the release of Resident Evil 7 for the PS4, and it revitalised the genre, bringing it back to the forefront of the gaming industry. The radical changes to gameplay, such as Resident Evil switching from fixed camera angles to an over-the-shoulder view, were huge. In fact, such a massive change wasn’t seen again until the aforementioned Resident Evil 7 switched to first-person.
On top of this, the fact that the game is essentially a giant escort mission adds so much to the tension. Not only do you have to survive, but you need to protect an absolutely useless character that follows you almost everywhere. The enemies were fun and new, yet still felt like they belonged in Resident Evil, and the bosses hadn’t quite got to the point of being giant insects that you fight on top of skyscrapers yet. Leon also finally made a return to the series, after not being seen in a mainline title since Resident Evil 2. This was a huge game and was immensely successful.
2. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Time for an unpopular opinion now; whilst Silent Hill 2 is an amazing game, it isn’t my favourite in the Silent Hill series. It is very close, but Shattered Memories actually takes the prize. I know that many of you are now planning how to feed me to Pyramid Head, but honestly, I just preferred the psychological elements of Shattered Memories. The fact that the game changed depending on how you acted, what you looked at in the game and what decisions you make was incredible. In fact, the enemies themselves would also change design and shape depending on how the game psychologically profiles you. That is an outstanding piece of game design right there.
Sure, the actual “otherworld” areas weren’t anything like as gory or terrifying as other Silent Hill games, but they didn’t need to be. It was the changing nuances of the game that really freaked you out. The fact that the game was reading you and adjusting itself to scare and unnerve you specifically was unreal. This was definitely, for me, the most memorable Silent Hill experience I have had to date.
1. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
My personal number one pick for the best Survival Horror game on the PS2 goes to Fatal Frame II (also known as Project Zero II). Why? Well, the best way to explain it is to tell you just how long it took me to finish this game; 5 years! It is the only Survival Horror game to ever bury its way so deep into my skin that I had to stop playing it. Everything from the atmosphere to the ghosts themselves drives that dread deep inside you. The storyline is outstanding, dealing with ritual sacrifice and the afterlife, through the eyes of two young sisters.
On top of this, the only way to defend yourself (as is the main gameplay mechanic in Fatal Frame games) is with a camera. You need to take photographs of the ghosts to hurt them! This means you need the time and skill to line up your shots and take them at the opportune moment to deal high damage. Everything about Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly is incredible, and to me, it is the pinnacle of Survival Horror game design.
And That’s All Folks
Those are my personal top 7 Survival Horror games for the PS2. I know that many will not agree with me, especially about Silent Hill 2, and that’s ok. After all, if we agreed with each other all of the time, life would be pretty boring. So I stand by my decisions because that’s just what they are; my decisions based on my opinions.
Do you have a favourite PS2 Survival Horror game? Let me know in the comments below!