Scariest first person shooters on PC...
April 1, 2011 8:52 PM   Subscribe

What is the scariest first person shooter you've ever played on PC?

I remember the good old days when I was small and scared of playing Doom II
posted by Bacillus to Computers & Internet (55 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Doom III was pretty spooky!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 8:53 PM on April 1, 2011

Doom III by far. That gave me nightmares.
Just make sure to play in a room with no lights, late at night.
posted by Takeyourtime at 8:57 PM on April 1, 2011

Clive Barker's Undying for me easily, though much of it could have been because I was rather young when I played it. It's also old now, so it may not be as scary anymore. In any case, I think it was probably one of the best-directed works of video game horror (at least in the FPS tradition). It's also probably the only work of gothic horror I actually find scary.

A close second/tie would be Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which isn't a shooter, but a first-person adventure game. It was released last year and it's absolutely terrifying in many innovative ways. The developer's previous game, the episodic Penumbra series is also some good first-person scary.
posted by Senza Volto at 9:05 PM on April 1, 2011

While I'm too big of a wuss to play it, I've heard that System Shock 2 is terrifying.
posted by groovesquirrel at 9:09 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is really superb, but it's not a shooter.

As far as actual shooters go, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl wins the scary prize as far as I'm concerned. It's not 100% spooktastic (most of the time it's just an incredibly atmospheric man-shoot) but parts of it get as apprehensive as I've ever seen. Ditto for the sequel, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat.
posted by neckro23 at 9:21 PM on April 1, 2011

Thief and Thief 2. They're not quite what you meant by first person shooters, but they are first-person, and there is some shooting. They are SO suspenseful and creepy at times, I would have to stop playing every so often to calm down. Playing with the lights out (as many do) was not an option for me!
posted by Joh at 9:27 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I spent a lot of time Doom III sitting for a friend--an adult!--who wanted someone else in the room while he was playing it.
posted by anaelith at 9:39 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

System Shock 2. It was terrifying, absolutely. One of the most vivid gaming experiences I ever experienced.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:41 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

hurrrrr experience experienced me write good
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:42 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bioshock is pretty scary (protip, before you laugh try it on hard)
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:42 PM on April 1, 2011

The scary parts of Half Life and Half Life 2 had the most genuine scares for me, and some of the best atmospheric creeping dread ever.
posted by free hugs at 9:43 PM on April 1, 2011

The answer to this question is System Shock 2. I don't really get worked up about "scary" things in movies or games, but I couldn't finish that game or play it for more than 30 minutes at a time because I began to feel a toxic dread that was impossible to bear - and that was in a well-lit environment surrounded by people. You could probably give yourself some serious PTSD with that shit if you set the mood properly.
posted by geneva uswazi at 9:44 PM on April 1, 2011

Ravenholm, yeah I went there.
posted by fullerine at 9:44 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by sanka at 9:58 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Condemned on the Xbox 360. My roommate tried to play my game but couldn't make it through the first chapter. I never played the sequel.

Dead Space, too, although it's 3rd person. I liked the sequel but it was much less scary.

The original FEAR was pretty scary.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 9:59 PM on April 1, 2011

Doom and Bioshock both made me quite jumpy.
posted by Glinn at 10:03 PM on April 1, 2011

Quake. Running into a fiend was always so terrifying.
posted by Happydaz at 10:09 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

The beginning of System Shock 2 is terrifying--it made me too jumpy to be able to give you a reasonable estimation of the rest of the game. Waiting for crazy monkeys to come at you when you're armed only with a monkey wrench aah.
posted by that girl at 10:12 PM on April 1, 2011

Not really a FPS, MineCraft in survival mode has had me jumping recently more than any other 3D 1st person game I've ever played. I guess it creates that atmosphere where you actually fear death (and possible loss of all your awesome finds) With saves and infinite lives, high end horror games have failed to draw me in the same way.

Silent Hill and Doom 2 have caused similar jumps, and hairs standing on end...but not nearly as much. Amnesia: Dark Decent does look like contender. For some of the older stuff, here's a decent top 10 just for kicks.
posted by samsara at 10:21 PM on April 1, 2011

Quake. I was a teenager living in my parent's basement at the time. I would play it for hours and then go to bed. Everything was hunky dory... and then the oil burner would run and I would scream for death's sweet release.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:30 PM on April 1, 2011

It's not a traditional shooter, but Left 4 Dead is hella scary.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:42 PM on April 1, 2011

I thought the original Doom was absolutely terrifying.

I was five years old, scared of pretty much everything, and not allowed to play any videogames at all when my much older cousin decided that I should learn to play while we were both visiting our grandparents. Possibly ill-advised.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:54 PM on April 1, 2011

I don't think it's on the PC, only the consoles, but Fatal Frame 3: Crimson Butterfly, hands-down. I was in my late 30s when I played it, and it gave me horrific nightmares, to the point that I actually had to drop the game completely. I have never seen another game do dread as well as that.

The Thief series is tense, but most of the time, not very scary, except for one or two special levels in each title. In Thief 3, that level is the Shalebridge Cradle, which is seriously creepy.

This is not universal among gamers, but I actually prefer Thief 3 to the earlier iterations. The levels are much smaller than the big ones in T1 and 2, but the graphics are much higher quality. T1 in particular looks just horrible to modern eyes. And it's very buggy and crash-prone. Thief 3 is very solid, and the Shalebridge Cradle is scary as hell.

Clive Barker's Undying was mid-grade frightening, and it kept it up for a long time. I'd call the Shalebridge Cradle better than any individual thing in Undying, but it's very short in comparison.

Doom 3 is only scary for a little while, because they rely almost exclusively on monster closets.

Dead Space is supposed to be pretty frightening, and it was doing a fairly good job of creeping me out, but the controls are so sluggish and annoying on the PC that I just couldn't play it. It's designed for consoles, and the port is terrible.

System Shock 2 is quite good. You can get updated texture packs for it, so that it doesn't look quite so dated. It's probably the go-to classic for SF-style horror on the PC. Still runs well too, if you visit one of the various fan pages and get whatever patches/new textures you need.

But all of these together aren't even close to being as frightening as Fatal Frame 3.
posted by Malor at 11:01 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Return to Castle Wolfenstein, for sure. Is there really anything scarier than deranged Nazi zombies shooting bullets at you from their chest cavities?

Not that I know of...
posted by narcotizingdysfunction at 11:12 PM on April 1, 2011

Doom I with the Aliens TC mod still rates pretty high on my list of scariest games.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 11:21 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dark Seed creeped me out thoroughly.
posted by aydeejones at 11:23 PM on April 1, 2011

Major props to Dark Seed, but it's neither first person nor a shooter...

I have to n'th System Shock 2 - just a perfect cerebral, tense nightmare.
posted by naju at 11:42 PM on April 1, 2011

Aliens vs Predator (1999), as a marine against aliens. Didn't like the sequel, but the original scared me orders of magnitude more than any other game or movie.
posted by martinrebas at 12:25 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hard to beat original Doom, in its day. Although its pretty hard to recapture just how scary that was back then, the whole idea of an FPS like that was pretty mindblowing. I can remember those Imps making me literally jump out of my seat.
posted by prentiz at 4:43 AM on April 2, 2011

The original Silent Hill was very scary to me. It had a lot of atmosphere for a video game. I specifically remember the sound cues being especially spooky, if you were playing alone in the dark with headphones on.

BioShock is another game that was quite scary, especially once you get pretty deep into the story line.

This may seem like an oddball choice, and it's not a FPS., but Metroid for the NES always gave me the willies. I think it was the concept of being trapped all alone on a huge alien planet, with a nasty lurking threat out there somewhere that did it for me.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 4:46 AM on April 2, 2011

Amnesia: The Dark Decent and the Penumbra series win hands-down. They are not shooters, however, just first person. I cannot play one in the house alone. Seriously. They're, like, fucked up frightening. I cannot emphasize how scary they are, and how much scarier they are than some of the other stuff in this thread. Doom III, Dead Space? Might as well be the Care Bears.

As far as I'm concerned, Amnesia and Penumbra are the only true horror games in existence.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:47 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

BioShock is pretty intense. Especially, IMO, the crazy Sander Cohen puzzles. That guy had some serious issues.

But for pure scare factor, Amnesia is the one you want. It gets uncomfortably creepy real fast.
posted by Harry at 5:15 AM on April 2, 2011

System Shock 2 was scary not only for its graphics and general atmosphere, but for being one of the first games to successfully implement 3D sound. It's bad enough to just hear some horrifying thing wailing "I will tear out your spine!" It's immeasurably worse to hear it coming closer.

posted by valkyryn at 5:31 AM on April 2, 2011

The original Doom, no question.
Because it was so completely different than anything that had come before, you had no preconception of what to expect, so practically every turn held a fresh "Holy shit!" moment.

Players today really don't understand what a huge game-changer Doom was, because they have to look backward from playing today's slick, realistic blood-bath games.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:44 AM on April 2, 2011

System Shock 2 can evoke sheer panic, where you can no longer consider any option besides running away and hopefully finding your way to someplace familiar and well lit. In pretty much every other game I have the urge to explore all the visited areas quite thoroughly. In SS2 there are places where I've been too afraid to do that.
posted by Anything at 5:48 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I thought the first half of Amnesia was genuinely scary and well worth playing, but the second half felt empty and underdeveloped and totally killed the atmosphere in a number of ways I can't really talk about without spoiling it. Still definitely comes recommended, as apart from that I can literally think of nothing on the PC, FPS or not, that I'd count as properly scary.

If (and I realise this isn't entirely what you asked) you're up for moving away from FPSes, Fatal Frame 1, 2 and 3, and Silent Hill 2, 3 and 4 are all fantastic. The Fatal Frames are Ring/Grudge-esque J-horror in game form, and the first two in particular really leave you feeling trapped and never entirely safe. They aren't first-person for the most part, but do force you to switch to first-person and look the ghosts right in the eye in order to temporarily escape. The Silent Hills are more of a creeping-dread kind of thing, along with lots of body horror and psychological stuff. Again, they're third-person, although Silent Hill 4 has fairly brief first-person sections set in the main character's supernaturally-deteriorating apartment.

Silent Hill 2 and 3 are available for the PC, albeit probably not the best ports in the world. I wouldn't be recommending Fatal Frame or SH4 if you had to buy console hardware, but all of the above are playable in PS2 emulator PCSX2 as long as your PC's up to it.
posted by emmtee at 6:11 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

No-one remembers Tomb Raider II and that big pitch dark room full of Yetis? I can understand why you'd want to repress that memory.
posted by merocet at 6:18 AM on April 2, 2011

Another vote for AVP 1999 - Every corner is taken with a sense of foreboding, and when the aliens turn up they *skuttles* towards you in a way that's rather alarming... you just don't want those things near you.
posted by Artw at 7:53 AM on April 2, 2011

The scariest part of Left 4 Dead is in the subway tunnels with just a flashlight and a pistol and you hear the witch crying. Ugh, I had to stop playing that game.
posted by rabbitsnake at 8:03 AM on April 2, 2011

F.E.A.R. played late at night in a dark room gave me some of the scariest moments I've had, including movies. The subject is creepy to begin with, and in the middle of the action (or when it's finally quiet) -- surprise! (I won't ruin it, but it's not always something jumping out and attacking you.) It's almost heart attack-inducing.
posted by Simon Barclay at 8:24 AM on April 2, 2011

Fallout 3 was not scary per se, but one night, when I was as immersed in that game as I ever get, I was going through some metro station, 99% sure I'd taken care of everything in my way, when I hear a four part chorus of "Bwahhhhhhhhhh!!!" in beautiful stereo sound. I nearly wet myself.

Something to consider is that everything on this list seems to be driven by a sense of immersion. Doom wasn't that scary to me because I never had that sense.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:27 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Doom III played with headphones and the lights off left me permanently traumatized.

Seconding whoever said Minecraft. There is something phenomenally creepy tunnelling in the dark with your supply of torches running out and the moans of zombies reverberating from GOD KNOWS WHERE.
posted by unSane at 8:28 AM on April 2, 2011

The first L4D had me scared to high hell for the first month...then you just got bored of it. :/

Nthing minecraft. I don't like zombies. 0.0
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 9:01 AM on April 2, 2011

For me it was definitely the Ravenholm episode of HL II. Doom 3 has plenty of "made ya jump" moments but I found the creepy atmosphere became a bit forced and repetitive before long.

Ravenholm was just unnerving as hell from the moment you step into the town and hear those doomy electronic sounds and see the bisected body swinging in the breeze.... and I still hear the distant howling of those damned fast zombies in my nightmares.
posted by Decani at 9:32 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have to agree with many that System Shock 2 is one of if not the most frightening games ever. I've played most of the games listed and the only one that comes fairly close in my mind is Amnesia: Dark Descent. System Shock 2 is not a fond older memory for me, I played it for the first time 3 years ago and with the very outdated graphics I still found it only playable for 20-30 minute spurts because of the absolute feeling of dread. Spectacular sound design and helplessness are definitely the key to good horror.
posted by Odinhead at 11:06 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry to hear that the back half of Amnesia is a letdown, but I guess it doesn't matter much since I was too goddamn scared to play past the first half hour. And that was with the lights on, and someone else in the room. With Penumbra: Overture, I needed to take a break every half hour or so, but I actually uninstalled Amnesia because I just could not handle it.

It's usually pretty cheap on Steam, and it's from an indie production house that relies on that money to keep making games. You could do worse.
posted by Zozo at 12:44 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Scary in terms of "most terrifying use of atmosphere and horror film tropes to ratchet up the player's fear while playing?" For me, it's the original FEAR. There's a palpable sense of menace throughout, and those early stages where you just catch a glimpse of things skittering across the screen, or THINK you caught a glimpse of something skittering across your screen, just out of the light, made me pretty damn nervous indeed.

Scary in terms of "most fear I can recall feeling while playing and most numerous spikes of panic?" Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield 2 online. I haven't messed with more recent iterations of the Battlefield franchise, but these two games played online are the ones in which I felt the most profound senses of vulnerability and steady terror - years after playing them on the regular, I can still recall having to constantly overcome my nerves to advance into enemy territory or to remain steady when trying to hold off an enemy assault, cursing in panic as the sight of a tank or the first whistle of an artillery barrage sent me running for cover.

There's not a horror or suspense film trope in sight in the Battlefield games and of course no scripted events in the online matches, but thanks to the chaos of the game's basic structure, I've never found another FPS more reliably frightening (and therefore thrilling and compelling) than Battlefield 1942 or Battlefield 2.
posted by EatTheWeek at 12:45 PM on April 2, 2011

The original Marathon by Bungie got under my skin as a kid. The sound the Pfhor made when they spotted you might as well have been wired directly to my fight-or-flight response.

They coupled that sense of dread and loneliness on the colony ship with an AI that had fallen into Rampancy and was at turns creepy, sarcastic, indifferent and murderous. HAL had nothing on the wit and peril of Durandal, and to be at his mercy while jumping around the ship meant there was, as they say, never a dull moment.
posted by brism at 12:55 PM on April 2, 2011

Bioshock is one of the more disturbing and scary games I have ever played, especially the first time around. The Splicers freaked me out with their insane mutterings and shriekings.

Funny Doom story: Long ago in a galaxy far away I lived in a house with a buncha folk. One of my housemates was a serious Doom addict and got me hooked as well. So, this one night he comes stumbling into the kitchen looking bleary-eyed and drained. I expressed some concern over his appearance and he said it was OK, he had just been on Doom bender that had lasted a few hours. He then went down into the basement to check on his laundry. A few seconds later I hear a shriek of terror. I run downstairs to find him now bug-eyed and gasping and pointing at the dryer whose door is hanging open. "Holy shit, dude, when I opened that door I swear, I swear, I saw a Lost Soul coming at me!" Good times.
posted by jammy at 1:20 PM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Those who keep trumpeting Bioshock should try the much recommended System Shock 2. The interface is clunky, the graphics outdated, but dear god, the sound is scary. Playing it with headphones, alone, at night, on medium (not even hard!) gave me cold sweats. Only time I've ever had them.

I've owned this game for over 10 years and I'm still to scared to play it on hard. The weapon degradation effect is faster than the programmers intended. So, I guess you could be a wimp and make it so your pistol doesn't jam after 10 shots if you're a little baby. Or don't like having to sleep with the lights on for the next week.

One of the times I was playing, I ran into a bugged spider. The damn thing wouldn't die. I emptied my entire arsenal into the thing and then ran whimpering into the chemical supply closet. I could hear it hissing outside the door as I frantically tried to think up a way to kill it. Then I remembered I could reload from my last save. Killing it was one of the most satisfying experiences of my gaming career. (Don't even get me started on the transparent spiders. My pulse is spiking just thinking of them.)

You can find it online easily, even for the mac.

My experience with Bioshock was that I jumped a bunch, but in part playing it on the console with surround sound and not sitting by myself with headphones, and in part because after SS2 no game can truly terrify me (Dead Space made me cautious, not scared), I wasn't too freaked out by it.
posted by Hactar at 3:44 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

System Shock 2. Awesome game. There are some enemies in eggs you find near the end of the game, and you are told that "if you get too close to them" there will be an enemy coming out "worse than you could ever imagine". Normally I explore everything in a game too but I never got anywhere *NEAR* those eggs.

Dead space 1 and 2 were decent but they were third person shooters. In some respects they were more like spiritual successors to system shock. Doom III had it's moments as well.
Headphones make it a lot better. I remember playing these games at 3am with headphones on in pitch dark. good fun.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 5:56 PM on April 2, 2011

There are a lot of scary first-person shooters I haven't played, primarily because I don't particularly like being scared. But the scariest experience I had playing one was actually a Half Life mod called "They Hunger". It was a straightforward zombie thing, but the opening sequence was terrifying to me because even though you don't have to deal with many zombies at the beginning, they start you out with no weapons. Not even a crowbar. All you can do at the beginning is run away. Very effective.
posted by ErWenn at 7:42 PM on April 2, 2011

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (Stalker) series.

Especially if you know nothing about the world/setting.

"Real world" weapons/armour. On higher difficulty, "real world" damage (but not repair; so it's not grieviously difficult). The versimilitude makes the world seem believable... but then there's the messed up shit that the environment imposes on you.

For example, you've got a consitutively active geiger counter. It beeps every so often, sometimes it beeps a bit more than is healthy. Suddenly you find yourself somewhere where your geiger goes *NUTS* and you try to get out of the area.

Your counter gets *MENTAL* you re-tread your path to try to get out.


The lights start getting weird and visually doplar-ed, your counter is going nuts.

You take a step to your left

WHAHAHAHAHHOOOOAOOAOAO you're thrown and pummeled left right and high into the air.


You might make it out of the anomaly. The game might end. If you re-load a save, you might start recognizing what a (potential) anomaly might look like and steer clear next time. Sometimes you don't have the luxury of examining your environment. Sometimes, you'll want to roll the dice and risk an anomaly to get something useful for your character.

The Stalker series is great; all three games have texture packs and patches (both official and unofficial/fan-made) that make them far far better than the initial releases. With the fan-stuff, even the first (Shadow of Chernobyl) looks great. It was really really buggy, but it's stable, now.

Clear Sky was a little more stable on first release, but it's pretty rock solid now. There are texture packs and lots of fan-mods that really tighten the experience.

Call of Pripyat is the latest and between the official patches and some of the fan stuff, is a *fantastic* game. Much less impactful, storywise, but it's pretty hard to follow up SoC and CS.

If you had to play only one, go for Clear Sky although Shadow of Chernobyl had the best atmosphere and Call of Pripyat was the most polished - Clear Sky works with some of the very story from Shadow whereas CoP is all after the fact.
posted by porpoise at 9:48 PM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

nthing Amnesia: The Dark Descent. My SO bought it for me for my birthday. It scared me so much that I made him play it while I watched. It scared him so much that we had to look up walk throughs of the game just to finish it. It's wonderful.
posted by hoperaiseshell at 5:12 PM on April 3, 2011

Another vote for AvP. As I remember describing the game to others:

As the Predator, you get to run around and play with neat toys, different vision modes, and generally being a badass.

As the Alien, you get to run around in tunnels, whip people with your tail, and it starts to get a little freaky when you run into turrets or get set on fire.

As the Marine, you're sitting in the dark, waiting to die.
posted by cardioid at 10:17 PM on April 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

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