Welcome to the second installment of my Underrated Games of the Generation series. In the last article entitled “Obscure Games“, I talked about Lollipop Chainsaw and Catherine. This time around, I will be talking about horror games which I think are underrated. The purpose of these articles are to talk about games and encourage people to play games they may have never experienced.
Alan Wake is one of my all-time favorite games. One of the things I love the most about Remedy’s psychological thriller/horror game is the fact that it’s genuinely scary. Many games in the genre rely too much on jump scares, excessive violence, blood, and predictability. I can count plenty of times where a horror game “tried” to scare me, but I could easily tell when a scare was going to happen. Alan Wake’s excellence comes from its atmosphere, fun combat, and phenomenal storytelling. Remedy didn’t fill its game with gimmicks, in fact, they treated Alan Wake with so much respect. It was easy to care about the main character and the conflict which made up the game’s story. Alan Wake is the only horror game I can think of with a “T” rating that accomplished the goal of scaring its players more than most “M” rated horror games could do.
The combat in Alan Wake featured a variety of firearms, but the catch to the combat was that you must use a light source in order to make the “Taken” (enemies made of darkness) vulnerable. Only then could they be defeated. What made combat tense was the fact that you could run out of batteries causing the player to not have a usable light source. Fights were intense and required strategy. Another fascinating aspect in Alan Wake came in the form of collectibles. Most games feature collectibles that only unlock concept art and videos, but Alan Wake’s collectibles (except thermoses) served an actual purpose. Collectibles included manuscript pages, radio shows, and TV sets which showcased the fictional TV show called Night Springs. Manuscripts (which are usually found out of order) contain the story that Alan Wake doesn’t remember writing. Close inspection of these manuscripts detail events in the storyline that have yet to happen. Radio shows explore the lore of Bright Falls and the TV shows compliment the eeriness of the game itself.
The presentation of the story is worth noting. Besides the manuscripts which I mentioned, a lot of the narrative comes from Alan Wake’s thoughts and that adds a film noir feel to the mix. Seeing into the mind of your character during the game is a method of storytelling that isn’t common in many games. Each chapter of the game is also treated like an episode of the show complete with closing credits, theme song, and a recap before the next chapter.
If you’re a fan of Twin Peaks, survival horror, old TV shows, mysteries, tense combat, stellar storytelling, and atmospheric horror, Alan Wake is a game that must be added to your collection. Used copies of the game are around $10.
Shadows of the Damned
Shadows of the Damned is what happens when Suda 51 (No More Heroes, Killer 7, Lollipop Chainsaw) and Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil, The Evil Within, Vanquish) join forces to create a game. The game is a mixture of psychological horror and obscurity. Actually, this game shares some similarities with Alan Wake. The genres are slightly different, but the mechanics of using light to make your enemies vulnerable is used heavily in Shadows of the Damned.
The game is about a demon hunter named Garcia Hotspur who is on a quest to rescue his girlfriend Paula from Fleming who is the “Lord of Hell.” Garcia is followed by his sidekick named Johnson, a former demon who is now a talking skull that has multiple abilities. Johnson is normally used as a torch which can stun enemies, he can also turn into a shotgun, pistol, and an assault rifle. Johnson is used for comedic relief which usually comes in the form of his explicit humor and double entendres. Even Johnson’s upgrades are sexual in nature. Shadows of the damned is a unique game that changes up the style of gameplay quite often. There are moments of survival horror, puzzle sections, and even a side-scrolling portion of the game.
Shadows of the Damned is linear, but the set-pieces and unpredictable moments are what makes the game so fun. The game is lengthy and just when you think that you’ve seen everything that it can throw at you, something twisted emerges from the shadows. The whole game isn’t terrifying, but the atmosphere is haunting, the moments in darkness are unnerving, and random chase sequences are intense. Boss Battles are one of the best parts of the Shadows of the Damned. Each fight is memorable because of the way that Shadows of the Damned changes up the formula. Check out a boss battle video which I have included below.
It’s a shame that Shadows of the Damned didn’t find the audience it deserved. The game has plenty of reasons to love it and I really want to revisit that world again. Shadows of the Damned was different than most games out on the market at the time. With all of the promotion that it received, I’m disappointed that Shadows of the Damned wasn’t as big as it should have been. Between Shinji Mikami’s signature atmospheric horror and tight action and Suda 51’s humor and weirdness, Shadows of the Damned is a matchmade in horror heaven.
I hope you enjoyed this installment of Underrated Games of the Generation! What games do you think are underrated? Let’s talk about it in the comments.