As 2022 comes to a close, a distinct trend has emerged in the gaming industry: survival horror has taken the spotlight, forcing its gristly way into the mainstream consciousness. From remakes to absurd art projects, horror has become a place for experimentation and exploration into the darker side of gaming.
For fans and experts in the genre, this is no surprise. People tend to retreat into horror when the world is at it’s most terrifying. It gives players a sense of control to be able to escape, or even defeat, their monsters. It’s the genre that many look to as a barometer for society’s current and most prevalent fears.
To that end, we’ve seen games that feature the horror of seeing your city and everyone you know annihilated by a plague or strange sickness, like in Ghostwire: Tokyo and A Plague Tale: Requiem. There’s the all-too-familiar fear of being trapped at work, usually in an enclosed space, while danger lurks a hair’s breadth away, like in The Closing Shift, Mortuary Assistant, and The Quarry. There are even horror games that examine the new wave of spiritualism and influencer culture, like The Chant.
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But a more telling sign that people are turning to horror now more than ever is the number of remakes and remasters we’ve seen unveiled in 2022, either for play this year or promised in the next. Resident Evil, Dead Space, Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, White Day, and Dread Out, are all horror titles that were assumed by fans to be dead in the water. And yet their corpses have been reanimated with new, horrifying vigor for a nostalgic older generation and a (fortunate) new generation that have yet to experience the scares these series have to offer.
Many might argue that some of these remasters are cash grabs, as publishers pour the least amount of money into an old title in order to profit twice. That’s certainly the case in games like DreadOut2, which was dreadfully disappointing. But many of these remasters and remakes prove something that horror fans already know: the fears we have today are cyclical, and even if they die temporarily, you can be reassured they’ll rise from the grave.
After all, Silent Hill 2 didn’t win hearts with its combat system. It was the oppressive atmosphere of Silent Hill, the game’s symbolic monsters, and the gradual peeling away of James’ fractured psyche that made it a fan favorite. But other series, like Resident Evil, have created more physical and less mental horror series that speak to two types of major (and frequently overlapping) fans of the genre: the fans who enjoy a gritty action survival horror and the fans who enjoy mixing their horror with humor. Resident Evil 4 was well-beloved for its campy charm, and many fans hope those snappy one-liners will stay in the remake.
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As the Resident Evil series demonstrates, 2022 has proven to be a year where horror has experienced all of its shades. From the brutal, hand-slicing gristliness of Resident Evil Village to the surreal silliness of Choo-Choo Charles. 2022 has even delved into the grotesque and distinctly artistic with Scorn, and the cinematic with The Callisto Protocol. Nearly every subgenre, setting, and trope was represented this year in some way.
And while 2022 may have brought horror back into the spotlight, 2023 may be a golden age for the genre. We’re slated to see many new series from well-developed masters, new rising stars, and plenty of remakes to keep fans satisfied and traumatized. Personally, I can’t wait.