Plenty of the best games of all time fall into the horror category. Major series like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Dead Space, and (to some extent) The Last of Us pride themselves on suspense and horrifying critters standing between your character and the next story beat. Then there’s the darling indie titles like Amnesia, Little Nightmares, and more ethereal horror titles like Limbo or even Inscryption, which provide intricate stories and unique fears along with their own share of creepy moments and jump scares. So what do you do if you don’t have the stomach for spooks, but you still want to enjoy some of the best horror titles out there? How do you overcome the fear of scary video games?
While any given gamer is dealing with their own thresholds of processing fear, there are a few standard tips and tricks to getting through the panic sweats and enjoying some scary good games.
With Effort, You Can Overcome a Fear of Scary Video Games
Like overcoming any fear, you typically shouldn’t start with the most intense thrill. Sure, some circumstances call for jumping into the pool to get acclimated to the temperature, but at the same time, you don’t toss a water wing-less toddler into the deep end for their first swimming lesson.
That’s why it’s best for gamers who are nervous about scary video games to start on the milder side. This can mean playing through a spooky level in a non-horror game — things like Big Boo’s Haunt with its chomping piano from Super Mario 64 or Queen Vanessa’s Manor in A Hat in Time. These types of spooky moments are colorful and fun, even if there are some oddly out-of-place terrifying encounters, and it can help establish base mechanics like running from a scary enemy.
Similarly, gaining strong mechanical understanding of a horror game can be a key tool to overcoming scary games fears. From personal experience, my first major horror game I tackled was the hauntingly gory Dead Space. Luckily for me, my college roommate and I had played through the Gears of War series just before, which in many ways had taught me several of the third-person shooter mechanics I would need while cutting off limbs and navigating the USG Ishimura. Much of the fear in games comes from being unprepared for what could come at you, so playing games with similar mechanics — like playing an FPS before Prey, or a platformer like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze before Little Nightmares — will help you develop those skills to better tackle scary moments.
Another solution for the horror-game hesitant is the old adage that there is power in numbers. Not only can playing with a group of friends in a well-lit room help take some of the sting out of the isolation horror games try to inflict upon you, but it can be a significantly more fun experience as well. This brings back old memories of coming back from work to my three roommates and all gathering to play Slenderman. We’d take turns trying to see how many pages each of us could collect, and while we had our own share of loud screams, yells, and at least one pants-changing moment, these were always followed with a chorus of laughs and joyful core memories.
For some, things like jump scares or even the act of dying is what scares them most. While in a movie you can look away during the scary parts, in a horror game, you’re in control, and the story can’t advance if you can’t press forward on that control stick. Now, it may seem odd and may break some of the immersion of your playthrough, but sometimes simply running at that enemy and seeing what happens can be the most cathartic coping tool to get over your horror game fear. Once you’ve seen the death animation and understand what will happen if you fail, you can fully understand that is the only consequence of your failure. There are few things scarier than the unknown, so once you know what the game is going to scare you with, those scares will hit with less ferocity.
Likewise, sometimes when a game is cryptic or building suspense, it can be hard to stomach pressing forward and powering through the potential consequences. In such cases, while this could radically change your gameplay experience, occasionally it’s worth breaking out a “let’s play” to watch how a level is supposed to be played and learn about the upcoming scares.
I personally had this experience while first exploring Resident Evil Village’s famously unbearable House Beneviento. While I made it through the house’s initial eerie puzzles, when I was faced with the sound of an infant crying and having to run down a pitch-dark hallway, I quickly pulled up the pause menu and waited for the courage to move on. When that courage didn’t come, I wondered how bad it could be and pulled up the segment on YouTube. Sure, I missed out on discovering the horror for myself. But playing through the segment even after studying how best to complete it was still as unnerving as ever. And the best part — I was able to enjoy the rest of my much less horrifying Resident Evil Village playthrough because I had the help I needed dealing with the game’s scariest moment.
At the end of the day, horror isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you’re looking to overcome your fear of scary video games and enjoy some iconic and haunting moments in gaming history, these tips can help get you over the hump and fully loving the genre.