Some of my favorite horror games just so happen to be centered around playing with a friend or several other people. This flies in the face of conventional horror tropes in gaming, where game developers force a sense of isolation upon the players in order to heighten the creep factor.
My first memories of multiplayer horror began at the arcades. Many of the light gun shooters were my personal favorites and the standouts among those were always the horror-themed games. While the graphics of these games were primitive by today’s standards, they were scary enough to me as a kid that I had no issue plugging their pixelated monstrosities full of holes. Crypt Killer and The House of the Dead can still be found in some arcades today.
As console gaming became more popular, these types of horror games were pushed to the side for single player focused titles that plunged players into narrative-based experiences. Once consoles gained the ability to effectively utilize internet capabilities for online multiplayer, there was another shift in the gaming space. Titles that were once single-player focused, started to get online multiplayer tacked on to their games with varying degrees of success. F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3 were good examples of this and both wound up tanking their respective franchises.
Clearly tacking on a multiplayer experience just to have one negatively affected the quality of the gameplay. It took some time, but the industry would eventually realize that building a game from the ground up with multiplayer in mind netted a much better product. While some people were disappointed with Resident Evil 5 as it leaned the franchise even more heavily into the action genre instead of the horror genre, it remains a standout in the franchise to me for its co-op campaign.
Zombie games were almost a guaranteed hit and gaming companies took notice. The zombie apocalypse was a perfect backdrop for a multiplayer horror title and we haven’t seen an end to them since. Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Dying Light, H1Z1… The list goes on and on.
With the ever-increasing importance of streaming platforms like Twitch and Youtube, a new niche needs to be filled, games that are fun not only fun to play but fun to watch. Titles like Friday the 13th The Video Game and Dead By Deadlight take advantage of the ever pressing need for content for these platforms. I’m actually surprised its taken the industry this long to make games like these, where players are forced into a horror survival situation with one lucky player getting to control an overpowered killer. It’ll be interesting to see what new co-op horror titles are released in the future as market focus shifts and gaming companies start chasing emerging trends.
What are some of your favorite co-operative horror games? Let me know in the comments below.