Silent Hills P.T. Remains The Scariest Video Game Of All Time

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What makes a horror game scary? To me, horror games work best when carrying a heavy sense of eeriness. The heavy, foreboding atmosphere of certain areas – no matter their size – always makes me feel a little uneven, and that is a good thing.

In that legendary Silent Hills P.T. demo from 2014, walking the horribly lit halls of the house the first time, and presenting me with the radio broadcast about a murder set the tone for the scariest horror game experience of all time. As we well know with horror, a television or radio report about a murder is a pretty good sign that you will get embroiled in those events sooner or later. Hearing about a family being brutally killed on a Sunday afternoon immediately makes you question: “Am I that part of that family?” as you make ever more disorienting loops around the hallway.

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What makes the game even more terrifying is the fact that you have nothing but a flashlight in your hand.

No map, no radar, nothing. You’re just strolling through a house at night and things get creepier and scarier with each pass. The hallway is dimly lit, the atmosphere is pushing down on you and making you not want to carry on, but you do anyway. The ambient noises do their part to really crank up the scariness to 11. But it’s only once you see her (in my case by looking through a crack in the bathroom door), that things escalate to unbearable levels. Quite often the reveal of the ‘monster’ is disappointing and ruins some of the mystique, but Lisa does not disappoint, especially as her appearance is so fleeting.

The game really did capture and feast on many of our biggest fears – in this case tight enclosed spaces. With every pass through the house, the hallways seemed to be more suffocating, and having no idea what was next added to that feeling. You keep questioning what awaits you in each terrible new loop around the house. Each pass chips away at your sanity, bit by agonising bit.

That’s a big part of what makes P.T. the scariest game of all time – that sense that each pass through the house felt like a deeper dive into your own madness. It made you feel like the character, because the place people call home and feel safe in, was actually plotting our demise. P.T. does a fantastic job of knowing when and where to add new scares – from when to see the ghost to having the phone ring and hearing other noises. It’s sublime at building tension then exploding with fear.

Kojima Productions understood that a lot of what makes horror games great is not throwing everything at the player all at once, but that the best ones build up like a rollercoaster (except each time you think you’re at the top of the hill, it sends you down a small one rather than going all-in each time – it teases you and never feels like it needs to overload you with scares).

A good scare is one you can’t see coming, including fakeouts. We have all watched a horror movie where someone opens up the medicine cabinet and upon closing it sees the killer in the mirror, then turns around and nobody’s there. But in P.T. you’re the person who sets up these fakeouts – whether it’s turning around in a dark bathroom, or looking around a corner in the hallway.

While the game is linear, we are in charge of where we look and what we feel. Everyone who plays will have a meaningfully unique experience, because everyone’s movements throughout the house are different. P.T. is thrilling and sickeningly scary, but it’s also a real work of art. I just wish we got to see the full completed version.



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