A genre of video games which blends role playing and action, and are (ideally) scary as hell. They tend to be very plot driven and cinematic. A lot o puzzle solving and exploration is involved.

Some games that fall into this category:

A lot of other games could be thrown into this category, roughly.

Brief History

A video game genre which emerged in the early nineties, mainly with the release of Resident evil (Capcom). This was of course not the first attempt at a horror type video game (earlier horror games include Splatter house and alone in the dark), but it was the game which first acquired the genre of survival horror. Creator Shinji Mikami was inspired by the early zombie films of director George A. Romero (Night of the living dead) and wished to create a video game which could re-create that atmosphere. Capcom followed this up with the sequels Resident Evil 2 and 3. In this time other games companies saw the popularity of the genre (Resident Evil 2 being the fastest selling game ever when it was released), and Konami released the disturbing Silent Hill. With the release of next generation consoles came more Survival horror games including (many) sequels to Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Also came the birth of other survival horror titles as well as the continuation of series' which now found themselves placed in this newly created genre. These include:

Defining features of the Genre

Survival horror has many defining features. The are basically RPG games however the combat system is generally a hands on system unlike the combat point driven RPG’s such as Final Fantasy. They are very story line driven, and a good plot line is essential for any good survival horror game. It is important for the player to emotionally connect with the character(s) on some level, or at least allow themselves to be sufficiently involved in the plot to fully appreciate the game. The story line makes cut-scenes essential to move the plot along; of course this also means that the game requires good voice actors to bring the characters to life. Bad cut-scenes can cause the game to become laughable in places and destroy the atmosphere. The soundtrack to a survival horror game is also an important ingredient which must be included to create a well balanced game. The music generally changes pace from a standard ‘atmospheric’ type of sound in general game play, dramatic music with boss or plot twists and calm music for places of safety (I am always relieved to hear the Resident evil 2 safe music!). As the title suggests the games revolve around a scenario that would typically be seen in a horror movie and so they generally involve some kind of monsters or horrific themes. The main characters will see the odds of survival stacked against them, and unlike action, or first person shooters the aim of the game is not so much to kill as many enemies as possible, but simply to ‘survive’ the situation. These factors are designed to cause a tension in the player, similar to watching a horror movie, but more intense, as the outcome depends on the ability of that player. Ammunition/item conservation is essential and all survival horror games will require the player to run-away from enemies at some points instead of fighting them which is unlike what you would be expected to do in most action games. Another major element to game-play, in most survival horror games, is the solving of puzzles and examining evidence to find the way to proceed through the game. In my opinion it is the balance of story line, action and puzzles which give Survival horror games a lot of their appeal.


Here are some of stereotypical events that you can generally expect to occur at least once in a survival horror game:

  • A creature will burst through a door/window/wall at a very unexpected moment
  • You will be looking for someone who has either mysteriously gone missing, or run away shortly after you first met him or her.
  • A scream or strange noise will attract your attention to a critical room or area
  • Nobody will stay with you for long, no matter what the situation they will suggest that you split up for some reason.
  • You will find ammunition in very unlikely places (ie. schools, hospitals and on the floor)
  • Although many doors you find will be locked, somebody will have left clues as to how to unlock them
  • Everyone can instantly use any computer system

* Of course others exist, but I’m not listing them all here. If you think I’ve missed out a major game/series message me and I will include it

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