Just like many other visually focused mediums, video games have undergone gigantic changes in just the past 10 years alone—never mind looking back further to the early 1980s. The evolution goes beyond the mere look of the games, too, because it's how we play that's changed greatly as well. Fewer people are going to arcades, for example, and consoles have pretty much dominated since the mid-to-late 1990s. And it's since then (and somewhat-before) that we have witnessed some amazing growth within the horror genre of games specifically.
Going right back to 1990, one of the first horror-themed games you may remember playing is none other than Hugo's House of Horrors, which you can actually play online right now here. To be fair, it was basically an updated version of a game that came out three years prior, Maniac Mansion, but it's one close to this writer's childhood. Essentially, you move the titular protagonist through the haunted house in an effort to find your missing girlfriend, and it's all done through typed commands and your arrow keys. In other words, you really had to use your imagination to figure out what you were doing, especially later on in the narrative. That being said, it's without a doubt a classic in the horror gaming genre.
It goes without saying that we're far removed from the simplicity that, in a way, makes Hugo's House of Horrors so endearing. In the ensuing years, we were basically delivered a series of gaming franchises that, more or less, wanted to scare the pants off you. They tended to stick within two forms of fright: outright creepiness and jumpy "gotcha!" scares. Although, some titles worked well in combining those two elements. That is particularly true of the Silent Hill franchise, which dropped you into the fictional town of the same name. As Harry Mason, you're set on a quest looking for your daughter that quickly goes from creepy to flat-out terrifying thanks to the variety of demons you run into.
What made Silent Hill—the first of which was released in 1999—work so well is that it differed from the "survival horror" presented in the Resident Evil franchise that began in 1996. While ensuing titles became more chilling, the first installment relied more on jumpy scare tactics than anything else. Sure, the game's sprawling mansion, moaning zombies, infected dogs, and the like were scary, but they didn't mess with your head like Silent Hill.
The same can be said for other games in the horror genre. Many have simply taken themes from films or works of literature and injected them into a presentation that isn't necessarily frightening outside of some light imagery. Take the Devil May Cry franchise, for example, which began in 2001. It centered on a demon hunter named Dante avenging his mother and brother's death by fighting, well, a ton of creepy demons. It was scary in a way, but it was basically your typical combat-heavy adventure title dressed up with horror. That also applies to Vampires vs Werewolves, an arcade game at online platform InterCasino UK. In this case, we have a slot game that, like Devil May Cry, simply has the dressings of something spooky. In this case, though, you actually get to assume the role of the perceived v illain—pick either the werewolf or vampire—instead of fighting against them. The site also notes that it "is a serious game for serious fans of horror stories." Fair enough!
This is all to say that horror games have clearly grown, evolved, and changed greatly in the past 25 years. But should we be surprised by that? Perhaps not. After all, the leading example, Hugo's House of Horrors, was built on the premise of mixing chilling imagery with a touch of dark humour. While the aforementioned games are never really funny, per se, they do integrate horror in different and imaginative ways. Speaking of, Sony is actually attempting to "reinvent" this particular gaming genre with a new title that just may be called A Million Ways to Die. You can view the blood-covered teaser trailer for it below.