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To-Do List: Not die. Oh, okay.
Crushingly, AMY is one of the few Survival Horror games beside Amnesia that actually is Survival Horror, and not just a Shooter that ate some marinara sauce too quickly.

Somehow, the world, or at least the city you are in, has had its inhabitants slaughtered and resurrected with a hunger for brains, or their murderers have minions trying to find you and any accomplaces. Your goal: Don't die before help arrives or before you reach an exit. You will have close escapes from horrible creatures. Things will jump through windows at you. Sometimes, you will be forced to fight the horrible creatures or flee for your life.

Not unlike Post Modernism, Survival Horror isn't really a genre in itself; it exists more as a blurred subset of Horror and First-Person Shooter or Third-Person Shooter. It requires you to figure out how to survive the onslaught and the related puzzles, and escape usually comes after you stop the source of the problem or secure an escape route. It should be noted that, unlike shooter games, there is no penalty for not killing non-boss enemies -- indeed, in some games ammo is in such short supply that evasion, not confrontation, is the best tactic, similar to Stealth Based Games. This is usually compounded by having the protagonist be an Action Survivor or Non-Action Guy who is poor at combat, rather than a Badass.

Note that simply featuring large amounts of monsters, zombies and/or demons does not make it survival horror; even if the game has supernatural elements, or scares you in some way, it may not be a survival horror game. No matter how scary GLaDos may have appeared to you, the game she was featured in is most definitely not a survival horror title.

It should also be noted that games typically labelled Action Horror and/or Action Adventure should not be confused with Survival Horror. This includes games such as Resident Evil 4, which, despite keeping the tense atmosphere of the previous games, has the player sitting on a pile of ammo and supplies by comparison, making it a different genre to its Ur Example predecessors. In order to minimize confusion, try looking at the protagonist's despair; if the protagonist is oppressed and their major issues seem too petty for action games (extreme scarcity of ammunition & supplies, very tough enemies regardless of difficulty, enormous objectives, etc.), then you may be looking at survival horror.

Examples of Survival Horror games:
Metro 2033, Manhunt, AMY; overwhelmed protagonist(s), oppressive atmosphere and a need for careful management of resources (ammo, health, etc.).

Examples of non Survival Horror games:
Halo, Doom, Half-Life 2, Resident Evil 4, Left 4 Dead and so on; despite grim prospects and scary content, just about any fight can be won at a gain and there is always enough ammo and supplies on hand to win most scenarios.

We also have advice if you want to Write a Survival Horror Game.


Survival Horror Games:



Action Horror games with Survival Horror elements:

  • The later Resident Evil titles qualify as this, as Resident Evil 4 gives the player ludicrous amounts of supplies by comparison, Resident Evil 5 takes it further by granting the player an AI partner to help them.Not much word on Resident Evil 6 , but from the look of the trailers it seems to be horror mixed with third-person shooter.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines has several, including the infamous Ocean House Hotel.
  • Half-Life: The Ravenholm level in Half-Life 2 and the Lowlife level in Episode 1 are reminiscent of this, with hordes of zombies and limited ammo. The first Half-Life was raved for standing out among works of the Survival Horror genre at the time.
  • The Nazi Zombie mode on Call of Duty World at War is very much survival horror. You fight off wave after wave of zombies that get gradually tougher. Good luck getting past level 15! (without glitches, of course.)
  • The Nazi base in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. You're stuck in a badly lit bunker filled with mutated zombies who want to kill you and no way of escaping until you activate the generators. You get more ammo than in most Survival Horror games, but that's still little consolation with the amount of zombies attacking you.
  • Drakengard starts off as a Hack and Slash Heroic Fantasy game, until things start to get weird and the shit hits the fan. The characters were kind enough to lampshade: "Time and space fall apart, and the fantasy begins."
  • Luigis Mansion is a more cartoonish take on the genre.
  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. The games are fundamentally tactical shooters with a lonely, desolate, post-apocalyptic feel, but sections in underground science labs etc do get very scary. The developers refer to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. as a "Survival Shooter" (i.e. it emphasizes ammo scavenging and realistic levels of player-character competence).
    • Clear Sky, however, is considered way past that, to the point where player-character competence seems to be expected to be near-superman capabilities in the minds of many players.
  • Dead Frontier is an MMO based around a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is more Psychological Horror but it is often categorized with Survival Horror games anyway, if only for convenience.
  • Killer 7 contains some Survival Horror elements (unsurprising, since it was produced by Shinji Mikami, creator of Resident Evil), such as limited movement and fixed camera angles, key-based puzzles, enemies that jump out at the player, a heavily streamlined form of resource management, and a disturbing plot filled with Surreal Horror. However, it also has many characteristics of action games; for example, players' guns have unlimited ammo, and killing mooks is lucrative (up to a point) and often necessary. Really the game is just impossible to classify.
  • The Suffering has the setting and atmosphere of a survival horror game, but the protagonist is a Badass armed with machine guns and flamethrowers, and the gameplay mechanics are those of a standard shooter.
  • The Hidden: A Half Life mod.
  • Hyrule field at night in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time could pass for something out of a survival horror game, with the Stalchildren. No matter how many of them you cut down, they continue to spawn until the sun comes up.
    • To say nothing of the Shadow Temple.
  • Minecraft, despite its cutesy retro aesthetic, can often be quite scary, if only for the stakes involved. Being trapped underground with hordes of undead may not always feel as tense as it should, but when you're carrying that diamond you spent three hours searching for, well that's another situation entirely.
  • Despite containing "zombies" throughout, the Dead Rising series does not qualify for this (save for a few additional modes, which may be applicable). While hordes of enemies surround you constantly, the fact that pretty much everything not fixed to the ground is a weapon, as well as an abundance of health items makes it more of an Action Adventure if anything. The same goes for Dead Rising Chop Till You Drop, which is an on-the-rails shooter.
  • The Dead Space games do not qualify for this, as they are essentially Resident Evil 4 IN SPACE!. Granted, it can occasionally tip into this genre, but the fact that ammunition and health can be stockpiled in stores and that weapons and stats can be upgraded to ludicrous levels means this game is only a horror action adventure. To put it into perspective, the only time Dead Space 2 really resembles survival horror is Hardcore Mode, as it's the only time survival becomes a real pain.[1]
  • Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 are not survival horror games as, while running is a requirement during certain crescendo events and typical tank encounters, the premise of the game involves four heavily armed survivors (commonly equipped with shotguns/uzis, pistols/axes, grenades, first aid kits and medicine) spending the majority of their time either pushing through to an area or holding down an area with brute force.
  • Despite being infamous for its fantastic, creepy setting, the Bioshock games do not qualify as a survival horror. Granted, the game can be pretty terrifying and the odds are more than stacked against the player, but the fact that the player has a Hyperspace Arsenal and numerous Stock Super Powers, the Survival aspect leaves something to be desired save for the higher difficulties.



Non-Game Examples:

  • Silent Hill Promise an interactive Fan Sequel to Silent Hill 2.
  • We Are the Strange, an independent animated film mainly set in a city full of giant monsters. The story switches perspectives between two sets of protagonists. The first set is made up of a bunch of ill-equipped Action Survivors, while the other group consists of Badasses who openly taunt the beasts and take an almost-sadistic pleasure in fighting and killing them. Oddly enough, only the first group makes it through the movie alive.
  • Bio Meat, a manga, definitely counts here, the aforementioned B-M providing an interesting twist on the genre.
  • Silent Horror and Resident Horror, independent film versions (and slight parodies) by X-Strike Studios of Silent Hill and Resident Evil, respectively.
  • King of Thorn, a short seinen manga and movie, is about a group of people infected with a mysterious plague who are put into cold sleep until a cure is found. When they wake up they find the facility overrun with thorns and crawling with monsters that all want to eat them. The survivors spend most of their time fighting for their lives while trying to find out what happened to the world while they were asleep.

Notes

  1. 3 save limit, no checkpoints, enemies rarely drop prizes, money is scarce, hardest difficulty and no New Game+
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