4. deadlight (xbox, ps2)
Deadlight isn’t the only horror-on-a-boat title on this list, but it’s the only one that takes cues from the famous memory game “Simon.” Creatures on the abandoned SS Hyperion were weak to different colors of light, and all species were susceptible to the titular “dead light.” This was meant to show an ahead-of-its-time dynamic lighting system. A fifteen minute video of this creative combat existed, but the full game was never meant to be.
“Captain, this guy’s Ikea desk chair is FUBAR.”
It’s sad, considering this was meant to be the saving grace of UK developer Blue 52. The team was ambitious: like Treyarch planned previously, Blue 52 wanted Deadlight to have zero load time between levels. The developer also created a “food chain” mechanic, where monsters species on the ship would actually hunt each other — a Darwinian concept you could exploit for your own survival. Alas, this horror ship sank.
3. sadness (wii)
Escort missions in horror games are never fun — something we can mostly blame on babysitting Ashley in Resident Evil 4. But Sadness was something different. In pre-World War I Europe, aristocratic Maria and her blind son Alexander are stranded in the countryside after their train derails. Not much is known about how the gameplay would have picked up from there, but it’s easy to imagine Maria leading her son through dark woods and creepy villages. And there probably would have been a reference to Archduke Franz Ferdinand somewhere in there.
Now I know where BioShock Infinite got its opening…
What we do know is that the scary elements of Sadness were based on Slavic legends. That means lots of witches, and more than likely the Baba Yaga. I’m not sure if the existing screenshots are in greyscale for artistic purposes, but that style would have added a silent film quality to the whole horrifying adventure.
2. virus (playstation, PC)
Like Deadlight, Virus was also set on a military ship. Here’s the completely different direction this game took: an alien virus invaded, morphing inanimate objects into deadly insect-like creatures. That’s a helicopter/spider fusion in the screenshot above, and some crazy hybrids like giant wasps with machine guns were also planned. This was an arcade shooter (a physical cabinet was planned) with co-op and six levels across the ship, but unfortunately it sunk before leaving port.
Does the virus really stand a chance when there’s so much military hardware on board?
It’s tough to find good images of Virus since so few exist; those are magazine scans above. But despite little information, its horror boat premise is a winner — and years before Resident Evil: Revelations, no less. Plus, it’s a fully-loaded military arcade shooter would have been a nice change of pace from a survival horror game with scarce resources.
1. Silent Hills (ps4)
You knew this was coming. It’s the exception to the no sequel/no major franchise rule because the wound is so fresh and so deep. We got a taste of Silent Hills with P.T., and if that brief experience was any indication, this could have been the resurgence the Silent Hill franchise deserves. The talent behind it was incredible: Metal Gear mastermind Hideo Kojima, terror auteur Guillermo del Toro (who’s on a streak of promising-yet-cancelled projects), and horror mangaka Junji Ito. And let’s not forget Norman Reedus who would have had his first good video game role (his only other was a mediocre spin-off of his Walking Dead success).
On the plus side, we don’t have to deal with Lisa anymore.
Silent Hills is the most recent entry here, and it certainly stings the most. While the Konami situation is pretty nebulous, one thing is for certain: this game is gone. If only we could run around an ever-looping hallway until we solve an obscure puzzle that unlocks the game we all want.
Know of another horror game that never saw a full release? Want to give Resident Evil 1.5 some love? Sound off in the comments! And follow me on Twitter if you want to talk spookiness. Resident Evil 4 all day!