Metroid Dread seems to prove 2D horror games can be scary

In a way, it’s easy to understand why some people feel that 3D is simply superior to 2D when it comes to horror games. Our own list of the scariest horror games ever contained 18 3D titles compared to just two 2D / 2.5D titles (Clock tower and Dark wood), so I can not easily argue against the suggestion that there are more memorable 3D horror games than 2D horror games. In addition, the rise of the horror genre coincided with the advent of 3D games, and since then most major developers have chosen to make 3D horror games over 2D horror games when they have been lucky enough to secure funding for a horror game at all. As such, there have certainly been several 3D horror games to talk about in the last 25 years or so.

Of course, it’s also hard to just point to some of the best 2D horror games ever and close the door on this topic. Yes, titles like The last one dies, Home, The cat lady, and the former Dark wood and Clock tower is really scary 2D games (in my mind), but this debate seems to be more about the viability of really scary 2D games rather than a hand-picked selection of titles that exemplify that concept. Also, it’s different than convincing someone to play one of the scariest 2D horror games ever made than convincing them that really scary 2D games (especially a 2D game released by Nintendo) are more than exceptions to what many see as a rule.

No, the best argument for the viability of 2D horror is the fact that there have actually been countless scary / scary 2D games released over the years that have relied on the same concept as Metroid Dread seems to emphasize: the lingering sense of inevitable defeat.

Long before Resident Evil revolutionized horror games and gave a generation of gamers nightmares, some of the scariest games in our collections were also the most difficult. Against, Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania 3… our list of the toughest NES games ever works essentially as a collection of the games you were almost afraid to play because you were not sure you could beat them.

Actually the “Dread” part of Metroid Dread‘s title feels like a more revealing word choice than we previously suspected. While the decision to limit HorrorEMII meetings for specific spaces marked on your card may feel like a poor replacement for the more chaotic encounters against video game stalkers in 3D titles (e.g. Mr. X moments in Resident Evil 2 re-recording), this does not seem to be a case of Horror‘s developers are simply trying to compensate for the technological “downgrade” by making these meetings more structured.

Instead, the decision to “telegraph” your meetings against Horror‘s EMII enemies feel very conscious and a part of Horror develops Mercury Steam’s desire to leave you truly fear of having to enter these spaces. Yes, you know that a fight against one of these enemies is on the way, but are you properly prepared for it? Can you survive rather than just play through the scare? It’s the old Alfred Hitchcock “bomb theory” approach to suspense / horror, where you show the audience that there is a bomb that is about to explode rather than it should be a surprise. The latter may result in more of a “jump”, but the former makes the jump feel like a more relief compared to the excitement that came before.

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