Not the most common genre, but these titles perfectly reflect its main features.
Body horror is a kind of psychological horror that focuses on the most disgusting transformations of the human body. This horror is always easy to penetrate, because we all breathe the same air and bleed equally. These games were largely inspired by cinematography, but they managed to create a unique combination of gripping storytelling and outright violence.
Given the financial constraints imposed on filmmakers when creating authentic material, the advantage of games is a freer approach to body horror rendering. There are many examples of the genre among both mainstream and indie projects, but here are eight of the brightest, most memorable, and perhaps the most grotesque of them all.
The Darkness, released in 2007, was noted among the titles of the period as one of the most unique game mechanics coupled with visual effects. Developed by Starbreeze Studios and published by 2K Games, the game tells the story of a young gangster, Jackie Estacado, whose life changes dramatically on his 21st birthday. While most people celebrate this holiday with an elephant’s dose of alcohol, Jackie has to flee from an assassination attempt organized by his own uncle. It was then that the hero is possessed by a certain sinister entity known as the Darkness and has haunted the Estacado family for several generations. Supernatural powers included.
The Darkness is unlike any other title of its time: it combines a gripping crime story with brutal violence. While the game initially sounds like a typical first-person shooter, The Darkness becomes much more interesting when Jackie begins to use his powers to the fullest. Darkness combines a huge variety of game mechanics that, if done correctly, can wipe out an entire crowd of opponents without pressing the trigger. Pierce through enemies, break down doors, eliminate unsuspecting targets from a long distance, and, of course, do not forget to develop the forces of Darkness by eating human hearts.
Rapture is one of the most memorable locations in the history of gaming. It unfolds a tragic tale of corruption, greed and blind addiction disguised as a first-person shooter. The underwater city is one of the main characters in the series. Although the subsequent installments are more focused on action and entertainment, the original Bioshock leaves a truly unforgettable experience.
You play as Jack, the survivor of a 1960 plane crash over the Atlantic Ocean. After reaching a nearby lighthouse after the crash, Jack discovers Rapture, or rather, the empty shell of what it was before the recent civil war. The once beautiful architecture has now been destroyed and tainted by the aftermath of some horrific event that left most of the inhabitants dead or mad from an overdose of a strange substance called ADAM.
Ugly mutants roam Rapture in search of the medicine they need to survive. Besides the chic atmosphere and character design, Bioshock is renowned for its original take on a typical FPS combat system thanks to plasmids. These are special serums made from processed ADAM, which, when introduced into the body, transforms DNA and endow the recipient with superpowers. There are eleven unique plasmids in the game, but the most repulsive and certainly creepy one can be considered a swarm of insects that literally inhabit Jack’s body.
A list of the best body horror games would be incomplete without Dead Space. Here you play as Isaac Clarke, an engineer sent to the rescue of the USG Ishimura spacecraft, which sent a distress call. Upon arrival, the rescue crew sees that most of the ship is empty and destroyed. “Ishimura” is one of the oldest “planetary rippers”, and during the next mission his team discovered an alien artifact known as the Obelisk on the planet Aegis VII. In the future, he enslaved the minds of the colonists and turned them into mutilated monsters.
The so-called necromorphs are fast and deadly creatures with a modified body and dangerous murder weapons. Escaping from them, as well as destroying them, is quite difficult. Isaac is forced to shoot them in the limbs, and then finish off the creatures with his heavy boots. Enemies become more fearsome as they move through the ship, but the hero can upgrade his weapons and costume to face the growing threat.
The Dead Space series is known for its sophisticated necromorph designs and shocking displays of violence. In the sequel, the player will have to stick a needle into Isaac’s pupil, and in case of failure, he will face one of the most brutal death scenes.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard и Resident Evil 8: Village
Of course, one could make a list exclusively from the Resident Evil games, which is quite justified in the context of body horror, but the seventh and eighth parts of the series did much more in terms of horror thanks to the first-person view.
Despite the significant differences between Resident Evil 7 and the Village, Ethan Winters gets his limbs chopped off at every opportunity in both cases. The poor guy already has enough problems: first his wife disappeared, then the child was kidnapped and this is just the beginning. In Resident Evil 7, the player finds himself in Louisiana and ends up in the Baker’s mansion, physically and mentally infected. Ethan had a chance to taste rotten meat, watch Lady Dimitresku cut off his hand, and in general had to face some of the brightest and at the same time vile nightmares in the gaming sphere.
System Shock 2
It is System Shock 2 that has inspired most of our favorite games over the past twenty-odd years. The action takes place in 2114, exactly 42 years after the events of the first part, in which you play as a soldier G65434-2, sent to help the cruiser UNN “Rickenbacker”, which sends a distress signal. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Although its game mechanics and controls are a bit dated, System Shock 2 continues to bathe in its well-deserved glory as the forefather of all horror games. The sinister AI SHODAN returns with a threatening new experiment – the biological hive, calling itself the Many, which has infected the Rickenbacker crew.
Infected people turn into annelids – a hybrid of a human body and a parasite larva. The unhappy are fully aware of their actions, but they cannot control the body. Disgusting, murderous and simply awful.
Halo: Combat Evolved
Halo: Combat Evolved has spawned a great legacy, remembered by many for its excellent combat system and captivating storyline. Despite the diversity of the setting and other elements of science fiction, the main highlight of the game is still the Flood.
If you delve into the biology of this parasite and learn about its effects on the human body and other alien hosts, one can only marvel at the efforts of the developers who have invested a tremendous amount of effort into the development of its complex properties and the design of each creature.
Announced back in 2014, Scorn faithfully follows Hans Giger’s artistic style, and this allows her to create one of the most shocking settings in the genre.
Everything in Scorn feels a bit too organic, especially the environment and weapons. The guns here seem to be alive, moreover, they are attached directly to the hand of your character and to the surrounding objects, and enemies appear from there. Too little is known about the game’s plot and world, but a few gameplay trailers suggest that we are in for a real horror.
No, this is not a joke. Cronenberg never dreamed of such a thing. The inhabitants of Yummy Island in Bugsnax are hybrids of snacks and beetles that either fear and run away from the player, or rush at him with all their fury. Initially, this world resembles a cute fairy tale for six-year-olds, radiating positive and unrestrained fun, but then there is a feeling of something deceiving and in its own way ominous.
At some point, you meet a grampus (an alpha creature that resembles a person more than others), who offers you a device that allows you to change body parts during the digestion process. It seems that the necromorphs with the USG Ishimura are far from the worst option.