We’re done with half of 2023 and many of its fantastic horror games, though there’s more on the way (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alan Wake 2, and the Silent Hill 2 remake are still due out). That means we’ve willingly subjected ourselves to lots of stone-cold death scenes—enough to compile in a list, which we’ve done here.
I don’t usually think too hard about video game death. It happens to me too frequently, so I see it more like a locked gate or puff of gnats in my face; it’s a momentary irritation to swat away and move past so that I can get to the next, more exciting thing. Can you blame me? You’re immortal when you play a video game, and immortality makes you lazy.
But death is harder to ignore in the context of a horror game, which, if successful, will let fear bother you in real life, reaching out from the black “YOU DIED” screen the way fog slouches out of a forest’s boundaries. Though dying in a horror game isn’t any more real or consequential than it is in any other kind of game, your fear is.
My “favorite” death scenes this year, then, have been the ones that make me worry. They might be gratuitous, popped bags of blood or quietly insidious, barely discernible ghosts at night. Regardless of how they happen, these impressive deaths remind me of how much of what happens to me in a day is beyond my control.
“The sole work and deed of universal freedom is therefore death,” Hegel writes. “It is [...] the coldest and meanest of all deaths, with no more significance than cutting off a head of cabbage or swallowing a mouthful of water.”
Most of these game deaths are more gruesome than that, but they’ll do.