Nothing compares to the smell of freshly fallen snow. As soon as you breathe in that brisk air, it's as if the cold works its way through your system and tries to dispel any darkness within your body, leaving everything white and clean and cold.
But when freshly fallen snow is paired with the bleak setting of a horror game, everything feels gray and dirty and frozen. And isolating. There's just something about fields of snow that can make someone feel so entirely alone. Maybe that's why scary games pair so well with the winter climate.
And if you're someone who's more of a grouch on a couch than an elf on the shelf during the holiday season, maybe horror games are more up your alley -- or, should I say, more down your chimney?
So here are a few wintry horror games to help you through the long, dark nights of the bright and shiny holiday season -- or to suggest that maybe the holiday season could use a few more scares.
Klei's survival horror game Don't Starve is the perfect game to get comfy/cozy with this Christmas because when players aren't huddled by the fire or shaving fur off sleeping animals or slowly starving to death because food is scarce and the nights are long and every two seconds the screen cracks with ice because it's so cold, they're spending the rest of their time in the warm seasons preparing for winter.
Yes, Don't Starve isn't set in a perpetual winter (unless you change the settings), but if you play the story mode, you can expect at least three out of five chapters to be winterized, and you can expect nothing good to happen to you, ever.
Suppose that's what winter is all about, eh?
And what's more, Klei even integrated beloved Christmas nightmare Krampus into Don't Starve -- so if you kill too many innocent creatures, you better watch out, you better not cry ...
Sticking with the vein of surviving a long dark winter's night without any food, Hinterland Studio's The Long Dark is another horror game where players have just crash landed in the Canadian wilderness and now they must survive the, well, long dark.
Taking into consideration not only the need for food, water, shelter, and firewood, players also have to contend with the natural predators that want to kill them, like wolves and bears and hypothermia.
Though the fear in this game is more psychological than true terror, if anyone is suddenly pitted in a kill-or-be-killed environment with nothing at all except for a vague recollection of the story To Build a Fire by Jack London, they're not going to care how pretty the sky looks or how fresh the snow -- they're going to hear a twig snap and wish that they were at home, alone, watching Home Alone, rather than out in the frigid wilderness, about to die -- alone.
A good way to make a horror game tens times more scary is to say that it's based on a true story. And IMGN.PRO's Kholat took their inspiration from the Dyatlov Pass incident, where nine hikers went missing in the Russian mountains. This true event circulates a lot of mystery, intrigue, suspense, and a certain amount of horror. It's even got a movie based off it.
And because it's set in Russia, needless to say there's a lot of snow.
IMGN.PRO took their own liberty on what happened out in those mountains (obviously, since it's still a mystery), but they also have a lot of beautifully dark scenic shots in Kholot, along with some terrifying ones.
But the true beauty of it all?
Sean Bean is the narrator.
I can't imagine a greater gift than the gift of Sean Bean leading me through the frozen wilderness and possibly to my death.
But you know what? The holiday season is about spending time together, with other people, so let's step back from all these isolating horror games and take a look at one where there's a lot of people who have the capacity to die, all while surrounded by snow.
Supermassive Game's choices-matter horror game Until Dawn pits eight teenagers on a frozen mountain against a murderer on the loose and a monster on the hunt. The teenagers have ten hours until dawn, so not only is it freezing (and one character even walks around in a towel after a bath in a house with no heat like are you serious, girl) but it's dark and dreary and nobody is happy and everything is scary.
But the crunch of snow and the swirl of flakes and the spindly trees swaying in the breeze serve as a nice wintry reminder that at least they're all together in this frozen hell on earth.
What would a horror game list be without Silent Hill, the mother, father, and grandfather of all horror games? And what would winter be without snow?
Konami and Climax Studios's frozen Silent Hill: Shattered Memories brings players back into the town of Silent Hill almost exactly like they did the first time; Shattered Memories is essentially the same as the original Silent Hill with some altered realities and fractured plot points.
And, clearly, many things are frozen. Snow and ice already have a way of making someone feel alone -- maybe that's why there are so many survival horror games taking place in the snow -- but what else can snow make a person feel in a terrifying environment?
Stuck, frozen in time, never moving forward?
No wonder Harry Mason is in therapy.
And there you have it. Five wintry games in five freezing places, blanketed in snow and covered in despair.
These games remind people of exactly what it's like to walk in a winter wonderland -- except instead of the sound of sleigh bells in the distance and bright lights fluttering in the wind, players hear the distant sound of slaying -- like, murder, lol -- and broken lights flickering in the breeze.
But, hey, whoever says horror doesn't pair well with Christmas probably needs to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas again.