The Best FMV Horror Games for Halloween 2021

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The Best FMV Horror Games for Halloween 2021

October 26, 2021

By: William Worrall

 
 

Is there a more iconic duo than janky '90s horror and even jankier FMV? I can’t think of one. Since the genre was invented, FMV has perfectly suited the weird world of obscure horror games, partially because it’s easier to make stuff scary with FMV, and partially because FMV lends an uncanny feeling to pretty much everything. While that leaves some non-horror FMV titles feelings uncharacteristically creepy, it turns otherwise mediocre horror titles into memorable experiences that will be with you for a lifetime. With spooky-times 2021 officially upon us, we’ve compiled a list of the best FMV horror games for you to play this year. 

Best Overall FMV Horror Game - Ripper

FMV Horror Games - Ripper Screenshot

If you’ve never heard of Ripper before, then you’ve seriously missed out. While its contemporaries such as Phantasmagoria and Harvester seem to have praise heaped upon them for one reason or another, very few people seem to want to talk about Ripper for some reason, and that’s a huge shame. Unlike most FMV games of the time (excluding the ones made by Origin systems) Ripper actually had a pretty stand-out cast backing it up, as well as an interesting premise and some semi-decent point-and-click gameplay. 

The cast is definitely the strongest part of Ripper. The main character, Jake Quinlan, is a reporter portrayed by Scott Cohen of Gilmore Girls fame, and that’s just a starter. Christopher Walken, Burgess Meridith, Karen Allen, Ossie Davis, John Rhys-Davis! There is some real acting talent behind this thing, also Jimmy Walker. So yeah, Ripper puts you in the shoes of a reporter who tasks himself with tracking down the mysterious killer who only goes by "The Ripper." Much like the original killer he bases himself on, this new ripper sends letters to a reporter, in this case, Quinlan, and thus the connection is forged.

 In a classic point-and-click style, you have to click around the environment, interact with characters, and solve puzzles. The key difference here is that all of the people you speak to are live-action FMV, while the environments are 3D-rendered, but playback as you move between them with FMV transitions can be a bit boring after repeatedly visiting certain locations. Aside from that, you’ve got some classic stuff here. There are some solid puzzles with relatively logical answers (at least for an adventure game), and of course, there’s the mystery to solve, with an ending the changes each time, so you have to solve it properly no matter how many times you’ve played it. 

 
 

Best FMV Horror Game Storyline - Phantasmagoria

FMV Horror Games - Phantasmagoria

This one is probably pretty familiar to any horror FMV connoisseurs in the audience. Phantasmagoria is easily one of the more well-known FMV horror games out there, and for good reason. Of all the FMV games you’ve probably played, it has the most interesting storyline without breaching the realms of the zany or wacky. You’re a woman who’s moved into a suspiciously affordable huge mansion with her husband in a relatively remote area. At first, the gothic manor seems like a bargain, but as time goes by, the locals and your own spouse start to show signs that there’s something very wrong at the creepy old house. 

The gameplay here is pretty standard if you’re already into point-and-click games. From Gabriel Knight to Monkey Island, this is classic. You walk around by clicking and watch your character go to where you’ve clicked, you pick up items, and you solve puzzles. Having said that, it’s standard gameplay, but there is one thing that elevates it in many ways: the hint system. You have a strange face on your GUI that can give you hints if you get stuck, something that wasn’t really that common in adventure games of the era, no matter how obtuse some of the puzzles could get. 

An important point to note here is that Phantasmagoria also features some pretty gratuitous scenes that earned it a lot of controversies back in the day. These days, it’s probably nothing to write home about, but the '90s were a strange time. There’s a vanilla sex scene at one point without any actual nudity involved, and in certain circumstances, your main character can come to a pretty brutal end that the camera doesn’t shy away from showing you. I’ve learned from personal experience, that footage from this game will not survive on YouTube unless you're careful.

Weirdest FMV Horror Game - Harvester

FMV Horror Games - Harvester

What would happen if you crossed FMV with Pleasantville, but made it horror-based? Well, you might not end up with Harvester directly, but you’d be pretty damn close. If you’re looking for a horror FMV title that really drives home an uncanny feeling the entire time you’re playing, then Harvester is your perfect title. It tells the story of Steve Mason, a teenager who awakens in a small midwestern U.S. town in the 1950s with no memory of how he got there or where he comes from, forcing him to explore the town to figure out what’s going on. 

If you can’t already tell, Harvester gives off some super strange vibes. It’s like you’re in a world where everyone around you is acting completely insane, but to them, it seems like everything is normal. What the game does absolutely perfectly is the ramping up of that tension and the horror. As things begin, you have some creepy vibes, but that’s about it. The further and further you get, the stranger things become. 

Another big draw of Harvester is easily the interesting endings. While they’re a bit silly in places, they actually offer some pretty strange takes compared to typical endings for a surreal horror adventure. Of course, this was the '90s, so you can basically get both endings by just saving before you make your choice and going back once you’ve seen one to watch the other. This aside, if you’re into the idea of a creepy adventure that slowly worms an uncanny finger directly into your brain, then go play Harvester -- and try to get that image out of your head now. 

 
 

Family-Friendly Horror FMV Game - Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Tale of Orpheo's Curse

FMV Horror Games - Orpheos Curse Screenshot

Not only is this one of the few child-friendly horror games on the list, but it also has the most annoying title. Are you Afraid of the Dark? The Tale of Orpheo's Curse is an FMV game based on the Canadian/American TV series of the same name. It tells the story of two kids who get trapped inside a haunted theater and must solve puzzles to dispel an evil ghost and escape before midnight. It’s also the story of the Midnight Society, a bunch of teens who sit around telling ghost stories. The player is a potential new member who must tell a great story or fail to join, which gives us a great narrative reason for game overs. 

Obviously, because this is a kid’s game, it’s not going to be particularly scary. However, it does offer a great experience if you want to find a game that you can actually play together with any kids in your life. Plus, if you have any nostalgia for the original TV show, then you should find a lot to enjoy here. Most of the FMV happens in cutscenes, with the rest of the game taking place using digitized pictures and 3D animation. Most of the FMV features the kids from the show, but there are a few live-action ghosts here or there. 

The game is certainly not too difficult, but it’s got a great atmosphere for a game aimed at a younger audience, and on top of that, it also features a pretty fun mystery that requires some actual thought for you to solve. There are also one or two genuinely freaky moments, such as a section where you have to flee from a giant murderous skeleton while terrifying music plays. As a kid, this would have completely traumatized me, so maybe make sure you know what kind of kid you’re playing with before you boot this thing up. 


What are some of your favorite FMV horror games? Let us know in the comments below.

 
Will wearing an Odd Future shirt.
Staff Writer

I'm Will and I'm a UK-based writer who went to film school before realizing writing was more fun than film-making. I've written for a number of gaming sites over the past few years of my writing career, including Cliqist, Gaming Respawn, and TechRaptor. I also produce videos for my own channel (Mupple) as well as Cliqists popular YouTube channel. I've covered industry events such as EGX and am hoping to break into narrative game writing in the future.

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