Love it or hate it, the mobile phone is one of the most important inventions in the history of mankind, allowing our species to communicate at any time with the touch of a button. a button. Of course, it didn’t take long for software developers to realize that these devices could do a lot more than just make calls.
While horror isn’t exactly the first genre that comes to mind when you think of these games, there’s never really been a dearth of mobile fears, and that’s why I’d like to discuss it. boom in mobile horror games. Nokia classic Snake at the legendary Halfbrick Studios Fruit Ninja, mobile gaming has carved out its own respectable niche over the years, but few people talk about how these titles have contributed to the horror genre.
The technical limitations of early devices meant games had to be light in memory and simple to use, with these pioneering titles almost always a part of the phone’s primitive firmware. Since most of these games attempted to emulate the highscore-based thrills of arcade titles, there weren’t many horror experiences to be had when mobile phones first appeared. time.
It wasn’t until the eventual addition of Wireless Application Protocols (WAPs) and extremely limited internal memory systems that mobile gaming really took off, opening the door to rudimentary horror titles. The ability to download software meant that developers could now offer a true selection of diverse titles specially designed for these devices, creating a market for retro-style games at a time when advanced 3D gameplay overtook the industry.
Of course, programming a horror experience on mobile came with its own challenges, as phone games generally performed best as short, fast-paced experiences, with no room for a spooky atmosphere or unsettling tales. Fortunately, that didn’t stop the developers from giving it a try, and we’d actually see a surprising amount of lo-fi adaptations of famous horror franchises like silent Hill, Resident Evil, and even a turn-based RPG version of Loss on cell phones.
While titles like Silent Hill: Orphan and Silent Hill: the escape were mostly point-and-click adventure games with lots of text, telling spooky tales of the labyrinthine streets of the titular city, others like Resident Evil: Insurrection and Resident Evil: Degeneration attempted to bring the series’ iconic puzzle solving and third-person zombie shooting into the palms of gamers.
And speaking of Resident Evil, licensed movie games were also becoming all the rage as phone hardware evolved, with rudimentary shooters and platformers accompanying nearly every popular blockbuster, including the action-packed Paul WS Anderson adaptations of the franchise. emblematic of Capcom. Hell, we even got bonding games for movies like the Chainsaw Massacre remake and infamous of 2005 Stay alive, not to mention other Java-based horror adaptations like The werewolf or even… dusk!
None of these titles were anything really interesting, mostly copies and collages of copyrighted sprites on the same handful of familiar game models, but they offered a relatively inexpensive way to connect. with our favorite franchises on the go. They were also especially fun for those of us who couldn’t or didn’t want to shell out the cash for a dedicated handheld gaming console. Hell, I remember spending hours trying these games for free, realizing that you could see most of what the experience had to offer long before the trial period ended.
Despite this, there have been some honest attempts to truly unify phones and game consoles, with examples like Nokia’s hapless N-Gage, which had its own poorly marketed line of proprietary cartridges, and Sony’s Xperia Play. , quickly forgotten, which was essentially a more streamlined version of the PSP. Naturally, neither of these hybrids were particularly successful, but a few memorable horror games like Hell Requiem and Ash tried to take advantage of more advanced hardware.
The eventual rise in touchscreens and more advanced graphics capabilities has helped narrow the gap between phones and gaming devices even further, with mobile titles becoming more and more elaborate over the years. However, it was online platforms like the iPhone App Store and the Google Play Store that really changed the landscape for portable games. Offering cheap horror classics like Five nights at Freddy’s and free titles like Defense of the Army of Darkness (or even weird little gems like the endless runner Chucky: Slash and dash), mobile gaming reached an all-time high as sales dominated (and arguably killed) handheld consoles.
While online stores mean that an unlimited variety of creative developers around the world have the opportunity to post their own original ideas, these platforms have also become an online equivalent of the Wild West. Players have to wade through an ocean of quickly assembled asset flips and cheap knockoffs in order to find quality horror titles, and the algorithms seem to only prioritize the same few zombie titles.
Nonetheless, it seems that asymmetric horror games like Among us and the mobile version of Death by Daylight (not to mention its plethora of fakes) have recently become the most popular form of fear over the phone. Although we have occasionally seen single-player horror-related games like Friday the 13the: killer Puzzle and even amazingly detailed endless runners like Bendy in Nightmare Run, multiplayer scares are undeniably important right now.
With the Nintendo Switch and Valve’s upcoming Steam Deck hinting at the return of dedicated handheld game consoles, it’s clear that phone gaming will need to evolve to keep up with the competition. While it doesn’t look like our smartphones will be following the dinosaur’s path any time soon, there is a clear discussion to be had about the merits of quality versus convenience when it comes to gaming on the go. Either way, there’s nothing quite like a fun scare to distract you from the real terror of taking the bus to work every morning, so personally I can’t wait to see what the future of mobile horror has in store.