Outside of the Resident Evil series, there is not a strong tradition of horror games on Nintendo’s family friendly consoles. But, if you head back to 2002 and the Nintendo GameCube, you will find a console exclusive that is still as terrifying now as it was back then – the critically-acclaimed Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem.
You assume the role of Alexandra Roivas, a student who returns to her childhood home after her last living relative is found brutally murdered. There, she uncovers the Tome of Eternal Darkness, which then causes the narrative to fragment – in the present, you control Alexandra, but you also gain a number of playable characters from different time periods, each within a chapter of the book. Playing as all of these characters, you will need to work across time to prevent a powerful enemy from enslaving humanity forever.
The game definitely owes a lot to the Resident Evil series, but its scariest element was an original feature – the ‘sanity meter’ mechanic. If you are spotted by an enemy, your sanity bar decreases. When it gets sufficiently low, the game starts to mess with the characters – things change in the environment and you start to hallucinate, seeing things that are not really there. Eternal Darkness also tries to manipulate the player too, simulating console errors.
Reading this, it is hard to truly emphasise how effective these elements are. As the game progresses, you genuinely start to doubt yourself and the things you are seeing – they help contribute to a very dark atmosphere, and some of the scares are really good. I do not want to give them all away, but there is one that has always stayed with me – I have never jumped as much as I did when Alexandra, exploring the mansion, comes across her own dead body in a bath of blood. Add these frights to a soundtrack that could have come straight out of a horror movie, and you will be terrified throughout the runtime.
As frightening as Eternal Darkness is, it is also a really good game in its own right. It has a fascinating story, and keeps shaking things up by introducing new characters with their own limitations and strengths (an older character, for example, they may struggle to run for as long as a younger character). Second hand copies of the game are findable online and can be played on a GameCube or the original Wii and, as Nintendo still owns the licence to the series, perhaps we could see another instalment of Eternal Darkness and be scared witless once again.