Survival Horror Genre Is Losing Its Innovation And Becoming Generic

The genre, built on the creativity of its setting, is becoming too formulaic.

The gaming industry has a wide array of genres and niches for players to enjoy. Even if you don’t like the more mainstream titles, you can try out the lesser-known niches. One such genre of gaming that has become a major player in the gaming world is the survival horror genre.

In the past decades or so, the survival horror genre has seen a huge increase in popularity. Franchises like The Last of Us, Silent Hill, and Resident Evil have propelled it into the sales numbers of popular FPS and sports games. Even a lot of casual gamers now play these popular survival horror games.

However, with this kind of popularity also comes a lot of expectations from a huge player base. Players and critics scrutinize every title with a pedantic lens and the competition is also huge. We saw how even a great survival horror game like The Last of Us Part II was subject to criticism.

This criticism is always good as it makes developers innovate and change their formulas to stay in the game. Games like Resident Evil 7 and DOOM are examples of franchises that went back to their roots after criticism and it worked out. However, recently, there has been a growing trend of survival horror games not changing much and becoming generic.

Upcoming Survival Horror Games Look Really Similar:

Now, there has definitely been an increase in interest in the survival horror genre and the genre is at its best ever. Especially this decade we have got so many horror titles and so many more are coming up. However, that does not mean it can’t fall into the creative decline other more popular genres have.

Survival horror games that have been released in the past year or so look eerily similar to each other in many aspects. From trailers to settings, all of it feels like it has been done before and they are just copying that formula. As an example, I’ll use the trailer of some recent games to better highlight this point.

Visage, Evil Inside, and MADiSON are some of the most popular survival horror games which have been launched recently. The first two came out in 2021 while MADiSON was released just a few days ago. All of them are made by different developers but when you see their gameplay, there isn’t much of a difference.

Let’s start with where all of these survival horror titles are set. Every one of them takes place in a house which is a mess in one horrifying way or another (it’s mostly a demon). The player has to transverse the said house in all of these games while fighting different monsters and jump scares.

Visage takes place in a large suburban home which is mostly accessible to the players. Evil Inside takes place in a similar modern home but features an exploding Ouija board. Similarly, a haunted house is also the center of MADiSON and you have to escape from a demon who made you a part of some ritual.

It is kind of concerning that three of the most popular survival horror games of the last two years have the exact same setting. Seeing how survival horror games used to take place in apocalyptic worlds and creative horror landscapes, these games are rather disappointing. No one is saying the games are bad, they are actually very good and received critical acclaim.

However, do we really want to play the same survival horror game copy-pasted three times? Survival horror titles have always been popular for how creative their jumpscares and presentations are. So, three really popular games from the genre being set in the same place signals how the genre is becoming generic.

If you just look at the trailers of Visage, Evil Inside, and MADiSON, they don’t seem much different. All of them feature the titular character moving through a house and some jumpscares in-between. When you view all of the trailers with the name hidden, there is a high chance you can’t tell which game is which.

If the trailers tell us one thing, it is that the genre is falling into the bad habit of formulaic titles. We already know how the most popular niches in gaming, like sports and FPS games, already suffer from this. Now, it seems like the most creative genre in the gaming industry is also falling prey to this.

What Could Be The Reason For This?

Survival horror games have always boasted amazing world-building and terrifying new monsters. Hence, seeing it limited to this scary house with the jumpscares concept is a bit weird. The indirect reason for this might be one of the most creative pieces of survival horror gaming we have ever seen, PT.

Playable Teaser, simply known as PT, was the demo for Hideo Kojima’s Silent Hill. The game in the franchise never came out but the teaser left a long-lasting impact on the survival horror genre. The teaser was just 20 minutes long but it was so good that players are still sad that Hideo Kojima never got to make this Silent Hill. 

If you haven’t guessed already, PT also takes place in a house and is restricted to a single corridor. However, the psychological scares in this one hallway were enough to influence a series of developers. They were so good that not many have recovered from the jumpscares yet.

However, PT influenced a lot of future developers to make such psychological survival horror games taking place in one location. The developer behind Visage, SadSquare, admitted that the game took heavy influence from PT. The developer even said that the project’s cancellation motivated it to make the game.

In an interview with IGN, when asked about what influenced Visage, the developer stated, “Let’s start with the obvious: Silent Hills’ Playable Teaser was the first thing that inspired us. The extremely realistic setting and absolutely mind-blowingly terrifying atmosphere really got to us, and we wanted more like many, many people did.” 

Such influence is great but when it becomes too widespread due to its success, it becomes generic. Every form of media faces this problem of the one really good idea becoming overdone and formulaic. All of these PT-influenced titles are just another example of lacking creativity and overusing one setting. One of the reasons people love the survival horror genre so much is because how most titles give us a unique sense of dread. Falling into the formulaic habits of other popular genres will certainly be really bad for it.

Ahmed Mansoor

Your average video games enjoyer with a deep passion for single-player adventures who writes about his favorite hobby.