The dark gods of survival horror smile on you this day, child. Resident Evil Village is out now, beckoning you into its township like a big church bell. But wait, before you go tip-toeing through the disturbing cabbage patches of these zombievamp wolfpeople, or whatever they are, please come this way. I have a map for you. An itinerary of other small settlements. Here are the 8 creepiest villages in PC games.
Yaughton - Everybody's Gone To The Rapture
The first abandoned village on our list. This will be a theme, because emptiness is unsettling (it's also handy for developers who don't have time to make a bunch of NPCs). A completely vacant village is doubly unnerving when everything looks picturesque and summery. In this game, it's a beautiful day in rural Britain. People should be out and about. They should be having flower shows, they should be sitting in a park with a disposable barbeque, their skin turning the same shade of suspicious pink as the burgers sizzling over the coal. But Yaughton has gone full Mary Celeste, and only the ghostly voices of its inhabitants remain.
Mundaun - Mundaun
Your grandfather has died in a remote village and his neighbour priest has written to tell you. "There is no need for you to make the journey here," he writes. Hmmmm. Sounds like an invitation to a week of unavoidable folk horror to me. Mundaun is a graphite pencil mountain community of mumbling holy men, symbolic goats, and tall monsters made of straw. It is the kind of village where you've got to collect water from a pump 50 feet from your front door, and even that small journey is weighted with fear. You sleep with a pointy bit of wood on your chest, facing outwards, to fend off evil spirits. You drink coffee to give you courage. There is a little girl who sings and throws paper airplanes around and, I'm telling you, she's not right.
Afflicted Village - A Plague Tale: Innocence
A young noble's life is hard. One minute you're in the woods catching boars with Lord Dad, the next you're being pursued around a village by a big lad with iron boots. Doesn't he have any respect? Daddy owns this town. Dozens of other mucky villagers are also chasing you and your little brother Hugo, hoping to catch and burn you both as outsiders. The streets really sell the medieval atmosphere here. White marks are painted on doors, warning of plague. A corpse rots in the forgotten corner of a stone wall. Miasma floats downhill from a church above the village. Third-person action adventure games have no time to hang about, of course, and it quickly shunts you on to new locations. But it's a strong opening that throws you straight into the gutter of the Middle Ages.
Stilt Village - Dead Cells
There is a type of enemy here who shoots cannonballs at you and frankly I find him insufferable.
Albero - Blasphemous
Albero is the safe zone in Blasphemous' world of whips and wailing. It's as comforting as a small town of groaning, injured people can ever be. Imagine the beautiful, sun-kissed cliff settlement of Mejula in Dark Souls 2 if it was inhabited by a bunch of weird monks called "the Kissers of Wounds". There are dead bodies in the streets here, and red-eyed crows smirking on the rooftops. The village will become healthier as you play, with more (non-sick) people arriving and hanging out in the background. But it never quite loses the smell, y'know?
The Village - Graveyard Keeper
Ah, what a quaint village. Look at the lighthouse. Look at that basket of fresh eggs operating on the honour system. Let's go for a pint in The Dead Horse. Odd name for a tavern but oh well. Say, these hamburgers are quite... gamey. Where did the NPC bartender say he gets them? From the graveyard keeper? No questions asked? Oh, well, if he's got a merchant's licence, that's okay then. The inhabitants here sure are friendly. Definitely not seasoned practitioners of wilful ignorance who remain happy to trade with the strange-smelling gravedigger who enters town through a tunnel hidden behind a bush. We should come here more often, darling.
Graavik - Draugen
Abandoned village number two. This tiny smattering of houses in a Norwegian fjord is less creepy than it is mysterious. You arrive by rowboat looking for a missing sister and it's not long before you're looking for a missing everybody. The whole place is deserted, and soon enough you're rifling through the belongings of every person in town, uncovering a story of feuds and grievances. Unlike others on this list, Graavik is an isolated settlement whose downfall feels real. Its history is mired in human conflict over concerns both serious and petty - money, resentment, paranoia. That anchor to reality is somewhat undone by other elements later in the story, but it lasts long enough to make this village feel as uncanny as it is idyllic.
Town - Darkest Dungeon
I once went into the small village at the base of Darkest Dungeon's rotting estate, because I thought there weren't enough fences between the shops that exist there. There's an abbey, a blacksmith, a sanitarium, a tavern, all useful to the game's characters. But there is no boundary between them. I really wanted to build some posts, or thin bars, to separate each building in this hamlet. But the game wouldn't let me, so I didn't get very far. Oh well, it won't be long until you see what I mean. In time, you will know the tragic extent of my railings.
One Off The List from… the best bugs in games
Last time we went on a hunt for the 9 best bugs in PC games. But you judged one glitch should be disqualified and deemed a feature. It's… putting a bucket on a shopkeeper's head in Skyrim.
"I think it simply a beautiful accident symptomatic of the immersive sim genre's holy yet impossible quest to bring Real Life onto our computer screens," argues bug exterminator "Shazbut" in a squinting examination of the list. "In the next gen, the shopkeeper will complain about the bucket on his head, but gamers will discover you can simply stuff a turnip in his mouth to stop him talking and continue stealing with impunity."
A future we can all look forward to.
See you next time, list goblins. Don't forget to grab your pitchforks, light your torches, and suggest which entry in this week's list we should burn in a giant wicker PC case. Bye!