Fatal Frame, otherwise known as "Project Zero," or simply "Zero" in other parts of the world is unlike any other horror game series I've ever played. Now granted, I haven't actually played very many horror games, I'm usually a bit too much of a chickenshit for them... but I first discovered Fatal Frame early in my childhood, and it's been permanently seared in to my brain ever since.
The concept behind the series is quite simple. You explore an abandoned, haunted location full of hostile and non-hostile ghosts, with a special camera with exorcising power, called the Camera Obscura, in hand. Your one and only method of defending yourself against these ghosts is the Camera Obscura. Whenever you take a picture of any of these ghosts with the Camera Obscura, it harms them thanks to it's exorcising power.
This may sound kind of goofy in concept, but it's actually incredibly smart for a few different reasons. First and foremost, all of the games are either fixed-angle (ala Resident Evil) or third-person during normal gameplay.
However, as soon as you pull out the camera, the game switches to first person.
As a reminder, this is your only method of defense against these ghosts. So rather than being able to run away, or being able to attack the ghosts, but from a fixed-angle or third-person point of view, detaching yourself from what's going on, you are forced to confront them head-on, seeing them exactly as the character you're playing as would.
In addition to this, one of the important mechanics of combat in the Fatal Frame games are shutter chances. Shutter chances are very short windows of time in which you can do a much more significant amount of damage to a ghost than you would be able to with a normal picture. How do you trigger a shutter chance? You have to wait for the ghost to attack you, and then take a picture of it right after it starts lunging at you, but before it successfully attacks you.
This means that for many ghosts, the only way to do any significant amount of damage without wasting a ton of film (which is essentially the ammo in this series) is to wait until you're within arm's reach of the ghost, putting yourself in harm's way, and being able to time your shot correctly to attack it just before it has a chance to attack you.
Another good thing about this is that, despite being scary, it still manages to be fun. It can be very difficult to strike a good balance between scariness and fun with horror games, but Fatal Frame manages to strike that balance quite well I think. New gimmicks and new ways for the ghosts to attack you are always being introduced at a steady pace, keeping you on your toes, and preventing combat from getting boring.
The locations are always excellent as well. From ancient mansions, to ancient villages, to an abandoned mental asylum, the settings are always varied, but are always equally terrifying to explore.
The stories of the games generally follow a consistent pattern. Long ago (or not so long ago, in some cases) there was a ritual that would be performed on a regular, steady basis to prevent a disaster of some kind from happening. However, the ritual eventually fails for any number of reasons, causing a great calamity, killing most or all of the people involved with the ritual, and cursing the immediate area around the site of the ritual. Now, that area is trapped in time, forcing the now deceased people of the area to relive the events of the failed ritual over and over again, unable to properly pass on. Decades or centuries later, the protagonist is trapped in that very area as well, reliving the events of the failed ritual along with the spirits, and doing what they can to stop this never ending cycle of torment so that they can escape, and allow the former residents of the area to finally pass on in to the afterlife properly...
The music and sound design in these games is also absolutely excellent, and contribute a lot to how terrifying these games all are to play.
In conclusion, while I am not generally speaking a fan of horror games (not because I don't like them, just because I can't handle them,) Fatal Frame is one massive exception to that rule. The storytelling, the atmosphere, the gameplay, the music and sound design are all absolutely on point to deliver an absolutely terrifying and, both literally and figuratively, haunting experience. If you haven't played any of them and are looking for a truly terrifying video game series to dig in to, look no further than Fatal Frame.
Edited by ZeldaFreak