Top 100 Games of All-Time: #78

Dead Space 2

Release Date: January 25, 2011

Platform Played On: XBox 360

2018 Placement: Unranked

necromorph babies

What It Is:

The follow-up to the sci-fi action horror success story of Dead Space, it reduces a little bit of the horror in favor of a little more of the action. Isaac Clarke can’t shake those nasty necromorphs as they start attacking again and our favorite space engineer has to tear them all limb from limb from limb from limb. Dead Space was always a unique franchise due to the engineering-style weapons Isaac was equipped with and how the targets were arms and legs and heads instead of just headshots – eliminating all the necromorph’s appendages was the ultimate goal to pacify them.

Dead Space 2 turns everything from the first game up to 11. More kinds of necromorphs, cool weapons to disassemble them with, and new characters to question the motives of as things get spookier and spookier. Isaac also gets a voice in this one – after being a silent protagonist in the first game, the character of Isaac gains a personality through actually being able to talk and react to what is going on around him. The Dead Space series also included the diegetic health/status bar on the back of Isaac’s suit, removing the need for a screen-clogging HUD which helped keep the action and horror front and center.

Why It’s Important To Me:

In 2018 I had Dead Space on this list as one of my favorite games. Between then and now, though, I’ve consulted the tea leaves and realized that of the three main games in the series, 2 is the one I most want to go back and play. The first game is a less action-heavy, slow-burn survival horror in space that a lot of horror fans probably enjoy the most. But for me, a person who likes action-oriented horror games (see my earlier entry on The Suffering), Dead Space 2 fits the niche I’m looking for quite nicely.

I personally think it builds on what Dead Space built and makes it into a perfect style of game (for me). I love the tension of the necromorphs and the creepy atmosphere that they create. I like that you have to watch your ammo but you’re not ever completely tapped out if you keep your wits about you. I like the variety of weapons and having to choose which ones work best against certain necromorphs. And while the setting of the first game was claustrophobic and tight, the slightly more open Sprawl gives a bigger sense of exploration and world-building to the game’s universe. This was peak horror video game to me (and a shame they threw it all away in 3.)

My Strongest Memory:

While I just said the setting of this one was one of its strong points, my favorite memory from the game is the section where you end up going back and exploring the Ishimura – the ship you were trapped on in the first game. During the events of DS2 it’s revealed that the Ishimura is currently docked within the Sprawl and you need to traverse through it. It’s not only a nice throwback and nod to the first game, but the setting itself creates an extremely creepy yet familiar atmosphere.

The coolest part about the entire setpiece is how it’s a master class in building suspense. You go into the Ishimura expecting shit to go down and for necromorphs to start attacking you. But they don’t – at least not right away. And as you explore familiar areas from the first game you keep thinking “okay, THIS is where they’re going to attack me.” But they don’t. It takes so much time of walking around a completely empty ship that you eventually start having doubts: maybe there isn’t going to be any enemies? Maybe this really is a calm respite? And then, finally, when you’re just starting to question whether this chapter is actually going to have any enemies: that’s when the necromorphs attack in full force. It’s fantastic.

Why It’s #78:

I love Dead Space 2. The only reason it’s not higher is because my copy is locked away on my XBox 360 and I don’t have it at my current apartment. I’ve been craving a replay of this game since before COVID and just never got around to pulling it out and hooking it up for a playthrough. Maybe I’ll just bite the bullet and get it on Steam one of these days. Anyway – I’m sure it would be higher (although how much higher, I don’t know) if I’d played it more recently. Instead it sits right here at #78 where I can justify my hype-but-generally-vague memories of it.