MADiSON fever: Part 2 and VR version of the 'Scariest Video Game of All Time' coming up

Magazine Broadband Choices recently said MADiSON beat out Alien Isolation and Visage to be most terrifying game ever.

click to enlarge The game MADiSON has a hybrid psychological horror-survival structure. - Courtesy Image / Bloodius Games
Courtesy Image / Bloodius Games
The game MADiSON has a hybrid psychological horror-survival structure.
If you were ballsy enough to play it — and lucky enough to survive it — here’s a dare: tackle the upcoming Virtual Reality version and eventual Part 2 of MADiSON, recently chosen by England’s Broadband Choices as the “Scariest Video Game of All Time.”

“We don’t have a specific [VR release] date yet, but we’re aiming for the last quarter of 2023,” game creator Alexis Di Stefano told the Current via Zoom from his home in Ranelagh, a town of a population of little over 15,000 in the southeast of Buenos Aires, Argentina. “Just like we took time with the game itself, making sure it would work properly on different platforms, we want to make sure [MADiSON’s VR version] works fine for different headsets, including the PSVR2 that came out on February 22.”

MADiSON 2 is tentatively scheduled for 2024.

Despite being the mind behind such a terrifying game, Di Stefano wasn’t immersed in horror from a young age. He grew up in what he calls “a little crystal box.”

“I never watched a horror film growing up,” the 27-year-old Di Stefano said. “My parents didn’t want us to be exposed to any adult themes, stuff with blood, death, ghosts, anything that could affect our minds.” So he grew up and created one of the creepiest video games ever.

“It always happens like that, right?” he said. “They don’t want you to do something, and you end up doing just that.”

MADiSON is a combination psychological horror-survival video game that was released in 2022 and, shortly after, was given the scariest-of-all-time distinction by Broadband Choices, closely followed by Alien Isolation and Visage.

“That was crazy,” Di Stefano said. “I look at the list of games I beat, and I find games I’ve been playing all my life. I never imagined this would ever happen.”

As of now, the game can be played on PS4, PS5, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X/S and Nintendo Switch.

For its “Science of Scare Project” (which chose 2020’s Host as the scariest movie ever made), Broadband Choices invited 200 players to play more than 45 horror video games released in the past three decades. The results were based on heartbeats per minute, comparing a resting average of 65 to highest spikes during gameplay. MADiSON won, but it wasn’t easy to make people play it.

“One of [the people at Broadband Choices] told me afterwards that [MADiSON] was the game most players refused to play because it was ‘too horrific.’ That was gratifying to hear,” Di Stefano said with a devilish smile.

The game won People’s Choice at Argentina’s 2018 Expo EVA, but in 2022 had its best year yet: Best Game at Expo EVA, Best Narrative at NYX Game Awards, Best Horror Game at Moscow’s XII DROP Festival, Best Spanish/Latin Game at TYGA (The YouTube Game Awards) and was chosen Best Horror Game and Community Game of the Year by and, respectively.

“I think one of the factors that made the difference is that I refused to succumb to conventional horror rules,” said Di Stefano. “I tried hard to make it unpredictable. MADiSON is a very slow experience where you’re sort of climbing a staircase of increasing horror.”

MADiSON’s title refers to Madison Hill, a serial killer fatally shot by police 30 years earlier. However, the first-person, one-player game centers on Luca, a boy who gets an instant camera for his 16th birthday. The problem: Madison previously owned the camera and uses it to return to the world of the living while Luca uses it to free himself from demonic possession.

Without giving too much away — there’s lots to the story, including different timelines — let’s just say Madison used the camara to take photos of the mutilated bodies of her victims and, after being killed by police, her soul ended up inside the device. It’s through that camera that Luca communicates with her and fights through the ongoing possession.

Besides the psychological horror-survival hybrid structure of the game, MADiSON is also a puzzle that requires patience and sharp detective skills. It isn’t an easy game. The suspense is both hypnotizing and unnerving, the jump scares plenty and the end shocking. I asked Di Stefano what the hell he was smoking when he came up with the plot.

“I have no idea!” he laughs. “I just did what I’ve always wanted to do: invent a game I wish I could’ve played [growing up].”

The journey to MADiSON started early. He credits the video game Clock Tower 2 as the reason he became a horror fan at age 8.

“That game blew me away,” he said. “I was a little kid and I was telling myself, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’”

By “this,” he meant inventing video games, but he didn’t know where to start until he found the Da Vinci Institute in downtown Buenos Aires, which offers a three-year career on video game design and programming. He dove in, but there was a problem: none of the teachers and students were into horror.

“I was the square peg in a round hole,” he said. “Everything was more battle-oriented, League of Legends type of stuff… I’d ask myself, ‘What am I doing here?’”

After two years of semi-reluctantly finishing his assignments, it was on the third and final year that he found the freedom he needed to do his thing.

“‘This is my time,’ I thought, so for my thesis I did a prototype of MADiSON and, in 2017, I launched a 10-minute demo on,” he said. “I was hoping that maybe 200 people would see it, but it went boom!”

The demo had 100,000 downloads in the first two months and, for a while, it was the number one game on the platform. Di Stefano released the completed game in 2022 through his own company, Bloodius Games, and the rest is history.

“It’s unusual that a company finds success in the very first try,” Di Stefano said. “But even though I can feel the pressure to follow up MADiSON with something equally great or greater, after being scientifically named ‘the scariest video game of all time,’ I need to keep going. I just can’t blow it.”

Di Stefano's top 3 hints for playing MADiSON:

1. “MADiSON is not meant to be easy. It’s not an impossible game, but you won’t solve it with just a glance. With that in mind, study your surroundings. The visuals, the sound, the dialogue … everything reveals lots of information, from a picture on the wall to a handwritten note.”

2. “Lots of people get stuck using the instant camera. The game has a system of clues that require the use of the camera. But instead of taking photos of everything, pay attention to your surroundings to really understand what we need to take photos of.”

3. “Beware of the roaches: Whenever you see them, there is a demoniac presence nearby.”

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