There comes a time when you realise you’re too old to knock on strangers’ doors and ask for free sweets. Yet, just because you can’t go trick or treating doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the spooky festivities by indulging in some of the finest horror games.
However, with hundreds of scary titles to choose from it can be difficult knowing where to start your search for the perfect horror game. Therefore I’ve compiled a list of five of my favourite scary games that I’ll be playing this Halloween.
Within the list I’ll be trying to feature a range of games that approach horror from slightly different angles. From the tense slow burners to the utterly terrifying. If you have any recommendations not on the list, let me know in the comments. I’d love to know what you’ll be playing on October 31st.
Released in 2013, Outlast is one of my favourite first-person horror survival games. You play as investigative journalist, Miles Upshur, who is looking into a lead that a corporation is doing terrible things to patients in a mental institution. Armed with just your camera you explore Mount Massive and encounter the terrible secrets it has within its walls.
As you make your way through the crumbling, blood-stained hospital, you encounter a number of disfigured foes who don’t take too kindly to intrusive journalists. Safe to say most of these characters want to kill you and in these instances your only option is to run.
One of the scariest aspects of this game is the fact your character doesn’t have any particular set of skills to actually survive being trapped in an insane asylum. Your movements feel slow and during the game’s many chases at no point did I feel confident that Miles was going to outrun the enemy in pursuit. The game uses your character’s lack of skill to great effect as it essentially keeps you in a constant state of danger which makes for an unsettling experience.
The pacing of the game is quite intense as well. Unlike other survival horror games that work to slowly build the tension that often leads to a lame attempt at a jump scare, Outlast constantly bombards you with terror. It makes for a thrilling game but you might need to lie down after you’ve played.
A sequel is planned for 2017 which looks set to be just as terrifying. To get a taste of what’s in store, the Outlast 2 demo is available for free until November 1st on Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
Everything about Until Dawn is over the top. From the stereotypical characters, to the overuse of jump scares and the preposterous plot twist halfway through the story. Yet, in all it’s overblown glory, it is one fun game to play.
The story is pretty easy to follow; seven friends stay in an isolated cabin for a weekend getaway and become trapped by a heavy snowstorm with no sign of rescue until, you guessed it, dawn. What follows is an evening of terror for the seven teens who are stalked by a masked pyscho, investigate a nearby asylum and become prey to disfigured cannibals that live in the mountains.
The game plays homage to a number of horror movies including Friday the 13th, Saw, Cabin in the Woods, The Descent and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The inspiration from these movies is littered throughout the game and spotting these nods feels like an added joy.
One of the best parts of the game is its choice mechanics and built in ‘butterfly effect’ that can completely impact the rest of the game based on the choices you have previously made. Throughout the game you play as all seven characters and at various points in the game, any of these playable characters can be disposable depending on your actions. By the time the end credits roll you could have all seven still alive or none. This adds a lot more weight and consequences to your choices and makes for a fun horror game.
The Walking Dead: Series One
As a big fan of the Telltale games, I couldn’t compose a list of five games to play this Halloween without including The Walking Dead. Based more on the comic book than the TV series, The Walking Dead is an episodic interactive drama.
You play as Lee Everett, a convicted criminal who is being escorted to prison when the zombie outbreak occurs. After a road accident Lee is able to narrowly avoid being zombie food and takes shelter in a nearby house where he meets a little girl named Clementine whose parents are away for a few days. Lee agrees to protect Clementine and help her find her parents and along the way they meet other groups of survivors trying to make it through the zombie apocalypse.
Like other Telltale games, the game doesn’t emphasise combat or puzzle solving and instead focuses on the characters and story. This is where the game excels and is perfect for someone not looking for a fast-paced shooter to play.
The story is influenced by the things you do and say which can then impact how other characters feel about you. Sometimes these choices can be as simple as rationing the food amongst the survivors and other times you need to choose who lives and who dies.
Don’t be fooled by the cartoon aesthetic, The Walking Dead can get pretty dark as you’re forced to make some hefty decisions that will carry consequences in later episodes.
The Alien franchise has a pretty rocky relationship with gamers. Following the terrible Alien: Colonial Marines in 2013, it looked like there was no coming back for the horror franchise. However, the 2014 release of Alien: Isolation was a perfect example of how to translate the sense of tension and dread from the original 1979 movie into a game.
You play as Amanda Ripley as she travels to the space station Sevastopol searching for a clue to locate her missing mother, Ellen Ripley. However, once onboard the station it becomes very clear something isn’t right. As you make your way through the tunnels and tight corridors you soon realise you’re not completely alone and are in fact being stalked by a Xenomorph.
Unlike other Alien games there is just the one creature posing a threat to your character. However, as the movie demonstrated, one is more than enough to bring the scares because it can’t be killed. The same goes for the game version. You can shoot it but this will only provoke the alien to attack and setting it on fire will only give you a few extra seconds to run. And that is the only way to survive Alien Isolation – to run, hide and possibly pray.
The creature will stalk you throughout the game and hearing it in the vents above as you make your way through the station is terrifying. Once you’re in the same room you’re forced to hide and stay still so it doesn’t detect you. This sense of helplessness is what makes Alien: Isolation such an effective horror survival game and will instill fear even in the most hardened game fans.
The Evil Within
From the guy who created the Resident Evil series, Shinji Mikami, you can ensure you’re in good hands with The Evil Within to be a solid horror game. And that’s exactly what we have and one of the most fun horror titles on the list.
You play as police detective Sebastian Castellanos who is investigating a mass murder at Beacon Mental Hospital before being transported to a nightmarish world filled with hideous creatures and crumbling, dangerous landscapes. Death is around every corner as hordes of enemies and even the environment try to kill you. The aim of the game is to simply survive and uncover the mysteries surrounding this supernatural world.
Whilst the story isn’t the most innovative, the game’s strength lies in creating a terrifying atmosphere that constantly left me on edge. The game gives you access to a number of weapons to take on the evil hordes but ammunition is scarce; as are other resources such as medical items and save points. The game perfectly uses this lack of resources to create a sense of dread and terror. Being attacked by a group ‘The Haunted’ knowing you don’t have enough ammo is truly terrifying.
Enemies are creative and plentiful. Whilst the game does offer a stealth option, the real fun comes from loading up your shotgun and blasting your way through a chapter.