It's that time of year again. Ghosts and goblins descend upon our world to frighten old people and kidnap small children. The old timers are usually well versed in martial arts and have nothing to worry about, but the kiddies' only line of defense are the cheaply made costumes and toys their neglectful parents bought for them. We, the smart ones, stay inside and play video games, but maybe we still want to get into the Halloween spirit. What better way than to play some spooky games? Now, in no particular order, here are some horror games that'll (hopefully) keep you up all night and make you question every creak in your home.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Condemned: Criminal Origins or, as I like to call it, "Bum Fighting Simulator 2006" was one of the most unique horror games of its time. Instead of shootouts with ghosts or bare bones melee combat with hellish demons, Condemned opted for something different. Centered around a robust melee combat system, you play as Ethan Thomas, a federal agent trapped in a building with a notorious serial killer and a seemingly infinite amount of insane homeless people. Every hit looks and feels like you're actually hitting somebody in the face with a steel pipe. I wouldn't recommend taking a stroll in downtown L.A. after playing Condemned. You wouldn't want to find yourself in the same situation as Ethan.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Yeah, yeah I know. At this point, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is probably the most overrated horror game, but there's a reason for that. Popularizing flight over fight gameplay, Amnesia: The Dark Descent pitted the player against horribly disfigured monsters in a castle of horrors with no way to defend yourself. On top of that, the player must also monitor their sanity levels and refrain from staying in the dark for too long, entering water, and even looking at the monsters. Certain YouTubers may have ruined the appeal of Amnesia to some people by turning it into a career of grown men screaming like little girls for an audience of 12-year-olds, but the horror and fear factors are genuine. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for its sequel.
Now here's an interesting one. Betrayer is a dark fantasy horror game developed by the lovely folks responsible for No One Lives Forever (1 & 2) and the original F.E.A.R. Shipwrecked on the coast of Virginia in the year 1604, players must adapt or die in a land inhabited by the undead and other ghostly specters. That may not sound all that scary. It's kinda hard to explain, but imagine being Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant except supplement rapist bears and hostile natives with undead warriors and deadly apparitions.
No list of horror games is complete without at least one mention of a Silent Hill game. Unfortunately, unless you happen to own a physical copy of any of the 4 original games or have your old PS2 lying around, the only way to play an authentic Silent Hill game is to illegally download them from a torrent site (which we do not recommend or condone). Enter the Half-Life 2 mod: Alchemilla, the next best thing. Alchemilla is, more or less, a puzzle mod set within Silent Hill's disturbing world. Can you believe that it took a team of modders to recreate Silent Hill's aesthetics perfectly; something no other professional developer could do after the disbanding of Team Silent? So unless you don't have a copy of the original 4 games and want to feel the magic of Silent Hill one last time, check out Alchemilla.
Horror games are one thing, but what game best encompasses the spirit of Halloween the best? That's a subjective question, so my opinion would be Slayer Shock. I've already had the pleasure to have written a review for this underrated gem, so I'll just get right to the point. Imagine someone made a kickass Buffy the Vampire Slayer video game with a surprising amount of depth put into every detail and mechanic included. Then imagine Jack Skellington came to life and produced it. Now that's a Halloween game.
Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion
With a name like that, this is just another YouTube facecam bait game, right? Wrong. Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion is probably the best example of misdirection in a horror game that I've ever seen. Starting off with an introduction from a cute ghost girl, your first spooky encounters will be with child-like ghost cut outs accompanied by loud noises. The player's goal is to survive 1000 rooms of Spooky's mansion. Seems easy enough, especially with an introduction like that, but you'll quickly find the real monsters that lurk in the mansion aren't as cute and friendly. Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion is free on Steam, so you don't really have an excuse to avoid it.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Did you think you could avoid the early 2000's vampire craze? Well, luckily for you, the boys and girls over at Troika Games were able to put together a "best of" compilation of those dark days. Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines is so good that, even in its broken release state, it's considered to be not only one of the best RPGs ever created, but also one of the best games ever made. So is it a horror game? Is it scary? A horror game, yes. Scary, not so much. There are definitely moments that can make anyone's skin crawl, but they are few and far between to classify it as "scary." Still, the horror vibe is in full effect throughout the entire experience (it is a game about vampires and ghouls after all) and worthy of anyone's time, especially on Halloween.
Having the same misfortune as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Outlast found its mainstream fame from untalented YouTube personalities. Employing a unique "found footage" aesthetic, Outlast also chooses flight over fight gameplay as you try to escape an insane asylum overrun by escaped patients and other anomalies that are best left unspoiled. I've never felt a greater tension than when my only means of seeing in the dark are my handheld camera's night vision mode and the batteries are about to die as I'm being chased by an insane, naked fat man. It also may be a good time to finally play Outlast, if you haven't already, because a sequel is set to release sometime next year.
I like to think that I'm pretty jaded when it comes to horror in general. It takes a lot of effort for horror in any form of media to actually scare me. IMSCARED was the first game since Silent Hill 3 to genuinely terrify me. Of course, there are unnecessary jump scares, but they are spread out and that isn't even the actual horror of this game. Labeling itself as a "metahorror" experience, IMSCARED will constantly break the fourth wall and make you believe that something is genuinely wrong with your computer. The pixelated art style may turn off some people, but that's the least of your problems when experiencing IMSCARED. Oh, and for the safety of your heart, try not to open strange files on your hard drive after playing IMSCARED.
Of course these ten games aren't the only games you should play on Halloween. There may even be better Halloween-esque games that I've never heard of or just forgot about. The point is: enjoy Halloween however you like. Whether it be staying in and playing videos or going out into the night and experiencing some real life scares. Just remember to play it safe: check your candy before eating it, don't go anywhere with people you aren't familiar or comfortable with, and don't attack the clowns.