Our Top 10 Horror Games to Play This Halloween
It’s that time of year again, everyone is carving up their pumpkins and picking out their spookiest outfit in the hopes of teasing out those wee jumps from anyone that dares to chap our doors. But, what else is there to do between those thumping chaps and calls for free sweets? Well, fear not, because we have all chipped in to pick out our favourite horror games this generation to keep those chills running down your spine this Halloween.
Ridley Scott’s original sci-fi epic Alien was a ground-breaking achievement in not only the science fiction genre, but the horror genre too. Showcasing the oppressive nature of this foreign anthropomorphic menace set within the confines of a solitary spaceship, there was no escape and no way to call for help. It’s only natural that, in time, video game developers would eventually get the formula right for recreating one of cinema’s timeless classics. In Alien: Isolation every detail is immaculate, from the weighty visage of the xenomorph, all the way down to the 70’s futuristic sci-fi aesthetic – steam vents and all. With the Alien in hot pursuit of the player through nearly every step of Alien: Isolation’s campaign, there is never a safe moment, never a moment the tension drops, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat the entire time.
It’s no surprise that you’d find a Resident Evil game on this list, especially with the recent launch of Resident Evil 7. And it’s that exact game that deserves a place. Reforming the survival horror genre, Resident Evil 7 takes players on a more personal journey through the eyes of an ordinary man in search of his wife. Taking notes from Alien: Isolation’s pursuing menace, Resident Evil 7 pits players against a horde of redneck cannibals on the swamplands of Louisiana. Centred in a desolate abandoned house, full of creepy inhabitants and all manner of supporting horrors, Resident Evil 7 evolves from its horrific roots and transforms itself into something even more terrifying. Limited ammo invokes desperate scenarios and jump scares around every corner keep players wary. Good luck to all those who challenge the Baker family in VR.
This was one of the first games to master the “Run & Hide” type of survival horror. Outlast was a benchmark of horror games still to come, putting offensive weaponry on the back burner and giving the player nothing more than a flashlight to “defend” themselves with. Taking place within an insane asylum, as cliché as that sounds, sets the perfect environment to drive the player crazy. Being pursued by all manner of deranged inmates, a fanatic priest, and some spectral horrors, there’s plenty of things to keep players quaking in their boots. Add to the fact you have limited battery life in your camera (acting flashlight), having to scrounge for any means to keep your camera alive is all that more unnerving.
Shinji Mikami, the mastermind behind Resident Evil and Dino Crisis, returns to grant players a glancing look upon his next masterpiece in the realm of survival horror and his general antipathy for everything pleasant and quaint. The Evil Within isn’t your standard survival horror detour through the domain of jump scares and poor lighting, rather a look into the grotesque, obscure, overly gory, and psychologically unnerving facets of horror itself, featuring a nightmarish dreamscape full of blood and cerebral trickery. The Evil Within takes players into unknown territory in hopes of answers to a bizarre set of events, and has players ask more questions than it gives answers; a good sign of any psychological horror game.
Urban legends are always a good starting point for sending chills down your spine. These legends are often lessons guised as horror and Don’t Knock Twice is no different. Dripping head to toe in jump scares, you fend off a vengeful witch, or Baba Yaga, that is hell-bent on kidnapping your daughter. Although the true unsettling nature of Don’t Knock Twice is that it’s set in your average home, in fact it might as well be your home, and effectively uses everyday items to bleed into reality. You’ll never shake the creaking of a floorboard or the feint steps of what you hope is your upstairs neighbour ever again – although if you live on the top floor and still hear footsteps, it might be time to grab your valuables and run.
P.T. or “Playable Teaser” was Konami’s elusive attempt at marketing and revitalising their flagship horror franchise Silent Hill. Featuring fantastical graphical prowess and chilling scenes of ghostly figures and violently aggressive imagery, as well as a severed head that talks in riddles, Silent Hills (P.T) was a huge leap for the franchise in terms of iteration and psychological horror. Players are tasked with having to solve cryptic puzzle through sound and sight whilst stuck in a never ending loop of time and space. Although not a full release, P.T. had enough weight about it to merit a spot on this list, and also inspired a few indie developers to try their hand in recreating the tone and feel of P.T. with such games as Allison Road, Visage and even Capcom’s Resident Evil 7 took reference. (If you can source P.T., we would highly recommend you do.)
In a surprising twist, a romance visual novel turned out to be one of the creepiest gaming experiences this year. Despite displaying a warning on the download page, you’d be forgiven for having no faith in what looks like an otherwise cartoonish experience. Doki Doki Literature Club is hard to discuss without spoilers, but the title takes advantage of some pretty realistic and strong character writing to leave the player disturbed and uncomfortable when its veneer is cast away. The juxtaposition between both halves of the game lead to a downright unsettling atmosphere, all without relying on some cheap jump scares. Players that are emotionally vulnerable will probably want to avoid the game, as the moment the rug is pulled is visceral and real. Life seems to carry on for the club members, albeit briefly, but something is increasingly off. This is a game in which being behind a computer monitor doesn’t really protect you.
Like any good horror movie, there needs to be a betrayal of trust and youth: the final stab from somebody close, personal. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 was the sharpened knife plunged deep into the gut of Stu as Billy looked on menacingly – that is to say it was a step too far. What should have been a fond farewell to a friend turned a funeral. All hopes and dreams of a rebirth of a much beloved series were put the rest, perforated and left for dead in a shower as blood slowly twisted and meandered down a plug hole. THPS5 was a travesty. A car crash with only one survivor; the soundtrack. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 still haunts our dreams and if that isn’t the signifier of a great horror, we don’t know what is.
There have been very few games that have perfectly captured the tension and feel of a teen horror movie over the years, with Obscure being one of the very few that springs to mind, but Supermassive Games captured that feeling perfectly. As a group of young and exuberant travellers on a mountainside, you are faced with the troubles of the occult as the tropes of the genre play out in front of you. Quick time events ask the player to be on their toes and Until Dawn plays with the alertness that comes with sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting on a button prompt, to send chills down your spine and give you a good scare. Until Dawn is perfectly realised and perfectly executed.
Not quite a horror game as much as it is a hack and slash RPG with a horror setting, Bloodborne earns a place in the list through gameplay and setting. Oozing homage to H.P. Lovecraft from every pore, you’ll be hard pressed to see a better digital interpretation of the master of horror. Keeping players on edge with its moment to moment combat and the unrelenting force of monsters lurking behind every doorway, there is no denying that you will need a wee lie down after playing Bloodborne. If not for its setting, the design and tension that comes with running from lantern to lantern is a white knuckle ride of gut wrenching proportions.
And there you have it, our eclectic mix of games that we couldn’t put the remote down for*. If you have any favourites that we’ve missed, holla at us on Twitter through @ReadersGambit and we’ll be sure to check your recommendations out.
*This excludes any involuntary relief of controller through the means of the following; scary monsters, hidden bad guys, creepy floorboards, and anything wielding a weapon.