It’s October, which means that it’s time for fall. The leaves are changing, the weather is getting colder, knife-wielding psychos are running amok… well, maybe not that last one. One thing is for sure, Halloween is right around the corner, which means that it’s time for all kinds of spookiness and scares, and what better way to get your fix than by playing video games? Since the dawn of home gaming, we’ve been engrossed by games that evoke fear because we love to get the shit scared out of us. We love it, and some people crave it all the time. It’s a weird thing and it’s hard to explain, but we just love it, and game devs know that with games released in recent years that do nothing but prey on your most basic fears. Fear of the unknown, of the dark, little sounds you hear but can’t explain, and things that move so fast that you think you saw it but really don’t know if you did. Now is as good of a time as any to get your fill of all things scary, supernatural, and haunting, so here are my top 10 Scary Games To Play During Halloween.
10) Call of Duty: World At War (Zombies)
World At War was the first game in the series to introduce the zombies game mode that so many series fans have come to know and love in the Treyarch games. Nowadays, the games are so fast-paced with so many different weapons, story lines, characters, and special weapons that it’s not really scary anymore. In World at War, however, it was a different story. Beating the game for the first time and being thrust into a solo round in Zombies was a little bit terrifying if you didn’t expect it. I remember franticly running around between windows with my pistol, trying to keep the undead from getting in the small, dilapidated house that I was stuck in and couldn’t escape. Buying a better gun off the wall was exciting, but that excitement was fleeting as the zombies got stronger quick. If you didn’t get the ray gun or a machine gun out of the mystery box, you were pretty much screwed. That, of course, didn’t stop me from running around with the double-barreled shotgun like an idiot blissfully blowing their heads off until they overwhelmed me. It wasn’t that zombies were super scary, it was just that the idea of them in Call of Duty was weird, and you were thrown into it so fast you hardly had time to register what was happening. It’s a cultural phenomenon in the CoD games now, but when it was a new thing it was really cool and just scary enough to keep me wanting to play game after game with all my high school buddies.
9) Luigi’s Mansion
Now, I’m not going to try and make it sound like Luigi’s Mansion is going to make you pee your pants, but to 7-year-old me it was pretty scary. When I first got my Gamecube, it was one of the first games I got for it, and even though I saw the box and read the back, I wasn’t expecting much different than the usual Mario formula of running and jumping. Man was I in for a surprise when I entered that dark, dank mansion for the first time without even a vacuum to protect me. The silence was chilling, being able to see Luigi’s breath in the cold foyer was unnerving, and the constant feeling of being watched was unsettling for a Nintendo game. Although the game got much less scary once you could defend yourself from the ghosts, it was still kind of scary in a way when you’d discover new rooms and areas that were still totally unlit, full of ghosts, and eerily quiet. There was some music in the game, but a lot of it while you were walking around was pretty quiet, slow, and somewhat menacing. Again, I’m just going by how I felt when I was 7, I’m sure if I picked up the game now I wouldn’t be really scared at all, and I’d probably just have a blast revisiting such a classic. I haven’t played the sequel on the 3DS, but I intend to eventually once I take off my nostalgia glasses and stop wanting it to just be the original.
8) Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls/Bloodborne
The Souls series is notorious for being extremely difficult and unforgiving, but also extremely in-depth and addicting for some. The fact that you can New Game+ up to 7 times just goes to show that From Software knew that people were going to get hooked on their punishing line of games. Although they are not necessarily horror games, they certainly have ways to invoke feelings of dread and fear of pretty much everything in them. No matter how high of a level you are, pretty much anything in any of these games can kill you if you don’t pay attention, and they’ll come out of nowhere. It’s not so much jump scares, because there’s no loud audio cues when enemies pop up, but if you look closely into the darkness, you can see them, lurking, waiting for you to make one wrong step so they can tear you limb from limb. No game has ever made me fear death more than these games, and in doing so I fear even some of the simplest enemies. The design on many of the demons, ghouls, and deformed creatures that you’ll be fighting are also important, because absolutely nothing seems to just look normal in these games. Every enemy is either horribly grotesque, dead, or creepy in very subtle ways, and it really makes me appreciate bonfires and the warmth and protection they provide. Granted, touching them brings back every enemy you’ve killed, but hey, at least you get a break, and it’s warm, right?
7) Metro 2033/Last Light
The Metro games are almost the same game, just a continued storyline. In fact, if you gave me both to play and didn’t put any kind of transition between the two, I’d really think they were the same. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and it really did work because both games are absolutely amazing, engrossing, and terrifying at times. It’s one of the few times where I came out from being below the surface and wished that I could just go back down, because the beasts that lurk on the surface will f*ck you up and sneak on you just as easily, if not worse, than the creatures in the Metro. Combining a dark, depressing atmosphere and fantastic storytelling, the Metro games are a must-play for anyone that can get their hands on the bundle. The controls are tight, the gameplay elements like night-vision goggles, battery-powered lamps, and constantly replacing gas mask filters always keeps you on your toes. The variety of mutated, disgusting enemies in the game is interesting and haunting, and between gross, mutant dog creatures, crab/spider/nightmare hybrids, and giant f*cking flying monsters, this series keeps you involved. There might have been a few cheap jump scares, but I don’t recall any off the top of my head. The game doesn’t need that to scare you, as it does that with the constant pitch-blackness of the underground metro, the things that go bump in the dark, and constantly running low on ammo and supplies. If you need tips on how to be successful in the Metro universe, SEARCH EVERYTHING, and TAKE EVERYTHING.
6) Five Nights at Freddy’s Series
I can’t really single out any one game in the series as being more terrifying than the others, because they all just use constant jump-scares to get you every time. Although, if I had to pick the scariest of them all, I’d have to give it to the first one. Playing that game with a headset on and hearing all of the god-awful creepy background noise made it almost unbearable for me. Five Nights 4 definitely had the scariest animatronic designs, but a jump scare is a jump scare, no matter what it looks like, and frankly, it’s a little cheap. In the first game, however, not a ton is known about what’s going on with all the lore and whatnot, and you’re left with chilling audio messages every night that play when the night starts. The last one in particular always really got to me and scared me, but the creepy laughing from Freddy, the sounds of stuff falling over, footsteps, radio static, and jumbled up, slowed down voices just wigged me right out. I could never finish the game myself, and had to just watch other people beat it on youtube. It was that scary to me. Not to mention, it’s great for Halloween parties, because you can pull it up, plunk random people on it, and wait for them to get scared. It’s pretty hysterical.
5) Alan Wake
Alan Wake is not your average horror game. Based off of the works of Stephen King (and similar authors), it’s definitely good at being scary. The story is a bit convoluted and too confusing to put into this little block, so I’ll just focus on why it’s a great horror game. In Alan Wake, you will learn to be very afraid of the dark, and beyond delighted when you find light because it is the only thing that will keep you alive. Finding the more powerful flashlight in each mission is always such a good feeling, and using big construction spotlights to your advantage feels amazing. Basically, enemies in the game have a shell of darkness on them, and only by shining light on them can you make it go away and damage them. Seems simple enough, but your flashlight batteries don’t last forever, and you can only carry so many spares, so you must flash wisely. You’ll find a few weapons during your stay in Bright Falls where the game takes place, including a pistol, a shotgun, and a hunting rifle. You won’t find any assault rifles, machine guns, or rocket launchers, instead you’ll rely on road flares and flare guns to save you in this black hellscape. Flashbangs can be found every now and then, and they are just absolute gold. You’ll never know exactly when you’ll need them, but trust me, you’ll need them at some point. Everything is scarce though–such as bullets and light sources–and the enemies are relentless and won’t let you breathe for a second if you let them get too close. Even when you’re not in immediate danger, there’s always that eerie John Carpenter feel about the place, and there’s always someone somewhere around you that just doesn’t seem right. The game rarely lets you feel safe, and is great at making you think while also constantly creeping you out hardcore. I highly recommend any Xbox 360 user to get this game. It is a must-have, both for the console and the genre of survival-horror.
4) Resident Evil 4
The Resident Evil franchise has seen its fair share of games of all different genres and styles, with many ups and downs, goods and bads. Resident Evil 4 was one of those games that it seemed everyone loved, both series fans and people like me, who have only dabbled in the games. The characters were all memorable, the atmosphere was hostile and foreboding, and the enemies (besides the basic ones) were pretty terrifying. The bosses were no pushovers, and don’t even tell me you didn’t stain your shorts a little when the gigantic crocodile came out of the lake. I was ready for something big, but that thing was something out of the Jurassic era with a serious taste for Leon. The chainsaw guy, though not nearly as big, was a freakin nightmare. He always seemed to be able to back me into a corner and kill me, and it always scared the hell out of me. It wasn’t so much that he was super scary, but rather made you seriously uncomfortable when he got all up in your face. Don’t even get me started on the Regenerators, those things are truly the stuff of nightmares. They’re Dead Space-level terrifying.
Bioshock has won like, what, every award under the sun? As one of the best games of the last generation of consoles, it stands the test of time as being enthralling, action-packed, beautiful, and horrifying all at the same time. The undersea city of Rapture is as haunting as it is fun to just walk around and explore, while constantly watching your back for the grotesque splicers that roam the halls. Nothing is ever friendly in Rapture, even if at first glance it looks like someone might not be a total psycho, they usually are, and they’re all fully prepared to bash your skull in and steal your precious ADAM. No matter how powerful you get in the game, with the power to electrocute things, set them on fire, and blow them away with an arsenal of weapons, the Big Daddys will be there to put you in your place. They’ll protect their Little Sisters with their life, and if that means jamming their gigantic drills into your face, they will do it, and they move a lot faster than you’d think. It’ll take every skill you’ve learned to take them down, and even then, they’ll give you a run for your money, or life, however you want to look at it. Besides the creepy foes you’ll face, may other things, like the audio diaries scattered about that tell the depressing tales of what went on before you got there. Bioshock doesn’t pull any punches in any way. The stuff you do is brutal, the fighting is gruesome, enemies are creepy and nasty, and Rapture is the embodiment of the death of an empire. It’s a must-play for… well, anyone really. If you haven’t at least played the first one by now, what are you waiting for?
Outlast is pretty much downright terrifying right from the very beginning and spares no expense in making you want to throw the controller at the screen when you get spooked. Now granted, the game does get less scary and just more weird as it goes on, but for the first half, it’s just a constant tail-between-your-legs level of scary. If you turn the lights out and crank the volume, this game is an absolute nightmare. You have no weapons, just a camcorder that helps you see in the dark, and arguably makes the game that much more terrifying. It’s one thing the see the psychotic mental patients roaming the halls and rooms, but it’s another to have to sneak past them while their eyes glow in the night-vision mode of your camera. Getting spotted is the worst feeling, as you frantically run for your life trying to get away by hiding under beds and in lockers so that they give up trying to find you. The noises you hear like people banging on the walls trying to scare you, crying for no reason, people smacking their heads off the wall, and the slapping of feet running somewhere but you don’t know where are creepy and terrifying. Definitely a great game to throw on a big TV at a Halloween party and be ready to have everyone collectively crap themselves.
1) Dead Space Trilogy
The Dead Space games (with the exception of 3, which in all honesty, was not that scary and is by far the weakest link in the trilogy), are fantastic additions to the horror genre. The Necromorphs are the most grotesque, nightmarish, and violent creatures from any horror game in a long time, and there’s such a large variety of them. The main character, Isaac Clarke, is not a super soldier or a space marine, but instead is an engineer that’s sent in with a small team to investigate the USG Ishimura. This mission is especially important to Isaac because his girlfriend, Nicole, is a scientist aboard the ship, so he wants to find out what happened and make sure that she’s alright. When you board the ship, it seems pretty lifeless until the Necromorphs assault your team and begin tearing your bodyguards limb from limb. They chase you into a nearby elevator and separate you from your team, and you spend the entirety of the game trying to get back with your team, solve puzzles, not die, and find out what the hell happened. As the game progresses, your arsenal of weapons increases, and you can upgrade your armor to resist more damage. The only way to kill the Necromorphs is by cutting off their limbs, thus preventing them from having any way of attacking you. Through the first game, Isaac is pretty much silent, though in the second game he does talk, which thankfully doesn’t take away from how scary the game is. The first two games were fantastically terrifying, eerie, and make you want to start checking under your bed for mutated babies (and yes, you do have to dismember mutated babies in these games). These are the games that constantly make you say “no, they wouldn’t go there.” and then they totally do, and sometimes it’s just not easy to watch or play. Dead Space is a series that any horror enthusiast should play because it’s terrifying, challenging, and at times, pretty damn disturbing.
Now, before you bring up your pitchforks, as to why I didn’t put at Silent Hill games or Amnesia on my list, I just haven’t played those games. I don’t want to say that they’re my top 10 because that would simply just not be true, and I don’t think it’s fair to judge games I haven’t played. Maybe I’ll do a revised list after I’ve played those and they’ll make it on, but for now, my list stands. I hope anyone that hasn’t played some of these games will decide to pick them up after reading this, because I think these games are all awesome, and perfect for the Halloween season. So put down the butcher knives, chainsaws, and pumpkin spice lattes for a few minutes and pick up one of these games. Your life may very well depend on it. Probably not though.
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