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Ten Spooky Games For Halloween

October 31, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

It’s the most terrible time of the year, when spooks and ghouls and beasties roam the earth looking to scare poor unsuspecting people. And also beg them for sweets.

If this is too stressful, it might perhaps be best to stay in and play some appropriate video games to celebrate the most spine-tingling of holidays. But what do you play?

That’s what I’m here for, dear reader. I have picked ten of the best, most appropriate video games to play on Halloween, and I have ranked them in order of spookiness on a scale of plastic skeleton bought from a pound shop up to demonic hellbeast intent on severing your soul from your body in the most violent manner possible.

It’s a wide scale.

Costume Quest

Admittedly I don’t know much about this game as Steam informs me I have only played 15 minutes of it, but I felt it needed to be included because it’s one of very few games that are set specifically at Halloween.

Of course, it ranks the lowest on the scare-o-meter because it’s basically a game where children’s trick-or-treating turns into a non-J JRPG. It celebrates the holiday of Halloween in a way that no other game does, so it’s appropriate if not particularly spooky.

Undertale

Any game with a skeleton that’s popular on the Internet is a good game for Halloween in my book. But he also has a brother who likes puns, and skeleton puns are also the best thing about Halloween. In other words, Undertale has all the bases covered, although apart from a post-modern final boss that can physically close the game window, it doesn’t cover the base marked “spooky”.

Unless your worst nightmare is a date with a skeleton. In which case, you’re in for a scare!

Luigi’s Mansion

Okay, haunted mansions. This is more like it. You have to save your brother from a mansion infested with ghosts, and you’re armed only with a vacuum cleaner. It’s the perfect recipe for a spooky time.

Or it would be if you weren’t Luigi, brother of Nintendo mascot Mario, and the game was about as scary as the main series (ie. Not at all). So while it certainly carries an appropriate silly spookiness perfect for Halloween, the scariest part I experienced here was my Gamecube controller’s L button sticking during the Boolossus fight.

Grim Fandango

Moving into darker territory now, and also proving that Double Fine’s cartoon spookiness obsession didn’t begin with Costume Quest, we have Grim Fandango. Set in the bowels of the Aztec underworld, we play a skeletal desk agent who helps souls move onto the Ninth Underworld, and descend into a noir mystery that would make Sam Spade proud.

While ostensibly a cartoony game that blends noir sensibilities with a Dia de los Muertos aesthetic, there are moments of unease in Grim Fandango so the scare-o-meter did twitch a little while playing this, particularly in regards to that train to hell. Much better.

MediEvil

Perhaps a Tim Burton aesthetic is more up your alley for this Halloween? MediEvil is essentially a playable Tim Burton movie, with twisted landscapes, a Danny-Elfman-esque soundtrack and a skeleton for a protagonist.

While not a particularly horrifying game, MediEvil does have a fairly bleak atmosphere and well-constructed level design that makes you feel like something spooky is going down. There are tense moments, and not just from the slightly wonky controls, and those twisted designs can sometimes be unnerving.

Resident Evil

RE1 Screenshot

Alright, enough messing about. Let’s move onto the really scary stuff with the very game that brought us the term “survival horror”. Resident Evil is the horror game that started many an obsession with horror games in general, with its zombies, leaping dogs and body horror.

It’s also not all that scary for the most part. Save a few jump scares, some anxiety over ammo and the infamous “Itchy. Tasty” note, Resident Evil is about as scary as a b-movie with obvious wooden backdrops and monsters held up by string. It does manage some moments of tension, but this tends to be undone every time Barry talks about Jill Sandwiches or calls some ammo a powerful weapon against living things.

That said, it’s a good romp for Halloween, as evidenced by my LP a year ago over on BTPF. Go check it out!

Dead Space

If you combine Alien with Event Horizon and do things that are zombies but not really, you end up with Dead Space. This is a survival horror in space that does a great job with its atmosphere and sound design to create a truly unnerving experience. It also manages to grab with jump scares galore, and many of them lead into much worse experiences later on, which makes them not feel cheap.

Dead Space doesn’t quite send the scare-o-meter to the top, however, as the game’s reliance on traditional action means the game spends a lot of time playing out like a slow third-person shooter, and sometimes expects gore to be the scary thing over things that are actually scary.

Until Dawn

Another game I played in full for Halloween over on BTPF, this very year in fact, Until Dawn is best described as an interactive slasher flick, with all the tropes and clichés that description brings. Eight teens go to a lodge in the mountains and things go exactly as you’d expect.

Where Until Dawn succeeds is in expecting the player to understand horror as much as the developers clearly did, twisting your expectations, and in giving you limited control over the teens, allowing them to make stupid rash decisions that you then have to save them from at appropriate moments.

My playthrough was a tense, stressful affair where every choice had weight to it, and any moment could lead to death, so the scare-o-meter went quite high. However, this effect gets diminished when you replay the game, as you quickly learn the key choices and expect specific story beats. But it does an excellent job on the first playthrough, so that puts it quite high on the list today.

Silent Hill 2

I think there’s some sort of law that states that any list about great horror or horror-related games must have Silent Hill 2 on it. And it makes sense, because Silent Hill 2 is about as fine a horror game you’ll ever find, especially in its storytelling.

Where Silent Hill 2 succeeds is in telling a unique psychological story that doesn’t feel cliché-ridden, and has layers of intrigue beneath its cast of gruesome monsters. While the game doesn’t feel all that scary on first playthrough, Silent Hill 2 gets under your skin as you realise implications that bring in real-life horrors that are fundamentally worse than a slippery armless creature scurrying out from under a car. Scare-o-meter is pretty high, but it took time to sneak up there.

Fatal Frame

But while Silent Hill 2 tells a deep, psychological story, there is only one game capable of terrifying me so much that at one point I could only play it in 30-minute bursts. Fatal Frame, the Japanese ghost game with the camera, is still my favourite survival horror game for so many reasons. I debated between the first and the second, but while the second tells a better story and has a demented twin sister who gets worse the more you delve into her character, Fatal Frame is the scarier game, and has to be included here.

The sound design, the horrific ghosts, the limited abilities to tackle threats at your disposal, and even the dull surprise acting serve to create an experience that’s unnerving and uncomfortable for much of its run-time. Even revisiting it recently for my Chronological Challenge (review pending) has failed to dull its impact, and it remains as tense as ever. So if you really want a game to scare you this Halloween, this would be far from a bad choice.

And that’s it. My ten best games for Halloween, from the not-at-all scary to the ropes-severing-your-limbs disturbing. Let me know your choices down below and, above all, have a happy Halloween!

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