Halloween is about fear and the essence of dressing in creepy costumes and going door-to-door in an attempt to receive sugary treats. But if you are too old for that, then the best thing to do is settle in for a night of television specials, horror films, or spooky video games.
For my night, I would choose video games. Exploring a horror game builds a greater amount of tension than viewing a movie. Here are five games I recommend you play this Halloween, though I don’t recommend trying to play all of them in one night.
Project Zero/Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
Platform: Wii U
Hands up, who remembers that the Wii U got a horror game? No one's hand went up? I can't blame you. Maiden of Black Water isn’t widely known. Even among the limited number of Wii U owners, this was merely a blip on the radar thanks to a poor release (America only got the game digitally, Europe and Australia got retail), and yet this was a fantastic game. I remember rushing to my closest EB Games on October 31 back in 2015 (yes, this game came out on Halloween), and I was excited to see what new adventure the Wii U would bring me. Little did I know how interesting I would find this game.
This is the fifth instalment in the Project Zero/Fatal Frame franchise, focusing on Mt. Hikami, a well-known suicide spot in fictional Japan. You can already tell this mountain isn't exactly a happy place, but we end up coming here a lot. For various reasons we explore many parts of the mountain, often facing the malevolent spirits that stand in our path. The greatest threat of them all is a Shrine Maiden who wants one of the main characters; they say once you go there you are constantly lured back. The story was well executed, and the gamepad acting as the Camera Obscurus—which was your only means of defense against ghosts—was a brilliant mechanic.
This game needs more light shone on it and I highly recommend checking it out. It is quite unsettling and a great way to spend Halloween night.
Among the Sleep
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
There are many ways you can make a horror game creepy, and one of the most popular methods is making the player weak, as in Among the Sleep. What makes Among the Sleep more effective as a horror game is the weakness paired with the player's own emotional state; playing as a toddler is an unsettling idea. How often do you play as a young child in a horror game? I don’t find many instances and this makes Among the Sleep such a challenge.
You want to protect a child and don’t think that a child would end up in the situation you are in during this game. As this kid, you have no protection against that which hunts you. Your teddy bear can be used as a light source and comfort mechanism, but it rarely helps fend off threats. Your only advantage is your size, which can help you avoid danger by ducking under objects, but you still feel weak against the constant threats of the monster that follows you.
Among the Sleep is a powerful horror game that builds tension through its character and dark undertone as you piece together the greater narrative that might involve death or abuse. It’s worth playing this as it makes even a playground feel uncomfortable.
Emily Wants to Play
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One, Mobile
Among the PlayStation 4’s game library, Emily Wants to Play is a very obscure but also very enjoyable horror game. This game casts you in the role of a pizza delivery man doing his job as he ends up in the mad house of Emily and is forced to play a game that determines whether he lives or dies. What makes this game enjoyable is the anticipation of the night; you are given one note to the events of the game. At midnight the game begins, and before then you are free to wander the house, learning its layout and attempting to find the flashlight you will need for later hours.
This particular time is unsettling; here you meet all that will antagonize you during the night. Emily and her dolls appear around the house and quickly disappear already leaving you unsettled before the clock chimes for midnight. Then the games begin and you quickly have to learn how the dolls play or die. These mini games get harder as times goes on, and juggling several games at once can be difficult, especially if you haven't found the flashlight.
Emily Wants to Play is a very deep horror game that requires plenty of thought and is great for a couple hours of nervous scares.
Home: A Unique Horror Adventure
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC, Mobile
Home will be the most obscure game in this list because of the nature of the game itself. This is a budget title. It didn't cost much and utilizes a 2D art style to tell an interesting mystery narrative.
Guess what? You have amnesia. Ignoring the fact that this stands as one of gaming’s most overplayed tropes, it is effective in telling the story of Home as you set out to find your way home. You will slowly find your things as you explore, but you'll also start to unravel a greater mystery that draws into question what you did on this night that you can’t remember.
Technically this is not a horror game, despite what the game's full title suggests, but is an interesting story. The horror comes from the fear of what you did and trying to unravel that mystery; the game keeps you guessing. It even ultimately allows you to understand how much you want to know. Haven’t picked up a lot of the items you come across to piece together the story? That is fine - sometimes the horror of your own actions can be the worst nightmare.
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, PC, OUYA
There are multiple ways you can make a horror game, but I think the smartest way to create one is by relating the game to real-world problems and personal struggles. That is Neverending Nightmares in a nutshell. This game took the developer's battles with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder and reflected that in the world and the character crafted within. The core principal of its design was focused on capturing the feeling of bleakness and hopelessness, which is perfectly captured within its dark and dreary art style.
The game features three different ending to explore, and whatever happens to you in your never-ending nightmare changes the story. The game keeps you on your toes as it gets progressively darker and the monsters you come across become increasingly more disturbing.
Neverending Nightmares is a confusing game but thrives building on its ideas and taking close and personal problems that many of us face and explaining them in an easy-to-understand manner. It’s pretty good as a horror game that keeps you on edge through its dark and sinister atmosphere.
There you have it - my recommendations for games you should play this Halloween. What picks would you want to play? Have your own recommendations? Let me know in the comments below. It is always fun to find some obscure horror game or experience a big-name horror franchise for the first time.