Now is the time for costumes, candy, Jack-o-Lanterns, horror films, and, above all that for us gamers, scary interactive experiences. You can’t beat them when it comes to fully immersive horror. Below, some of the GameLuster staff share their favorite horror games. Read the list, play some of the games mentioned, and have a Happy Halloween!
I don’t really play spooky games, but I choose Dead Space.
Dead Space is the perfect sci-fi horror – it has the panic of low ammo, horrifying enemies, and plenty of atmosphere. Its limb-cutting combat system is both unique and appropriate for the genre, offering plenty of gory moments but also tons of fun and scares.
Cry of Fear
Oh man. I have so many good memories bonding with friends while watching Let’s Plays of this game. Cry of Fear is freaky, gross, and gory; in short, it’s everything that you want a horror game to be. There are a variety of horrifying monsters: little girls with spikes for hands, the chainsaw wielding sawrunners, and the levitating women with stabbing babies exploding from their stomachs. Protagonist Simon is arguably also a monster, and as you progress through the game, you’ll piece together all the details that make up his disturbing past. All of my worst nightmares, wrapped up into one game.
Night In The Woods
Although it’s not a horror game, Night In The Woods has a profoundly creepy atmosphere and a homicidal cult serves as the main antagonist for Mae, a lovable but messed up hero. This is one of the few spookier games that I’ve played in recent years where the protagonist is a well-rounded character, rather than a mysterious nondescript stranger.
This survival horror game plays you on an island infested with mutated cannibals. You get to build your own base and craft a variety of objects to make it completely your own. Want a useless gazebo to add a beachy aesthetic? You can build that! Or you can travel a physically beautiful yet terrifying world. Unlike other horror games, which are more story-driven, The Forest gives you nearly limitless exploration abilities, making for a super fun experience.
While this visual novel doesn’t offer a lot of gameplay aside from dialogue choices and some sudden quick time events, it’s downright creepy and beautifully detailed. It features a lovable cast of colorful characters who are fully voiced. You can also pair up a few characters together romantically. The villain, which is highly similar to The Grudge, is sure to give any player a few good ol’ fashioned jumpscares. There are a variety of endings to explore, making for excellent replay value.
Let’s Meat Adam
This puzzle-based visual novel borrows significant inspiration from the classic Zero Escape games. It takes place in an escape mansion (a mansion filled with escape rooms), and features a cast of queer men who are forced to band together against a goat-headed serial killer. To escape him, you have to solve the puzzles in each room, or face your grisly end… ugh, I still get nauseous thinking about the bad ending. You might think it’s some campy, gory visual novel, but don’t be fooled: it’s a really brilliant game which touches on themes relating to toxic masculinity and racism in the gay community.
If you’re not a fan of horror but want to try something new, I would highly recommend Limbo. I typically don’t play horror games or ones that are too “spooky,” so when I first bought this game I had no idea how dark it really was until playing it.
Limbo is a simple black-and-white puzzle platformer developed and published by Playdead, chalked-full of gruesome and uncomfortable moments. You play a boy who wakes up in a forest on the “edge of hell” and sets off to find his sister while encountering horrible monsters and mischievous children. In Limbo, you die quite a bit, but every time it feels jarring and makes you rethink your course of action. It’s both dark stylistically and thematically, with the look and feel of the game partially inspired by film noir.
While playing the game myself, I got the feeling of a darker version of Peter Pan, set in a mysterious world of undeath, surrounded by characters resembling the Lost Boys. There were moments where I squirmed a little and wanted to run away, but I was still able to have fun and enjoy the experience of the game itself. It’s a quick play with an ambiguous ending, a perfect game for Halloween when you want something eerie but not horrific.
Resident Evil 7
I think this game scared me more than any game I’ve ever played. The graphics were chilling and I enjoyed the mechanics of this game more than the previous RE games!
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
This was one of the very first horror games I ever played, and it is still great! I think the atmosphere this game brings to the table is terrifying, and unlike any other horror game I’ve ever played!
Silent Hill (selections)
My favorite horror games are Silent Hill 1, 2, and 4. While there are a few jump scares, these games mainly used atmosphere in order to keep you on the edge of your seat. It was hard to see very far, so navigating through the fog could leave you paranoid. Mix that in with the ways that sound was used, and you get a horrifying experience. Horror games and movies never really have an effect on me, but these Silent Hill titles kept me on edge, and I loved it. Very few games can give you a sense of dread, but these knew just where to hit in order to actually keep you scared.
Fatal Frame (selections)
I would have to say the same about the first two Fatal Frame titles. These games relied a little more on shock factor, but they were scary nonetheless. Knowing you were in the same room as a ghost created a sense of urgency, as you fought to keep yourself alive. The stories were very dark, and were perfect for horror. These dark settings helped to create a great and terrifying atmosphere, as these games also used sound to mess with you. When a horror game has you fearing entering a room, you know that something was done right.
Resident Evil 7
After the iconic, harrowing adventures of Resident Evil 4, Capcom didn’t strike too much gold with its historic survival horror franchise. The fifth entry was middling at best, and the sixth one felt like the brainchild of Call of Duty‘s action and Devil May Cry‘s style masquerading as Resident Evil. The 2017 installment was a triumphant return for the franchise, a truly spooky and scary entry that deserves the name Resident Evil. It shirks off the over-the-top Hollywood vibe for an atmosphere championed recently by the indie game sphere. It’s a game that made you feel fragile, scraping for every extra morsel. Toward the end, it becomes a little more campy, in true Resident Evil fashion. But the overall journey is one that brings the series back into the limelight.
Layers of Fear
Madness is such an interesting topic, don’t you think? Layers of Fear is a story that peels back the layers of what made our main character go mad, exploring his tragic backstory and terrible personality in interesting ways. Enter the mind of the artist, this would be the easiest way to describe this game, as you walk the twisting halls of a broken mind troubled by the past, forever doomed to repeat such actions until he finally learns.
It was this premise that made Layers of Fear so interesting. The way it explored the mind, turning a once beautiful mansion into a funhouse riddled with regrets and terrifying secrets. It used careful dark imagery that reflected the story being told at each moment, and used tricks to walk you to a dead end, only to have a new path appear behind you. Or, it created a room with no exits that reenacted your harsh actions before you, prior to finally opening a path. This was a game of madness that was interesting thanks to its clever design.
No matter how many times I play it, Layers of Fear continues to be interesting even if the fear factor does wear off once you work out what is going on.
Among the Sleep
Feeling vulnerable and weak can be the worst. Knowing that you are stuck in a cruel, potentially deadly world where you hold no real power, where everything is a twisted re-imagining of the world you knew. This is Among the Sleep, a game that casts you as the most vulnerable of us all, a toddler wandering a horrid nightmare forced to face the harsh truths of his own life in a nightmarish world. This was a clever game that made me feel weak and afraid in a world that in any other game would have been brushed off and would never have bothered me.
More than anything, it was the lingering questions of life and death that stood within the narrative that has kept my mind coming back. Remembering the terrors of fragility, and a sense of weakness through being at such a vulnerable age is what made Among the Sleep. If you have never played it do yourself a favor: grab your favorite comfort teddy and face the fears of the unknown.
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
I think mixing up genres can transform a game from potentially mediocre to something interesting. Shooters benefit from genre mixing the most and F.E.A.R. is a primary example of why this works. If you took away the supernatural horror elements of F.E.A.R. 2, you would have the making of a pretty run-of-the-mill military shooter. But thanks to its horror theme F.E.A.R. 2 became one of the most engaging shooters I have played.
What started as a generic shooter in its first hour, becomes an unsettling experience with the introduction of Alma, a girl who randomly appears, disappears and constantly causes trouble for you. With her ability to reanimate the dead creating some difficult fights, Alma stands as the centerpiece of the experience offering F.E.A.R. 2 its most engaging element. Each appearance of Alma feels tense even when she is only in the distance, but I wait for it to get another chance to analyze the mystery of this girl and be unsettled by her next random action.
What can I do here besides give my beloved Thief series some rep? I think it has the best horror experiences in gaming. The original, The Dark Project (and its Gold re-release) has the supernatural intertwined throughout, sitting in the background, always lending the environments an ominous sense of unease. Thief: Deadly Shadows contains the Robbing the Cradle mission, which exhausts superlatives. Though Thief II: The Metal Age had no horror mission and little supernatural themes within, it has had several superb horror-themed fan missions made for it. Titles like The Inverted Manse, Deceptive Perception, Rose Cottage, and A Better Tomorrow are among the most brilliant horror experiences ever, and there are dozens more.
I’ve never liked explicit, in-your-face horror, though I admit it has its place; however, the subtle, atmospheric, story-driven horror that I do love is found at its finest in Thief. You owe it to yourself to play some of its fan missions this Halloween.