We’re approaching All Hallows’ Eve and there has never been a better time to close your blinds, turn out the lights and get into some spooky gaming.
There are hundreds of scary games you could dive into in order to celebrate this most American of holidays but there are a handful I would recommend above the others.
I have compiled them into a short list for you.
In no particular order.
Aren’t I thoughtful?
The tale of a struggling thriller writer whose wife gets taken by a malevolent spirit in the fictional town of Bright Falls, Washington.
Alan Wake deals heavily in a light/dark motif. The enemies in the game are shrouded in darkness that needs to be dispelled with your torch before you can finish them off with more conventional weapons.
Areas flooded with light are also often checkpoints or safe havens where the creatures can’t get to you. You’ll find yourself running through the Pacific Northwest environment and sighing with relief every time you see a beam of light from a lamp post in the distance.
The game can begin to feel a little repetitive as you progress. You’re almost always exploring new environments but there are only so many different forested areas they can throw at you before it all starts to feel the same.
Thankfully the game runs at about 10-12 hours so you’ll probably reach the end before the repetitiveness really begins to bother you.
Also, once I finished playing Alan Wake I immediately wanted to mainline Twin Peaks and every Stephen King book straight into my eyeballs, so that’s something pretty special.
Dead Space relies heavily on monster closets and jump scares which can be pretty tedious if you let it get to you.
Hopefully it won’t really be a problem as you’ll be too busy being excited about playing what is essentially “Event Horizon: The Game” to really care.
The combat in Dead Space is also pretty cool. You’re encouraged to “strategically dismember” any and all necromorphs you encounter. Doing so not only does more damage and conserves ammunition, it also looks super gross.
I should also make special mention of Dead Space‘s use of sound which is nothing short of amazing. The game knows exactly how to push your buttons, raise the hair on the back of your neck and generally creep you the hell out using nothing but sound. It goes a long way to creating an atmosphere of fear and danger that is vital to horror games.
An infection has spread across the fictional island of Banoi and turned most of the population into terrifying, hungry zombies. You play as either the rapper Sam B., Chinese spy Xian Mei, former football star Logan and former police officer Purna and are presented with a giant open world filled with zombies, survivors and bandits.
I couldn’t not mention Dead Island. It was one of my favourite flawed games of 2011 and probably didn’t get the attention it really deserved.
What really sets Dead Island apart is its combat. It’s a first-person game with RPG elements and with the analogue combat turned on your can use the analogue sticks to control your attacks in a way no other game does.
You can lift your club up high and bring it slamming down on a zombies head or you could target their arms and slash diagonally to try to cut them off with a cleaver. It’s a difficult system to get a hang of and can be problematic when you’re swarmed by more than a couple of zombies but it forces you to playing smarter and more carefully than you might otherwise play.
I’m generally pretty good when it comes to violence and gore in video games but Dead Island really takes it to the next level. The combat is brutal and right in your face and the zombies make horrible, guttural, bone rattling sounds as they are slowly and methodically beaten to death. You can even unlock a special move that lets you curb stomp prone zombies and cave their skulls it.
It really starts to get to you after a while, there’s only so many times you can see bits of bone and brain squish out from under your boot as you cut of the near-human cries of your probably limbless foe.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the fact I was disturbed by what I was doing is great. There are too many zombie games where you lop off heads without a second though. The pace of Dead Island, the brutal combat and the gore really do make you pause and think about the horror of your situation.
Also it’s the game that brought us this:
The Walking Dead
God damn this game. Just when you start to get comfortable with the people around you and get to know them a little better, that’s exactly when this game will kill them. There’s no debate, there’s nothing you can do. They’re dead and you just have to carry on.
The Walking Dead franchise has never been afraid to kill off characters left, right and centre and it’s as true in the video game as it is in the comic or television show.
The episodes are, so far, universally great and the writing is probably as good as you’ll find in any video game. However, where this game really shines is how it tracks every decision you make and carries them across through each episode.
Choices you make in the first episode may have significant ramifications in the third or fourth and can influence how characters interact with you.
I am struggling to remember a character in a video game I have felt more connected to than Clementine, the young girl you find hiding out in the tree house in her back yard. You become her friend and protector and I found myself getting anxious when it came to making decisions that might put her in danger.
It’s a great accomplishment but only one of the many reasons why you need to play this game.
An honourable mention should go to Amnesia: The Dark Descent. I’ve never played the game so I can’t say much about it but by all accounts it’s meant to be one of the scariest video games out there. So give it a whirl if you’re after some serious scares.
That about wraps it up for my Halloween gaming recommendations. Oh and if you were wondering, no it’s not just a happy accident most of these games are currently crazy cheap in Steam‘s holiday sale so there’s really no excuse for not playing at least one of them.
Go out and play some (spooky) games, guys.