Friday, October 14, 2016

Spooktified: Top 10 Horror Games For This Halloween Season (In No Particular Order)

We’ve finally reached the most spooktacular time of year. Everyone's ready for the Halloween season, though this year has kind of felt like one long Halloween celebration. There seem to be strange clowns everywhere you look.

If you enjoy horror as much as we do then you've probably conjured up your horror movies marathon list for the month. But for those of you who are gamers, we’ve come up with a list of games to bring some fright that is sure to delight.

Dead Space 

This is an obvious choice, and if you've read other top 10 horror game articles, this title is generally toward the top. It deserves top 10 in our hearts for several reasons. You play as Isaac Clarke, the most unlucky space engineer to ever wield a plasma cutter, as he joins a search and rescue team responding to a distress signal from a mining ship. Within, Isaac finds the definition of terror.

The atmosphere is a winning factor for Dead Space, practically being a character in its own right. Much like the ship Nostromo from Alien, the game takes place mostly on the USG Ishimura, a mining vessel anchored above a planet rich in resources. They crack the planet and discover that it's filled to the brim with aliens right out of John Carpenter's The Thing. So of course the ship's crew goes bananas and everything goes wrong. The ship is dark, dank, and all around creepy. Its iconic hallways and hubs will keep you on your toes at all times. The distant sounds the Ishimura makes will have you questioning your sanity as you trek through the scariest space ship in pop culture.

The story takes direct inspiration from films like Alien and The Thing in terms of monster and level design, but that's more of an homage to classic Sci-Fi horror. Beyond that, it really stands out as an original powerhouse in the genre. It deals with themes of grief and loss that is handled intricately throughout the story’s progression. Isaac himself is a great character, despite never speaking a word of dialogue. He just grunts and yells when bad things happen to
him (like all the time), but you understand his goal and why he's there. Just play the game and be surprised by its jump scares and originality.

Until Dawn

When you first watch the trailer or hear someone talking about Until Dawn, the impression is that it's a tropey and cliche horror game about stupid teens that get stuck at a ski lodge and get killed a lot. I mean, that's classic 80's horror, am I right? But what if you could control the destiny of these stupid teens (I can't stress the stupid enough), what if you could also decide who dies, who lives, and what their relationships look like?

Until Dawn is about more than just cliche horror. It starts there, but as the game progresses it becomes so much more. It takes that trope and flips it on its head. Each twist and turn is inventive and more brilliant than the last. Not all is what it seems at this ski lodge. It could have been spun any way really, but the creators decided to honor those old horror movies, then create something unforgettable. At the end of each chapter is a playable scene within a therapist's office. You play as an unknown character in first person perspective as the therapist tries to dig into your psyche and dissect your fears. At first you wonder what this all has to do with the teens at the ski lodge, but it eventually reveals itself in its subtleties. At that point, this game became a piece of art rather than just a fun horror experience (which it still is).

Every time you play the game, there are multiple possibilities for different characters and endings. What does this mean? It means you can screw with people's friendships. It means you can get people to distrust each other. It means you can make a stupid teen walk down a dark hallway that leads to their gruesome, gory, and totally awesome death (wow! What has this game turned me into?). Anyway, get your hands on Until Dawn before the Halloween season ends, or just get it whenever and make it Halloween all year round.

Condemned: Criminal Origins

Someone reading this just gave an internal, "YES!", as true horror game fans should. You have to go back to the Xbox 360 to play it, but it's well worth it. I'm aware of it's dated graphics, but don't condemn (haha) this one just yet. We're just gonna get into the nitty gritty of the story and scare tactics behind this wonderful, heart-pounding, stress inducing horror game classic.

You play as Ethan Thomas, a pretty cool cop in a pretty not-so-cool city that's running rampant with insane druggies and the criminally insane. Basically Gotham without Batman. In this world, these criminals are infecting every corner of the city and need to be stopped. There's a psychological/supernatural element in the game as well, but I'm gonna leave that for you to see for yourself. This is where the title of the game comes in. You have to go into condemned buildings that are populated by some of the scariest, mentally unstable people you'll ever see in a game. Armed with a pistol, you must search these creepy buildings from top to bottom. The worst, or best, part? These criminals are unpredictable. They run on a fairly intelligent AI system that hides, attacks, and ambushes without warning.

"But what happens when I run out of ammo?" Well let me tell you that for a majority of the game blunt weapons scattered about are all you’ll have to defend yourself. This is why the game is so terrifying. It forces you to get up close and personal with these crazies. And they do not look like normal people. Prepare yourself when playing this game by wearing diapers and cuddling with your favorite blanky, because this terrifying entry in our horror list will deliver the scares relentlessly. Good luck.


This came out around the same time as Condemned, so again do not judge this one by its graphics, but judge it by how much it makes you want to cry into a pillow for hours. For a good portion of the game, you're fighting a band of mercs/soldiers/whatever you want to call them with a variety of firearms. This part is fun. The combat and gunplay is addictive and versatile, which could have made it an excellent shooter...if it wasn't for the paranormal element that makes your firearms entirely useless against one of your main foes, a little girl named Alma. Who is Alma? She's terrible. She's creepy. She's devastatingly powerful. Not getting into the story elements as I'm afraid to spoil things, Alma is the epitome of scary ghost girls. She crawls at you. She runs at you. She stands behind you. She takes your entire clip without blinking (trust me, at some point you will unload your whole magazine on her when she shows up unexpectedly). I promise a good time with this game, and once you finish go grab the sequel as well and the additional story, F.E.A.R. Files. Oh, and don't forget the diapers.

Fatal Frame Series

I'm not going to peg just one Fatal Frame installment as the best or the one you should try. Whichever one you have access to, go ahead and play it. They're all worthy of your attention in some way, shape, or form. Many fans will tell you that Fatal Frame 2 is perfect, but the others have credibility too. What I'm trying to say here is that all of them will scare the pee out of you. Just think, Japanese paranormal horror where you have no way to defend yourself except with a camera that exorcises spirits. Creepy right? The best part about the game? It's 3rd person until you have to whip out that camera to fight ghosts, which means the game has a lot of ways to scare you into greying early. The developers and creators were original in the numerous ways it spooks the players. Sometimes it's easy to spot a ghost in third person, then just go to first and kill them, but in some cases, they force you to get up close and personal with something. This means that some spirits might not appear or change until you're in camera mode. This is where Fatal Frame stands out amongst the rest. It creates a heavy sense of dread and unpredictability that will make any horror game champion anxious. Best way to play these games? By yourself in a dark room.

Resident Evil Series

Now there are some games within this series that I would avoid altogether, but for the most part, this franchise is all around solid. The first installment of the series is probably the best one to start with, though it's not necessary, and it's much more accessible now that it's been digitally re-released for current consoles. Yes, these games are about zombies, but it remains fresh as each new generation changes the formula just enough. Resident Evil 4 changed the gameplay and now Resident Evil 7 is doing the same, making it 1st person. The series starts out dealing with the T-Virus, a weaponized chemical that turns people into zombies and brings about the ruin of Raccoon City. Each game gives you the control of different characters and takes them across the world, fighting various enemies and creatures. This franchise is a classic that every horror game fan must experience at some point.

The Forest 

Now, this game is not completely finished, but it is playable. You can download this one from Steam, just make sure your PC can run it before hand. The Forest is a dynamic gaming experience that changes every time you play as the sentient AI hunts you down in different ways. The story is pretty basic. You're on a plane. The plane crashes. You survive. You're on a forested island inhabited by agile cannibals that want to eat your face for dinner. What's great is the level of freedom it gives you and the in depth creation system. Once you get off the plane, it's your job to survive. You must eat. You must drink. You must find or build shelter so you don't die of hypothermia. But most importantly, you must make weapons to defend yourself from the locals. To do this, you have to decide what things are most important to you. Is it shelter? Is it making traps? Is it exploring the island and finding a way off? All of these things have their importance, but you have to be the one that prioritizes. What's great is that if you want a shelter, you gotta cut down trees. If you wanna eat. You gotta make weapons to hunt. The Forest is only single player, but is a great game to play with others. When one person dies, trade off and see if someone else can last longer. It's a fun experience worth checking out.

Silent Hill Series

This series goes way back and has had a lot of press recently as the most recent entry was cancelled (sad face), but you can go back and play the earlier titles that made the series so iconic and justified two movies. Imagine waking up in a small town, filled with eerie fog, empty streets, and really messed up looking creatures. Not to mention a dude with a pyramid on his head and can kill you in the blink of an eye. There's not much to say about the series, as it's fairly self-explanatory and the key story elements need to be experienced rather than read. The atmosphere is what really wins this one a spot on our list as well as the character design. Games within the series to note are Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 4: The Room.

Layers of Fear 

Also a title on Steam, this game explores the horrors of the mansion of a painter and the struggles that he goes through. There's something not right at the start of the game as you begin to piece together this dude's life and his problems, eventually discovering a terrible reality that makes you question your own sanity. The themes of this game are well developed and threaded throughout, which deal a lot in self-doubt and condemnation. In terms of the scare factors here, you are plagued with supernatural terrors that inhabit this mansion, following you into each room. After having played it I was honestly impressed by its innovation, almost acting like its own piece of art. Layers of Fear has everything horror fans want, including a deep, dark atmosphere, tortured characters and creepy paranormal happenings. This one is worth the download.


Playable trailer. That's what that stands for. That's all it stands for. Not scary, right? Well, about that. This was the playable trailer for the coming Silent Hill game that never got released which was in development by Kojima Studios with Guillermo Del Toro attached. It would have been published by Konami. Of course by now we all know what happened and Kojima is doing his own thing, but aren't we all just a little sad that this game never got released? Yes. The answer is yes. Anyway, the playable trailer had little to do with the actual game, but was something to hold off the master horror fans for some time. You play as a nameless character in the first person who wakes up in a mysterious house. As you progress through it though, you realize you are on an endless loop. You go through the door at the end of the hall and end up back at the beginning, but every time you start fresh, the horror increases. This might mean the environment changes or you hear something new or you see something new. Oh, did I mention there's the spirit of a dead woman haunting you as you trek through the house? Yeah. Sometimes she'll show up behind you. Sometimes in front. It's unpredictable as she's an AI that can spawn in different places at different times. The atmosphere, the level design, character design and creep factor all make this playable trailer one of the most terrifying horror experiences you'll ever have. Unfortunately, this demo has been permanently taken off of the store and can no longer be downloaded, but there are some out there who still have it on their console. If you know someone who has it, hit them up and spend Halloween night crying yourself to sleep with this game.

If you have other titles that you play during the Halloween season, we'd love to hear about the games that keep you up at night.

By David White

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