With Halloween now upon, we have put together a list of 13 must play horror games for Halloween 2013. The following games are in no particular order, just 13 titles we think every gamer should play ,so if you find that trick or treating has kind of lost its allure, why not stay in and give yourself a real scare with any one of these fear-inducing nasties.
Alan Wake (2010) Remedy Entertainment
Technically billed as a psychological thriller, Alan Wake walks that fine line between being a cinematic action game and a genuinely terrifying experience. Built as a clear homage to the legendary Stephen King, you play as Alan Wake, a tormented writer who travels to the sleepy town of Bright Falls with hopes of trying to overcome the two year writers block he has been suffering under. After a series of mysterious events that culminate with your wife disappearing, you are left alone to explore this nightmare with only a torch to guide you. The light is your friend- it protects you from the darkness and in Bright Falls the darkness is more than just a little bit scary- it actually wants to kill you!
At the time of its release Alan Wake was praised for its flawless pacing, it’s stunning visuals and for just basically redefining the way in which developers could tell a story. If you never got the chance to check this one out, now is the perfect time to get your nostalgia on and join the conversation.
Resident Evil 6 (2012) Capcom
It’s no secret that in recent years Resident Evil has basically devolved from the very game that defined the survival horror genre to the absolute epitome of an action adventure blockbuster. We could sit here all day arguing about each of the individual virtues of the series, but instead I want you to put all that to one side and just get some hands on time with Leon and Helena’s campaign in Resident Evil 6. A kind of strange hybrid between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, Leon and Helena’s campaign was one of the best things about the latest instalment as the game made it impossible to just run and gun your way through it because anyone who did that would very quickly find themselves out of ammo. Resident Evil 6 carefully considers how it wants you to engage with the enemy and then reflected that within the level design, the tight spaces and foggy graveyards reduce the amount of time between seeing the enemy and being eaten by it. It really reminded me of the kind of fear that used to surge through me trying to navigate my way around a mansion with those preposterous camera angles in the first Resident Evil. Still not the survival horror experience that everyone seems go on about, but a fantastic game that deserves a lot of love this time of year.
What makes Condemned so great is that it doesn’t rely on mythical creatures or fantastical other worldly demons for its scares. No, Condemned grounds itself firmly in our own reality and it makes it seem almost pointless to be scared of some supernatural being when confronted with the very real possibility of having your head caved in at any given second. The decaying husk that is Metro is made all the more terrifying because you know that places like this exist in real life, and like your classic home invasion movie, Condemned takes what’s familiar to you and adds a sick malevolent twist to it, so the city that could just as easily be your own is now a place of nightmares.
Aside from the late game addition of “The Hate,” a man-like creature responsible for the madness that grips the city Condemned is so realistically brutal that its makes for one of the most frightening experiences you can play on a console. It’s worth playing it just for the mannequin level on its own! Picture the scene, you’re walking through an abandoned shopping mall, it’s fairly dark and fairly creepy. The only way you can see is with the flashlight that you currently have gripped in your left hand. Suddenly you see five mannequins all standing off in the distance, no biggie right? Flash of white light and suddenly you’re now surrounded by said mannequins and your housemates burst into your room asking what’s happened: they heard a scream. If you never actually got around to playing Condemned you can probably walk into your local GameStop today, hand the cashier a dollar and still expect to get some change. You might even be able to get the sequel as well, you have no excuse not to!
F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon (2005) Monolith Productions
Of all the games in this collection F.E.A.R. is perhaps the most traditional example of what one might expect to see when playing a horror game. The shooting is tight and the AI is smart, but it’s not the gameplay that will have you curled up in a ball, gently rocking yourself backwards and forwards: it’s Alma! If horror movies have taught us anything, it’s that little girls are scary. Especially scary are little psychic girls with long dark hair that covers their faces who can just summon demon fire and walk through walls torturing you as and when they please! Its Alma’s sudden, often violent appearances that make progressing through the levels so tortuous. Every time she shows up you just freeze, you’re totally rooted to the spot and you just start praying that she goes off and bothers some other Point Man in somebody else’s game. Worse still is when she shows up and then stands there! It doesn’t bode particularly well for your future, but it’s a genuine relief when she starts mass melting the company soldiers because at least she isn’t focused on you! F.E.A.R., F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin and F.3.A.R are three must play horror games and with Halloween now upon us it’s the perfect time to switch off the lights and begin cursing the name of Alma.
Gone Home (2013) The Fulbright Company
It’s actually really hard to describe this game without accidentally spoiling what it is about it that makes Gone Home such a winner. Developed by the core team that worked on the Minerva’s Den DLC for BioShock 2, Gone Home is a first person interactive story that re-defines environmental storytelling and challenges all the modern conventions of what a game needs to be to be a success.
What Gone Home attempts to capture is that feeling from when you were a child and you would go downstairs and suddenly be overcome with how foreign and unwelcoming your own home is during the night. This sense that something is wrong, but what? Gone Home exists purely within this mindset, something is wrong, but what? After finding a short note telling you not to go looking for answers as to why you sister is gone, your natural response is of course curiosity, and it’s that curiosity that drives the game forward- it’s the desire to know more. Gone Home is not an outwardly horrific game, but it exists 100% within the uncanny valley and to have so effectively encapsulated the whole experience within that bracket makes it extremely unnerving to play; it’s a little slice of special that must be played to be appreciated.
Deadlight (2012) Tequila Works
At first glance Deadlight may not seem like an obvious contender for one of Halloween’s must play video games, but this little gem is well worth investing some time in. If not for its awesome cut scenes then for the amazing art style within the game itself. Set in Seattle in 1986, Deadlight follows Randall Wayne, a park ranger from Canada who is desperately trying to find his wife Shannon and his daughter Lydia in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. Don’t be deceived by the seemingly simple side scrolling aspect of the gameplay, Deadlight features an emotional story, a fantastic ending, a robust combat system and a highly evolved sense of atmosphere that makes it one of the best Xbox Live Arcade titles to have been released in many years. Your first playthrough should only take you about six hours to complete and my god is it worth it because once you unlock nightmare mode you unlock the truth and it’s here that Deadlight really ups its game and earns its place on our must play horror games for Halloween 2013 list.
Slender: The Eight Pages (2012) Parsec Productions
Slender is very much the Blair Witch Project of the gaming world. Its no frills, no budget approach means that the end product is quite simply terror in its purest form; concentrated horror juice if you will. With no real narrative to speak of, Slender strips away all your expectations of modern gaming and just leaves you with one simple objective: collect these eight pages. It seems simple enough, but the end result is an intense few minutes of gameplay that will culminate with you running through the woods screaming like a little girl, desperately wishing you were playing Fluffy Bear’s Adventures in Happy Town. The most twisted aspect of this whole experience is the cyclic nature of playing it. No sooner than the faceless creep catches up with you do you scream, return to the main menu and do it all over again. Available as a free download from ParsecProductions.net Slender is the perfect way kick your Halloween celebrations up a gear and scare the pants off yourself in the mean time.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010) Frictional Games
Often billed as one of the scariest games of all time, Frictional Games’ first person survival horror experience Amnesia: The Dark Descent is definitely one of this Halloween’s must play games because it has provided the internet with some of the most amazing let’s play videos ever to hit the web. Players from all around the world whimpering like little girls, hiding behind book cases hoping beyond hope that that creature just decides to wander off and check some other random store room. What on earth could cause this erratic kind of behaviour I hear you cry? Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
At its core, Amnesia is incredibly atmospheric. It has flawless sound design and near perfect pacing. The game does rely a little too heavily on the player’s confusion and their general fear of the unknown, but it’s still one of the most terrifying games ever to be created and just playing it will make any given Wednesday the most terrifying night of the week, so playing it at Halloween… It almost doesn’t bear thinking about.
BioShock (2007) Irrational Games
Have you ever experienced a more surreal opening 30 minutes in a video game? Have you ever explored a world more captivating than Rapture? Have you ever felt more betrayed than when Atlas actually reveals himself to be Fontain? Where does one even begin when talking about the critically acclaimed multi award winning BioShock?
Well I suppose if the idea of a secret dystopian underwater city with a 1960’s decor filled to the brim with blood thirsty wrench wielding ADAM crazed splicer’s isn’t quite your thing then there’s no hope for you. The story behind the original BioShock was recently blown apart by the revelation of the possibilities within BioShock: Infinite and with each subsequent release the world that Irrational created only seems to become stronger. Perhaps most famous for the Big Daddies, BioShock has a fantastic combat system, super smart enemy AI and more than its fair share of scary moments. It’s been six years since its original release, but why not go back and replay it this Halloween? You can finally get that Brass Balls achievement like you always said you would.
After receiving just over five years of continuous praise it’s quite hard to find something new to say about this modern classic beyond the fact that for a while Dead Space appeared to have climbed the mountain and become the new survival horror franchise against which all other series were measured. Of the three instalments, the first Dead Space is still one of the finest examples of survival horror that we’ve ever seen. It has the look, it has the feel, it has all the right ingredients for genuine terror and its overall pacing is up there with the best of ’em.
Even now the USG Ishimura is still one of the most terrifying environments you could ever find yourself trapped within because not only do you have to explore most of the ship in near total darkness, but the fact that the whole place is crawling with the tortured, mutated and reanimated corpses of what used to be the crew doesn’t exactly do anything to help ease the tension. On top of the many perfectly timed scare-you-out-of-your-skin moments, there’s this constant underlying sense of unease that is woven throughout every single aspect of the gameplay. Dead Space is one of the truly stand out games from this whole generation so why not take the opportunity and go back to where it all began and enjoy a jolly necromorph-infused Halloween gaming session this coming Thursday!
The Walking Dead (2012) Telltale Games
Winner of multiple Game of the Year awards, Telltale’s The Walking Dead tells the story of Lee and Clementine, an unlikely duo thrown together in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. The only way I can think to explain how pivotal this game is to continued development of our great industry is with a little story. SPOILERS AHEAD! I was having an informal conversation with a film critic over the summer and he said to me that, in short, until video games can make people cry they will never be accepted as art; we were discussing at length our ideas on the evolution of art going forward into the digital age, hence his sadly misinformed original statement. My response was simply The Walking Dead. When he asked me what I meant, I told him to go online and buy episode one of Telltale’s The Walking Dead and to email me once he finished it. When I didn’t hear from him for a couple of days I assumed he hadn’t bothered with it and that instead he would just remain in his blissfully ignorant state for many more years to come. I received an email from him about a month after first talking to him saying he had just finished episode five and had literally done them in two back to back sessions. He confessed that he was a wreck from the second Clementine was reunited with her parents and went on to say that after two days of trying he still could not think of a character he felt more connected to than Lee. I asked if this changed how he felt about video games being classified as art and he said that he had already lent his disc to two of his friends in an effort to educate them in the error of their ways. The Walking Dead is not a must play game at Halloween, it’s a must play game on any day that ends with a Y.
Left 4 Dead (2008) Turtle Rock Studios / Valve Corporation / Certain Affinity
Left 4 Dead is one of the finest examples of player-orientated game design the world has ever seen. It’s built around the idea of giving players exactly what they will need to survive and then abandoning them deep behind enemy lines. The sense of camaraderie created when facing the overwhelming odds of Left 4 Dead is one of the many reasons that the co-op feature is so superior when compared to other co-op based shooters. The sudden realisation that you will actually need your friends in order to survive might come as a bit of a surprise after you start to prioritize their lives over killing zombies within about 30 seconds of playing. Left 4 Dead will have you charging through your enemy with a defibrillator in hand, hell bent on saving your downed teammate as the other two fight tooth and nail to hold back the horde. They’re back in the game, but it’s over. There are just too many zombies and not enough ammunition; as you accept your fate and prepare to make one hell of a last stand you suddenly see an opening and together all four of you dive into the safe room and collapse with delight as the ravenous zombies pile up against the door outside. Left 4 Dead is packed wall-to-wall with these moments and there is no doubt that it has given us some of the finest moments of non-scripted gameplay in the history of gaming. For this reason and many more, Halloween is the perfect time to get some friends over and get back into the world of Left 4 Dead!
The Last of Us (2013) Naughty Dog
If you still haven’t had the chance to check out Naughty Dog’s latest masterpiece, then now is the time to do it; now is the time to experience not just a fantastically well-developed horror story, but to be a part of one of the greatest games of this current generation. The Last of Us boldly steps outside the realm of expectation and Naughty Dog doesn’t just rely on the pre-defined conventions of the genre, they set out to find stylish new ways to push you over the edge and fill you with that exquisite taste of terror.
There are no particularly scary moments, no scripted events designed to make you jump out of your skin, it’s just wall to wall panic and paranoia because no matter where you are, no matter how quiet it may seem, you are never safe. You are never far from that dreaded guttural rasp of a clicker, the inquisitive eyes of a lone survivor or worst of all the reality of your current situation. Due to the linearly cinematic nature of the game I find myself unable to say much more for fear of robbing any unsuspecting player of the many eye opening or mind blowing moments they are yet to see. For anyone still reading this who has not yet bore witness to the trials of one man and a girl I implore you to stop reading and start playing.
Personally The Last of Us is my go to Halloween title as I aim to finally complete my survivor playthrough, but what games will you be playing this Halloween? Let us know in the comments below- we’d love to hear from you.
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