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5 insanely frightening games you need to play over Halloween

These games will make you shit your pants.

Resident evil 2
Image: Capcom

A good horror video game can be an incredibly affecting experience. The fact that they’re interactive, rather than passive like a movie, means that the fear that developers are trying to convey feels much more personal. You are the main protagonist being chased down the hall. You are the underpowered subject of a terrifying monster’s gaze. And it’s so easy to get swept up in the fear and excitement when it’s all happening to you.

There’s no better time to play a scary game than over Halloween either. Spooky season has this innate power to make something a little bit creepy feel completely and utterly terrifying. So, to celebrate that fact, I’ve come up with a list of games that are well worth playing in the run-up to October 31.

Alien Isolation

Not only is Alien Isolation one of the best horror titles of all time, but it’s also one of the best pure gameplay experiences of the last generation. You play as Ellen Ripley’s daughter, Amanda, and are tasked with exploring a deserted space station. Well, I say deserted. In reality, there are a couple of hostile humans to battle and scores of angry androids to outsmart. Oh, and the small matter of a xenomorph to contend with.

From start to finish, this sublime game perfectly captured an overwhelming feeling of loneliness and helplessness. You’re not an unstoppable killing machine. Running into a room and firing off a full pistol clip will always end in your death. The only way to progress is to hide in lockers or under tables, then try to create a diversion and slip past your attackers undetected. It’s a real game of cat and mouse, and for once, you’re the mouse.

System Shock 2

If you’re not into standing in a locker pissing your pants while hoping an alien doesn’t lay eggs in you, maybe the idea of following a malevolent AI’s orders is more to your taste? System Shock 2 is a stunning example of the creativity that defined the late ‘90s, and it’s a crime that it never got more attention. It combines ARPG mechanics with survival horror elements to create a stunning feeling of tension that stretches from start to finish.

Brutal enemies, deteriorating weapons, and outstanding sound direction all added to the world Looking Glass Games were trying to create, ensuring it’s creepy without descending into overused horror tropes. The open-ended upgrade system is nigh-on perfect too. It allowed you to develop your character however you liked while still leaving you wondering if you made the right choice.

Was melee really the way to go? Or should you have put more points into psychic powers? And that’s is all without mentioning SHODAN, the terrifying AI who would even GLaDOS would worry is a little too hostile. Influencing Prey, Dead Space, and of course, Bioshock, if you like any of those titles, you owe it to yourself to try System Shock 2.

The Evil Within

The Evil Within was directed by a video game horror genius, Shinji Mikami. He was the director for Resident Evil 1, 3 and 4, and brought the underrated Dino Crisis series to life. With that kind of pedigree, it’s no wonder that this game has some of the most horrific imagery Imaginable, as well as an onslaught of ridiculously tense scenes to put yourself through.

Your instincts of fight or flight will be pushed to the limits as you battle hyper-aggressive zombies, multi-limbed freaks of nature, invisible enemies, and so much more. When it’s not throwing heart-racing chase sequences your way, The Evil Within revels in nerve-wracking set-pieces where the only way to survive is to sneak around and hope you’re not spotted. Looking for a real challenge? Try playing on the one-hit-kill AKUMU mode. Just don’t blame me if your pad ends up broken.

Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly

Fatal Frame is a cult-hit for many reasons. It delved into Japanese horror elements to create a defined personality that films like The Ring would be proud of. This particular entry in the series, subtitled Crimson Butterfly, sees a pair of young sisters exploring a haunted village deep in the woods. So you already know it’s going to be creepy as hell.

The Camera Obscura is your only weapon, and it’s the way that it’s used that really makes this title an experience unlike anything else. The only way to damage and defeat ghosts is to raise the viewfinder to your character’s face.

However, doing this vastly reduces your movement and switches the perspective from third to first-person. This fantastic risk/reward mechanic leads to tons of heart-stopping moments as you barely survive the spiritual encounters. It’s a shame this series hasn’t been seen since 2015’s Wii U release, Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, as it’s ripe for scares.

Doki Doki Literature Club!

  • Platforms: Windows, Linux, Mac OS

I’m genuinely not trolling here. Beneath the cute artwork and visual novel design lies a truly aggressive game that delves into surrealism, metafiction, and plenty of massively affecting concepts. This isn’t about jump scares. This is more cerebral. It’s about making you question exactly what you’re playing. To talk about it too much would give away some of its cleverest concepts but rest assured that you’ll be thinking about it for days afterward.

This is a genuinely heavy title that does some startlingly unique things to get under your skin. The rest of this list may play on classic horror concepts. Evil AI, aliens, ghosts. DDLC doesn’t need any of that. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d avoided this game in the past because of the way it looks. If this is something you’ve done, then it might be worth giving it a second chance.

Honestly, the hardest part of writing this list was whittling it down to just five distinctive games that all deserve attention for different reasons. I also really wanted to include Guillermo del Toro and Hideo Kojima’s P.T… Still, I had to leave it off because a) it’s not a full game, and b) unless you’re willing to go to extreme lengths, it’s almost impossible to download now.

Four of these titles are also easy to get your hands on, so there’s no real reason to avoid picking one or two up, turning the lights off, and spending a whole night seeing what they all have to offer.

Have any thoughts on this list? Did we miss anything? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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A gamer since I've been able to hold a controller, I can usually be found with a PlayStation, Xbox or Switch controller in my hand.

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