Spooktober is upon us, as it always is, with the celebration of darkness, the feast of ghosts, the ritual of the monstrous.
Halloween has long since evolved from its “one evening/night a year” into a full-month commitment, and it’s a good thing, because the perfect video games to play on Halloween can now be played all month long!! This is not the time to play something upbeat and cheerful, after all, nor is it a time to play something that cares about drab realism.
Instead, let’s take a step sideways into the twilight zone, and see which adrenaline-pumping game is going to scare you this October.
|Layers of Fear||2023-06-15||Horror||Bloober Team||51%|
|Dead Space Remake||2023-01-27||Shooter-horror||Motive Studios||61%|
|Alan Wake 2||2023-10-27||Horror-shooter||Remedy Entertainment|
|Alan Wake||2012-02-16||Adventure||Remedy Entertainment||78%|
|Amnesia: The Dark Descent||2010-09-08||Adventure||Frictional Games||77%|
|Alien Isolation||2014-10-06||Action & Shooter||Creative Assembly||80%|
|Cult of the Lamb||2022-08-11||Adventure||Massive Monster||20%|
|Little Nightmares Complete Edition||2017-04-27||Adventure||Tarsier Studios||65%|
|Back 4 Blood||2021-10-12||Online FPS||Turtle Rock Studios||64%|
|Phasmophobia||2020-09-18||Horror Multiplayer||Kinetic Games|
|Darkwood||2017-07-17||Horror Multiplayer||Kinetic Games||73%|
|Dead By Daylight||2016-06-14||Adventure||Behaviour Digital Inc.||42%|
|Dead Space||2008-10-20||Adventure||EA Redwood Shores||79%|
|Dead Space 2||2011-01-27||Horror||Visceral Games||45%|
|Dead Space 3||2013-02-08||Adventure||Visceral Games||34%|
|Evil Dead: The Game||2022-05-13||Shooter||Saber Interactive||81%|
|Layers Of Fear||2016-02-15||Adventure||Bloober Team SA||77%|
|Layers Of Fear 2||2019-05-28||Adventure||Bloober Team SA||38%|
|Metro Redux Bundle||2014-08-27||Horror||4A GAMES||83%|
|Metro Exodus | Gold Edition||2019-02-22||Action||4A GAMES||85%|
|Outlast 2||2017-04-25||Adventure||Red Barrels||89%|
|Resident Evil 7||2017-01-23||Horror||CAPCOM CO., LTD.||83%|
|Resident Evil 8 Village||2021-05-07||Horror||CAPCOM CO., LTD.||79%|
|Silent Hill Homecoming||2009-03-02||Adventure||Double Helix Games||88%|
|The Evil Within||2014-10-14||Adventure||Tango Gameworks||86%|
|The Evil Within 2||2017-10-13||Adventure||Tango Gameworks||92%|
|The Dark Pictures Anthology Man Of Medan||2019-08-30||Interactive drama||Supermassive Games||71%|
|The Dark Pictures Anthology Little Hope||2020-10-30||Interactive drama||Supermassive Games||67%|
|The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes||2021-10-22||Interactive drama||Supermassive Games||84%|
|The Quarry||2022-06-10||Interactive drama||Supermassive Games||87%|
Alan Wake 2
After over a decade, broken only by a cameo in Control, Alan Wake returns with a new horrific story to spin.
This time the unluckiest writer in video games tries to escape from the supernatural prison he’s been in for years. His attempts at writing himself free catch an FBI agent Saga Anderson, who came to Bright Falls to investigate a series of weird murders.
Indeed, Alan Wake 2 has two parallel storylines, and you can switch from one character to the other between chapters as you please. Another new features are the dialogue trees and Saga’s mental detective board, which do a solid job investing players in the agent’s investigation. Will Alan be free of the Dark Presence after so many years? Only one way for you to find out.
Dead Space Remake
It’s been a long while since 2008’s Dead Space, and while the atmosphere and story have lost none of their sheen, the game could use a few updates for the modern tech.
Which is what 2023’s Dead Space Remake provided. New graphics, new audio design, and polished up moment-to-moment gameplay, including tweaked progression and a restructured environment.
The protagonist, Issac Clarke also got a voice, provided by the actor who voiced in in DS2 and 3, but the story remains the same. You arrive at a mining spaceship to investigate it going silent, and quickly discover it’s been overrun by disgusting monsters composed of warped dead bodies. Now you have to survive, stop these abominations, and find your girlfriend before it’s too late.
Layers of Fear (2023)
If you’ve slept on both Bloober Team’s Layers of Fear games until recently, good news, 2023 saw the release of the new, cool Layers of Fear.
It not only remakes the previous games, including their DLCs, but also provides a new framing device and a new story. The Painter in his mansion and the Actor on a cruise ship are now joined by the Writer exploring a remote lighthouse.
Layers of Fear remake still skillfully navigates the lines between reality, supernatural events, and the degenerating mental states of the player characters. Between new content (including the new DLC for The Painter’s story) and new technology, the 2023 edition of Layers of Fear is an excellent horror experience which will have you question your own senses at times.
Evil Dead: the Game
The Evil Dead series has always refused labels, skillfully maneuvering between horror, comedy, and action.
The new game coming from Saber Interactive keeps that tradition alive quite well! Evil Dead: the Game is an asymmetrical multiplayer game at heart, pitting a few human survivors (including Ash, obviously) against Kandarian Demons and their dreadful abilities.
In a manner similar to titles like Dead by Daylight or Friday 13th, Evil Dead: the Game gives the survivors a complex goal to accomplish and a few abilities to help them along, while the Demons just have to gorge themselves on souls and wreak havoc. The game has the same over-the-top violence, designs, and Bruce Campbell’s voice to bring back the vibe of the cult classic horror movies.
|Developer:||Acid Wizard Studio|
Humanity has always known that forests are spooky, and Darkwood proves that Eastern European forests are the spookiest.
Especially when they come out of nowhere and cause weird mutations and visions. Although Darkwood uses a rarely seen top-down perspective, its use of lines of sight and excellent sound design make it just as nerve-wracking as immersive FPP horrors./
The game is mostly open-world, leaving you free to roam the area available in the given chapter. It also puts “survival” in survival horror, as the day/night cycle has the creepiest monsters appearing at night to chew your face off. The plot itself is just as weird as the creatures you encounter, and the game several endings include the fates of NPCs you’ve encountered and interacted with.
The Quarry was created by the Supermassive Games, but is separate from the developer’s ongoig The Dark Pictures Anthology.
That gives us a loophole we can exploit to plug another cinematic, choice-driven, horror story of the kind of Supermassive can deliver. The Quarry is a tale about a few camp counsellors who parties too hard despite stern warnings of the camp owner.
As usual in games of this developer, the cast is quite large, and you’ll spend time with each character. Many decision may end up killing one of the protagonists, others might have other unforeseen consequences. If you’re into werewolves this Halloween season, then The Quarry should give you a lot of great stuff to bite into.
Cult of the Lamb
Cult of the Lamb is one of the few games on the list mixing horror with a hearty sense of humour.
Here, it means being the head of a blood cult to a mysterious potentially Lovecraftian deity… in a setting populated by anthropomorphic woodland animals. It’s a curious mix, and then we sprinkle in roguelike for good measure and get a clear contender for a horror GotY of 2022.
Over the course of the game you’ll make sacrifices to receive eldritch boons, assign assembled cultists to worship duties, and manage the village. You’ll also conduct roguelike “crusades” into regions neighboring your temple, hoping to find new resources and expand your influence. Cult of the Lamb’s cute aesthetic hides compelling, deep gameplay and obscured its rather dark theme.
Imagine a worldwide calamity forcing people to stay inside to minimize the risk of falling dangerously ill.
A horror, isn’t it? The author of the Metro series, and the developers of its video game adaptations, certainly agree. It’s set mostly in the tunnels of Moscow Metro used years before as bunkers against nuclear strikes which ravaged the world.
The horror content is probably the highest in Metro: 2033 (refreshed as Metro: Redux), which is very claustrophobic, with weird creatures lurking in the tunnels, overwhelming darkness, and very limited resources. Metro received two sequels, Last Light which keeps the key elements of 2033, and Exodus, which boldly leaves the tunnels and explores the world a lot more.
Alan Wake was kind of unexpected, coming from the studio responsible for the Max Payne brand, but was nevertheless a great horror story. It followed a thriller author trying to recharge during a vacation in a small town, but instead having to face weird events related to a novel he hasn’t yet written. As in many a good horror, the border between reality and nightmare is very blurry.
The game is especially worth attention for it’s fantastic use of light as both mood-setting graphical achievement, and a proper gameplay element, necessary to defeat hostile monsters emerging from the omnipresent darkness. Inspired in a huge way by works of Stephen King, Alan Wake makes full use of having a writer as the protagonist, and the act of writing as the theme.
Although later instalments of the franchise leaned toward the action genre, the original Alien was a horror movie through and through. With that in mind Creative Assembly went about designing Alien: Isolation as a horror game, and succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. And it has a strong connection to the movies thanks to Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda acting as the protagonist.
The xenomorph of Alien: Isolation is much closer to the terrifying presence of the first movie than to swarming cannon fodder of the fourth. Hiding from it and keeping all sounds down is crucial to survival, but due to the game’s hostile haywire androids it might not always be possible. It was a breath of fresh air for Alien-based video games.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Have you ever woken up in a dilapidated castle with a splitting headache and no recollection of what happened recently? Because Amnesia’s protagonist Daniel has, and trying to piece back his past is as important as exploring the dusty corridors and cobweb-covered rooms of the Gothic castle. And it’s not easy, what with monsters threatening his life, and his sanity degrading.
Amnesia is one of many first-person perspective horror games, not the first by a long shot, but one that helped usher this approach into modern gaming. It also gleefully didn’t give the protagonist any weapon, forcing him to hide and avoid danger rather than face it bullet-first. And it works like wonder, making Amnesia a milestone for the FPP horror genre.
Although Dark Souls already had a, well, dark tone, Bloodborne dives head-first into horror tropes, with special mention to H.P. Lovecraft’s brand of scary stories. It loves to play with sanity, loves extradimensional terrors, and loves the dream theme possibly too much for its own good. And on top of that, the combat tends to take a lot out of you, being hard as it it.
In Bloodborne you play as someone referred to only as Hunter, and you find yourself in a city gone mad. Nightmarish creatures roam the streets, you have visions, and the things you eventually face are so mortifying, that the more you know about them, the worse it is for you, making you more vulnerable to going into a frenzied rage.
Dead by Daylight
|Developer:||Behaviour Digital Inc.|
There are few asymmetrical multiplayer games out there, and Dead by Daylight is one that is really, really good at selling its slasher movie atmosphere. The premise is simple: four Survivors need to escape from a locked arena before the Killer catches and sacrifices them to the Dark Entity that rules that pocket dimension and thrives on the hope of mortals.
Many survivors and killers are drawn from famous franchises, like Evil Dead, Halloween, or Saw, with perks reflecting their abilities in their respective series. The game itself also has a not insignificant amount of backstory and flavour text written, giving it context and lore. If you’d like to see how Ash Williams fares against a Freddy Krueger, Dead by Daylight gives you that chance.
|Developer:||EA Redwood Shores|
Do you know John Carpenter’s The Thing movie? Because if you do, you have some idea of what awaits you in Dead Space. You play as Isaac Clarke, an engineer called to make some repairs on a mining spaceship. The situation he encounters once on-site is far above his pay grade, and the monsters he finds are human corpses animated by some unseen intelligence.
The tight, cold environment provided by the spaceship’s interior, riddles with vents and other paces the Necromorphs can emerge from and attack Isaac make for a great horror location, proved years ago by the first Alien movie. And Isaac doesn’t have real weapons to help him, so he has to find creative uses for some of his tools and industrial devices he finds along the way to the end.
Arguably Ghost Master is the most Halloween game on the list, much more in tune with the general spooky-fun vibe of the occasion. What is Ghost Master? It’s essentially a strategy game tasking you with scaring the brains out of Sim-like people with the help of a band of creative and cheeky ghosts, wraiths, spectres, spirits, and other synonyms.
Each ghost has a specific anchor limiting where it can be summoned. It might need an electric device, or a source of water. Each ghost has a bunch of unique powers, ranging from the usual poltergeisting to illusions, to possession. There are also restless haunters bound to each location, which require some puzzle-solving to discover and free from their shackles (=recruit).
Inside is a pretty distinctive game. Kept largely in a black-and-white colour scale, this side-scrolling 2,5D puzzle-platform game made a splash when it came out in 2016, and to this day remains a pretty damned spooky title. It’s all in the mood and the animations of its child protagonist. It’s also in how easily the boy can die if you mess up.
Overall, Inside is a fantastic follow-up to this developer’s Limbo, which was kept in a similar style and atmosphere. Inside is probably even more disturbing throughout, even though it doesn’t have Limbo’s spider. Whether it’s something that happens to the boy, or things going on in the background, Inside is a dark, unsettling, and there is no good ending.
Layers of Fear
|Developer:||Bloober Team SA|
Layers of Fear was Bloober Team’s first attempt at a horror game. It turned out so well that the Polish studio seemingly made horrors their specialty, releasing several games in the genre after LoF. And it all began with a story about a painter returning to a his house to collect thoughts and complete his final piece. Everything seems to go wrong when he begins, however…
The game does a really good job creating an unsettling atmosphere, and discovering the past of its protagonist paints an uncomfortable, grim picture. The ultimate fate of the painter is up to the player, with three endings available, based on certain things done throughout the playthrough. There’s also a sequel DLC following the painter’s adult daughter.
One of the exemplars of the first-person perspective horror with non-combatant protagonist brand of video game horror. You play as an investigative journalist who got a leak about weird things happening in an old psychiatric hospital in Colorado. The only thing separating you from the horrors is your trusty camera, which you can use to see in the darkness a bit better…if you have enough battery life left.
Outlast’s story is satisfying, and the tension of being helpless against the crazed, experimented-upon patients of the hospital will keep you on your toes at all times. There’s also some other, darker presence, which you’ll discover whether you want to or not. And then you’ll see another side of the story with the Whistleblower DLC, about the guy who provided the leak you followed in the first place.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
|Developer:||CAPCOM CO., LTD.|
Resident Evil 7 was the series’ strong return to the survival horror genre, albeit with a more modern form. Instead of classic fixed came angles and tank controls, RE7 took notes from other popular horrors and took to the first-person perspective to deliver its scares. This shift, coupled with excellent graphics, and great overall design made Resident Evil 7 a real hit, and rightly so.
In RE7 you play as one Ethan Winters, who rides out to rural Louisiana, spurred by a message from his missing wife. He winds up in a mansion of the Baker family, who are clearly something not entirely human. Although the game ties into to broader Resident Evil universe, it does perfectly fine standing on its own, and Bakers are one scary dysfunctional family.
Silent Hill: Homecoming
|Developer:||Double Helix Games|
The Silent Hill series probably doesn’t need introductions. At the time of writing the franchise is twenty years old, and it even had a movie based on the license. The now legendary city covered in mysterious mists has brought nightmares and resolutions to many characters over the years, and it was also probably a source of lifelong nightmares to those who survived.
This time the protagonist is one Alex Shepherd, from the town of Shepherd’s Glen, just across the lake from Silent Hill. Over time he’ll discover more than he was prepared to handle, as is usual for a Silent Hill game. Curiously, the player is given more choice over how the conversations go, and Alex is pretty skilled in combat, a talent that would come in handy at many points in the story.
Coming from people who created Amnesia: the Dark Descent, Soma moves away from the 19th century setting and lavish European castles. Instead, it’s a science fiction horror set in an underwater research base of the near future. It’s quite a big leap, but Frictional Games made it with grace, once again delivering an interesting game that’s scary in a quite different way.
Some deals with the questions of consciousness, and delves into transhumanism to the point where the protagonist’s mind awaken in a not-his body. The state of things he meets is disturbing, and declining fast. The rest you’ll have to discover on your own, especially since Soma puts quite a lot of emphasis on weaving its narrative and fostering the psychological horror atmosphere.
The Evil Within
The Evil Within was created under the direction of Shinji Mikami, the originator of the Resident Evil series. That’s as good a recommendation as they get in the genre. It follows detective Sebastian Castellanos on an investigation that has taken a turn for the weird. The game is a descent into a troubled mind, and a psychic reality it forged.
The Evil Within puts a lot of emphasis on scavenging, as resources and tool, while rare, substantially increase the odds of success. There is also the “green gel” you can find throughout the locations, which can be used to improve Sebastian’s skills. Thankfully, there’s a safe location that Castellanos can access via mirrors or when the story calls for it, a welcome respite.
Until Dawn is a really cool concept pretty well-executed. Effectively it’s an interactive horror movie featuring a bunch of your adults facing extreme supernatural danger while on a holiday retreat. The game involves a lot of decisions, which result in wildly branching storyline, with a surprising number of different endings.
The cast itself is really good, and includes Rami Malek, recently famous again for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury, and Brett Dalton, whom fans of the Agents of SHIELD TV show will know as Grant Ward. Gameplay-wise there’s a lot of QTEs, but they serve the story rather than distract from it, and they have substantial consequences for the way the game resolves.
Resident Evil Village
|Developer:||CAPCOM CO., LTD.|
A direct sequel to RE7, Resident Evil Village puts you in the shoes of the unluckiest regular man in horror games: Ethan Winters. Three years after his Louisiana misadventure Ethan enjoys quiet life with his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, the consequences of the previous game come crashing into his life and take him to a remote European village controlled by various mutated, unhinged people.
RE: Village is a fantastic follow-up, with not only plenty of classic Resident Evil puzzles and dangers, but also featuring memorable characters and plenty of RE weirdness that fans of the series know to expect by now. It also has a few different categories of scares, from pure atmosphere all the way to being chased by an unstoppable force of destruction with a grudge against your hand.
Phasmophobia filled a niche that was weirdly unoccupied for a long time: an FPP, VR-friendly ghost-hunting co-op horror. It does sound like a weird mix of phrases, but the game is actually quite creepy, especially when the ghosts get agitated. But before that you and your friends will have to do some detective work to figure out who the ghost is, and which spectral type to classify it as.
There are over a dozen ghost types, and they all exhibit different behaviours. Ghosts also react differently when you refer to them by name, something you can do over a microphone. The game is great and tense when played in a traditional manner, but playing it in VR is clearly the scariest, drastically increasing the immersion and the terrifying reality of facing an angry ghost with no allies to help.
The Dark pictures Anthology
Technically a series of discrete games, The Dark Pictures Anthology is all about cinematic horror experiences. Developed by the developers of Until Dawn it uses many of the tricks and ideas which made UD such an interesting game. Each entry in the anthology is a different story in a different setting, featuring a different cast of characters, not all of whom may live to see the end.
Or they might, it’s mostly up to you and the choices you make and the Quick Time Events you clear or fail. As a bonus, the games in the series are multiplayer-friendly, both online and locally, thanks to the very interesting Movie Night mode. If you’d like to play through a horror movie and you’ve already mastered Until Dawn, then The Dark Pictures Anthology should do the trick.
Back 4 Blood
|Developer:||Turtle Rock Studios|
Over a decade after the release of Left 4 Dead 2, the creators of the original L4D released Back 4 Blood to fill the void left in the co-op zombie shooter genre. The zombies are called “Ridden”, because their state was caused by an alien worm which caused grotesque mutations. Most people became regular zombies, but some turned into massive, infested, extremely dangerous behemoths.
There are eight characters total, each with their own set of perks and skills. It makes for interesting choices when you and your friends form a 4-player party to kills some zombies. In addition to great gunplay and tense, demanding co-op, Back 4 Blood also has a great art style, making its zombies recognisable among the undead hordes of gaming.
Little Nightmares is unique among most horror games. The game puts us in the shoes of a child, called Six, who is trapped on a weird, massive, mostly submerged ship with a host of grotesquely warped… humans, of sorts. As she tries to escape, Six can usually just hide from her ravenous pursuers, only occasionally finding a way to deter or harm them by interacting with the environment.
Although the game’s world Is 2.5D and the basic gameplay is mostly similar to platform games, Little Nightmares is very skilled at building a tense, disturbing atmosphere. The monstrous humans Six hides from look truly horrific in the most “uncanny valley” manner, and they aren’t the only dangers which fill the ship. The world itself, explored in Little Monsters II and several spin-offs, appears to be full of twisted, supernatural phenomena.
Is this the end of the fright night?
Of course, this list is not, by any means, exhaustive. For instance we didn’t write about games like Five Nights at Freddy’s, or the asymmetrical multiplayer horror based on the Friday the 13th license, but there’s only so much text one could write before a listicle becomes too long.
We are sure to have omitted some horror-adjacent game you love, because the genre is old, and there’s always a couple to come out each year. Nevertheless, we hope we put on your game-radar some titles you’ve never tried before.