Halloween is upon us. With Halloween comes the celebration of all things horrible, grotesque and scary. Fortunately for gamers some of the most terrifying experiences to be had are through video games.
This list is just a taste of the horrors gamers can experience. It contains some of the most terrifying games we can think of, but is far from a comprehensive list of the absolute best out there. What’s for certain, players looking for a way to scare themselves silly this Halloween will definitely find something that gets the heart thumping.
Silent Hill 2
Of the many Silent Hill games, none are quite as creepy or unsettling as the second. James Sunderland has received a letter from his wife asking him to come meet her at their ‘special place’ in Silent Hill. Sound’s romantic right? The problem is that James’ wife is dead.
Combat takes a back seat for most of Silent Hill 2. Instead the emphasis is on exploring the disturbing town, finding items and solving increasingly grisly puzzles. The monsters you encounter are reflections of James’ subconscious, and James’ subconscious is messed up in all kinds of ways. This game gave the notorious Pyramid Head his debut, and featured the disturbing Bubble Head Nurses amongst its monsters. The real test in Silent Hill 2 is how long you can keep your jaw from the floor as things go from weird, to creepy, to straight-up disturbing.
Taking inspiration from the works of David Cronenberg, David Fincher, and David Lynch, this disturbing psychological horror will stay with you long after the end credits. Available in an updated HD version (many of the bugs that ruined the experience upon release have now been fixed), along with Silent Hill 3, this is a game that stands as a master of it’s genre. Horror fans owe it to themselves to play it.
Before the over-saturation of the sequels, F.E.A.R stood out as a truly terrifying First-Person Shooter. As ‘Point Man’ for a special paranormal task force it’s your job to enter the futuristic headquarters of Armacham Technology Corporation, dispatch legions of cloned super-soldiers and figure out just what the hell is going on.
While action heavy shoot outs are at the core of F.E.A.R, it rarely misses a beat to make you feel uneasy. Whether it’s creepy apparitions appearing in the last place you expect, bleeding walls or invisible enemies rattling all around you there’s plenty of supernatural scares. As you learn more about the super-creepy supernatural child Alma things go from tense to terrifying.
Heavily influenced by Japanese horror, F.E.A.R successfully attempts to get under the players skin. Rather than shock scares (though there are a few) the true fear comes from the uncertainty and lack of predictability that pervades the experience. Think The Ring, Dark Water and even The Shining with FPS mechanics and your close to understanding what F.E.A.R is all about.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
In this first-person survival horror you explore an eerie dark castle while avoiding monsters and solving puzzles. You have no access to weapons, thus no means to fight. Instead you must rely on your stealth abilities and your smarts to get through the devilish gauntlet.
As well as health there’s a sanity-meter to manage. Too much exposure to the terrifying horrors of the castle leads to auditory and visual hallucinations. The darkness is terrifying, making light a valuable ally but resources such as lamp oil and tinder boxes are in short supply. Light also attracts the monsters, and the last thing you want is these relentless creatures hunting you down.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent oozes a terrifying atmosphere, similar to the very best haunted house films. The sense of powerlessness that accompanies every step makes for tense going as you plunge deeper into the madness.
Slender: The Arrival
This enhanced version of the sleeper hit Slender, has players feeling completely isolated, searching for clues whilst being stalked by the terrifying Slender Man. With excellent sound and terrifying tension, nerves are always on edge no matter where your journey takes you.
You’re absolutely helpless, armed with nothing bet a flashlight. To survive the best idea to run from any sort of danger. This is harder than it seems because you never know how close to being caught you are. Slender Man and his minions can strike from, they’re definitely going to catch you out more than once.
Relentlessly dark and bleak game, Slender: The Arrival is a solid adaptation of a modern urban legend. The story, told through found documents and clues littering the environment, is nicely constructed. If you’ve got the guts try playing with the lights off and headphones on.
Favouring the jump-scare, Dead Space has a masterfully creepy atmosphere. The USG Ishimura has run into trouble. Maintenance Man Isaac is sent to try and find out what’s going on. Isaac isn’t a space marine, he’s an engineer. Instead of guns he fends for survival using repurposed pieces of mining equipment to combat the horrific Necromorphs he encounters.
Necromorphs are hideously mutated humans. Worse of all, while FPS veterans naturally aim for head shots, these monsters barely flinch at a blow to the cranium. Instead, blasting their limbs off is the only way to overcome these beasts. You need fast and accurate shooting skills if you’re to save yourself from being viciously torn apart. Oh, and your girlfriend is somewhere on the ship too, just in case there wasn’t enough tension.
Atmospherically, Dead Space is superb. The further you explore, the deeper immersed you become. Disembodied limbs litter the floor, walls are smeared with blood. Think Event Horizon, the Alien films, John Carpenter’s The Thing and Night of the Living Dead – only more terrifying than all them combined.
This incredibly creepy action adventure delivers plenty of nerve-shredding moments. There’s a constant sense of danger, you’re completely isolated, you’re largely defenceless. The setting, a mausoleum-like abandoned mine, heightens the ever-present sense of unease.
Fighting is done using a mouse-swing mechanic, it’s a lot more intense than just clicking to kill enemies. You don’t fight too often but when you do it’s undead dogs, mutant people, and giant spiders that want nothing more than to kill you. A ‘panic’ mechanic means you can’t face horrors for too long before the screen goes fuzzy and shaky, sometimes causing the player-character to act irrationally and make himself vulnerable.
Great dialogue and voice acting make Penumbra stand out. The sense of fear at being stranded in the horrifying mine is depicted almost perfectly. Sound effects play a huge part in keeping the atmosphere tense. Floorboards creak, the growl of monstrous dogs constantly unnerves, the scurrying of spiders all enhance the near-constant anticipation of something dreadful.
SCP Containment Breach
Tension and terror go hand-in-hand in SCP Containment Breach. You explore a randomly generated facility in an attempt to clean up the mess caused by the titular containment breach. A host of bizarre creatures stalk you throughout, often you won’t see them until it’s too late. A lot of the time you’ll be caught between wanting more to happen and desperately hoping that nothing does.
The inclusion of a ‘blink’ mechanic is this games standout feature. Some monsters won’t get you if you’re looking at them, but you have to blink, and when you blink awful things happen. When you close your eyes or turn your back you hear them coming for you. Suddenly, you’ll open your eyes and the monster will be just feet away from you. You don’t want to turn your back, but you know you’ve got to run before you need to blink again.
Doctor Who fans are right in thinking it sounds like those terrifying angels that are arguably the best of the newer Who-adverseries. Take away the shows humour, family-friendly sensibilities, and knowledge that the hero will always come out on top – and you’ve got SCP Containment Breach. It’s the only game I know that makes blinking scary.
Siren: Blood Curse
Featuring an array of different playable characters, Siren: Blood Curse is all about building tension. An American TV crew has travelled to the mountains of Japan looking for the remains of Hanuda Village for their paranormal investigation show. The village has a history of human sacrifice rituals and occult dealings. It’s not long before the crew discover themselves being hunted the village’s blood-thirsty, not-quite-human, inhabitants.
Each playable character plays differently. One character might be a capable fighter who wields numerous weapons, but the another might be a defenceless child. The “Sight Jack” ability introduces some interesting gameplay. Using it allows you to see through enemy eyes. Useful for figuring out what’s ahead, but heart-stopping when you realise the monster is coming straight for you.
Blood Curse feels like an episodic TV show. The story does descend to a place that doesn’t make much sense, but you probably won’t worry too much about story as you try to survive this intense experience.
Journalists will do anything for a story, even venture into a bleak and foreboding asylum while chasing an anonymous tip. Of course it’s no fun exploring a spooky old asylum in daylight, so you choose to visit at the dead of night. Rather than run at the sight of grim, body-part strewn ‘collections’ you decide to investigate further. Unsurprisingly, this is the first unwise step into a gore and terror-filled nightmare.
The presentation of Outlast is great. A lot of the time you are using a camcorder, giving it the feel of a found-footage horror flick like Blair Witch Project or REC. The dingy VHS presentation makes everything just unclear enough that identifying the terrors before it’s too late becomes part of the challenge. Throughout the game you’ll be constantly searching for batteries for your camcorder, because like all good horror protagonists, you didn’t come prepared.
Constantly forced to navigate the dark corridors, usually only seconds away from a madman, Outlast certainly knows how to deliver tension. Just when you’re easing into the mechanics it has a way of playing cruel tricks that change things up. Fans of stealth, platforming and horror should investigate this game further.
At first glance Catherine may not seem like a terrifying exploration of the human psyche, but looks can be deceiving. This puzzle game is disturbing on a level beyond most games.It’s platform elements, puzzle stages and life-simulation are all wrapped in a thick coating of psychological horror.
You play as Vincent, a man feeling the pressures of his relationship and tempted by the allures of another woman. Wracked with guilt and confliction Vincent starts having a series of dreadful nightmares that include, amongst other horrors, a giant man-eating baby. To survive the nightmares players must make it to the top of block-tower by pushing and pulling at sections to create climbable paths while the ground constantly falls away beneath them.
It’s rare for a game to plunge players into manifestations of a characters guilt, and rarer to do it in such a terrifying way. Anybody who has ever felt the fear of being out-of-depth in a relationship will find the themes in Catherine disturbingly effective.