Pumpkins, witches, and ghosts, oh my! Halloween can be a great time to dress up as a person you’re not and indulge in unhealthy sweets, but it’s also the perfect time to turn off the lights and scare yourself with a spooky game. Here are a few of our favorites to tingle our spines and chill our bones.
Let us know in the comments if any of your favorite scary games made the cut. Or the stab. Or the slash. Or the- okay we’re getting to the list now.
Doki Doki Literature Club
Submitted by Andrew Agress
“Uh, I thought you said this is a list of spooky games?” a disembodied voice calls out to me. Yes. Yes, I did say that. But I promise you, I’m not trolling. By now, many people know the horrors that lie below the saccharine sweet surface of this cutesy visual novel about a book club. But if you have no idea why I still shudder at the prospect of writing poetry to woo a potential lover, than you are quite fortunate. Doki Doki Literature Club is not what it seems, and keeps up its smiling facade for a solid portion of the game. When that smile starts to look more and more like a crazed glare, you’ll know that you’re getting more than you bargained for.
Overall, the less said about the game the better, but since this is a list of horror games and you see this game is listed, you want to know why. Right from the beginning, the game warns you about disturbing content. Is is gory? Is it filled with jumpscares? Do the characters solely indulge in reading Stephen King novels? In actuality, the horror is much more on the psychological side of things. The fact that so much of the story works on its own merits serves the double purpose of luring you into a false sense of security. Once things go horribly awry, a lot of the horror comes from how out of place it all seems. If you go into a horror movie you expect to get scared, but if you go into a wholesome slice of life high school story and things take a dark turn? That’s terrifying. Much like the famous Eterntal Darkness, the game tries to trick you into thinking there’s something wrong with it, and that you’re playing it incorrectly. But the more things seemingly go awry, the more Doki Doki Literature Club tightens the noose on its place on this list.
Submitted by Joshua Piedra
I’m going to have to go with a classic here. Sure, Doom 3, at the time, was touted as having advanced graphics that would push the boundaries of PC gaming… except all of that was hidden in complete and total darkness! However, despite seeing 99% shadows for the majority of the game, drawing ire from critics and fans alike, Doom 3 still gave you that haunting atmosphere. Going down a hallway only to see satanic runes skitter across the walls and floor coupled with satanic whispers caught you off guard. Plus, you had no idea where enemies were spawning! One moment you were trying to traverse a room, the next, you have a demon leaping at your face with just enough time to react! While it’s not a typical “scary” game, it still gave me a few jumps here and there.
While Doom 3 wasn’t the most memorable in the series, the darker atmosphere did make it stand out… either for good or bad reasons! I mean, the only thing scarier in the Doom series is watching Polygon play the reboot.
Silent Hill 2
Submitted by Sara Roncero-Menendez
You don’t mess with a classic, and if there’s any genre-defining horror games, it’s the amazing Silent Hill 2. Sure, in the years that have passed, the animation is a little choppy and the acting is…well it wouldn’t win an Oscar, But more that, this game is creepy to the max, with the monster designs evoking a dark and forbidding nature, and the clever fog mechanism that keeps the player on the edge of their seat the whole time. And the depth of the plot is enough to keep you thinking for decades, and every twists in the story makes you fall in love with it a little more. I mean I literally presented a whole paper about this game at a conference, in front of a guy who wrote a whole book on it. For real, video game studies is legit.
If you’ve never picked up this title, you need to as soon as you can. There’s a new remastered version that lets you relive that dark magic and experience the haunting tragedy of James, one that all begins with a letter from his long-dead wife. Be prepared to be scared with this oldie but a goodie.
Submitted by Keith Mitchell
Is this even a question? My favorite scary game? Well, for starters this is a very small list because I ain’t afraid of no video game. However, there have been a few games that did manage to make me jump out of my chair (briefly). At the top of that list is Dead Space. While Resident Evil was my first horror survival game, it wasn’t until Dead Space came along that took everything that that series did, tossed in better combat while locking you into a super huge space ship called the USG Ishimura. Did I mention that there’s a whole slew of creatures that are hell-bent on killing you, a lowly engineer who’s never seen a gun in his life. Tons of jump scares, lots of places to explore, an upgrade system that let you upgrade your weapons and suits and nothing but your wits. Easily one of my favorite survival horror games of all time. And while I feel that the follow-up, Dead Space 2 was a bit better. The first game will also hold a special place in my demented gaming heart. Oh, screw the 3rd game. Can we pretend that it didn’t even exist?
Sadly, since EA shuttered the development studio behind the game, Visceral Games and that Dead Space 3 didn’t sell well. In the end, an amazing sci-fi horror survival game is basically, dead in the water. A sad end, indeed.
Submitted by Veronica Ciotti
Frictional Games made a name for themselves in the horror genre with Amnesia: The Dark Descent in 2010. Unfortunately, their follow-up sci-fi horror game Soma did not get the same level of attention, which really is a shame, as Soma is one of the most original horror games and pieces of storytelling in the medium. Simon Jarrett undergoes an experimental brain surgery in the year 2015, but wakes up nearly 100 years later in an underwater research facility overrun by monsters. Simon communicates remotely with a mysterious woman named Catherine as he tries to piece together what happened. There are some tense moments in Soma as the it relies heavily on stealth gameplay mechanics and avoiding the mutated creatures that populate the facility. However, the real horror lies in the questions that Soma asks the player, dealing with where the boundaries between consciousness, humanity, and machine begin and end. I can’t say too much about the game without spoiling it, but I can say that Soma made me deeply uncomfortable on an existential level in a way that no other game has.
Sufficiently spooked yet? Let us know if you pick up any of these games over the next couple days. We hope you have an extra frightful Halloween!