It’s time to pick out a pumpkin and dust off your handmade Ouija board, because Halloween is upon us, and it is looking spookier than ever — especially in the gaming world. With the likes of Back 4 Blood and The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes creeping around the corner, horror fans are sure to be entertained with October’s entrées. But that’s a few clicks away, and we’re still only just recovering from September’s offerings.
Before the festivities commence, we’ll be dipping into some of the best games to help build that Halloween momentum. Discarding the usual, globally recognised titles, we’ll take a look at some of the smaller works, ones which will definitely leave you curdling with fright come game time. So, hit the lights, draw the curtains and set yourself up for a night of heart-pounding horrors. It’s time to get yourself into that Halloween spirit.
Do you know how Psychonauts allows you to delve into people’s brains and alter emotions and whatnot? Well that’s pretty much the idea behind Observer, only with a lot more trauma and nightmare-inducing themes than family-friendly platforming levels. And while not visually horrifying, it does manage to leave a few visible scars mentally. So, ideal for Halloween, you could say.
Putting you in the shoes of an elite soldier in 2084 Poland, you’re able to take on the role of an observer, where hacking into the minds of suspects is considered a viable course of interrogation. However, with the cyberpunk city fuelling off of drugs and corruption, the minds of which you enter aren’t exactly built on lullabies and rainbows. Too bad it’s your job to decrypt them, eh?
Amplify the terror that Konami packed into the short but emotionally charged P.T. (what should’ve been Silent Hills) and you’ve got yourself Visage, one of the best walking simulators of the last generation. With an insanely creepy manor house strewn with crooked rooms and unlikely residents, Visage brings fright to a whole new degree, putting the likes of Biohazard to everlasting shame.
On the surface, Visage looks like something we’ve seen a few dozen times before. Navigate a house, uncover its dark secrets, sneak between deranged foes and crack a bunch of puzzles in order to escape its nightmarish grip. And while that is pretty much it — there are a few things that set the game aside from other similar titles. Enemies are plentiful and unique, lore is well constructed and intriguing enough to follow, and the overall environment is inviting enough to sift through, despite the constant dread that holds over your every move. All in all, there’s plenty to keep you touring for hours on end and keep you coming back for more.
3. The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope
If Until Dawn and Man of Medan had you on tenterhooks, then allow us to introduce you to the next chapter in The Dark Pictures Anthology, Little Hope. Like the former titles, Little Hope revolves around a cliché collective with a knack for bad decisions. Your job, as per The Dark Pictures formula — is to course them through the quaint town of Little Hope and do all in your power to assure they reach the end. But getting to that climax, of course, means having to strategize, think on your feet, and even betray anyone who dares alter your chances of survival.
After taking a wrong turn on a field trip, college squadron along with their cowardly professor find themselves shrouded in smoke without a reverse route home. Soon after, the class stumble upon Little Hope, a derelict town with a dark history and an impeding doom. Through the smoke that cloaks the town, paranoia soon starts to grasp the stranded friends and arouse suspicion, hurling the group into an endless nightmare that knows no bounds.
Yes, it is another house. But that isn’t to say Pacify is a spitting image of Visage, or Biohazard, or any other game that uses creepy manors to host their horrors. Of course, it is a safe route to take, and an incredibly effective one at that. Old houses just naturally give off that creepy vibe, and Pacify captures that rather well in its short but powerful story.
Pacify invites you to explore a derelict home, rumoured to be an old funeral parlour. Only, the dead that once passed through haven’t quite crossed over, and it’s your job to locate the source of the paranormal activity buried within. So, get ready for some bone-shattering twists and turns — because there’s definitely more to the old parlour than a few cobwebs.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I honestly think that the next best thing to signing up to an actual ghost hunt down at your local watering hole, believe it or not, is to round up some friends online, invest in a quality headset — and immerse yourself in Phasmophobia, the scariest multiplayer game to ever touch the Steam charts. Of course, it’s a little far-fetched compared to reality, though incredibly entertaining nonetheless. And with friends — you can guarantee you’ll have plenty to talk about post-nightmare when the sun finally graces the sky.
Playing with up to four people, Phasmophobia grants you access to a series of haunted locations, where you must take on contracts, set up a nerve centre in the pits of the hellhole, and ultimately work to determine which spirits possess the area. But in order to gather the evidence and shut down the contract, the team must first use a variety of equipment, battle their own sanity, and tactically evade the wandering spirits in order to survive spontaneous hauntings. So, are you ready to team up and bag some ghosts? Phasmophobia awaits.