Tricks and treats!
[This is not a drill, people – you only have three and a half more days to play horror games. After Tuesday night, you have to put them all back on the shelf until next October. Nobody plays horror games November-September. It’s illegal. Probably. Let Casus Gaming give you a horror game primer to help you squeeze in a few last titles before the season is up. Did he miss some? Discuss in the comments below, and sell potential players on what other horror games must be experienced before the sweet release of death takes us all! – Wes]
People celebrate Halloween in…different ways. Some people dress up as slutty potted plants and go to parties. Others get together and watch horror movies til their eyes bleed.
I play video games.
So with the spirit of Spooktobersween in the air, I wanted to share what I (and one other friend who brainstormed with me) consider to be eight of the essential must-play-before-you-die horror games.
There are a few rules for this list.
- First, only one game per series because otherwise this list would be dominated with Silent Hill and Resident Evil.
- Two, I tried to pick games that embody different styles of horror.
- Three, if there’s an amazing horror game you think I missed, I probably didn’t play it.
- Four, a game doesn’t necessarily have to be scary to be horror. In fact action games can make for perfectly good horror games too, if done right.
And in no particular order, here’s the top eight horror games you must play before you die!
No More Room in Hell
Genre: Multiplayer survival horror
While there will be a lot of well-known horror games on this list, I wanted to start out with one that’s relatively obscure.
No More Room in Hell started out as a mod for Half-Life 2, but has since become its own game available for free on Steam. You and a group of up to 16 friends must flea from a safe house to escape zombie-infested towns. While the premise may sound dull, the game itself is anything but.
First, make sure you have a trustworthy group of friends to play this with, because it is hard. A few hits will kill you, and even if you don’t run out of health, you can become infected. If you can’t find an antidote, you will die and your corpse will rise again to try and slay your friends. Ammo is also extremely rare and your inventory is limited since even ammo takes up space.
While you’ll probably spend more time spectating than playing in your first hour, NMRIH is a terrifying experience and one where you’ll be creating a lot of stories with your friends.
Genre: Narrative horror
The last generation of consoles suffered from an extreme drought of horror games. So when the PS4 launched and Until Dawn quickly followed along it was surprising to find a horror game that was quite good for a lot of different reasons.
While NMRIH may focus on putting you in a room with an enemy and only giving you a few rounds (as do a few games on this list), Until Dawn is focused on presenting you with choices that create an interesting horror movie.
There’s a lot of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street in this game, and in a way your job isn’t to lead these kids to safety. Instead your job is to direct the movie the way you see fit. Do you try and make sure the kids work together to survive? Or do you play their fears and rivalries off of each other to create situations where people are more likely to die?
I recommend a couple playthroughs of Until Dawn, once to play it genuinely and then again to just go hog-wild and do whatever makes a scene more interesting, even if that means a teen gets her eyes gouged out.
Silent Hill 2
Genre: Psychological horror
Silent Hill 2 isn’t my favourite game in the series, since that honour belongs to the original. However, if I had to recommend just one game in the series for people to play, it’s the sequel.
Part of what makes the SH games interesting is the psychological horror. Team Silent made games that didn’t just scare you, but presented you with monsters, or even just shapes, that illicit uncomfortable feelings out of you. Fleshy mounds, pistons rolling back and forth, creatures whose steps feel pained and tortured…
In a lot of respects there are better survival horror games out there that deliver tension via gameplay, since I don’t find any of the SH games too difficult normally. But I think in terms of aesthetics, when you hear that pulsing, grinding sound and can’t quite make out what’s in the fog, SH delivers something truly special.
And if you know the twist, play it anyway. SH2 is so much more than a plot twist.
Genre: Indie-puzzle horror
Ib is probably the most unassuming game on this list. This free RPG Maker game probably fell under most people’s radars, but it does have a really solid fan following.
And that’s because Ib is really good. You play as Ib, whose parents have taken you to the art gallery. You find yourself trapped in a world seemingly inspired by one of the artist’s works, and nothing quite makes sense.
It’s hard to describe Ib because so much of its horror lies in its story, but it also has some really solid puzzles that trick you and make you feel vulnerable and alone.
Ib takes a little over an hour to play and its free. You should at least try it.
Resident Evil (2002)
Genre: Survival horror
Resident Evil Remake is probably the quintessential survival horror game that embodies everything that made the genre terrifying.
Everything from the original was there, but made much more tense and atmospheric, and every part of the game fed into making the player feel isolated and dis-empowered.
The door opening animations, which masked loading screens, fed into making the game feel slow and made entering each room suspenseful. There’s a reason why they didn’t remove them when they ported the game to current-gen consoles and PC.
You can kill enemies, but you’re encouraged not to because they come back as tougher Crimson Heads. You can set corpses on fire to prevent that, but gasoline is limited. The mansion is filled with puzzle items to encourage backtracking, which means any enemies you kill you’ll be crossing again and again until they finally rise.
Everything about this game is brilliant and serves to make the player feel weak and powerless. I had goosebumps my entire first playthrough, and I think other horror fans need to experience that feeling too.
Genre: Platformer horror
I think developer Playdead has a fascination with horror games where young boys suffer horrifying and brutal deaths.
Continuing on from Limbo, Inside stars a young boy trying to…go to the right? Like Playdead’s previous game not a lot is explained and there’s quite a bit of fan speculation in regards to what’s truly happening in the game. That alone makes for a really mysterious world where you’re not quite sure what’s going on.
But combined with a slow drip of puzzles that accommodate you to the mechanics, it feels like you’re figuring out an obtuse world where everything has fallen apart. And you’re on the run from strange enemies who seem to control everything.
The visual style alone is eye-drawing, so that it’s also a really good horror platformer is doubly enjoyable.
Left 4 Dead
Genre: Multiplayer action horror
While many wouldn’t describe Left 4 Dead as horror, I would like to aggressively disagree.
It’s not just fear created by horror, but panic, tension, and the drama of having to make a difficult choice. L4D does just that.
When you’re surrounded by a pack of zombies, you’re on your last couple clips and you’re near the safe house, but a friend goes down a mile back, do you go back to rescue him? Do you put your team at risk, or do you chase after them on your own? Do you listen to your teammates or do you ignore their pleas?
L4D‘s gameplay is frantic, energetic, and during its highest moments you’re making split-second choices as to who lives and dies. And while dying takes you out of the action for a bit, if you die before the finale your name is printed at the ends credits as having not survived. While it doesn’t have the greatest impact, it shows you helped create a tense final set-piece to a fun and desperate campaign.
Genre: Survival horror
Going back to the survival horror genre this generation has been a blast. Between Alien Isolation and Resident Evil 7, it’s been great to go back and experience what began the horror genre back in the 1990s.
But if Isolation was just a fantastic survival horror game, it wouldn’t have made it on this list. Instead it’s here because it gives you the sense you are prey.
You are weak, nothing, meant to be consumed. You are just a pea to be stepped on and crushed. You can fight back, you can resist and you may even survive, but in the end in the face of something incredibly powerful you don’t stand a chance.
Other games present you with unbeatable foes. Outlast does this too, but Isolation gives you the tools to escape, to wriggle in between crevices to avoid detection and to push the alien back for a while.
But in the end you’re prey, and you cannot defeat your opponent. The fact that you have tools to fight back as much as you can, in a way, serves to make you feel more powerless.
If you’re lucky enough to have a PS4 with P.T. still on it, or have a friend who does, you need to play this. It’s an interesting experiment in psychological horror that really messes with you, and is probably one of the best horror experiences on the console.
While Rapture is a horrifying setting, I almost feel uncomfortable classifying BioShock as horror, hence why it didn’t make the list. Still, finding yourself in the genetic haven of the underwater city of Rapture is one hell of an experience that provides a lot of shocks. Definitely a must-play.
Resident Evil 7 in VR
Remember when I said no repeats per franchise? This is the one exception, because apparently RE7 in VR is one of the most immersive gaming experiences out there. I say “apparently” because I don’t have a PSVR and haven’t played the game this way myself, but my co-researcher who helped with this list has and I’m willing to take her word for it.
So if you have $600 and want a good time, nab a copy of RE7.