Routinely forget about your free PS Plus games? You might be in for a frightful surprise…
Happy Halloween, ghoulish readership! As the days draw shorter, the air becomes crisper and the lattes taste spicier, the time for horror and gore is now upon us. No doubt many of us will be spending All Hallows’ Eve playing a bunch of terrifying games, hoping to crap that not too many Trick or Treaters ring the doorbell so we can scoff all the miniature Snickers ourselves. But maybe your game shelves are a little empty? Or you are feeling a little uninspired by recent horror fare?
Never fear – if you’ve been a long-time PS Plus subscriber or even dipped your toe in the pool now and then, there may be a few fun terrors available to you for no extra cash. As far back as 2011, I could find classic horror games that people got (technically) for free through the subscription service, and will still have accessible on their account if they currently have PS Plus. So, what are the highlights?
[Note: the availability of these games may vary depending on your region; the list is accurate for the US.]
Silent Hill – PS Plus game in April 2012, playable on PS3/PSP/PS Vita/PSTV
If you want a trip down memory lane, and games à la Potatovision don’t bother you, there would be worse places to start than the original Silent Hill. Following Harry Mason on a quest to find his daughter, who disappears after a car crash, the player stumbles across all manner of strangeness, including cults, drug rings and symbolic monsters.
It was a project borne from Konami trying to find something for one of its ailing teams to busy themselves with, and wound up being one of the company’s more groundbreaking franchises. Technically speaking, it is pretty wonky in 2018, with highly claustrophobic camera angles that simply come across as frustrating and a level of “moon logic” required to get the best endings. Not to even speak of how ugly and blocky the game will look blown up on a larger TV. Perhaps stick to playing this one on a Vita, with your head buried under the bedcovers.
BioShock 2 – PS Plus game in January 2013, playable on PS3
The BioShock games find horror in more political roots, behaving largely as a cautionary tale against an out-of-control version of libertarianism and utilitarianism. The result is mutants and experiments, and the people left behind after the collapse of society. While BioShock Infinite is less about horror and more about the machinations of those looking to create a perfect society in Columbia, the original two BioShocks were more about…well, the biological shocks and horror.
BioShock 2 builds on the bond the player perhaps developed in the first game with the Little Sisters, having you step into the weighty shoes of a Big Daddy. Part of the frightening nature of BioShock 2 comes from the fact that you are tasked with protecting someone so vulnerable. What the Big Daddy suit lacks in survival horror subtlety, it makes up for in pure firepower and ability to wreak gory, genetically-modified havoc upon foes.
(Psst: the Remastered version is currently on a heavy discount on Steam, but the reviews are pretty poor, so I would advise sticking to the original version.)
Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward – PS Plus game in April 2013, playable on PS Vita/PSTV
Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma – PS Plus game in July 2018, playable on PS Vita/PSTV
VLR and ZTD are the second and third entries to the Zero Escape series respectively. The general premise of the series is quite similar to Saw: a group of people trapped in a location and given a series of puzzles to complete, with various rules on progression, in order to survive. VLR is heavily based on the Prisoner’s Dilemma and also ideas like colour theory, while ZTD falls over itself to include a whole host of logical and moral problems, such as the Monty Hall Problem and the nature of action versus inaction.
I much, much preferred VLR to ZTD. I felt like the plot to VLR tied itself up in a neat little bow, while ZTD got a bit out of control towards the end. VLR managed to make all of the characters sympathetic, while ZTD had a few poorly fleshed-out yet thoroughly detestable characters. VLR is a pretty game. ZTD looks clearly experimental and eerily similar in design to Deadly Premonition. However, it’s because ZTD tries something new with its full motion presentation (as opposed to the traditional visual novel format), and because it really ramps up the gore on its predecessor, that it earns a place on the highlights reel, too.
While it is a little harder to follow what is going on if you haven’t played 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (the first game in the series), the story is not hugely convoluted and a Wikipedia recap, or paying full attention to what is going on in VLR and looking up what you don’t understand, would suffice. You should definitely not miss out on VLR, and once that’s done, ZTD is worth it just for the spectacle.
Catherine – PS Plus game in May 2013, playable on PS3
If your idea of horror is commitment to another human being, or succubi, look no further than Atlus’ bizarre puzzle game/thriller Catherine. If you can’t wait for the Full Body PS4 reissue (with additional content) at the beginning of next year, the original game is a fun use of a few hours.
The puzzles are fiendishly difficult, so don’t be too proud to dial down the difficulty to Easy or Very Easy on a first playthrough. At the same time, this is not a game you want to play multiple times for the story; it is one of the shallower depictions of both men and women in the dating world that I’ve encountered in recent memory, so the plot seems to get less interesting on each successive attempt. But climbing to the top of a tower you’ve wrestled with over the course of 30 spent lives is an incredibly rewarding feeling, particularly when you have an ice witch or a literal butt monster pursuing your every step and trying to catch you out.
Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut – PS Plus game in June 2014, playable on PS3
For some people, Halloween is the perfect opportunity to rewatch Shaun of the Dead, hunker down and wait for the incessant knocking on the front door to blow over. Horror and comedy make a surprisingly good pairing, and Deadly Premonition is a good example of this (whether the comedy aspect was deliberate or inadvertent).
Playing as Francis York Morgan, a man who turns up in an oddball suburban town to find a serial killer, the parallels with Twin Peaks could barely be more obvious. It goes for the slightly unreal aura of Twin Peaks, but overshoots and ends up in comedic Sinner’s Sandwich territory. Particularly if you enjoyed D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, are currently trying out The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories, or can’t wait for The Good Life, it might be worth digging this one out. You might not be creeped out by the Shadows, but you might be freaked out by the strange animation.
Resident Evil HD Remaster – PS Plus game in October 2016, playable on PS4
While Director’s Cut was available a full five years earlier on PS Plus, the remastered REmake is such an impressive feat of modernisation, and the Lisa Trevor storyline is so inspired, that this is probably the superior choice. (Say no to tank controls!)
The classic tale of special operatives plonked in a mansion and uncovering secret scientific experimentation gone awfully wrong – or supremely well, depending on who you ask – became much more than a relic of the PS1 era with the GameCube remake, and the PS4 version sands off a few of the rough edges. It’s incredibly tense, punishing and bloody.
With the appearance of new enemies that are harder to kill and can destroy a playthrough out of nowhere, it might be less daunting to opt for the easier Director’s Cut. But if you want a challenge and genuine fear, go for the newest edition of one of Capcom’s most famous games.
Until Dawn – PS Plus game in July 2017, playable on PS4
Some people don’t want to be genuinely scared on Halloween, but instead revel in the unbelievable cheese of big-screen horror. Until Dawn knowingly draws from franchises such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream to retread old ground: a band of dumb teenagers up to not much good in the woods, who are picked off one by one. As long as the player has the nerves to keep their DualShock 4 steady when prompted, they can determine who dies and who lives, and find out more about how a bunch of relatively spoilt, privileged kids got themselves into such a mess.
Until Dawn relies on an appreciation for the overblown and typical horror tropes, so if you’re more into arthouse horror flicks, this might not be quite your cup of tea. But if you’ve ever watched a goofy thriller and just wished you could have stopped that first naïve soul meeting a violent end, or just want to see more of Rami Malek, this might scratch that very particular itch. Itchy, tasty. Oops, wrong game.
Of course, the current spooky PS Plus game, Friday the 13th – The Game, is available right now, even if you are a newer adopter of PS Plus. Additional horror-themed PS Plus games are listed below:
- Resident Evil: Director’s Cut – PS Plus game in September 2011, playable on PS3/PSP/PS Vita/PSTV
- Dead Space 2 – PS Plus game in August 2012, playable on PS3
- Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition – PS Plus game in October 2012, playable on PS3
- Metro: Last Light – PS Plus game in January 2014, playable on PS3
- Outlast – PS Plus game in February 2014, playable on PS4
- Lone Survivor: Director’s Cut – PS Plus game in June 2014, playable on PS3
- Dead Space 3 – PS Plus game in July 2014, playable on PS3
- Zombi – PS Plus game in April 2016, playable on PS4
- Siren: Blood Curse – PS Plus game in June 2016, playable on PS3
- Killing Floor 2 – PS Plus game in June 2017, playable on PS4
- Until Dawn: Rush of Blood – PS Plus game in November 2017, playable in VR only on PS4
- Claire: Extended Cut – PS Plus game in March 2018, playable on PS4/PS Vita/PSTV
- Dead By Daylight: Special Edition – PS Plus game in August 2018, playable on PS4
What are your favourite games to play at Halloween from this list?