Movies, TV shows, books and podcasts aren’t the only media that can serve you some fright this Halloween season. Some video games are plenty scary on their own. Here are 13 games that are all spooky, for different reasons. Don’t play these with the lights off.
“Life Is Strange”
Less scary moment-to-moment than it is scary in a big-picture way. If you liked “Twin Peaks,” this will seem familiar. A Pacific Northwest missing persons mystery is the central plot of this teen adventure, with the added conceit of being able to redo choices over and over in the game in order to get the result you desire. It goes to some dark places, with plot lines involving suicide, date rape, drug abuse and mass murder. One chapter literally takes place inside the main character’s nightmare. The ending ends up toying with the idea of fate vs. destiny. Big themes for a mystery game.
Along the same lines as “Life Is Strange,” “Until Dawn” employs a “choose your own adventure” strategy where every choice you make impacts your gameplay. In this one, you are essentially the director of a teen slasher film, which means you get to choose who lives and who dies through your decisions.
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It’s got plenty of jump scares, but it’s also a lot of fun if you’re a fan of stuff like “Friday the 13th” or “Cabin in the Woods.” It also features voice talent from Rami Malek, Hayden Panettiere and Peter Stormare.
If you’ve played this one before, hear me out. “Abzu,” much like its Giant Squid studio predecessor “Journey,” is very calming. It’s the perfect game for when you’ve had a long day and you just want to zone out. The whole point of this game is to move a nameless, faceless scuba diver from Point A to Point B. There’s no plot and there’s no training. The music is beautiful. The game looks beautiful.
Some sequences have you swimming right next to giant whales, and others have you journeying down into the very depths of the abyss of the ocean. For me, this was awe-inspiring and terrifying at the same time. There are moments where the music combined with the graphics in such a way that it made me think way-too-deep thoughts about my place in the universe and how ultimately man is futile and at some point we will all die. No monsters are in this game, but it can be very scary, if you fear mortality or deep water.
“The Last of Us”
Sure, the clickers and the zombie virus that wiped out most of the world are scary enough in this post-apocalyptic wastlend setting. But those jump scares and darkly-lit set pieces are nothing compared to what this game says about the types of choices people will make when their hands are forced. The ending says it all.
The OG frightfest. A true classic, with inspirational roots in the “Dawn of the Dead” franchise.
Another “search/choose your own adventure” game. Thiso one is more like “The Sims” in that you just make your charcter look at stuff around the house. Except this house is empty and you’re trying to figure out why your family is gone. Spooky shenanigans ensue. Perfect for when you want a thrill, but don’t want to be too scared.
“Friday the 13th: The Game”
Jason pops out of nowhere in this asymmetric multiplayer online game. If you’re playing in a public server, the character of Jason is assigned at random and your goal is to get away from Jason. If you’re playing with friends, you can choose someone to be Jason. It’s basically like “Star Wars: Battlefront” but in a horror movie.
“Wolfenstein: The New Order”
Set in an alternative timeline where the Nazis won WWII, the beginning chapter features a choice where you have to decide which one of your two prisoner comrades dies, and there’s no happy ending from that choice. It gets bleaker from there, and one chapter takes place in a concentration camp. There’s plenty of catharsis as you shoot your way through an army of Nazis, but in this current political climate, there’s something freaky about imagining a fture where Nazis and Neo-Nazis have any sort of power. There’s a sequel, “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus,” out this month.
Uses a perfect sound mix to make you feel like something from a demon hellscape is always coming after you.
No stranger to violent (or controversial) video games, Rockstar released this extremely violent exploitation-film-as-video-game about the ways our culture desensitizes us to horrific violence in 2003, and it still frightens to this day.
“The Evil Within 2”
The long-awaited sequel to “The Evil Within” finds detective Sebastian Castellanos re-entering STEM to save his thought-dead daughter. This thing looks grimy and frightening as ever.
Don’t act like you weren’t scared as a kid when you played this on your GameCube. A perfect nostalgia play, if you still have the GameCube around.
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I’m hearing the theme song in my head now...
Giant fire ants, man. Nobody likes those.
What about y’all? What are some of your favorite spooky video games? Let us know in the comments.
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