The genre of horror in gaming has come a long way in recent years. The development of virtual reality, improved graphics and better audio design has seriously made horror games a viable alternative to horror movies.
Yet, with now so many titles to choose from in the ever-expanding sector of gaming, just what games should you play this Halloween season? Grab a set of headphones, boot up your PC or console, and remember: it’s only horror with the lights out.
Outlast has become synonymous with the horror genre of gaming despite it being a relatively new franchise. Outlast 1 really revolutionised horror gaming when it was released in 2015; its story-driven and atmospheric gameplay make Outlast a real terror to be experienced. Outlast 2 built on the success of its predecessor and added in a ton of new content for fans of the franchise.
The game, set in a vast canyon in the Arizona desert, follows the story of Blake Langerman as he searches for his wife Lynn amongst the insane cultists, mad heretics and demented creatures that infest the canyon. Yet, blood thirsty cultists is not all the game offers.
Throughout the story you are transported back to Blake’s school that he attended as a boy. We assume these transportations are purely in the Blake’s mind but in Outlast 2 nothing is certain. Either way, being chased by a dark, blood-soaked, many-armed monster around a terrifyingly oppressive Catholic school is one of the most real and intense horror game experiences.
Outlast 2 may not quite have the story of the original game, but its thrills and jump scares are certainly not for the faint hearted. If you plan on undertaking your own gruesome journey through Outlast 2, best bring a friend to play it with you or you may find yourself on your own being chased down a corridor in your own mind prison.
Amnesia: Collection packs the famous Amnesia games of old into one bundle. From gruesome enemies to heart-racing chases, Amnesia is not for the faint hearted and even its setting – in a fantasy medieval castle – is enough to chill the bone marrow.
The collection includes Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Amnesia: Justine and Amnesia: the Dark Descent (arguably the most popular of the three), and upgrades their graphics and gameplay to give a really modern makeover.
Amnesia: the Dark Descent still holds the terrifying and eerie atmosphere that captivated gamers in 2010, when it received a fantastic reception, gaining an 85% approval rating from Metacritic and won two awards in 2011 at the Independent Games Festival.
Amnesia is one game that does not hold your hand through the darkness, and will force you into difficult and unsettling circumstances with puzzles to solve, or enemies to escape from.
While not strictly speaking a ‘horror game’, Firewatch is certainly masterful in the way it keeps you on the edge of your seat for hours, and makes you ask some big questions.
Firewatch is a truly new experience in gaming, or at least has qualities not seen in a game for many years. This ‘walking simulator’ takes you on an immersive journey, driven exclusively by dialogue and story. This is the real accomplishment of the game; while Outlast and Alien may frighten you with constant jump scares and spooky settings, Firewatch achieves the same feeling but purely by creating an awesome atmosphere and story with characters that feel real.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
One of the newer titles on this list, Resident Evil 7 has reverted the franchise back to its old roots in survival horror after having a bout in the first-person shooter genre.
The new direction of the franchise is a welcome refresh from the rather overplayed shooter version of the Resident Evil games of recent years.
This game has all the elements of a great horror game, and really shocks you sometimes with its gore, which is comparable to Outlast 2 if not worse.
The maniac American family, who form the main antagonists, really feel alive and terrifying, and some of the encounters with them really set your nerves on edge. Unlike with cheaper horror games, Resident Evil 7 does not overly use jump scares to make the game action packed, but rather has a solid story, twisted and weird enemies and great combat to keep the gamer on edge.
If this game doesn’t keep you up into the wee hours of the morning, I do not know what will, because this one really ticks the horror game boxes, and to make things worse – it supports virtual reality headsets.
Many titles on this list can claim to mimic the same setting but none recreate hell like Agony. Agony is an upcoming game on all platforms in which gamers must battle through the blood soaked and bone strewn wasteland of literally hell.
Many cultures and religions have some sort of place for the evil ones and demons of the world and Agony asks the player to fight their way through these terrors and somehow survive. While it is a trend in gaming to give upcoming titles awards before they release I think the hype is deserved here and we may be in for a truly new horror experience in Agony.
While Amnesia makes you think you are in Hell, or Outlast feels like Hell, Agony is the game that actually drops you into Hell. And you had better be prepared before you go, because you’ll probably never be back out.
This list really would not be complete without the appearance of Alien on it.
While I have strived to keep this list up to date with modern horror games, there is something about Alien Isolation which brings many fans back to it. Maybe it is the space ship atmosphere, or the story and lore, or the feeling of vulnerability, or perhaps it is the alien itself which makes this game so tense and terrifying.
While Alien is not the scariest game on this list, the encounters with the alien are truly terrifying, and the mechanics at work here are epic.
The alien is intelligent and has an unscripted path around the space station, meaning you never know where, when or how he will show up – it really is awesome. However, this title does not really meet the gore of the rest on this list, and the action takes a long time to build up, with the alien only appearing after a couple of hours of gameplay.
Yet he is well worth the wait, and you will soon find yourself unable to put the game down as you are chased from place to place by the black alien behind you – or is he above you?
Soma is developed by the same creators as Amnesia, Frictional Games, and really lives up to its predecessor.
Soma received an excellent reception from gamers and critics alike, gaining a 8.1 from IGN and a 10/10 on Steam.
Soma asks some tough questions about life and death really making the gamer interested about the world in which they are playing. It is filled with intense scares in a great setting of an underwater research center, where you are tasked with figuring out what the hell is going on.
With an unsettling storyline and a level of mystery similar to Amnesia, Soma is definitely a game to pick up this Halloween season. Some of the puzzles feel a little over complicated and break up the action a little too much, but Soma will have enough action and mystery to keep you coming back to it for a long time before you need to get into Amnesia.