In the run-up to Halloween, it’s all about setting the mood. Sure, you have your mega-count, fun-sized variety pack of candy and a stash of horror films to get you properly scared, but do you have a video game to celebrate the season with, too?
Luckily there are a lot of great, imaginative, horror-tinged (or downright horror-drenched) indie games that will get your blood pumping and deliver great scares. Some are also reasonably priced, and one even has a mobile version for gaming on-the-go.
From the creators of ‘Amnesia: the Dark Descent,’ ‘SOMA’ is a futuristic, science fiction survival horror game that brings a compelling philosophical story along with it.
As Simon Jarrett, you wake up 100 years in the future on an abandoned station underneath the ocean. With no weapons and no clue how you got there, you have to find out what happened and, hopefully, how to get out.
Unlike the Lovecraftian vibes that ‘Amnesia’ and its predecessor ‘Penumbra Overture’ had in volume, developer Frictional Games goes for a more modern, Ridley Scott-influenced look. But you’re still powerless, so be prepared to hide from nasties and try not to cry.
For fans of: ‘Alien,’ ‘Event Horizon’
Long ago, there were two well-known co-operative zombie horror games: Valve’s ‘Left 4 Dead’ and Tripwire Interactive’s ‘Killing Floor.’ The latter series now has a sequel in Steam’s Early Access mode, and it brings all the insane, bloody fun of the first one with lots of graphics and weapons improvements.
Rather than a linear progression, ‘Killing Floor 2’ is about two things: guard your area and stay alive. Working through rounds of zombie hoards by yourself or with five others, hopefully surviving to go toe-to-toe with a major foe at the end. You can do things to staunch the onslaught of undead — weld doors, rig explosives, and good old-fashioned strategy — but mostly you’ll be mowing down your foes as fast and efficiently as possible.
Luckily, the increased graphical capabilities means there’s plenty of gore, with zombies exploding in a rain of blood. It’s definitely scary, but not without a little gleeful mayhem tossed in.
For fans of: ‘Resident Evil,’ ‘Dead Alive’
Halloween is also about partying — which can be good or bad, depending on how you feel about it. Sometimes people hate parties so much that they want to murder everyone who goes to them.
That’s the objective in ‘Party Hard,’ where you take the role of a serial killer so upset by the ruckus blow-outs thrown by inebriated youths that he has resolved to kill everyone there. The game, developed by tinyBuild, involves patiently watching and waiting at a party for the right time to, unassumingly, kill absolutely everyone you see. Stab people, drop objects on them, start fires and evade police.
The game involves a lot of trial and error, testing traps and learning how to strike when the time is right. But it’s silly, and you’ll feel a little weird for how fun it is to strategize killing innocent party-goers.
For fans of: ‘American Psycho,’ ‘Friday the 13th’
Every once in a while, a game comes out of nowhere and helps shape how a genre grows. ‘Layers of Fear,’ created by Polish developer Bloober Team, has shown immense promise in Steam’s Early Access for its psychological, gothic horror.
You enter the mind of an insane painter who is finishing the work designed to be his magnum opus. Wandering through the nineteenth-century mansion, you’ll gather clues while experiencing horrific visions that may actually be real.
The game isn’t finished, but it’s worth playing through as-is thanks to its great camera work and spooky scenes. It will continue to update overtime, so it’s an opportunity to see where it leads as it grows.
For fans of: Edgar Allen Poe stories, ‘The Shining’
If you were ever kind of afraid of Chuck E. Cheese, the Country Bears, or other suspect animal animatronic entertainment robots, then ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’ will justify how you feel about them.
Although during the day the robots that provide the entertainment at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza are happy and nice, by night they turn evil. You are the night watch, in charge of keeping an eye on all of the robots as they try to enter your office and forcefully stuff you into an animatronic costume to your gory death. All you have to help you are lights, video cameras, and doors — all of which drain your limited power.
For fans of: Destroying your own childhood.