Screw tricks or treats, lets play games
Traditionally, Halloween festivities include trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, costume parties, and watching scary movies. This year, you should ditch antics like bobbing for apples–which is totally gross–and instead opt for something better than tricks and/or treats. Were talking video games.
Heres a mix of titles we think you should play on Halloween, ranging from games that will scare the pants off of you to ones that capture the Halloween spirit in some meaningful way. Just dont get so immersed in these games that you forget to go outside, lest you miss out on all the free candy and fantastic costumes.
The Binding Of Isaac
When you stop and think about it, The Binding of Isaac is pretty horrifying. Its hard to tell at first, thanks to the cute visuals. But the top-down “twinstick” roguelike has a sinister premise and a bevy of unsettling enemies that make it perfect for All Hallow’s Eve. Get this: Youre trying to run away from your own mother, who has received an edict from God to kill you. So you delve deeper and deeper into your basement, trying to avoid your fate using your tears as weapons.
The enemies you face are things like aborted babies and blood-gorged flies, and theres plenty of religious symbols and weapons like the Bible itself. Heck, you can even play as biblical characters. Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl have twisted minds–just what you’re looking for on a holiday about spooking yourself out.
Left 4 Dead 2
Just because youre going to play video games for Halloween, doesnt mean you have to be antisocial about it. And if zombies chose a favorite holiday, were going to guess it would probably be Halloween. So get a few other of your friends and rev up Valves fantastic co-op shooter–theres a horde of infected that needs killing. Part of what makes the game so terrifyingly good is the AI director, which keeps you on your toes: You never know when or where the undead masses are going to come after you.
But trust us, they will, which makes this game perfect for Halloween, because it captures the fear that comes with not being able to relax when the coast is clear. The coast is never clear. If youre feeling devilish, try Versus instead of the campaign–you get to play as the special infected–which is almost like wearing a costume within the game.
Resident Evil 4
Likely Capcoms best and most ported Resident Evil title, RE4 has the distinction of making an action-oriented survival horror game work, which is rare and worth experiencing on Halloween if youre looking for an intense but scary thrill.
We can thank the mind-controlling parasite called Las Plagas for that. Not having zombies lent itself to situations where going for the head wasnt always ideal. Specifically, the Regenerators require a special thermal imaging scope to help you locate and shoot the Plagas in their body. If you shoot elsewhere, guess what: That body part will just regenerate. Few things are as chilling as enemies that simply will not die. That in conjunction with intelligent villagers who work together to try to kill you almost make you want zombies back. Almost.
Halloween isnt all about creepy crawlies and horrifying things that go bump in the night–which is great because some of us cant handle the scary stuff. Most of us know Halloween as a pleasant, memorable holiday from childhood. And thats what Double Fine captures: the playful innocence of Halloween.
Youre a kid who has to save a sibling from a monster, so you enlist the help of your friends and you…go into town and knock on doors. Sometimes you get candy, sometimes a monster appears and initiates a battle. The game is a light RPG that cuts out a lot of the drab parts of the genre, like grinding and overly complicated skill trees. In their place is a condensed, charming romp where battles see you turning into whatever it is youre dressed up as–stuff like robots, ninjas and so on.
Silent Hill 2
If you ask Silent Hill fans what the best Silent Hill is, theyre likely to argue between Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3. While we admit that either would be a fantastic choice for Halloween, our personal favorite is Silent Hill 2. Sometimes, what you need on Halloween is a bit of psychological horror, and here, Silent Hill 2 delivers.
The town, after all, could be said to be populated by your personal demons and worst fears. In this case your baggage is related to your dead wife. You play as James Sunderland, who receives a letter from said wife telling him shes waiting in Silent Hill. We personally would’ve ignored such a letter, loved one or no, but James has to find out what happened to his wife–and the revelation is stunning. Admittedly, the game doesnt actually play particularly well, but the storytelling, psychological horror, symbolism and atmosphere make up for that in spades.
The power of tension is exceptional, and few titles prove this as well as Alan Wake. A retreat to quiet mountain town Bright Falls quickly turns ugly, and your wife is kidnapped. As you set out to find her, you start discovering pages of the manuscript of a novel Alan doesnt remember writing. Heres the thing: everything he wrote is becoming true. And what Alan wrote involves a dark force slowly taking over Bright Falls. This darkness also wants to kill you, of course.
The clincher is that you know how it all goes down in advance thanks to the manuscript pages, creating deliciously tense scenarios. This makes Alan Wake perfect for those not phased by traditional horror or scare tactics, and who take Halloween as an opportunity to barrage themselves until they find something that unnerves them. Youre always wondering just when what youve read is going to happen–like the fact that a chainsaw is coming after you. Despite knowing something is coming, everything manages to occur when you least expect it, proving that knowing is just as terrifying as not knowing whats going to happen.
Team Fortress 2
New year, new Halloween update to Team Fortress 2, and new hats to acquire. Halloween is your chance to win the Ghastly Gibus hat, on top of earning a number of holiday-themed achievements. Typically the festivities last beyond Halloween, giving you plenty of time to experience a spookier version of Team Fortress 2–meaning, you dont have to give up going trick or treating or partying, if thats your sort of thing.
Valve doesn’t skimp on their holiday celebrations, crafting an entire complex lore behind the events of their Halloween bonanza. The recent “Doom-Mates” comic is a great addition to the Horseless Headless Horsemann and Monoculus mythology, with snappy dialogue and wry humor throughout.
The post-apocalypse setting goes well with practically everything, and survival horror is no exception. Cue Jasper Byrne’s Lone Survivor, an indie game which has you looking for survivors of a disease that’s turned the world into mindless zombies. But nevermind the zombies, youve got a bigger problem: You may not be sane.
It’s hard to tell what’s what when you suffer from hallucinations and the possibility of going mad if you don’t get enough sleep–on top of having to keep from starving, or even dealing with the zombies. The apartment complex that you reside in is practically a labyrinth, and sometimes revisiting old locations makes them shift in appearance. Whats going on? Can you trust what youre seeing? Who knows. Thats why you should experience the game on Halloween: it utterly messes with your head. The thing you might have to fear the most isnt the zombies. Its you.
Halloween used to be a very spiritual holiday, and we still see vestiges of that through the appropriation of (typically satanic) rituals. You can experience some of that spirit with Corpse Party, which tells the story of of nine characters who perform a ritual with the hopes of securing everlasting friendship. Sounds sweet and innocent, right? What they dont know is that their school is built on top of another school, which was shut down after a series of ghastly murders. Needless to say, the ritual doesnt turn out so well.
What youre tasked with is trying your best to keep everyone alive despite tensions running high and sanity running low. Chances are, you wont be able to do it the first time through. The game is called Corpse Party for a reason. Most people will find themselves re-doing sections to prevent deaths, which in any other game would be frustrating, but in Corpse Party, thats just part of the experience. The futility in the face of danger, after all, is a keystone of horror games.
For many, horror games arent made the way they used to be. Games like to rely on cheap jump-scares, while some titles privilege action over the survival horror aspects of the genre. Youd think horror was rocket science or something. But Slender is the ideal game to play on Halloween–not just because its the latest thing people are buzzing about, but because its a reminder of the true simplicity and effectiveness of horror and fear.
You dont need fancy graphics, you dont need elaborate set pieces, you dont need to feel like youre in an action movie for a game to scare you. Slender proves that all you need is an ominous presence with a relentless drive to hunt you down. Simply having Slenderman visible off in the distance while youre trying to collect notes on how to defeat him is enough to get your heart racing–because remember, all you can do is run, and you cant run for very long.
What will you play on Halloween?
Theres a ton of games you could play on Halloween, and weve definitely not listed them all here. So were curious: What will you play? Perhaps a bit of psychological horror? Something with zombies? Survival horror? All of the above? Let us know in the comments, and remember–whatever you do, dont say Peter Molyneuxs name three times in the dark in front of the mirror on Halloween. Who knows what could happen?