Halloween didn’t really used to be that big of a deal in the UK, back when I were a kid. But now it is, so most people go to Halloween parties, or spooky club nights, or some other similar kind of terrifying celebration. I like to keep things traditional though, which means staying in on October 31st and kicking back with some Video Game Entertainment™. Also I’m COO of The NoSleep Podcast, and since we’ve been working on Halloween content since around July, I think I deserve a break by the time it hits October’s end.
So if, like me, you’re after some video game recommendations in order to spend Halloween night alone, or even something to play after the festivities, then look no further. I’ve compiled a list of thirteen (ooh) of the best horror games to be had this year.
I’ve avoided the really obvious ones -- you don’t need me to tell you to stick on Resident Evil 2 or Man of Medan -- in favour of lesser-known or just-released stuff, as well as some of my personal faves. Navigate through the list with the links below.
Developer: Puppet Combo
Publisher: Puppet Combo
Play as a bunch of different girls exploring a sinister mansion in this deliciously lo-fi third person chiller. It's from indie horror darling Puppet Combo, and I’m a big fan of all of their games, but this is my new favourite. It’s a slow burner, with an ominous buildup that spans multiple days in the girls’ lives, before becoming a pure love letter to the PS2 survival horror genre. Wonderfully dirty visuals, optional tank controls and various stylistic choices make this one a nostalgic trip down nightmare lane -- while managing to constantly surprise and terrify.
Developer: Steppe Hare Studio
Publisher: Steppe Hare Studio
A short, sweet first-person exploratory horror game that follows the template of most first-person exploratory horror games, but does it very well. There’s nothing in Steppe Hare Studio’s game that will reinvent the genre, but Palmyra Orphanage is a great example of how to do said genre right. While the English translation can be rough around the edges at times, the plot is more interesting than that of comparable spook 'em ups, and it’s solid enough to keep you hooked from start to finish. There are a handful of tasteful jump scares, and plenty of atmosphere to wade through as you uncover what went on at your childhood home.
Developer: Cloak and Dagger Games
Publisher: Cloak and Dagger Games
From Cloak and Dagger Games (developers of 2018’s excellent Football Game), The Terrible Old Man is a point and click adaptation of the Lovecraft tale of the same name. It’s very short -- about half an hour, tops -- but it’s also free, which seems like a fair deal.
Thus, the Terrible Old Man serves as a great, creepy hors d'oeuvre to your night of horror (which I do not recommend trying with an actual terrible old man). With a bizarre, surreal art style and a handful of decent puzzles, this one’s worth a download as the sun begins to set and the eldritch abominations come out to play.
Genuinely scary horror platformers aren’t something we come across very often, if ever, but if you’re hankering for Mario-but-macabre then developer Vikintor has you covered. You go around attempting to clear the corruption from your father’s temple, but it’s immediately clear that, even on top of the Baphomet statues and fleshy horrors, something isn’t right here. To uncover the truth you’ll have to double jump your way through numerous tough platforming challenges. While the genre isn’t usually conducive to scary stuff, Tamashii manages to be extremely unsettling at the same time as it's being a very good platformer.
Developer: Storyyeller Games, Off The Beaten Track
Publisher: Schreihals Interactive
Awake isn’t the most satisfying game on this list from a story standpoint, but what it lacks in a logical conclusion it makes up for with an interesting, experimental take on the adventure game genre. You play Marc, out camping with his girlfriend in the woods. Then you get murdered. Thankfully, though, death is not the end here, as Marc finds himself in a time loop, able to modify his environment to adjust the killer’s actions. The end goal is to not get brutally killed. It'll last you about an hour, and it’s a fun and eerie take on the slasher genre.
Developer: Illusion Ray Studio
Publisher: Movie Games SA, PlayWay SA
A very cinematic first-person horror game in which you play two characters; Adam in 1979, and Nicolas in the 19th century. Adam’s a cryptanalyst (like wot Tom Hanks is in them Dan Brown movies) and Nicolas has daddy issues, and between them they are… pretty damn scared. At first it seems like a fairly typical haunted house story: Nicolas’s power is lighting candles with matches, and Adam’s power is, er, using a bizarre CIA gadget that lets him view the aura of the past, and shoot time beams at temporal anomalies. So, yeah, typical.
The Beast Inside ends up being a pretty wild ride, as well as creepy as all get out. It earns bonus points because you can put a box on your wife’s head. Also environments are extremely pretty. But mainly the box thing. Did I mention you get a gun that shoots time?
Developer: Benajmin Rivers Inc.
Publisher: Benajmin Rivers Inc.
If this game is worse than death then boy I can’t wait to die, because death must be awesome. It’s a side-scrolling, pixel art, narrative horror game from Benjamin Rivers, creator of similarly side-scrolling, pixel art, narrative horror game Home. Worse Than Death is pretty different to its predecessor, though, with enemies, stealth and much scarier set-pieces.
It’s still an adventure game at heart, so it’s not massively challenging, but that works in its favour because you'll mostly be there for the intriguing plot. It’ll put you off going to your high school reunion forever (if you weren’t already put off going because, y’know, everyone you went to high school with will be there).
Developer: AOne Games
Publisher: AOne Games
Omen Of Sorrow is a 1v1 fighting game where you play as various horror staples, some more iconic than others. There’s a Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster, and Dracula and uh, a generic naked succubus and stuff. And I know it's sort of a bit rubbish, but you get to throat punch the Angel Gabriel as Elizabeth Bathory, who apparently had extremely jiggly boobs. It's not the best fighting game you could opt for, but it’s a great pass-the-pad title for post-Halloween party pummelling. Perfect, too, for some light, tension-popping relief between scary films. I have a big soft spot for it.
Developer: Rock Pocket Games
It’s like Mountains Of Madness, right, by HP Lovecraft, but they’ve graduated from being on mountains to being on moons. Or at least near moons, cos they’re on Mars, which has two of them. It’s another first-person survival horror, and in this you trek around a Mars base fixing stuff -- then discovering an unspeakable evil from beyond space and time, as you do. Its tentacles slam all over the shop, trying to give you a true Martian welcome.
Moons Of Madness is dead creepy, with some good puzzles. And who doesn’t like a bit of Cthulhu Mythos in space? The people on Mars who get killed by tentacle monsters, I suppose. But you're not one of them, thank goodness.
Developer: Killmonday Games AB
Publisher: Killmonday Games AB
I want to say ‘here’s a game for those who like their horror a bit more cutesy’, but honestly Little Misfortune is just actually horrifying and harrowing. No matter how much glitter you toss around (which is a legit in-game mechanic) it won’t make up for what happens to the puppy near the start. Nothing will.
It's the newest game from developer Killmonday Games, who made Fran Bow, so if you’ve played that then you know roughly what to expect hiding behind the cute exterior. Little Misfortune is a bit less interactive than Fran Bow, like a cross between a point and click adventure and a visual novel, but it works well and it’s absolutely brimming with tragedy. One for those who want a depressing Halloween, then.
Developer: Scythe Dev Team
Publisher: Scythe Dev Team
I’m recommending Walls Closing In because it’s the new one, out this year, but really this recommendation is for the entire Northbury Grove trilogy from developers Scythe Dev Team. This may be considered cheating, but this is my list and I make the rules.
The first two Northbury games are free, so download and play, then pick up Walls Closing In and continue the adventure against The Slasher, Northbury Grove’s nefarious and deranged serial killer. It’s a punishing, raw survival horror in which you’ll die often, so if you’re after an easy ride then pass on this one. But if you want an extremely tense grindhouse experience with challenging gameplay? Look no further.
Publisher: Armor Games Studios
I'm cheating again because this is seven games spanning two series, but they’re all from developer scriptwelder and share similarities, so they count as one recommendation for our purposes. Deep Sleep is a point-and-click escape-the-room series, in which you uncover the truth behind an epidemic of lucid dreams becoming nightmares.
Then, Don’t Escape flips the genre by being games where you essentially have to barricade yourself in a room instead of leaving. The first one is my favourite, where you play a werewolf trying to stop himself from slaughtering the town once the full moon rises. When you’re done with the six shorter games, you can tackle the new Don’t Escape: 4 Days to Survive, in which you’re tasked with living through a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Developer: Protocol Games
Publisher: Raiser Games
The final entry on my list is also the one I recommend everyone prioritise this Halloween. Song OF Horror from developer Protocol Games is incredible. It’s an episodic horror game, with each chapter telling its own standalone story within a wider, overarching one. As of today, October 31st 2019, two of the five chapters will be available.
In each chapter you control one of a number of characters, and if (when) that character dies, then they’re dead in the story forever, and you take over as the next one. Each character has their own connection to the plot, so who lives and who dies affects your experience of the game. It’s easy to become attached to someone, only to thoughtlessly walk through a door without checking it, and be swallowed by the darkness.
The game’s antagonist, The Presence, is one of the most terrifying horror villains I’ve encountered in gaming, and the whole thing is just so goddamn scary that I can’t imagine playing anything else as the clock heads towards midnight this Hallows' eve. If all five chapters are up to the quality of the ones so far, then this has the potential to be one of my all-time favourite horror games -- and yours too. Even the two chapters available come strongly recommended. I'd go so far as to call Song Of Horror the best horror game from the last 12 months.