Thanks to world events in games like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2, it's pretty easy to throw on a jack-o'-lantern helm and start celebrating everyone's favorite sugar crash inducing holiday in-game with all your friends. The fun isn't limited to MMORPGs either; players in games like Minecraft, Team Fortress 2, and Left 4 Dead 2 can all throw on special holiday-themed skins to celebrate October 31, as well. There is one glaring problem that we can't help but notice... Aside from Left 4 Dead 2 none of those games are really going to scare you, are they?
Sure, part of the fun of Halloween is dressing like a weirdo and hanging out with your friends, but isn't there something exciting about shutting all the lights off and letting yourself get truly terrified in late October, as well? If you're more interested in battling zombies, vampires, and demons than you are in bobbing for apples (which is gross anyway, right?), then we've got our top 5 scare-inducing recommendations right here.
Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 is Capcom's most iconic and critically-praised installment in the 18 year-old survival horror franchise. Not only will the game entertain players with the dramatic changes it brought to the RE franchise (elimination of static backgrounds, fully-rendered interactive 3D environments), but the over the shoulder camera and improved controls allow for prime plague slaying conditions. Although the security camera-esque stationary cameras in the preceding Resident Evil games did set up terrifying surprises that gamers couldn't see coming, freeing up the player to see the world from the angle of their own choice took the franchise to the next level of gameplay.
Surprisingly enough, the move away from zombies actually helps make the game more prone to terror. The mind-controlling parasites switch things up so that a clean head shot isn't always the right decision. Players will be counting their remaining rounds and listening for Las Plagas before turning each and every corner while they revisit this classic.
You may think Resident Evil purists would shun a sequel that leaves behind both the classic camera style and the zombies that helped make the franchise so successful, but there are still plenty of classic Resident Evil moments in RE 4, despite the drastic change in style. Enemies still lurk out of nowhere from shadowy corners or knock down doors and charge into the player's face unexpectedly. Resident Evil 4 proved without a doubt that sometimes change is a good thing.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Four years before we were switching back and forth to detective mode in Batman: Arkham Asylum, gamers were cautiously holding up a crowbar and flashlight, while hunting for forensic clues in Condemned: Criminal Origins. Tracing the path of a serial killer and narrowly avoiding getting your skull bashed in by sociopaths hiding throughout the dark, urban environment made for a terrifying gameplay experience. The campaign may be short, but there are plenty of scares to make it worth revisiting.
The emphasis on hand-to-hand combat, rather than gunplay, really takes Condemned to the next level of intensity. Each and every melee interaction feels like it could be your last if you slip up just once. The PC port, which was released about a year after the Xbox 360 version, manages to carry over the precise melee combat system pretty well. Pulling off some of the combo attacks is a little tricky with the keyboard and mouse, but not enough to detract from the intensity.
Don't underestimate the selling power of this game's sound. If you have the right kind of home entertainment equipment, you'll end up feeling like you're right in the middle of the action. Turn the lights down, the surround sound up, and equip your bloody crowbar for a night of gritty detective work that will make the police work in Se7en seem like kid stuff.
Alan Wake throws many of the crutches of traditional horror games (and films) out the window by giving you too much information, rather than holding things back. The dark force slowly taking over Bright Falls is all the more terrifying for the player thanks to the manuscript pages that Alan finds (but doesn't remember writing). The tension created by reading your own fate and then waiting in anticipation for the horrors to arrive ends up being far scarier than the peace of mind that comes with ignorance of what's ahead.
The open-world, mission-driven approach allows players to really dive into the immersive (and creepy) atmosphere of the small mountain town. Players will feel like they've walked into an episode of The X-Files or The Twilight Zone as strange events get more and more terrifying in Bright Falls. Just like the best horror films, the strong character development in Alan Wake also allows for some good laughs here and there to relieve the tension. The game is so story-driven that many gamers will have zero interest in a second play-through once they know how the mystery ends, but it's a must-play if you missed it back in 2010.
The game makes terrific use of light and darkness at every turn. Alan is able to explore the town and talk to NPCs during the day, but once night falls he is left alone in the darkness. Players will clutch their flashlights like a weapon (which they are in this case) to stay sane and alive in the darkness.
Slender: The Eight Pages
Everything that the indie cult hit Slender: The Eight Pages lacks in budget and polish is what makes it so terrifying. Slender strips away the slick graphics and big budget cut scenes and gets to the root of the survival horror genre. Players are alone in the dark and all they know for sure is that a relentless force of evil is coming for them. Seeing the poorly rendered Slender Man off in the distance, while you are frantically searching for clues on how to defeat him is just as frightening as all our favorite AAA horror games.
Whether or not players are familiar with the folklore surrounding the Slender Man, the creepy faceless man in the dark will still cause some serious anxiety. Conspiracy theorists who spend hours combing through old Polaroids and photos online searching for a glimpse of the internet-famous boogie man will probably get an extra surge of adrenaline revisiting the game.
With no inventory, no hit points, and no weapons; players have no choice but to hunt down the clues slowly and helplessly in the dark. The short-form horror game may not keep you entertained for the entire evening, but it's guaranteed to get your heart racing while the fun lasts.
Silent Hill 2
To find the ultimate Halloween game, you'll need to dust off your PlayStation 2 collection (or maybe an old PC hard drive) and dig out Silent Hill 2. Some fans of the franchise argue that the third installment is the better game, but we're sticking to our guns on the first sequel. Silent Hill 2 took horror video games to another level in 2001 by mixing top-notch sound, graphics, and game controls into a perfect storm of terror.
Silent Hill 2 doesn't fully abandon the fixed cameras style like Resident Evil 4 did, but it does create a hybrid style that combines stationary and roving cameras. The new system solves the old problem of enemies attacking players from angles they can't see, but still holds onto the suspense created by the old survival horror security cam style.
Players return to Silent Hill as James, who is looking for his wife (even though she's been dead for three years). Not only is the poor guy searching for the love of his life, but he's surrounded by a bizarre cast of unstable characters. One of the many reasons Silent Hill 2 becomes so frightening is because of how much players connect with James and his tragic story. The creepy, surreal storytelling and environment will drag you back and forth between terror and heartbreak. You may not be scared every second of the game, but you will always be upset... but in a fun way, you know?
These give titles should give you more than enough horror material to keep yourself up with nightmares well into the first few weeks of November. If you're twisted enough to want more disturbing gameplay, we have a few games that just missed the top five.
The Binding of Isaac may not look like the average horror game, but if facing aborted babies as enemies doesn't terrify you anymore, then you might want to step back and take a break from horror in general. Lone Survivor is another indie gem that narrowly missed the cut. The game convinces you that you're insane (because maybe you are) and keeps you questioning what's real and what you're imagining. If you're not in the mood for an indie, Halloween might also be a good time to revisit DOOM before its twentieth birthday this December.
So what will you be playing while you pig out on candy this Halloween? Sound off in the comments.
Follow Denny on Twitter @The_DFC.