Picture this: a swarm of people that you barely know, corseted in attire that is alternatively and so-revealing-its-actually-terrifying. Booze and clumsy come-ons are everywhere, drowning out what little occasion-appropriate decorations there are. For many adults, this is often what Halloween has become.
But why deal with all of that?
This Halloween, stay home. Grab beverages, snacks and friends of your choosing. Turn off the lights. And prepare for a night of "Why did I agree to do this again?!" - with the help of the conveniently timed Halloween Steam Sales, of course. For those interested in a wider overview of what is worthwhile and what is not, you should check out Mike's list because it's awesome and includes a sure-fire guide on how to be awesome. As for those interested in stuff that made me (and a lot of other people) either scream hysterically or whimper into the dark, here are the five scariest things from the sale.
Red Barrel Games' Outlast is, without a doubt, my pick of the season. Planted squarely between the psychological machinations of games like Amnesia: A Dark Descent and the shock-happy vibes of, well, pretty much everyone else, Outlast doesn't so much bring the scares as it expertly coerces you through a labyrinth of freak-outs and screams. Here, you play as Miles Upshur, a freelance journalist who gets more than he bargained for after he took a chance on an anonymous tip-off and slunk off to investigate the innards of Mount Massive Asylum. (The lesson here: bad things happen in places with ominous names.)
There's nothing here that will give you nightmares for weeks to come, though. Outlast is beautifully orchestrated but about as predictable as the best Hollywood horror movies. Still, for a Halloween marathon? Perfect.
(Also, its current price of $13.32 is positively criminal, guys.)
The Walking Dead is easily one of my favorite zombie-related comic book series of all time. Why? Because it features the kind of slow, soul-crushing horror you'd expect of a world that is, if you'd pardon my French, quite fucked. Society has collapsed. Zombies are everywhere. And people are turning onto each other in an orgy of violence and ill behavior rivaling anything any monster could ever articulate. It's beautiful, it's horrible and pretty much everything something zombie-related should be. (I am totally a fan girl, yes.)
While it lacks the kind of gravitas that can only be built with years of exposition, Telltale Games' take on the Walking Dead would do the comics proud. An episodic adventure game centered around the tribulations of former university professor and convicted murderer Lee Everett, The Walking Dead isn't a loud scare-fest as much as it is a creeping sense of dread and despair. While choice is largely an illusion here, the decisions you make will invariably haunt you, leaving you anxious about every step taken or word said.
The entire Walking Dead collection is on sale for $6.24 right now. Buy it or we cannot be friends.
Ah. I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream. A total classic and one of the creepiest goddamned things I've ever read or played. Like, seriously. I Have No Mouth is possibly the only piece of media I know of that can rival John Carpenter's The Thing in the oh-god-the-nightmares-why-won't-they-stop polls.
On the off-chance I now have you bubbling with nervous curiosity, here's the gist of things: Humanity unceremoniously wiped itself out by introducing military supercomputers into the world. 109 years later, only five human beings remain. Sorta. These five are only alive because AM, which is the supercomputer that resulted after one of them turned self-aware and absorbed the rest, needed something to torture. Long story short, some terrible things happened. Four people die. And the last guy? He gets turned into a gelatinous blob thing with an altered perception of time who cannot, in spite of all the rage and anguish being visited on it, scream.
Richard Cobbett, who runs a weekly column on PC Gamer called Crapshoot, has a more in-depth analysis of the playable version of the tale. The story's a tad different, the gameplay questionable but I Have No Mouth is still totally worth experiencing given its $2.49 price tag.
How did we come to this, Internet? How did our society evolve into one capable of building games about memes? The whole idea would be absolutely ludicrous were it not for the fact that Slenderman, the bugger, can apparently lock doors.
Slender: The Arrival is a horror game for the pop-culture vulture, a slick little thing that was made by Parsec Productions and Blue Isle Studios. The game, which is short and occasionally repetitive, has you playing as a girl named Lauren. Because Lauren has more loyalty than common sense, she finds herself visiting her friend Kate's house after Kate goes missing. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose after that. A popcorn horror game if there ever was one, Slender: The Arrival isn't particularly smart but it is rather scary.
I spent a long time deliberating on whether Amnesia: The Dark Descent or The Void should claim the last spot. In the end, The Void won out. Because as unnervingly awesome as the former can be, The Void's nightmarish artistry is unparalleled.
The idea behind The Void is that you're a newly-minted soul, a fresh arrival in the realm of the dead. Unlike other souls, however, you've somehow managed immediate consignment to eternal oblivion. Naturally, this puts you in an interesting spot, a spot called The Void. Here in the Void, you find yourself interacting with the Brothers and the Sisters, peculiar beings who will bewilder with even more peculiar motives. Nothing, to abuse a cliche, is what it seems.
I'm not even going to try to summarize The Void. It's a complex, insane and surreal beast of a game that practically demands a dissertation. Instead, I'm going to redirect you to John Walker's review of the Void as it'd tell you a lot of what you should know.