There's no better season than Halloween time. I also might be biased because my birthday is a few days before Halloween, so it's a very exciting month for me. Pumpkin flavored anything is great, and so is dressing up as stupid things (but please don't ask me what my costume is this year because I still don't know).
Anyways, just as I did last year, I dug through the trenches of 2018 to uncover seven essential horror games to play for the spooky season. From games that take inspiration from the original PlayStation to thrilling virtual reality experiences, there's something for everyone in this roundup of horror games of 2018.
The Inpatient is a VR game developed by Supermassive Games, the creators of the cult hit Until Dawn. It's a prequel to that same game, set in the Blackwood Sanitorium. Unlike Until Dawn, The Inpatient is played from a first-person perspective—fitting for virtual reality—and you get to choose the gender of your character from the start. It has plenty of jump scares, and a cool control mechanic of talking aloud to answer questions, determining your route in very much the same way as Until Dawn's choice-based narrative. Horror games are the scariest in VR because of its inescapability, and somehow talking aloud just makes it all the scarier.
Get It Here: $19.99 on Amazon for PS4 and PSVR.
The Light Keeps Us Safe
From the developers behind Sir, You Are Being Hunted and The Signal from Tolva comes a new game in Steam Early Access: The Light Keeps Us Safe. It's an apocalyptic survival horror where your greatest tool is light, and the dangers lurk in, well, the darkness. You won't find any monsters in the gruesome, traditional sense; only in alien machines that are afraid of the light—which is your advantage to surviving the procedurally generated environment. To survive, you solve puzzles and overcome enemies if your flashlight is upgraded enough. It's also very tense, which really, is all you can ask for in a survival horror game.
Get It Here: $19.99 on Steam for PC.
Some horror games subsist on excellent audio design, and Puppet Combo's Nun Massacre—also known as Night of the Nun— is one of them. Nun Massacre's concept is immediately recognizable: You must escape a killer nun. She is scary and wants to kill you, and the telltale sign that she's on your tail—whether she's lurking in the shadows or loitering in a hallway—is the horrifying music that kicks in, accented by blood-curdling screams. I hate it so much; it gives me goosebumps. And yet, I love Nun Massacre and its PlayStation 1-era low-poly goodness. It also has some great filters, like a black and white one to make things extra creepy. It's cheap too, at just under $5. Puppet Combo also curated a killer bundle on itch.io for $14.95 called the Spooky Retro Bundle 2, which contains this very game alongside other retro-inspired horror treats. (The bundle's sale ends at the end of this week.)
Get It Here: $4.95 on itch.io for PC, Mac.
Despite the popularity of found footage horror films, from The Blair Witch Project to Paranormal Activity, it's relatively rare that we see it exercised in video games. This year's September 1999, a free game that's scared players across Steam and itch.io, embraces the format though. It's a short game, running precisely at five minutes and 30 seconds. You explore a house, happening upon some disturbing images while holding a camcorder before it comes to an end. For being a short little indie game that's available for free, it looks confoundingly realistic thanks to the VHS effects. It's almost like you really are wandering around a seemingly empty house.
Get It Here: Name Your Own Price on itch.io for PC, Mac.
I played Transference over a year ago at an Ubisoft event, not knowing that it was secretly a horror game. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't know either, as most of its promotion has been relegated to FMV clips of actor Elijah Wood, a producer at the studio SpectreVision that co-developed the game, talking at the screen. Transference released quietly back in September. It retains the element of FMV, and can even be played outside of VR. I recommend it in VR though because of how it startled me to death after I made a wrong move in an environment puzzle, only to turn around with the barrel of a shotgun in my face when I demoed it way back when. Ugh.
Even if we'll never get Silent Hills, at least P.T.'s legacy has stretched far and wide in the gaming world, especially among independent developers. Visage is one of the biggest examples of a game inspired by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro's playable teaser. Earlier this month, it hit Steam Early Access, terrifying home exploration and all. Much like in P.T., you're exploring a house (though exploration has more in common with, say, Gone Home). The more you explore, the more the house changes—just like in P.T.'s hallway. All you know is a family has been murdered here, and it's up to you to piece together how and why. It even has a sanity system, similar to Amnesia: The Dark Descent's, where you'll need to stay in the light to keep your mind in check. If you're on the hunt for an eerie atmosphere to keep you on edge, be sure to check out Visage.
Get It Here: $24.99 on Steam for PC.
In the early months of 2018, a cult classic finally reached Steam: Yume Nikki, the famous freeware game from anonymous developer Kikiyama, who mysteriously vanished before finishing updates on the game. Yume Nikki is a game very near and dear to my heart personally, and it's one I wholeheartedly recommend during the Halloween season. It may not be scary in the traditional sense, but it has an atmosphere that's fitting for nightmares and good dreams alike. It's free too, so what's stopping you? And if you prefer a non-RPG Maker-made experience, its 3D reimagining developed this year is another option too.
Get It Here: Free on Steam for PC.