Happy Halloween! 'Tis the season for dressing up as figures in pop culture to get $3 burritos at Chipotle.
Since Halloween falls on a Tuesday this year, it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to assume that most folks don't have particularly spooky plans for this evening. Maybe you'll pop in your Blu-ray of Hocus Pocus or something, or power through more of season two of Stranger Things if you didn't already binge it over the weekend. After all, we all have work in the morning (*yawn*), or we celebrated over the weekend at a number of other costume parties. The fact is: your night is probably (mostly) free. So why not kick back and plug into a creepy game from 2017 for the occasion?
Worry not: none of these games are particularly long, nor are they even that pricey. At the most, they're $15. Plus Steam's having a handy Halloween sale right now that ends on November 1st at 10am PST, which makes some of these even cheaper. If you're on a budget—both of the time sense and monetary sense—then this list will have you covered.
Theoretically, a top-down horror game almost feels like it could be impossible to be unnerving. After all, in a way, you always see what's ahead. In Acid Wizard Studio's Darkwood, that's not the case at all. The developers utilize a puny flashlight, ear-piercing sound design, and a dark, rainy environment to make the most of its unique take on survival horror. By the end of it, you'll never look at dogs the same again.
Get It Here: $11.99 on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux, usually $14.99.
Detention, from Taiwanese developers Red Candle Games, has stuck with me ever since I played it in early 2017. While more of an eerie game than outright horror, Detention is a game about the terror of living in Taiwan under martial law in the 1960s. Of course, there's actual ghastly things too. It's an incredibly bleak game overall, as the wheels turn towards its inevitable tragedy, but it's a moving game nonetheless.
Get It Here: $5.99 on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux, usually $11.99.
Haunted Cities Volume 2
Kitty Horrorshow is one of my favorite independent developers. Her games are the type that make me rethink horror's potential, and how we even view "horror" games under a traditional lens. The unpredictable haunted house horror of 2016's Anatomy ended up being one of my absolute favorite games of last year. Her latest project, literally released earlier today, is a short collection of experimental snapshots, each winding down an even creepier road than the last. I can't think of a better way to spend Halloween than with Horrorshow's lo-fi horror's embrace.
Get It Here: free on itch.io for PC, Mac, and Linux.
Most text adventures leave everything to the imagination. But not Stories Untold, the experimental text adventure from developers No Code. Stories Untold is an anthology-like text adventure, careening into different episodes, all with their own deeply unsettling tales to navigate through. It's also far more visual than most text adventures, in itself ushering the genre into new heights; showing that you no longer just need mere words on a screen to frighten players. In the end though, sometimes the words driving the action is what's truly scariest.
Get It Here: $3.39 on Steam for PC and Mac, usually $9.99
The first Sylvio, from developer Stroboskop, did something I don't see often in horror games: it took players outside, showing them the true horrors of nature and beyond, and the ghosts that dwell the earth. It also explored the terror that lies in the sounds of such ghoulishness, as the player is outfitted with a ghost recorder. In Sylvio 2, that audio recorder's upgraded to video; the outdoor setting is brought indoors to desolate apartments. But all the same: it's an eerie atmosphere, thus the perfect game to play on ol' Halloween.
Get It Here: $14.99 on Steam for PC and Mac.