It's officially October. Where oh where did the year go?
In honor of the spookiest of months, all month long we're doing Halloween-themed Community Questions. For our first one, we're starting with a softball question: What's your favorite horror game? Let us know in the comments, and you can find some of the team's answers below!
I honestly don't play a lot of horror games, not because I'm scared—okay, a little because of that—but mostly because I don’t like the mechanics of the modern horror game. The Amnesia-style hiding and interruptions mid-puzzle solving have never been my thing. Honestly, when I think of horror games I like, they tend to be ones that play with the game itself in some way, bending format or presentation in order to really catch you off-guard.
In that sense, while not strictly horror, I love Pony Island by Daniel Mullins. It is creepy and effective, works within its limits, and finds fascinating ways to deliver surprises and "scares." Also, special shoutout to Doki Doki Literature Club, which handles its scares and atmosphere very well.
Ivan Zanotti's IMSCARED is probably the best hour or so I've ever spent with a game before, y'know, hastily uninstalling it once I was finished. One of these days I'll be brave enough to go through IMSCARED again, but I also say that about giving movies like It Follows or Hereditary another watch… it might be a long while before I'm ready again, I guess.
Five Nights at Freddy's. (Hey, I wrote a story guide!) I'll probably never stop having nightmares of Bonnie Bunny staring directly at me through the security camera with his dead, black eyes, but the series' concept chills me a bit more than its execution. I'm old enough to remember when Chuck E Cheese outlets were rancid, run-down places with grimy corners. Maybe they still are. One time I visited the venue on a class trip and there was broken glass in front of the show stage, glittering like a thousand tiny knives in the half-dark. If one of the animatronics somehow came to life tomorrow and started killing people, it'll be the least surprising news I'll receive all day.
I think I heard CEC actually retired the animatronics recently. Calling it now: Murder and a subsequent follow-up.
I'm going with a more recent game for this question, though I could wax poetic about what I love and don't love about horror games all day long. (In short: jump scares suck. Helplessness is tired.) Red Candle Games' Detention has really resonated with me though. In 2017, it was one of my favorite games of the year, and shockingly no one really talked about it. It's a side-scrolling adventure game, but it messes with the familiar formula in really clever ways. It's also terrifying, and is rooted in the White Terror period of martial law in Taiwan. So, y'know, it's actually unsettling knowing that it's semi-based on history. Detention also got a film adaptation in Taiwan this year.
The studio's follow-up Devotion is far and away my favorite game of 2019 so far too. And it's a shame, because you probably can't play it if you didn't buy it during its debut weekend. It was taken down from Steam after a controversy where a placeholder image in the game was a meme that mocked the president of China. Considering how strained Taiwanese and Chinese relations already are, it was enough for the game to be pulled with no signs of returning, apologies galore, and even Devotion's publisher in China had its business license revoked in the aftermath. It's all very sad, because Devotion is the smartest twist I've ever played on the formula set by cult classic P.T., and like P.T., ironically, it's near impossible to access today.