At Halloween there’s nothing better than closing the curtains, turning off the lights, pretending you’re not in for the pesky kids knocking on the door, and settling down to a terrifying game or six. But what to choose? Creeping dread? Monstrous foes? Buckets of gore? Let us show you the way with our list of the 10 best games to play this Halloween.
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
It’s been a whole decade since we were first handed a plasma cutter and told to lop limbs off monsters in a manner that can only be described as ‘a hot knife through very bloody butter’. Even ten years don’t seem to have blocked out the nightmares. In Dead Space, everyone can hear you scream. If you haven’t already had the gory, er, pleasure, Isaac Clarke’s horrifying trek through the USG Ishimura might be swimming in monster mash, but this is a tense, atmospheric scarefest that you won’t be able to wash out of your mental upholstery for years.
Available on: PS4
If the late-’90s glut of smart meta-horror got your pulse racing with its blend of teen-speak, self-referential smirking, and endless murder of attractive humans, this PS4 exclusive will be your horror catnip. Starring Hayden Panettiere - yes, at one point she wanders about in a towel - Until Dawn sends you up a snowy mountain with no cell reception and more than a chance of masked murder. Every choice you make risks the lives of the all-too-mortal cast, and an enjoyable tonal handbrake turn midway through serves to keep you firmly on your toes.
Silent Hill 2
Available on: PS2
If there’s one horror nasty from your gaming childhood that deserves a replay, it’s Silent Hill 2. You could do a lot worse than digging your PS2 out of your attic to give it another go. Ignore the HD Collection and load up your original for the nostalgia of the sheer scares hidden in the depths of the fog. James Sunderland’s journey into insanity is made up of little horrifying moments wrapped in an atmosphere of complete dread. The first time you hear the sputter of radio static. The sheer horror of having to take your one source of light from a headless mannequin. Your first glimpse of the notorious Pyramid Head, standing motionless in the Apartment Building. It’s all terrifying.
Every note of Akira Yamaoka’s creeping industrial score will further test your mettle as you explore the small town where James and his wife created all those happy memories. And despite all the scary sounds and sights, you’ll find it’s the heart here that hurts the most. This game isn’t just a series of gross-out moments or a few sharp shocks. Put up with the turn-of-the-millennium tank controls for a few hours and Silent Hill 2 is the pinnacle of disturbing survival horror.
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Movie tie-ins don’t have the best reputation, but Creative Assembly’s horrifying xenomorph experience makes up for every bad movie game of the last 20 years. Following Ripley’s daughter, Amanda, as she investigates her mother’s disappearance, Alien: Isolation is controller-gripping levels of tense. Knowing you're being hunted by the xenomorph is bad enough, but throw in the exquisite sound design as every noise echoes through the empty space station, and your motion tracker starts to bleep, and it becomes joyously unbearable.
Available on: Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Yes, night vision is scary, and no, when you said ‘stay somewhere with a bit of character’ we didn’t think you meant an actual asylum. There’re no two ways about it, Red Barrels’ trip into the darkness is horrifying. Handing you only a camera and a couple of batteries – why would you need a weapon? – and sending you into Mount Massive Asylum, Outlast yanks you in with a steely, chilling grip that repeatedly tests your sanity. Jump scares, corridors with abandoned, spinning wheelchairs, everything you thought might now be a cliché is heightened to a green-hued artform. Play at your peril.
Until Dawn: Rush Of Blood
Available on: PS4 (PS VR)
VR was made for horror games. Well, no. We all know what VR was actually made for, but let’s innocently pretend it was designed for scaring us silly, eh? While there’s a terrifying array of virtual reality options just made to help you lose your mind as well as your spatial awareness, Until Dawn’s option stands out as a particularly creepy highlight. You wouldn’t think that turning the teen horror IP into an on-rails fairground shooter would work, but Rush of Blood is the ultimate ghost train to ride, whether alone or with friends.
Whatever you’re afraid of, Rush of Blood has something for you. Creepy clowns? Great. Horrifying enormous spiders, plus tiny ones that scuttle into your cart with you? Sure. Enormous slaughterhouses of dead pigs and staring dolls? Oh, yes. And monsters just running at you isn’t enough for Rush of Blood. You might have weapons here to make yourself feel a little better, but Supermassive understands how virtual reality works, and will quite happily send in jump scares and invasions of your personal space to get the terrifying job done. As reasons to pick up a PlayStation VR go this Halloween, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Layers of Fear
Available on: Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Ah, let’s get away from all the horror with some nice creative time. Mmmm, paint by numbers. Oh, is that made from human hair? Were those dolls always staring at us like that? Exploring the house of an artist as he finishes his ultimate masterpiece, Layers Of Fear is a jump-scare packed exercise in surrealism that’s constantly inventive, not to mention terrifying. Never-ending walls of dead-eyed paintings are deeply disturbing, and the way the house moves around you like a haunted Rubik’s Cube means you’ll never feel truly at ease. Developer Bloober Team has perfected the art of the scare.
Available on: Xbox One, PC
Imagine Stardew Valley with dead bodies and you’re pretty close to the everyday necrotic grind of Graveyard Keeper. Sure, it’s not a horror game per se, but tell that to the poor chap who has to accept the cadavers from a seriously grumpy donkey, and then try to appease the townspeople as well as get rid of corpses for a living. It’s not quite got the charm of naming chickens, but there’s something horribly appealing about running your own cemetery. Put on a festival with delicious cooked meat, you say? Of course, I’ve just been to the butcher… Hannibal would be proud.
Available on: Nowhere, unless you've got a PS4 with it installed…
We’ve all heard the one about the call coming from inside the house, but do you know the campfire story about the horror game that disappeared from the PlayStation Store? Okay, it might not require a seance or lit candles in front of the mirror to bring it out, but the mythical P.T. demo (or ‘Playable Teaser’) for the Silent Hills game that never was is technically only available on old PS4s. Quickly after Guillermo del Toro and Hideo Kojima’s horror dream was quashed, the demo disappeared entirely from the PlayStation Store. Imagine then, finding an old dusty console in an attic, plugging it in, and playing a game where a grimy paper bag talking to you is the most pleasant part of this disturbingly unpredictable experience. Think about an infinite corridor pushing you in nightmarish loops, challenging you to turn corners to reveal elongated shadowy visions, jump scares, rolling eyeballs, and fleshy sobbing creatures in bathroom sinks. There are even only rumoured ways to unlock the final reveal of Norman Reedus wandering out into the legendary foggy town, and one of them involves reciting words desperately into your microphone between the chimes of a clock. P.T. might not sound it, but it’s terrifyingly real.
Resident Evil 7
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
After 22 Biohazardous years you’d think Resident Evil would have done it all. Surely there are only so many ways you can dress up monsters and herbs? Well, no, actually. Putting the rule book in a blender last year, Resident Evil 7 is a modern masterpiece with a very clear slew of horror movie inspirations. The despicable Baker family and their dilapidated mansion are straight from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, while the found footage elements take their lead from the nasties of REC and The Blair Witch Project. The first-person perspective adds a whole new level of fear as you enter a house that it’s clear that no-one ever leaves. (You can even play it in PS VR, if you’re feeling brave.)
The game might fall apart somewhat in its final act as it returns to more traditional elements of Resi (another monster to grenade in the face? You really shouldn’t have) but the first few hours of Resident Evil 7 are sheer intravenous horror. Playing hide and seek with the hideous Marguerite, solving shadowy puzzles, and just waiting for insane patriarch Jack Baker to rear his hideous bearded head, this is a franchise that shows you can teach an old dog new tricks. Even the ones that try to rip your throat out.