I don’t think most of us will be dressing up and going outside this Halloween given the unfortunate state of the world as of late. There’s one thing we can do: scare ourselves from the comfort of our homes. And there’s no better way to do it than by playing a horror game (scary movies are simply an inferior experience). Here are my recommendations.
‘Cry of Fear’
“Cry of Fear” is a first-person horror shooter that originally came out as a mod in 2012 for the game “Half-Life,” and it has aged remarkably well. You play as Simon, a hoodie-wearing teenager who finds himself completely alone in a city full of nightmarish creatures. The story is nothing impressive, but the gameplay is simply amazing. The level design is consistently claustrophobic but varied in location. The enemies will surely remind you of those in the Silent Hill series, all soaked in blood and moving in an unnatural, inhuman fashion. The terrifying difference is that most of them move extremely fast. This coupled with the fact that the game is filled with effective jumpscares makes for a twitchy shooter experience that will keep you perpetually paranoid.
The game is free on Steam and the value you get is astounding. In addition to eight hours of the above-mentioned single player campaign, there is a four player co-op mode as well as other single-player modes. This game is what got me into horror games in the first place. It’s one of my favorite horror games of all time. If you don’t feel like playing it, however, I really recommend watching PewDiePie’s old playthrough of it. It’s a classic.
‘The Cat Lady’
Another entry from 2012, “The Cat Lady” is a 2D point-and-click psychological puzzle adventure with a focus on its story which deals with trauma and death. You play as Susan Ashworth, a lonely middle-aged woman who tries to kill herself by overdosing on sleeping pills, but finds no sweet release of death. Instead, she is made immortal by the death-like “Queen of Maggots.” The Queen has a mission for Susan: find and kill five “parasites”—people who are “the scum of the earth” and “deserve to die”—and they will try to kill Susan too. She must come to terms with her own troubled life, while potentially being brutally murdered over and over by the “parasites.”
In addition to the grim narrative, the story features a matching hand-drawn art style that is capable of depicting imagery of body horror unmatched by most horror games as well as creating this incredible atmosphere of despair and pain, which is accompanied by a haunting and beautiful soundtrack. “The Cat Lady” is $10 on Steam. Check out Cryaotic’s playthrough if you prefer to watch it.
“Phasmophobia” is a co-op first-person ghost hunting game that I haven’t had a chance to play yet. From the gameplay I’ve seen from my favorite horror YouTuber, John Wolfe, it’s definitely an innovative experience worth trying out. The basic premise is this: a group of ghost hunters (a maximum of four players) is contracted to identify ghosts in abandoned places. You and your teammates get to use all sorts of equipment: EMF reader, motion sensor, UV light, a notebook for ghosts to write on and even a crucifix. You will need to use these tools to find evidence of the ghost’s existence and determine what type of ghost they are: is it a banshee, a demon or a revenant? As much as we see these tools used in horror films, surprisingly no horror game as far as I know has had these gameplay elements until now.
Audio design is another highlight. You can talk with your teammates either openly or with a walkie talkie. If you’re too far apart, you won’t be able to hear each other except through the latter. If a team member dies, they won’t be able to talk until the hunting session ends, so it can be very creepy when all your teammates have died and you are the only one left. Also, ghosts can hear you calling out their names and might respond by showing up. I love this idea. “Phasmophobia” is $14 on Steam.
This is another game so new that I haven’t had the chance to play it. In fact, it was released a day before I started writing this article. “Amnesia: Rebirth” is a first-person survival horror and is a sequel to the 2010 classic “Amnesia: the Dark Descent,” which is probably one of the most influential survival horror games, popularizing YouTube playthroughs in the first place. In this new installment, you play as Tasi, an archeologist whose plane to Africa crash lands in a desert. As the title suggests, Tasi also loses any memory of where the other passengers have gone, and you need to explore dark caves and other abandoned places to find out where. Stay out of the dark, pick up notes and keys, solve puzzles and run away from monsters of which you are completely defenseless against.
This all seems like standard fare for a horror game, but the original Amnesia was the one that perfected the somewhat cliche gameplay. Having watched John Wolfe play some of it, I’ll say it does look promising. The game is $30 on Steam. In the case that my recommendation turns out to be undeserved, you should definitely play the first one, which is $20.