For anyone who’s followed my blog or my YouTube channel, it should have become abundantly clear by now that I have a serious love-hate relationship with horror games. On one hand, I loathe the jump-scare horror that’s become so prevalent in video games and films as of late. There’s nothing wrong with a grandly terrifying moment of a ghost or a zombie or an animatronic teddy bear lurching out of the shadows once and a while. But when that’s the entire theme of your game, you’re less making a horror game and more making a game that takes advantage of innate fight or flight reflexes.
On the other hand, games with a grim story or a haunting atmosphere absolutely intrigue and thrill me to the core. And a game with feet firmly planted in both camps can be unforgettable. That’s the reason that Alien: Isolation was my favorite game of 2014, and it’s also why I genuinely see the Five Nights At Freddy’s series as worthwhile, despite many other critics calling it Pewdie-Bait (it is, but I still think it’s a decent series).
So while horror games are the sort of experience that I have to take a few deep breaths to prepare for, I’m always on the lookout for some high-quality chillers. 2017 has been a great year for games in general, but there are several horror titles that I’d recommend you give a shot if you’re on the lookout for a jumpfest on Halloween.
Resident Evil 7 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
This one’s a little obvious, but goddamn was it an amazing way to introduce us to the level of quality the games of 2017 were going to display.
Released in January, RE7 left one hell of an impression. A return to the slower, more methodical style of older Resident Evil titles, Capcom managed to create a game that was different enough, while also giving you that good old fashioned “holy-jesus-christ-I’m-being-chased-through-a-giant-fucking-house-full-of-zombies-and-weird-ass-puzzles” feeling.
The Shrouded Isle (PC)
Looking to spend a few hours in a nightmare asylum of a little town while methodically choosing who you’ll sacrifice to an elder god who responds only to violence and obedience?
Why am I the only one who likes doing that?
Well, for those of you who aren’t ready to take the full plunge just yet, there’s The Shrouded Isle: a strategy sim by Kitfox Games, where you take the helm of a cult of Chernobog. Every season you have to (get to!) choose who lives and who dies. But if you choose a less than ideal candidate, you’re going to have some angry cultists to deal with.
Stories Untold (PC)
The perfect companion to an evening of binge watching Stranger Things or reading through a collection of short stories by Stephen King, Devolver Digital’s Stories Untold is a bit of anthology horror/sci-fi that left me gobsmacked.
Four different games compile Stories Untold, and by the time you’ve finished them all, you’ll know the truth about how they all link up: the terrible, shameful spine that holds them all together. Beyond its effective horror atmosphere, gamut of playstyles, and genuinely startling moments, Stories Untold also contains some of the best writing in a video game I’ve seen all year.
We Eat Blood And All Our Friends Are Dead (PC, Mobile)
Fuck yes, Vampire: The Masquerade. Ever since the nineties, I’ve enjoyed every goth, hissing, dice-rolling, patchouli-scented drop of you.
And with the verbosely-titled We Eat Blood And All Our Friends Are Dead, I got a brand new chance at playing within that gothic-punk universe. WEBAAOFAD is a text-based game where you spend your first days as a newly-sired bloodsucker working your way into the Kindred society without getting exsanguinated. Not only is it a terrific story, but the intimacy of using text-messages to further the storyline is effectively spooky.
Okay, this game didn’t come out in 2017. Actually, it came out in 1995. But at the beginning of this year, I played my way through it in one of my last Let’s Plays, and the schlocky, FMV-riddled fun that I had with it was too much to pass up. And, to be honest, it’s that sort of horror that I’ll most likely find myself playing tonight, when I’m warm and toasty in front of my computer monitor, looking for a spare scare.
And with the development of games like The Madness Of Doctor Dekker and Morph Girl, I don’t even have to step back to the 90’s to do it!
Even though I probably will anyway.