You're too old for trick-or-treating. You already partied last weekend. You could watch a horror movie, but that's only going to end one way -- and you have no control over that final outcome. Why not spend the creepiest hours of All Hallows' Eve playing a spooky video game instead?
Interested in some solid interactive scares? Here are 13 recommendations of some recent video game releases that you should play with the lights off.
This PS4-exclusive horror experience takes some of the best (and most cliched) parts of teen slasher flicks and makes them interactive. Featuring an ensemble cast of characters that you switch control between at various points, every decision you make in Until Dawn could have drastic and deadly consequences. Will you tell one of your friends that his girlfriend is cheating on him? Will you pick up a baseball bat? Will you successfully make your way out of a dark room? Every little thing could lead to a different conclusion, and not every character is guaranteed to survive.
The game stars a celebrity cast that includes Hayden Panettiere, Peter Stormare and Rami Malek, all of whom provide solid performances that help make the game feel like a B-level horror movie in the best way.
Fatal Frame: Maiden of the Black Water
There's always something particularly creepy about a good ghost photograph, even if you know it's totally fake. Fatal Frame takes advantage of that by shoving a camera in your hands and making you defend yourself with it. Anybody can make a game filled with blood and guts in an attempt to be "scary," but the Fatal Frame series succeeds in making things unsettling. You're never going to be fighting off an axe-wielding murderer with a shotgun. Instead, you want to take good pictures of spirits that you would probably rather look away from.
There's quite a bit about this Wii U game that feels outdated, though there's something charming about that if you're familiar with old school survival horror games (like the original Fatal Frame games on PS2). The game uses the Wii U GamePad as your camera, forcing you to lift it up and really get those ghostly images in your face in order to survive.
Note: Nintendo of America has, unfortunately, decided only to release the game digitally in the U.S., and there's a chance you won't actually have the hard drive space on your system in order to download it. The upside: The game is "free to start," so you can download and check out the first small chunk of the game to see if it's for you before you run out to get an external hard drive for it.
From the creators of Amnesia, one of the scarier games to come out over the past decade or so, Soma is a terrific sci-fi horror game that will have you questioning what's real and what isn't.
The story begins with a character trying to pick up the pieces after a car wreck that left his girlfriend dead and himself brain damaged. As he tries to find answers for his new medical condition he wakes up in a seemingly far-flung future in which sentient robots -- possibly with the consciousness of human beings inside them -- roam a derelict science station under the sea. It's an incredibly atmospheric adventure that could make you jump with every sound.
Goosebumps: The Game
Goosebumps, the movie, is surprisingly great. Goosebumps: The Game is ... Well, a little less great, but still pretty charming and sufficiently scary for younger players. It's full of classic references and monsters (like a Haunted Mask and Monster Blood and of course Slappy the dummy) and some clever puzzles.
It walks a weird line, though. The game is styled after old point-and-click adventure games from the '80s and '90s like Shadowgate, and of course it's based on a book series that's most popular with people who grew up in that era, so it leans heavily on nostalgia. But Goosebumps is also kind of easy (and easily finished within a few hours if you go straight to the end, not stopping to solve every optional puzzle along the way), with writing and puzzles that seem geared toward today's kids.
It's not the best game on this list, but it's a more lighthearted horror experience that's good at evoking some fun old Goosebumps memories.
Stasis is great on multiple levels, the first of which being that it's a well-made, old school point-and-click adventure game. It's got an isometric view like the old Crusader games on PC and an interface that feels like some of the best games of that era.
But it's also got a terrifically spooky atmosphere that delivers great sci-fi horror. Fair warning: It can also be more than a bit disturbing. Spoiler alert: One section has you using a machine to perform spinal surgery on yourself. While conscious.
Layers of Fear
There are people who would argue that Layers of Fear is "not a game," and that's fine. It's the equivalent of a haunted house you can walk through, but stay on your toes: Every time you turn around you might discover that the world has warped in terrifying ways.
The game is in Early Access on Steam (meaning it's not yet a finished project, but you can buy it to support ongoing development), but it's still a terrifying (if short) roller coaster ride.
"What happens when the sole protagonist in a zombie story dies? They spend so much time gathering supplies, clearing safe areas, and forging new paths through the post-apocalyptic wasteland only to die alone. Who picks up those pieces?
One of the hooks of Zombi is that it answers this question. When you die in Ubisoft's first-person survival action game, your character is dead forever. You then begin anew with a fresh face and a mostly empty inventory. Yet the progress your last character made isn't erased -- any paths opened or objectives completed are permanent--but you will have to make do without the old hero's supplies. Unless, of course, you can recover all that sweet loot from the corpse. Small problem: You might have to fight your zombified former self to get your stuff back." -- Read my full review of Zombi over at GameSpot.
Charnel House Trilogy
This game is a bit more like three tiny games in one, like short, scary vignettes that come together into one unsettling whole. It looks and plays like an old school adventure game from the era of the original Monkey Island, but it's got some modern elements like voice acting. It's short and relatively simple, but it's an interesting narrative experience.
The noir-inspired adventure game White Night has an incredibly striking black-and-white aesthetic and some cool ideas, and at times it's both wonderful and scary. It can also be frustrating, however, and on occasion it's lackluster. It definitely sets a good mood, though, and if you can work through its issues you might enjoy its creepy tale. You can read my full review of the game at GameSpot.
This 2D puzzle/adventure game is a bit on the short side, and its "horror" elements are fairly light, but it's an OK ghost story for the gamer who doesn't want to get too scared on Halloween.
All of the 2D, top-down action in Noct is viewed as if through a drone flying overhead that can only detect heat signatures. So you won't see a ton of detail on the monsters that stalk you in the dark, but you won't need to. All you need to know is that they're big, they can be fast, and they will kill you instantaneously if you run out of ammo.
Like Layers of Fear, Noct is in Early Access and has a long way to go before it's a full, complete game experience. But what's here so far takes some tried-and-true survival horror elements and throws a unique twist on them, making it both fun and occasionally scary -- mostly when you run out of resources and are positive you are about to die.
Lakeview Cabin Collection
This 2D, somewhat experimental game throws you into a slasher flick, gives you control of a bunch of characters and says, "Here. You figure out what happens." Yes, there are things to do, enemies to defeat and puzzles to solve, but much of the experience is a sandbox. Do you want one of the characters to grab an axe and go all Jason Voorhees on her friends? Go for it. Would you rather they all drink beer, go skinny dipping and then huddle up together in an attempt to survive through the night? That's up to you.
Right now the game has two episodes (each its own "movie"), but buyers will be getting an additional three episodes when they're released at a later date.
I'm cheating a bit here as Year Walk was on my list of games to play for Halloween back in 2013, but it's 1) Still great, and 2) Now available on more platforms, including a recent Wii U release.
Year Walk has a great atmosphere and some solid scary moments, but it also tells a great story inspired in part by Swedish folklore, utilizing some very clever puzzles along the way. It's particularly good on systems with a touch screen (it debuted on the iPad), but it works OK with a mouse as well.