Halloween Special: The Best Horror Games of 2013 So Far
'Tis the season to be frightened.
Halloween has always been one of my favorite nights of the year. When else can one gorge oneself on unhealthy amounts of sugar and sweets without consequence? When else can one let all their inhibitions fall aside and go out on the town in whatever catches their fancy?
There's another reason I love Halloween, as well. See, I've always been a fan of horror in all its forms. I've wasted hours poring over creepypasta on the 'net. I've sought out some of the most obscure foreign horror flicks around in the hopes that they'd give me a fright. I've played games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent at 3 AM in a darkened room.
That last one… I don't think I'm going to do that again.
Anyway, my point is that Halloween is probably one of the best occasions to kick back, turn off the lights, and open up a horror game or two (or three). You'll definitely have quite a few to choose from, too. In terms of horror, 2013's been a pretty fantastic year. Submitted for your pleasure; here are a few of the best releases we've seen so far (this year, anyway).
Our first entry puts you into the shoes of independent journalist Miles Upshur, who thinks he's stumbled upon the story of a lifetime. Deep within the Colorado Rockies lies the sinister Mount Massive Asylum, an abandoned mental institution-turned-research facility by the Murkoff Corporation. The place had been operating in strict secrecy until an anonymous tip led Upshur to the institution, where he intends to put together a story which will destroy Murkoff. There's just one problem…
The whole facility's gone straight to hell. Most of the staff is dead. The patients stalk the halls, killing anyone they come across. Even worse; a sinister, supernatural presence prowls through the shadows, stalking Miles as he makes his way through Mount Massive. His objective, naturally, quickly changes from getting out with a story to just getting out with all his limbs intact.
With a few light parkour elements and plenty of Body Horror, Outlast'll unnerve you the whole way through.
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
I've got two words for you, folks: atmospheric horror. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs has it in droves. The folks at The Chinese Room boast an intimate understanding of what factors make an environment unpleasant to a player, and they gleefully scatter these elements all throughout, messing with the player's head and preying on their intense anxiety. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the game that made me want to swear off bacon.
I didn't do it, of course. But I wanted to.
Even though A Machine for Pigs gets a little bit goofy towards the end (there are some real pacing issues later in the game), it's nevertheless a downright terrifying – and incredible – choice for All Hallows Eve.
Huntsman: The Orphanage
If you're looking for a brand of horror that's a little bit more cerebral, a little slower-burning, look no further than Huntsman: The Orphanage. Equipped only with your curiously-colorful smartphone, you've managed to stumble across an abandoned orphanage suffering under a horrifying curse: over a century ago, a group of twelve orphans went missing from Grimhaven, captured by a malicious entity known only as The Huntsman.
Ever since that night, their souls have existed in a sort of horrific limbo. There, they are tormented daily by the creature, which feeds on their suffering. Your task is as follows: Find a way to free the twelve from the Huntsman's grasp. Be wary, though: he knows you're here, and he's hunting you; it's all a game to him.
Slender: The Arrival
Credit where it's due: the Internet knows how to design something that's genuinely frightening. Slenderman is a meme-turned-cultural phenomenon. No one's quite sure what his motives are, but they seem to range from kidnapping children to simply sowing chaos. The unnaturally tall, rail-thin, faceless man isn't in the habit of explaining himself; and the fact that his very presence inspires terror and wreaks havoc on audio-video equipment should be enough reason to avoid him.
Slender: The Arrival is an expanded version of a short web-game starring the Slenderman, known as Slender: Eight Pages. The objective of that one was pretty cut-and-dry: find the eight pages hidden in random locations around the woods, and escape before Slenderman catches you.
Developed with the assistance of the folks behind the excellent Marble Hornets web-series (which features Slenderman as the antagonist); Slender: The Arrival is an expanded version of the original, with a new story, better visuals, and a level of fear which will probably merit a new pair of pants.
Dreadout is an Indonesian horror game designed inspired by the immensely terrifying Fatal Frame series (and making no secret of that inspiration). You play as high-schooler Linda, who has wandered into a strange, deserted town along with several of her classmates while on a school vacation trip. Unfortunately, they're not leaving any time soon. Someone – or, more accurately, something – is keeping them there.
In order to survive, Linda will have to use every ounce of her wit, while utilizing every single gadget at her disposal, including her smartphone, camera, and video camera. These devices will allow her to interact with the ghosts haunting the town, as well as solve any puzzles she comes across. Although the game's not technically released yet, Digital Happiness has provided a playable demo.
Keep the lights on while you play it. Trust me.
There you go, folks. These titles should be enough to tide you over. If you're looking for a bit more, you could always check out SCP: Containment Breach, or have a go at some of the fantastic custom stories fans have designed for Amnesia: The Dark Descent. If you don't mind sprite-art, Mad Father, Home and Lone Survivor are also pretty fantastic.
A gamer at heart, Nick started writing when he was a child. He holds a BA in English, works as a freelancer, and loves every minute of it. One day, he hopes to net himself a career in game design - but that's something for the future.
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