Halloween's right around the corner and you're looking for some games that might be fun to turn on with the lights off. Well, check out these ten titles that are definitely worth hunting down for some console-based thrills and chills!
10. Alan Wake (Xbox 360)
In this long-in-development from Max Payne developer, Remedy, you play as a world-famous writer who travels to the small town of Bright Falls to work on your latest novel when your wife turns up missing and you're beset by shadowy creatures and scenarios from the novel you haven't even finished yet. For much of the game, you'll be wandering around in the dark, using your trusty flashlight to fend off enemies and whatever firearms you can grab to take them out. You can find a few genuine scares while being attacked from all sides by former-people muttering crazy nonsense at you. However, the primary mechanic and the basic structure of this 2010 title quickly gets repetitive, and some of the intentionally... pulpy writing gets downright awful.
But man, that last line of dialog is haunting enough for me to want a sequel immediately.
9. Left 4 Dead (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Left 4 Dead was a surprising entry on this list for me given that at this point, I think zombies are so beyond played out that I'm actively sick of seeing new zombie titles clogging up the shelves. But, I'd be dishonest if I didn't include Valve's title which is a master class on keeping tension ratcheted up. Like Alan Wake, sound design can be thanked for part of the game's success--I can't tell you how many times the wail of the hard-to-kill "Witch" character had me panicking and backtracking to rejoin my team. Plus, it's the only game on this list that's both fun and terrifying for you and three other friends.
8. Parasite Eve (Playstation)
This PS1-era game is a little bit of a cheat, being more of a sci-fi action RPG with Gothic horror gloss. Based very loosely on the novel by Hideaki Sena, Parasite Eve takes place during the Christmas season of 1997, it pits rookie cop Aya Brea against evolutionary horrors as New Yorkers get a huge shift in their mitochondrial DNA. It's a mix of body horror and RPG tropes with some police procedural elements thrown into the story in a franchise that really deserves revisiting by parent company Square-Enix.
7. Resident Evil 2 (Playstation, Dreamcast, Wii)
Back before Leon Kennedy was an action-y dreamboat and the RE series remained firmly planted in the survival horror genre, this second entry in Capcom's long-running series expands the action beyond the mansion and gives you the whole of the decimated Raccoon City to explore as you jumped between two characters across two discs. It's the most Romero-esque of the series, even getting a trailer directed by the Night of the Living Dead helmer.
6. Fatal Frame II (Playstation 2)
Really, you could include any game from this franchise on this list, but photographic horror title Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterly, gets an entry because of its eerie twin motif and deviation from the "reporter gets lost, etc." setup of other titles in the series. The game has you trying to find your way out of a haunted village while protecting your disabled twin, using an antique camera to snap shots of ghosts, dissipating their spirit enemy. Switching back and forth between third-person and first-person views, you never know when the next horrible, gaping mouthed, black-haired apparition is going to pop out at you.
5. Condemned (PS3, Xbox 360)
It's a first-person brawler/mystery/psychological thriller set among the derelict buildings of the inner city, pitting you, a cop on the edge against cultists and fanatics. It's CSI-meets-Seven in one of the most intriguing entries from the beginning of the current console generation. It often felt appropriately grimy and again, it's a case where the first person perspective made the action all that more intense, forcing you to constantly scan the periphery for threats.
4. Splatterhouse (TurboGrafx-16, Genesis)
I won't lie: this is more of a nostalgia pick than anything else. This 16-bit era side-scrolling brawler is Lovecraft by way of Stuart Gordon, featuring fleshy, H.R. Geiger-inspired monstrosities that explode into viscera upon impact. On top of it all, the hockey mask wearing lead, Rick, was always such a cool visual, rolling as he does with his 2X4 or shotgun. Namco-Bandai recently released an update/remake third-person action game, but it seemed to be taking the charms of the original and cranking them up to 11 with a whole Nu-metal thing and collectible pin-up pictures of your missing girlfriend.
3. Resident Evil (Playstation, PSN, Gamecube)
That's right: I get 10 entries and 30% of them are zombie games, two of them from the Resident Evil series. But honestly: the first is truly the best. Owing to the limitations of the platform, the low-fi graphics, and the general cramped intimacy of the experience, the original RE game owes as much to Fulci as it does to Romero, its cares coming as they do from grotesque variations on commonly-seen zombie tropes. I wonder how many millions of players experienced that first shock of the zombie dobermans launching themselves through the first floor hallway windows. Even the... rough dialog adds to the unsettling nature of the experience, making everything feel extra off-kilter.
2. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (Playstation 2, Dreamcast)
I debated adding this entry, but it stands as one of the most well-written titles (genuinely, and not in a "for a game" sense) that also happens to do wonders with its frequently empty, haunting environments to enhance the mood and the gameplay. It's a successor to the top-down action RPG Legacy of Kain, spawning two other sequels that span millenia, as its time-tossed protagonist, the dead vampire Raziel, seeks revenge on his sire, Kain. To solve the many puzzles in the game, you'll switch between the world of the living and the dead, and in the final entry in the series, Kain joins the action, brutally drinking the blood of the last remnants of humanity as he combats his nemesis from the distant past.
Check out the trailer below and dig on the music, the voice acting, all of it. I love the line, "He became less human and more... divine." Given the richness of its fiction, it's heartbreaking that this series hasn't gotten a continuation for the current console generation.
1. Silent Hill 2 (Playstation 2)
I guarantee you that a majority of lists ranking the best horror games to play this Halloween will have Silent Hill 2 somewhere on their list. It's the definition of truly psychological horror, it's monstrosities plucked from the neuroses of its lead character, a damaged man, James Sunderland, who is disturbed to receive a letter from his dead wife, drawing him to the titular town. If you've never played the game before, I'd advise you to avoid reading up too much on it, but the way the story plumbs the depths of what's wrong with its lead character is staggering and delivers an unsettling ending that's worth the 10-12 hours of play time. Like early Resident Evil games, Silent Hill places much of its emphasis on strategizing the use of weapons and assets. But the crucial difference is that Silent Hill almost actively discourages combat, forcing you to avoid the skittering, unnerving smaller enemies and compelling you to run like hell when Pyramid Head shows up. And I haven't mentioned the atmospheric, sometimes oppressive score by regular Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka. If you only seek out the soundtrack for the game (snippets of which showed up in the live action film from a few years back), you'll be in for a massive treat.