Tis the season to get scared! With Halloween fast approaching there’s been an increase in television channels showing spooky episodes of shows, and more horror films are arriving on the various streaming services. But there is one more medium not to be forgotten about this Halloween: video games. So instead of sitting in front of the TV shouting at the idiots to not go out into the dark on their own, how about you up the ante and control the person who goes striding out into the night. Here are five terrifying video games guaranteed to scare your socks off.
2021 has seen something of a horror renaissance with games, a steady stream of terror has found its way onto consoles this year and given lovers of the genre plenty to get excited about. Leading the charge is Poland’s Bloober Team – the studio behind the terrifying Layers of Fear and Observer – with the atmospheric The Medium.
The tale of Marianne, a medium with the ability to help souls stuck in our world to pass on to the next, is one that pulls on your emotional strings while it’s chewing its way through your nails with its atmosphere. Bloober have dialled down the scares from their previous entries and instead have taken more than a few hints from early Silent Hill games and made a game almost exclusively about the atmosphere.
Marianne’s journey through the abandoned Niwa resort – the site of a terrible massacre that needs the powerful medium’s gifts to unearth its secrets – forces her to spend time in both the real and spirit world. The Niwa hotel is one littered with the souls of those that died there as well as a monster that feeds on the suffering of those souls. Players, guided by the soul of a young girl, must traverse one of the most atmospheric games in the last few years, and take that final gut punch just to top it off. – Andrew Brooker
Resident Evil: Village
The second one in this list from 2021, Village is a direct sequel to the 2017 return to Resident Evil’s – more or less – pure horror roots. With new series protagonist Ethan Winters heading to Eastern Europe and a snow covered gothic… err… village to find his missing daughter.
In true Resident Evil style, Village introduces you to monster after monster, scare after scare, and beautifully macabre environment after beautifully macabre environment as a way to tear the seat out of your pants in the most wonderfully efficient way possible. As the latest in the iconic series walks you through one of the most delightfully beautiful settings Resident Evil has visited – yes, including the fact that it very much looks like the village in Resident Evil 4 – the now world famous vampire giant Lady Demitrescu and her three daughters are just the start of a truly horrifying trip down the rabbit hole that Resident Evil: Village is taking you on.
Including a set-piece in a life size haunted dollhouse and a whole load of zombies coming literally out of nowhere, Village delivers the scariest and deepest horror experience in video games in quite some time. If pure horror is your bag, Resident Evil: Village is waiting for you. – Andrew Brooker
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Last year, a week after my 42nd birthday, I did what any self-respecting, stable-jobbed, middle-aged father-of-one might and started a Twitch channel. And it did take a while, but I finally broke into that all-important Affiliate category, whereby Twitch actually pay me money to play videogames, with a little-known PC game from small Polish developer The Farm 51. The game is called Chernobylite, it’s a first-person survival horror game set in the Exclusion Zone around the very real Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and accompanying ghost city of Pripyat, and the reason I think it was successful enough to make me a Twitch Affiliate was the simple fact it routinely scares the shit out of me, live on stream.
For an excellent example of this, picture this scene. Your aforementioned middle-aged correspondent is livestreaming on Twitch. In front of him are two monitors: to the left, the game Chernobylite, played full screen. To the right, a preview of the stream, complete with camera, mirroring his face and all that goes on behind him. In the game he walks round a corner to see the phantom of a woman, standing in front of a doorway. As he approaches, the woman suddenly walks into the door and – at this exact second – his real-life partner walks behind him, in the camera preview, accidentally mirroring the game. He immediately dies of a heart attack.
This all really happened. I am writing this from beyond the grave.
Despite being the cause of my untimely death, Chernobylite is a great game. It redefines the idea of the survival horror by being a survival game, requiring the gathering of resources, base and team-building, in addition to some genuinely creepy ambience and terrifying jump scares. It even addresses one of gaming’s most notorious tropes: you play a scientist, not a killer. Eschewing stealth and murdering your way through your missions will have a severely negative impact on your mental health, and the game will terrify you even more as punishment.
I recommend it. Just wear a heart monitor and consider writing up a will first if, like me, you’re getting to a certain age. – David Claridge
First of all let’s just admit that the Xenomorph is scary. From the disturbingly beautiful design down to what it will do to you if it gets its clawed hands on you, it’s absolutely terrifying. So with that in mind it makes sense that video games featuring them would be scary. And yes, games like Alien vs Predator and Aliens: Colonial Marines can be frightening, but it wasn’t until Alien: Isolation came along that a game really captured the magic of this monster.
Set a few decades after the first film, players are put in control of Amanda Ripley, daughter of Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley, as she travels to a remote space station that may hold clues to her mother’s disappearance. What she finds when she gets there, however, is a station in chaos, with half the crew dead and the survivors split into small gangs, whilst the station robots have started killing anyone they come across. More frightening though is the deadly alien that stalks the hallways.
Without any weapons with which to fight the monster you’re left to sneaking and hiding as the clever AI has the alien stalk you through the station. Running hardly ever works, the monster will learn your patterns if you keep hiding, and it will learn from what you do; leading to one of the most frightening scenarios in video games history. – Amy Walker
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An author losing his mind, and his creations leaping off of the page to torment him isn’t a new concept; we’ve seen it in books such as Stephen King’s The Dark Half, in movies such as John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness, but it is equally done well in Remedy Entertainment’s video game, Alan Wake. The story revolves around the titular Alan Wake, an author suffering from writer’s block, on holiday with his wife in the picturesque town of Bright Falls; but when his wife goes missing everything goes to hell.
Without giving too much away, yes the game is over ten years old, but if you haven’t played it you really should. The game has you feeling all safe and cosy in the beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery one minute, and then the next you are running screaming through the woods desperately trying to get to the next light source, as in this the big bad are the shadows and the creatures that form out of them.
The set pieces are incredible, the tension is palpable throughout, and the jump scares and little movements that happen out of the corners of both your and Wake’s eyes will scare the bejeezus out of you every time. It is definitely worth a revisit these ten years on. – Helen Balls