It’s been a horrific year for horror games. Silent Hill is no more, following Konami’s very public exit from video game development, an incident that pushed Guillermo del Toro out of the industry forever; Resident Evil 7 won’t be out until 2017, and Allison Road, a spiritual successor to del Toro’s PT, was cancelled (and un-cancelled) in the space of two months.
However, the indie horror scene is thriving on PC and the major consoles, even if that does mean getting a new Five Nights at Freddy’s games every six months. The genre doesn’t have quite the same following on mobiles, where match-three games and iGaming titles like the Betway casino app hold a majority stake, but unique mobile apps like Zombies, Run! can still turn a leisurely jog into a terrifying ordeal.
With Halloween coming up, here are a few games you need to play with the lights off:
Gone Home (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Gone Home begins exactly as you might expect, with the protagonist returning home to find her family missing and a note begging her not to look for them. It’s an incredibly simple game – the plot unfolds as you explore the house and look at objects – but unravelling mysteries is arguably its own reward.
The title leans heavily on creating atmospheres with sound and the player’s own personal paranoia; there are no monsters but violent weather, disembodied noises, and flickering lights create an overwhelming presence all on their own. And, at three hours, Gone Home is short enough to make its point and leave before it becomes a slog.
Oxenfree (PC, PS4)
And it’s Oxenfree’s environments that really set the game apart from the other titles on this list; the game has a hand-painted, surreal aesthetic that could have been pulled straight from a children’s storybook. If you’re still not convinced, the game’s writer, Adam Hines, was the man behind the award winning Borderlands spin-off, Tales from the Borderlands.
SOMA (PC, PS4)
Amnesia: the Dark Descent achieved almost legendary status in the horror community as it tapped into an essential but frequently overlooked aspect of survival horror – helplessness; you could only run or hide from the monsters in Brennenburg Castle. SOMA, by the same developers, is a similar adventure, albeit in underwater facility, PATHOS-II.
SOMA’s greatest achievement is perhaps the variety of its environments, which range from oceanic trenches to corridors that would not look out of place on a space station. It’s a more thoughtful game than Amnesia, with a much greater emphasis on plot, and new fears (robots, AI, the depths of the ocean) keep the experience fresh.
Inside (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Inside is the sequel to Limbo and, while it’s a little brighter than its predecessor, it’s nevertheless a bleak romp through a world trying its hardest to kill you. It begins, like Limbo, in a silent forest. From there, the nameless child enters a very adult world of military complexes, mechanical puzzles, and murky waters, both in a literal sense and with regard to the three-hour plot, which leaves a lot to the imagination.
Finally, if you don’t mind visuals that are almost as terrifying as the stories, check out Lone Survivor or Home. They’re superficially similar, with low-res graphics and a penchant for disturbing content, but they’re fantastic, retro titles in their own right.