Halloween isn’t just about horror, especially in gaming, so don’t expect obvious choices in this edition of ‘What game should I play?’. Follow the flowchart to take your pick and scroll down for short reviews and links to each of the featured titles. Boo!
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From the creators of Max Payne comes… Max Payne: Halloween Edition. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.
You still control a guy in third person and go around strikingly realistic environments, shooting at things. The difference is, this time „things” are people possessed by darkness, and they can only be dispatched of after being exposed to light. This makes the encounters interesting and challenging, and whenever the lights go out, your muscles tense up in anticipation of what you hope won’t happen. Don’t mistake it with horror – no, the game isn’t scary. However, it is very tense.
Alan Wake is a story-heavy, Stephen King-inspired, beautifully realized game that’s perhaps a bit shallow in the gameplay department, but makes up for it with the atmosphere, setting (oh, these forests!) and some wild plot twists.
Amnesia: Dark Descent
Warning: this is not a game for the faint of heart. Amnesia is considered one of the scariest horrors ever made (if not THE scariest), and it’s because you cannot fight your enemies. You are powerless and there are only two things you can do: hide… or die.
What makes Amnesia stand out is also the setting: the year is 1839, you awake in a huge castle with no memory of who you are or how did you get here. If it sounds like one of the classic horror novels or black-and-white movies with Bela Lugosi, it’s because it is very much that. As for the setting and the story, you will either love it or hate it, but the game will scare you for sure.
The first Bioshock is a strange creature. It’s a mix of classic FPS action, Cronenbergian body horror and fantasy adventure as well as a love letter to 1920s’ German filmmaking and art deco. The best word to describe it is ‘eerie’, and isn’t that what Halloween is at its best?
You find yourself in an underwater city established on libertarian principles and quickly find that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. Yes, Bioshock has a strong political message, but it’s well-argumented and masterfully delivered, so regardless of what your personal views are, you should still be able to enjoy it. Also, you can shoot bees out of your hand, which makes it the best shooter ever in my book.
And we mean Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 1 only. Why? Because Dead Space 2: Deader Space leans towards an action shooter instead of a horror game, and Dead Space 3: Dead Space with a Vengeance pretty much abandoned its gothic roots.
„Gothic” is the key to DS1, because it’s like visiting a haunted mansion in space. People use to say that about the Alien franchise, but it’s much more fitting here, where you literally have gothic archways, strange cults, crazy scientists and whatnot dwelling on a dark, cursed spaceship.
Dead Space is gory, moody, challenging, it still looks fanstastic, has a good story, runs great on a potato, and has some of the best jump scares in gaming. This was an instant classic at release and still remains among the top 3 horror games set in space.
Disney’s Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse
To paraphrase the best music band ever: „And you may ask yourself, well, how did it get here?” Indeed, a Mickey Mouse game must seem a strange choice for a Halloween title, but actually it’s not. Castle of Illusion perfectly captures the classic, lighthearted spirit of Halloween, when kids have a blast getting dressed as spooooky witches and knocking on their neighbours’ door.
The game is a straightforward 2D platformer that unfortunately falls on the short side (you can beat it in two hours). Since there aren’t too many secrets, there’s not a lot of replay value, but it’s great fun while it lasts nonetheless. There’s a reason why this remake of a Genesis / SNES game was even made – it’s because it is one of the best titles in its genre.
Friday the 13th
From the first moment you spend in the game’s menu you’ll know that this is a legit Friday the 13th experience. The game stays insanely faithful to the movies, even in the tiniest details, which shows that the devs had a real passion for the project. Gameplay? It’s simple yet effective. One player is Jason Voorhees, the rest are his potential victims. His goal is to get them all, their – to find a way to escape.
Friday the 13th is a bit clunky piece of coding, but since it’s basically a fan project, it can be forgiven. Especially since the game is genuinely fun and replayable. If you like slashers, just give it a try. And speaking of slashers…
Hotline Miami is a colorful, lightning fast, extremely tense top-down action shooter that demands both reflex and planning. What’s so Halloween about it, you ask? It’s an equivalent of an 80s’ slasher flick with a killer in a rad mask knifing his victims at a party. It has lots and lots (and lots (and lots)) of gore, a wide choice of creepy masks that grant you various bonuses, and there’s even a disturbing story that hooks you just to disappoint you later with a cop-out plot twist.
But it’s not about the story. It’s about the poetically violent gameplay, the unmistakable style, the astonishing choice of songs. Once you play it, you won’t forget it.
Left 4 Dead
Do I really need to introduce Left 4 Dead? If you haven’t been living on the Moon for the past 10 years, you know it’s four players against hordes of zombies in a series of long, linear levels. It’s the first game of its subgenre, it can be played offline or online, it has a B-movie feel to it and even though it’s short, it’s hugely replayable thanks to the A.I. director that makes every playthrough different. You simply don’t know where or what type of enemy you will encounter, and the challenge level scales accordingly to your skills.
Just… Just play it. Come on. You probably already have. And if you haven’t, make sure to correct that mistake. It’s Left 4 Dead – a game doesn’t get legendary by accident.
Again – a rather unusual choice, but a fitting one nonetheless. Rayman 3 is a 3D platformer set in a dark world full of lava caves, spooky mansions, enchanted bogs and other places of similar nature. It’s the closest to Corpse Bride or Nightmare Before Christmas you can get in gaming (well, except that one old Nightmare Before Christman game nobody seems to remember).
Rayman 3 is also one of the trippiest and funniest games of its kind, which makes it all the more worth exploring. And there’s a lot of explore, even though it’s not your usual collectathon where you can go anywhere, do anything, revisit every level 10 times, get lost and rage quit. The levels and progression are way more linear than in, let’s say, Yooka-Laylee, but it’s hardly a disadvantage, considering how good their overall design is.
So, what’s your choice?
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