DISCLAIMER: This article is NSFW!
Horror games have seen a resurgence in popularity in the last few years. Both indie and AAA developers alike (although mostly indies) have begun to realize that there is a large and continuously growing audience for horror media. And as such, many developers have taken to making more and more games that cater to their demand to be scared out of their wits.
But today, we aren't going to be talking about the typical horror games you always hear about. Today we're going to give honorable mention to horror games that break the mold formed by most other popular horror experiences, such as Five Nights at Freddy's and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Instead, we're going to focus on the games that gave us horror in a new or unconventional way.
So for those of you who are tired of the tried-and-tested formula of darkened corridors, jump-scares, and decrepit abandoned buildings, these are a few games that can spook you a different way -- and perhaps even disturb or disgust you. It should be said that not all of these games are actually horror games by design, but that doesn't mean they can't be made for Halloween, and that they can't still be scary.
Alright...let's get spooky in here.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
(PC, Mac, Linux)
Let's start this list off really heavy, why don't we? Based on the novel of the same name by Ellison Harlan, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a game where you cannot win. You can only lose heroically, or in a manner that doesn't involve eternal torment, because this game is horrifically, gut-wrenchingly depressing.
It's a 2D point-and-click adventure game revolving around five different people, all of whom are the last surviving humans on Earth. They are being tormented by a colossal supercomputer called AM, who creates a different world for each to explore that best torments them and exploits their greatest character flaws. As these worlds are slowly exposed to you, along with the flaws of the characters, you are forced to come to grips with the fact that you are trapped in an illusion while being forced to relieve the most traumatic experiences of these peoples lives -- and escape is nearly impossible
It's a story-driven experience with an extremely dark and twisted plot, loaded with very serious and disturbing subject matter that runs the gamut from rape to the Holocaust. And it is not a game where the "happy" ending is easy to find. Even in the best case scenario where you can escape from AM, what you're escaping to is the ruins of civilization -- and while that's much less horrible than the torture you endured, it's still a miserable existence devoid of purpose. Fun!
If you want to feel terrible this Halloween, while also feeling grateful that you aren't being tortured for all eternity, then give I Have No Mouth, and I must Scream a look.
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is a visual novel mystery/puzzle adventure game, and the first entry in the Zero Escape series.
In the game you play as Junpei, one of nine random people who are mostly complete strangers to one another. You and the others wake up to find themselves trapped on an abandoned cruise ship, only to then be informed by a mysterious figure that they have 9 hours to escape the boat together before they are all killed. You travel through the ship and its wide assortment of bleak, lonely, and sometimes unnerving locations in a first-person perspective, while talking to 2D characters with excellent sprite work, solving puzzles, and exploring 3D-rendered environments in a style somewhat similar to Myst.
The strongest points of 999 are its excellent atmosphere and writing. Every empty room that resembles a normal room, yet stripped of functionality or any view of the outside world, cements the feeling that you are trapped in hostile location against your will. This is all backed up by the excellent soundtrack and sound design, as the often-eerie and droning music is accompanied by the heavy creaking of the ship to create an oppressive tension in the air, making you feel as though you are trapped in the belly of a massive, unfeeling beast.
The writing, again, is phenomenal. Every character is distinct and memorable, and each of them carries various different motivations for their actions -- both obvious and hidden. As you make your way towards the unknown and unseen exit, you must work together with the other people in order to succeed. Yet at the same time, you have no reason to trust them, and some of them give you perfectly legitimate reasons to distrust them entirely. Death and plot twists are around every corner, and events take an unexpected turn early on, which ramps the tension up high right off the bat.
It must be clarified that despite all of the game's positive qualities, 999 is designed in a way that expects the player to play through the game several times in different ways in order to eventually discover the true ending. There are multiple bad endings, and dying about halfway through and starting all the way over is a very real possibility. Combine that with the large amounts of text you are expected to read, seeing as this is a visual novel, and you can see that this game isn't for everyone.
But if it looks interesting to you at all, and you're looking for well-written, dark, and truly gripping story, I'd highly recommend you look further into 999.
Sonic Dreams Collection
The Sonic the Hedgehog series is famous these days, in part, for the bizarrely wide reach of its fanbase, and what some of these fans have created. Sonic Dreams Collection is a fan-made effort from the same creators as Bubsy 3D 2 . It plays like an interactive art-film that analogizes what both the Sonic fanbase and the Sonic series itself have become.
The game masquerades itself as a collection of incomplete Sonic game projects that were meant to be released on the Sega Dreamcast back in the 90's. And from a somewhat exaggerated, but still silly and colorful start, Sonic Dreams Collection quickly becomes a living hell fresh out of the dark side of Deviantart.
All horror is subjective of course, but let it be made clear that if you find overt sexual themes uncomfortable, or don't like to talk about any sort of sexual fetish to any degree, then stay far away from this game. Sonic Dreams Collection is more disturbing and creepy than it is outright scary, but if you find existentialism and overt sexuality scary, then click to the next slide right now.
Regardless of whether or not you end up finding this game funny rather than disturbing, Sonic Dreams Collection is a wildly bizarre game regardless. Enter at your own risk.
Undertale (Genocide Run)
You're gonna have a bad time.
Undertale is one of the most fascinating examples of video game narrative released in years. Because depending on which of two ways you play it, Undertale can either be one of the funniest, most good-natured, and kindest games about humanity and sympathy ever crafted -- or it can be a paralyzingly grim tale of mistrust, hatred, and the relentless slaughtering of innocent people.
If you've played Undertale before, you more likely than not played the Pacifist Route first, which is the way that the game was intended to be played. If this is the case, and by some additional miracle you've managed to avoid the game's overexposure on the internet, and then went to play the Genocide Run without knowing anything about it -- you are in for the shock of your life.
It takes the typical gaming standard of mindlessly ending the lives of enemy monsters and makes you feel like you really are the bad guy after all. All of the people who could have just easily been your friends, become obstacles in your path that you must crush to dust.
(Also, a brief but very important DISCLAIMER: DO NOT PLAY THE GENOCIDE ROUTE FIRST IF YOU HAVE NEVER PLAYED THE GAME BEFORE. Just trust me. The game will be ruined for you after this. Because the game will remember what you've done -- and it will not forgive you.)
Considering that pretty much everything about Undertale is best experienced without spoilers, and I'm already kind of doing that by talking about it at all, I'll just show you the game's trailer. That way you can decide for yourself whether or not this game looks like it has some of the most disturbing murder scenes ever put in a game hiding inside it.
Picking just one screenshot to properly describe Killer7 is absolutely impossible. Even using just words to describe how abnormal this game is really isn't enough to do it justice -- but I'm sure as hell gonna try.
Killer7 is a game that seeks to break convention in nearly every manner possible. It changes up controls, camera perspective, and GUI standards to the fullest extent that it can without becoming incomprehensible. It is a truly unique video game, but what's more unique than its gameplay, is its serious and disturbing plot/subject matter.
Killer7 is a game that truly earns the M Rating on the cover of its box. It is loaded with themes of murder, sexual assault, rape, religious cults, the killing of children, organ harvesting, and terrorism...among many others. All of these themes are used with purpose in the story, rather than just for shock value, and they help to string together a plot revolving around international political intrigue and supernatural terrorism.
With all of the disturbing things present in this game, you might be surprised to learn that Killer7 is not a horror game. It's just a game that seeks to tell a serious and gripping story -- while also being very weird, as it is a game that also has anime parodies and lucha libre wrestlers as serious plot points.
It compounds its disturbing subject matter and the bizarre world in which takes place with a bright color palette, ludicrous enemy designs, and sometimes comedic dialogue -- creating a game that lives to intrigue as well as confuse. Despite all of these seemingly random elements mixed together, Killer7 comes out as a truly trippy and disturbing experience that's perfect for horror enthusiasts and story buffs alike, and it must be seen to be believed.
If you honestly want ANY sort of idea what kind of game Killer7 really is, then you NEED to watch the trailer down below. Maybe it will help. Maybe...
That's the list! I hope it was just as fun and full of sunshine and joy for you as it was for me! If you feel that there was a game that should have been on this list but wasn't, or you'd like to commend us on a particular game we DID pick, feel free to comment below and let us know! If you end up playing any of these games and enjoying them, feel free to let us know about that too! It's always fun getting creeped out together.
Stay safe out there this Halloween!