WARNING: THIS ARTICLE IS NSFW
It ain't quite Halloween without a few good horror games, am I right?
Horror games have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. It seems every year we get some new mainstream horror game that everyone is talking about, making videos on YouTube about, and even writing songs about. But that usually pertains to the the really popular stuff.
Today we're going to be talking about a few "unconventional" Horror games. The kind of games that you may overlook or not come to mind when you think about the genre. Most of these games are not Horror games by definition, but have something spooky or unnerving about them that makes them perfect for this time of year.
These are some horror games that for the most part shun the norm, take chances on some bizarre, intriguing new premises, and generally just feel like a breath of fresh air in an industry filled with clones and copycats. Let's appreciate the weird, the creepy, and the different.
It's about to get spooky in here.
Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut is a very strange game to be recommending. It's not on this list because it's that great a game - as most people either seem to dislike the gameplay itself or just think it's mediocre - and it's not on this list because it's all that scary either - many parts of this story are just outright silly. It's on this list because it's one of the weirdest, most lovably flawed, bizarre mish-mash experiences of a game that could ever call itself a game.
Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut is an improved version of the original game that tweaks the combat, updates the graphics and controls, and adds more to the overall narrative. But at its core, it's still the same goofy, wonderfully weird game it always has been warts and all.
Deadly Premonition stars special agent Francis York Morgan - but everybody just calls him "York" - who is sent in by the FBI in order to investigate some strange goings-on in the town of Greenvale, Washington related to the death of 18-year-old Anna Graham. If you're thinking this sounds a lot like Twin Peaks, then you'd be both right and wrong, as the game's now renowned director Swery claims that he had never seen the show before making the game, which seems unlikely but I'll let it slide.
Deadly Premonition is a 3rd-person survival horror game that is loaded to the brim with bizarre and memorable moments, Whether it be the slightly demented fun-house reject monsters, the dime-store David Lynch style story, or the alien yet still somehow endearing characters, there's something new and strange around every corner.
It really does feel like a foreign low-budget remake of Twin Peaks, but with that specific style of Japanese sandbox-game gameplay reminiscent of games like Shenmue and the Yakuza series. Deadly Premonition is like the playable version of a "so bad it's good" movie, and it does so in such a manner that all the negatives about it collapse into a singularity that somehow make it great.
You may like it, you may hate it, but it you play Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut for any length of time then I can guarantee you this; you will not forget it. If the trailer sparks any intrigue, then you can flock to Steam to get a taste of the FK in the coffee:
WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS
Don't let the cutesy exterior and pleasant music fool you. Hiding underneath the surface is a game that wants you to worry. It wants you to worry about how much it loves you so that you give in and love it back out of fear.
Doki Doki Literature Club! is a free-to-play psychological horror game that disguises itself as a dime-a-dozen dating sim visual novel game. It's a slow-boil, but the gradual build-up into a highly jarring and out-of-left-field payoff is completely worth it. There's little else I can say here without spoiling the game heavily, but just know this; Doki Doki Literature Club! is not what it appears to be. It is a game that will invade your privacy (both in game and out of game), subvert your expectations greatly, and won't care how uncomfortable it's making you.
If this idea appeals to you at all, then check out the game as soon as you can. It takes about an hour for the game to really show it's true colors, but after that you'll never be the same. You'd never be able to tell by just looking at the trailer:
Okay, this is about as far of a stretch as I think I'll ever put in one of these lists. I could barely in good faith say that Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is really anything like a real horror game. But it does have a suspenseful atmosphere, a twisted murder mystery plot and death around every corner, so I guess that's just enough for it to count. Also ghosts are present, so that has to count for something.
Plus, I really just wanted to talk about how cool this game is. Ghost Trick is a narrative-driven puzzle game directed by game designer Shu Takumi, the same guy responsible for the Ace Attorney series, and revolves a man named Sissel who finds himself dead and unable to remember almost anything about himself. He then learns that he has until sunrise the next morning until his spirit disappears from the world, and he has a single night to solve his own murder.
In order to get around in the mortal world, Sissel must move from stationary object to stationary object and manipulate their movement in different ways like some sort of low-level poltergeist, manipulate time itself,and set-up and solve a series of makeshift Rube Goldberg machine style puzzles in order to get the answers he needs.
The game also sports a vibrant and fluidly animated 2.5D style that has rotoscoped 3D models operating on a purely 2D plain, all with the same bright color palette in both it's artwork and characters that you'd expect from the guy behind Ace Attorney. The comedy is definitely there, but the story is mostly serious and straightforward, but still with a few surprising twists and turns on top of the likable characters and involving gameplay that juggles time management, timing, and deductive reasoning in order to save lives and discover the truth.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective was a late release on the DS back in 2011, so not that many people got around to playing it, which is a shame considering it's quality and pedigree. It's a simple game at it's core, but it's a solid core, and it's gameplay is used to prop up and interesting story told well with unique presentation, which is what really matters.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is an amusing and unique puzzle game enhanced by it's charming characters, engaging narrative, and slick presentation. Check out the trailer below for more details:
Night in the Woods is the tale of Mae Borowski, a 20 year-old cat girl who drops out of college for reasons that aren't immediately apparent, and returns to her small hometown of Possum Springs, a former mining town in the mid-western United States that is slowly being neglected by the rest of the industrial world. Some things have stayed the same in Possum Springs, but many others have stayed the same.
Night in the Woods has you playing as Mae spending most of her time exploring her home town after years of her absence have made it almost new to her, and the rest of her time trying to reconnect with her old friends from before she left. There's an odd mini-game here and there to break things up, but it's mostly reading and learning more about your friends.
It's a game that has gameplay take a backseat while the narrative drives it forward most of the time, which is forgivable due to the very strong writing and cast full of likable, believable characters dealing with very human feelings and themes of self-discovery and fear for the future that most of us can relate to. It's narrative doesn't have too much of a clear direction at the start, and it takes a while for the dark mystery aspect of the plot to really get going, but the strong writing and the chilly, somewhat unnerving atmosphere at times keeps you invested and on your toes until you reach whatever climax you've earned in around 8-10 hours.
Since it's such a narrative-heavy game, we won't be jerks and spoil Night in the Woods for you, but we want you to know what quality fear lurks inside of it. Not fear of the potentially supernatural forces that show up later on in the story, no, but rather fear for yourself and your future. It's a game that expertly captures what it's like to feel trapped by circumstance, afraid of your own failures or tendencies to fail, and wondering just what you can do to fix yourself and the world. Even without overt danger resent most of the time this game can be very tense, emotional, and rel in it's subject matter, which makes it more horror than any monster or evil force ever could.
Night in the Woods may not be all that scary for the most part, but it's highly dramatic and believable character writing, it's autumn setting and melancholy atmosphere, on top of the slow-building mysterious intrigue make it perfect for this time of year, and Halloween especially. If you're ready to hang with the old squad, then check out the game's trailer below:
You came here to feel like something you're not: A hero.
Spec Ops: The Line is a game that plays you. It's a game that seems like a standard shooter game from the outside -- but that's what they want you to think. It's a game that wants you to get drawn into the modern day fantasy of being a war hero, of being the good guy in a sea of moral degenerates, and of doing what you do because the ends justify the means -- only to rip the rug out from under you with an emotional gut punch.
Spec Ops: The Line is a shooter game meant to strip naked the war hero fantasy provided by most modern war shooters. It takes inspiration from both the novel Heart of Darkness as well as the film it inspired Apocalypse Now, and places the player at the front of a number of war crimes and amoral atrocities that you are constantly made to debate on your own as to whether you are doing the right thing or not.
It's a game that deals with real moral dilemmas such as the use of white phosphorus in war time, civilian casualties, the disassociation of ethics from reality than can come during large-scale tragedies, and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. You never know where the game will take you next, whether or not you can trust the character you are controlling, and whether or not what's happening in front of you is even real or not.
The game is rife with psychological horror that weaves itself in and out of both the narrative and the gameplay, creating a seriously unnerving and abrasive experience crafted with the expectations of the average FPS player in mind just to subvert them. Like Doki Doki Literature Club! it's a slow boil, as it tries to convince you that it's just a normal shooter for around the first hour, but then the creeping suspicion that all is not well rears it's head and the slow descent into madness begins.
Spec Ops: The Line is an exploration of wartime ethics, ethical cognitive dissonance, and of deconstructing the power fantasy perpetuated by modern video games in a manner that may just mortify you. If you think you're a good person now, then play Spec Ops: The Line and tell me if you can say that with certainty anymore.
Do you think you're ready to cross the line? Then watch the trailer right here and start your descent:
That's the list! Thanks for reading!
I hope you've all enjoyed our selections, and hopefully you've found at least one good game to play this Halloween thanks to us! If you'd like to let us know what you thought of the list, or maybe suggest some other games for a future list, feel free to let us know about it in the comments! I'll see you all next year; have a happy and safe Halloween!
We also did a list like this last year, and if you'd like to take a look at it you can click right here.