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Five games for the Halloween season

Horror games are a unique beast to tangle with. The genre, built on fear and dread, serves to wears players down in a paradoxically awesome way. It's hard to create something that disturbs in a pleasant way, but the best horror games make you glad you've lost some sanity. In light of the season, here are five excellent horror titles that you should play to celebrate Halloween and all that's frightful.

If horror isn't your typical style, you still may find something that piques your interest. Not every great horror game is blood and screams around each corner. Some thrill and chill in more subdued ways, while others are so over-the-top that it's hard to look away.

Silent Hill 2

It is impossible to discuss the best of horror without mentioning Silent Hill 2. Developed by Team Silent and released on PlayStation 2 on September 24, 2001, this game explores the story of grieving widow James Sunderland. After recently receiving a letter from his three-years-deceased wife, James travels to find her and take her back from the town of Silent Hill.

But the title is so much more than the premise. Silent Hill 2 competently combines layers upon layers of psychological terror, taped together with intelligent design. The game knows when to shift between whispers in a quiet room and all hell letting loose. 

Combat is stressful thanks to scarce munitions and good old-fashioned tank controls. While some may find this type of gameplay to be the scariest thing about the game, others may find it more immersive. James, the player character, is an every-day man who struggles to fight off the supernatural monsters he faces. Gameplay reflects that. It can be frustrating to slap around foes as a 30-something-year-old with no upper-body strength. Guns can make combat easier, but health kits and bullets are sparse.

The game also sports an incredible soundtrack composed by musical genius, Akira Yamaoka. It remains my favorite video game soundtrack, and I recommend a listen whether or not the title interests you.

Silent Hill 2 is hard to find cheap for PS2 and Xbox. There is a PC release, but it has unfortunately become abandonware. There is an HD remaster of Silent Hill 2 and 3 on PS3 and Xbox 360, but I strongly recommend sticking with finding the originals. Bad fog effects, missing sounds and other hitches found in the remaster release greatly detract from the fantastic series.

Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly

Have you ever wanted to walk into a haunted Japanese village with your sister and snapshot camera-shy ghosts to death? Well, that dream can be a reality, thanks to third-person/first-person survival horror game developed by Tecmo Co. Released in 2003, this game takes a novel approach to survival horror, having players fight the undead with photography.

The narrative follows twins Mio and Mayu Amakura as they waltz into an ominous ghost town. Everything goes to Hell more-or-less literally as protagonists must destroy armies of ghosts with the Camera Obscura, a camera capable of sealing souls on its crisp Kodak film.

Its story is not the most compelling, falling incredibly short of Silent Hill 2's psychological spiral. But whereas the plot may not take the reigns, the gameplay is fun and well-developed.

The game focuses tightly on its core horror experience, working to unsettle players consistently. It encourages constant exploration and reexamination, as not every ghost stays dead. Old locations get new ghosts and special photo opportunities, netting extra skill points. The game always feels alive in the worst ways. 

Players fight the horrific ghouls through one simple method: close-up shots. While ghosts can be hurt from afar, the damage is minimal. To pack a punch, players must wait until enemies are up in their face, about to attack. It greatly increases the tension and forces one out of their comfort zone.

The original Fatal Frame II can be bought for PS2 and is a little less hard to find than Silent Hill 2. Its Director's Cut release on Xbox is more elusive but comes with a few more modes and costumes. Those happy with a digital copy of the original can purchase it on the PlayStation Store for $9.99 on PS3 only.


Darkwood, the first title from indie team Acid Wizard Studio, also strays off the normal survival horror path. Using an over-the-top view and Lovecraftian forest nightmares, Darkwood creates an atmosphere of dread using vile art and brilliant sound design.

Players control a mysterious main character: a man whose home is deep in the forgotten woodland. Gameplay takes much inspiration from other survival games, requiring players to stave off the dark while crafting new supplies for safe exploration. Each new location found is treacherous, as enemies are often challenging and hard to comprehend due to their bizarre designs.

The art style builds Darkwood's strong identity. Creatures are grotesque, and many of the "friendly" NPCs are even uglier. It is hard to know what is safe and what is hungry.

Every night, darkness comes alive, requiring players to hideout indoors with a generator buzzing. Some nights feature ghosts that snuff out the lamps around base, while others have giant bird beasts teardown walls and defenses.

While the gameplay and art are both well designed, it is the sound and lighting that really shine. Darkwood demands to be played with headphones for a truly terrific experience. Listening to unknown figures wheeze in the woods while torchlight fades away puts me on the edge of my seat in a way many horror games fail to do.

Darkwood can be bought on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch for $14.99. PS4 owners can purchase Darkwood for $10.49 during the 2019 Halloween Sale.

Catherine: Full Body

Less interested in survival horror but still want a satisfying, spooky adventure? Sit back, pour a drink and enjoy the Golden Show with ATLUS' Catherine: Full Body.

Catherine: Full Body offers an incredibly different take on the horror genre. Instead of facing off against unimaginable terrors, the game revolves around choice-based storytelling and puzzle-solving action.

Players are cast as Vincent Brooks, a middle-aged man struggling to settle down with his girlfriend, Katherine. After a night of drinking on the matter, Vincent wakes to see a new girl, aptly named Catherine, in his bed.

Catherine: Full Body is a loving revisit to the 2011 game, Catherine. While the original only had three main paths and nine endings, Full Body turns the love triangle into a square with the addition of Rin.

Plotlines now have more depth, and characters feel more engaging than before. The game does a great job of pacing its new content out. Players have extra downtime to talk with the vibrant cast. New cutscenes help shape the story a little more competently than the already excellent original game.

Catherine: Full Body revamps its core gameplay too. Most of Catherine consists of escaping nightmares and moving blocks to create a tower. By reaching the top, Vincent lives to see another day. Full Body offers a "Remix" mode, doubling the title's puzzle count with an entirely new set of challenges for the entire campaign.

Between the unlockable Babel stages, two-player modes, Rapunzel mini-game, many endings, differing difficulty levels and competitive leaderboards, Catherine: Full Body has a lot of content to enjoy. As Trisha, the game's omnipresent narrator, states: it's a fuller, richer experience.

For those not interested in puzzle games or romance stories, you should look at other horror games this year; however, I recommend Catherine: Full Body to anyone wanting a horror experience quite different from most titles. It is available on PS4 for $59.99.


Control is an enigmatic game. Made by Max Payne and Alan Wake developer Remedy Entertainment, the game revels in mystery, taking players down an unforgettable rabbit hole.

Control is less horror than previously mentioned titles, but don't underestimate it. The title confidently blends different forms of media (from music to live-action videos to puppet shows) together smoothly into an unsettling thriller. Any area can quickly turn into an entirely new world, such as a white abyss or void of endless hallways.

The stylish action-adventure is incredibly fun. The gun models offer a variety of simple-yet-effective loadouts, while protagonist Jesse Faden's powers are reminiscent of The Force Unleashed. Flying across shifting office rooms while telekinetically throwing tables at possessed soldiers kicks ass and feels powerful.

Jesse's powers offer more than flashy combat abilities. They allow more environmental traversal, and it builds a Metroidvania style of gameplay. Locations often require revisiting, hiding side-quests, items and other secrets.

The story is much more well-planned than previous Remedy thrillers. While Alan Wake and Quantum Break could lose itself in its mind-bending and convoluted experiences, Control, well, controls itself a bit better. It manages to be strange and confusing without entirely losing the player.

Fans of the novel House of Leaves or the SCP mythos may find Control to be made for them. The game takes heavy inspiration from them both, combining strange powers with a home that is never entirely trustworthy.

Control can be purchased for Xbox One, PS4 and PC for $59.99. The PC version is currently $44.99 and only available through the Epic Game Store. A Steam release is coming soon.

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  1. A Horror game I'd recommend is Prey (2017); the terror is not just external in terms of the enemies (the most common of which disguise themselves as objects) but also some internal horror that comes from discovering more of the story and not being sure who to trust.


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