With the month of horrors almost upon us (as in ghosts and not Republicans THOUGH THEY SURE DO LIKE TO DRESS UP LIKE THEM BA DUM TIS) I figured we start trying to remember the many, many spooky games out there, old to new, obscure to obvious.
Notice I did not say “horror.” You can absolutely suggest or list horror games (I mean we are talking about the month long celebration that is Halloween) but you can also suggest games that don’t fit into the concept of “horror” quite so neatly but still inspire a sense of fear, or have a lot of Halloween trappings.
And no games with one spooky themed level, UNLESS it’s a really creative level (like the extended Shining reference stage in Mario Sunshine).
I’ll start us off!
Costume Quest 1 & 2 - A kid friendly celebration of Halloween from Double Fine about candy hungry kids trying to get candy, complicated by a monster invasion and later a time traveling dentist fascist who makes Shadowrun real (yes really). Has a turn based battle system with Paper Mario style inputs. First game is a bit too simple, but the sequel fleshes out the battle mechanics more. It also lets you honk a horn with a single button press in the clown costume, which you need to use to play in a blues band to progress through the story. You can honk this horn forever. It’s amazing.
Resident Evil Gaiden - Resident Evil on the Game Boy Color! Yup! Surprisingly ambitious experiment, debatable if it’s particularly good. However, it also stars the two best RE characters ever, Leon and Barry, so it is scientifically the best one. Haz a bizarre battle system where the screen changes to first person when an enemy nears and you get a QTE action bar.
A Witch’s Tale - A Nintendo DS game about witches and you get cute dolls to use as battle units and it’s very cute.
Mystik Belle - Indie game with absolutely incredible sprite art about a witch in training having to gather ingredients as punishment for messing up a witch’s brew. Think Metroidvania combined with the foundation of the Dizzy series. Only problem is that managing items is a PAIN IN THE ASS HOLY SHIT.
The Silver Case, The 25th Ward - Visual novel adventure games directed by SUDA 51 and now available in English. There are some ghosts (kinda maybe, the characters of Moonlight Syndrome appear in Silver Case and it gets pretty fucked), but the real horror in them comes mainly from exploring the dehumanizing effect technology, modern society, social norms, capitalism, and city infrastructure has on us. The mood in a few of the chapters in these games is extremely thick, especially Parade in Silver Case, which is presented entirely in black and white.
DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM - duh
Tokyo Dark - Visual novel adventure game made mainly by western devs living in Japan, revolves around ghosts, cult murders, and other horrific things as the main character’s sanity slowly degrades (you actually have to do self-care at times to keep her stable, which includes eating cat shaped pancakes at a cat maid cafe). It’s messy, but it does some great stuff with mood. The soundtrack alone is master class.
I’ll think of more later.