The PixeList: 7 Other Horror Games -
It being the season of dressing up as awesome characters and eating way too much candy, everyone has Halloween and horror on the mind right now. Movies, music, games, and books all provide great ways to creep yourself out at this time of year.
Here at Pixel Perfect, we're not going to run down the list of obvious horror games. That'd be too easy. Everyone already knows how great Amnesia: The Dark Descent, The Walking Dead, Dead Space (the first one at least), Alan Wake, Silent Hill, and the early Resident Evil games are. If you're looking for mainstream scares you already know where to find those. And most recently, Doom 3: BFG Edition is attempting to capture the same tense atmosphere it did on its initial release.
What we have for you here, in no particular order, is seven games that are likely either long forgotten or may have passed some of us by in the sea of larger, more marketed titles. All of them are worthy to play through in the spirit of Halloween and scaring yourself silly. But I know for a fact there's many I missed. So check out the list below, and let us know what your favorite scary-time games are that make you want to turn off all the lights, grab the headphones, stay up til 4 in the morning and jump up in your office chair when your significant other comes to find out why you haven't come to bed yet.
1. Costume Quest
Starting this list off on the lighter side of Halloween, Costume Quest is a game about the innocence and imagination of youth and trick or treating. It plays out very much like a my-first-RPG. You pick your character from a young boy or his sister, and the one you don’t choose gets captured by monsters as they begin their trek around the neighborhood for candy. By gathering sweets, fighting monsters, and recruiting other children to join you, your goal is to get your sibling back and stop the monsters’ evil plans. The cartoony look of the game and the cute children really make the game stand out. During the turn-based RPG battles, your kids’ costumes transform from cardboard cutouts and bedsheets to powerful astronauts, Transformer-like robots, and knights as their imagination brings the costumes to brilliant life. Costume Quest is a fun, engaging RPG core wrapped in a colorful, grin-inducing kiddie wrapper.
2. The 7th Guest
Old Man Stauf built a house, and then went crazy and invited a group of people to stay there one night to solve puzzles. Originally released in 1993, The 7th Guest helped pioneer CD-ROM technology for use in games, and at the time resulted in stunning 3D rendering of a creepy haunted house and its eccentric guests. As you walk through the mansion observing the actions of its temporary inhabitants, the sense of mystery and atmosphere is continually ramped up. The puzzles are all interesting, challenging, and are well integrated into the story and setting of the game. It even has a neat twist ending involving one uninvited, but not necessarily unexpected guest. You’ll be hard pressed to find a physical copy anymore, but it’s available on iOS, GOG, and the Mac App Store.
This little indie darling went almost unnoticed on Nintendo’s WiiWare. You play as a boy who is trying to rescue his girlfriend from the local school. Problem is, said school is infested with ghosts, monsters, and is shrouded in darkness. Also puzzle-based, you work your way through each of LIT's 30 levels, turning on lamps or using your slingshot to shoot out windows, thus making paths of light that cut through the darkness and allow you to find each room’s exit. The graphics and sound are nothing to write home about, but in your travels you get phone calls from your love interest that require you to hold your Wiimote up like a cell phone. It’s a simple mechanic, but given proper atmosphere, adds to the immersiveness of the proceedings.
Another digital-only indie game, Limbo is rife with creepy mystery and ambiguity. It’s a side-scrolling platformer with puzzle elements. The world is one long linear journey, but each obstacle is relatively self-contained. The color palette and lighting effects are immediately eye-catching. A soft glow of black, shadows of grey and white, Limbo oozes unsettling atmosphere as the soundtrack is limited to eerie ambient tunes and accent sounds. Who is the boy you play? Why is he waking up in the forest? Who is the girl he’s looking for? Does she even want you to find her? Large, terrifying spiders and disturbing glimpses of children who’s motives are never made clear reinforce the sense of isolation in a strange land. Every time your character dies, it's just brutal enough to give it gravitas, make you cringe, and avoid the same fate on your next try. Even when you get to the end, the conclusion requires you to give yourself up to faith and still provides no clear answers. Limbo is beautiful, unsettling, and definitely deserving of a place among the season of spookiness.
5. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
Eternal Darkness was not only one of the best psychological horror games on the GameCube (hell, one of the only horror games on the GC), but was one of the best of its time, period. It wasn’t the gameplay in and of itself that was notable, nor was it the graphics. What made this game unique was its ability to really screw with a player’s head. The much-lauded sanity meter, if not maintained, would wear down over time and result in various visual and audio effects presenting themselves. Fake deaths, blackened screens, and seeing and hearing monsters that weren’t really there made ED a headtrip to play. One of the most dastardly fourth-wall-breaking tricks in video game history even fooled many players into thinking their game saves had been erased. Well played, Silicon Knights, well played.
6. Shin Megami Tensei series
These RPGs from the east may not be thought of as horror games in the traditional sense, but their subject matter would argue otherwise. Many of the SMT games – specifically Nocturne, Devil Summoner, and Devil Survivor – deal with demons, alternate dimensions, resurrection, and other macabre themes. Even Persona 3 has you basically shooting yourself in the head with a gun-like thing called an invoker in order to cast what are essentially summon spells. These games are not for the faint of heart, however. They are generally long, difficult, have intricate battle mechanics, and are very Japanese. You might have a hard time finding them at your national chains like GameStop and Best Buy, but if you’re the type of gamer that sees these as positive qualities, you shouldn’t have much trouble tracking them down at a more local used game/media store or online. And Shin Megami Tensei literally translates to “True Goddess Metempsychosis,” so there you go.
7. Deadly Premonition
This is gaming’s version of the crappy B-movie horror flicks everyone loves. It’s a third-person action-adventure comedy horror thing. You play as FBI agent Francis Morgan who is investigating a murder in a small rural town. You talk to people, drive around the town investigating leads and clues, and occasionally enter into combat with enemies in the Other World. Oh, and Morgan has an imaginary friend Zach to help him along. The driving is terrible and slow, the acting and conversations are laughable, and you’ll think you’re in a bad episode of Twin Peaks, but somehow it all just works. It’s the rare perfect storm of ridiculous that results in success instead of disaster. Released brand new at a budget price of $20, it’s clear the developers weren’t taking anything very seriously. Deadly Premonition is a game that’s so bad, it’s good. That doesn’t mean it’s for everybody, but if you love to laugh at the absurd, you can probably pick up a copy for a song at this point.
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