Watching horror movies is a great way to pass the time this October, but what if you want to take a more active role in scaring yourself silly? Well, lucky for you there’s a heaping helping of horror games that are guaranteed to send a shiver up your spine, and possibly help you unlock that one haunted achievement on your Xbox. You know the one. The one we must never speak of. Anyway, here’s a rundown of some of the very best horror video games to play this Nerdoween.
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Image: EA/Visceral Games
In space, no one can hear you scream. But in my apartment, everyone can hear me scream. Especially Mrs. Bennington in unit #4. She was very concerned by all the screaming that Dead Space elicited from me with its brand of claustrophobic sci-fi horror. Exploring the remains of a derelict mining ship, seeing corpses suddenly spring to life, getting torn asunder more times than I can count because I had the temerity to walk through an open door—Dead Space is full of pulse-pounding moments that will leave you in a cold sweat. It’s also the best cardio workout I can think of because no game has made my heart beat faster…except maybe Dead Space 2.Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Imagine a more murdery version of Pokémon Snap and you basically have Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but Fatal Frame arms you with little more than a camera to defend yourself from all manner of otherworldly horrors. The game tells the story of twin sisters who investigate an abandoned Japanese village only to encounter vengeful spirits that want to inhabit their bodies and use them for their own sinister purposes. Using a special spirit camera, you must snap photos of evil spirits to perform exorcisms on them…or die trying.
Platform: PS2, Xbox
Everyone who has watched a slasher film full of sexy, impressionable teens who get murdered one by one has thought to themselves, “Boy, what a bunch of idiots! I would do WAY better in this scenario.” Well, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Until Dawn is basically an interactive slasher film that puts you in control of the fates of a group of sexy, impressionable young adults who are slowly being picked off and murdered on their mountain getaway. Every choice you make has a Butterfly Effect-like ripple across the game, and you’ll either lead your heroes to safety or to increasingly gruesome ends. Plus it stars Mr. Robot himself, Rami Malek, in a game that he very much did not want to talk about when I met him at a holiday party one time.
Image: Sega/Creative Assembly
As a nerd, there’s a good chance you’ve spent some quality time hiding inside of a locker to evade a hulking, drooling menace that wants to tear you limb from limb. Except in Alien Isolation, it’s not Jeremy from homeroom; it’s an acid-drooling xenomorph with razor-sharp teeth. Alien Isolation makes you feel the sheer helpless terror of the 1979 original film as you try to stealthily evade a brutal murderbeast just waiting to rend you asunder. For added scares, try playing it VR.
Platform: PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Linux
Silent Hill 2
When James Sunderland receives a letter from his deceased wife three years after her death, he does what any one of us would do: takes a trip to the creepy, fog-and-monster-filled town of Silent Hill! Filled with terrifying creatures like the hulking, sword-wielding Pyramid Head and the creepy bandaged nurses, Silent Hill 2 is a game that bombards you with anguish, guilt, and fresh hells lurking around every corner. And the scariest thing about this game? A shiba inu might have been behind it the whole time.
Platform: PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, PC
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
Image: Cyberdreams/Night Dive Studios
An old-school point-and-click adventure game based on the Harlan Ellison short story of the same name, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is set in a dystopian future where a renegade A.I. has slaughtered the entire human race save for five people, who it tortures for its sick pleasure. To say the game is bleak is an understatement. Case in point: most of the game’s seven endings result in you being turned into a simpering pool of jelly, which, incidentally, is how the above video ends if you don’t watch closely enough.
Platform: PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School
The cult classic Korean game puts you in the uncomfortable hoes of a teenage boy who sneaks into his high school at night to drop off chocolate for his crush for the following day’s White Day celebration, which is kind of like Valentine’s Day. Except during his sneaky sojourn, our hero gets locked inside the school at night with all manner of ghosts and janitors who won’t hesitate to beat him to death with baseball bats. It’s extreme, unnerving, and a deeply stressful experience. So, in other words: just like actual high school.
Platform: PS4, PC, Android, iOS
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
The psychological horror game made its debut on the GameCube and takes you on a Lovecraftian adventure across history as you try to prevent evil ancient beings from bending humanity to their will. While the game itself is full of thrills and chills, its true beauty lies in its sanity meter mechanic, which causes you to slowly go insane if you’re spotted by an enemy. If the meter dips too low, the environment starts warping around you and weird things start happening: messages telling you your save data has been deleted, ads for fake sequels, the sound suddenly cutting out, and other fourth-wall-shattering tricks. It’s a game that will have you second-guessing yourself constantly and staying up until the wee hours of the morning just to play a few more uncomfortable minutes.
Image: Sierra Entertainment
A classic first-person shooter with an emphasis on action, F.E.A.R. manages to bring fast and furious scares thanks in large part to its terrifyingly good A.I. Oh, and the ghost of a dead little girl and an evil cannibal with telepathic powers, which are both pretty damn spooky in their own right. So come for the killer special forces action, but stay for the terrifying supernatural killers, and then thank me later for waking you up after you slept on this game for far too long.
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
What are your favorite horror games? Let me know in the comments below!
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Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter ( @DanCasey).