I’ve never claimed to be great with scary games. Jumpscares are a constant source of irritation to me and I simply don’t enjoy being tense and on edge. That said, any game from out of my comfort zone that I power through purely because of how much I enjoy them are worth celebrating. With Halloween looming, this week I’m taking a look at my top five favourite scary games, updated since the last time I wrote a feature on this in 2019. They might not all be strictly horror titles here, but there are plenty of spooks to find in all of them to warrant trying them for Halloween.
Oxenfree is an absolute delight to play. A pretty and atmospheric story driven title, the scares in this game are comparatively tame for any horror aficionados, but the story surrounding them is most definitely worth playing. The art style and narrative driven story are exceptionally well presented, with enough twists and surprises to keep you playing through to its satisfying conclusion.
It may be quite a short game compared to others on this list, but it actively encourages and rewards players completing multiple playthrough with new dialogue and secrets for those paying attention. I’ve played through it at least half a dozen times since launch and always find something new to appreciate.
Oxenfree 2 released earlier this year, but as I have only just started playing it my recommendation for the original game remains.
4) Ghostwire Tokyo
Ghostwire Tokyo is one of the tamest spooky games you can play, making it perfect for any gamer wanting to get into the spirit of Halloween without getting too worked up and needing the lights left on as they sleep. The game is dripping with a light tension, mainly through its open world and enemy design, but after the first handful of mild startles you will swiftly learn you can just blast them to pieces with marvelous finger gun magic. Think Immortals of Aveum but with a horror themed background instead of magic entitlement.
The NPC’s you can interact with, predominantly cats, are as quirky and weird as you could hope, diffusing any discomfort you begin to feel in the eerie Tokyo setting. Ghostwire Tokyo is included with Xbox Game Pass so safe to try out at no cost if you are a subscriber, and considering the time of year, there’s no better time to get out of your safe space and have a go!
3) Metro 2033 Redux
I admit I only tried this game because it was one of the few titles released in the months following the launch of the Xbox One, and to my surprise I finished it! While there are certainly enough scares to justify its place on this list, the majority of them feel almost like set pieces playing out in your vicinity rather than at our protagonist, Artyom. That said, the first person shooter gameplay will keep you engaged along with its intriguing science fiction, post-apocalyptic story.
The few moments you venture from the Moscow underground up to the surface to dodge flying demons never stop being unpleasant in a fun ‘I’ve brought this on myself’ sort of way. Venturing back into the ominous tunnels form only a brief reprieve as there are different monsters stalking you down there, only without wings. It’s a cold, terrifying and depressing experience for the cast of characters, but from the comfort of your sofa, there aren’t many better ways to spend Halloween night.
I did play Metro Last Light Redux as well but found that more action focussed than horror, and I never finished Metro Exodus so can’t confirm if that ever gets scary. The first couple of hours certainly weren’t!
2) Days Gone
I never thought I would ever play this game as even the E3 (RIP) trailer back in 2016 stressed me out with its constant threat of the protagonist being devoured by a Horde of merciless zombies. It was only when it dropped to an invitingly cheap price in a sale a year post-launch that I decided it was worth the price of admission and gave it a go. Days Gone is outstanding.
A complex and sublime blend of visceral bloody action, ocean deep world building and story-telling, as well as the odd outbreak of gibbering terror, Days Gone caters expertly to all player types. Despite the gibbering terror I just mentioned, these moments only become mandatory much later in the game as you are safe to flee them until a pivotal story mission around the 80% completion mark. This being the case, the weight of the fear was outweighed by my self-belief and certainty that I could take on one of the game’s infamous Hordes of 300 shrieking Freakers, and have a simply amazing time doing it.
It took a couple of attempts, but eventually I overcame the challenge, with a rush of endorphins that felt akin to besting a Soulsborne boss (though I wouldn’t know that until I beat a Soulsborne boss years later with Elden Ring).
While Days Gone kept me tense and fairly on edge for most of my three playthroughs, it was never to a point of discomfort or lack of enjoyment of the game. I can recommend Days Gone to anyone wanting to get out of their comfort zone for a spell, but if you want to get straight to the blood, guts and bone of a horror infused experience, my number one pick to you has to be…
1) Dead Space Remake
I reviewed this game earlier this year, and it seems guaranteed a spot in my top five favourite games of 2023. The Dead Space remake is terrifying, make no mistake, but it empowers players through their fear by giving us the power to fight back against the nightmare-inducing necromorphs in as bloody a fashion as we’d like.
I recently started a new playthrough to take advantage of my purchase of a PlayStation 5 Pulse 3D headset which I bought since my initial experience. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I made it less than 20 minutes before the anxiety and feeling of being surrounded by danger, despite being sprawled five pints deep on my sofa, made me quit. I will definitely resume playing with the headset on, just as soon as my blood pressure eventually dips!
The Dead Space remake is a perfect scary game, even for cowards, as every startle you suffer can be repaid tenfold to enemies with the grotesque Peeling system introduced in the game. Yes, it’s just as graphic as it sounds, and I couldn’t adore it more!
That’ll do it for this scaredy-cat! Let me know your favourite scary game picks in the comments and have a very wicked Halloween!
Written and edited by Alexx.