While nothing is stopping you from playing horror games at any time during the year, there’s something extra special about scaring the pants off yourself during the month of October. Horror games are an equally fun alternative to cramming into an amusement park horror maze, and for the cost of a ticket, you can buy several games that provide many more hours of scares. More terrifying scares.
Whether you like slashers, ghosts, psychological horror, or anything in between, these video games are sure to get you in the Halloween spirit.
1. Alien: Isolation
Alien: Isolation is the ultimate horror video game for the season. Set 15 years after the events of the first Alien film (1979), you assume the role of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley, and quickly find yourself exploring an abandoned space station. Of course, blood-thirsty aliens, robots, and other terrifying creatures from the deep reaches of space don’t care about your mission to find the flight recorder of your mother’s ship—and there are not many places to hide.
While you have the ability to defend yourself, weapons are hard to come by, so you’re better off saving the bullets in that revolver or the fuel in that flamethrower as a last resort. Most of the time you’ll probably find yourself cowering in a locker, holding your literal breath as you peer through the tiny slits, praying an alien—or hostile human—doesn’t find you.
If that doesn’t seem like it would scare you, the incessant beeping of your motion tracker as a hostile enemy gets closer and closer should. Aside from checking security cameras, that tracker is your best defense against the aliens that roam the ship…unless you find yourself in a dark corridor without a way to escape.
2. Dead by Daylight
If you’re fond of Friday the 13th: The Game, but you haven’t played Dead By Daylight yet, you’re definitely missing out. Dead By Daylight is a multiplayer, asymmetrical game where three players take on the role of survivors, and one person plays the killer. The objective is simple: escape before you’re caught—or if you’re the killer, don’t let anyone escape alive.
Players who take on the role of survivors must repair generators to open the exit gates. The generators are placed around the map, sometimes out in the open, and sometimes with a bit of cover, but your best chance at escaping means working together to distract the killer. Survivors have no way to defend themselves, so players must move around the map with stealthy precision and pay attention to audio clues that tell them the killer is near.
If you take on the role of the killer you must sacrifice the other players in a gruesome fashion. The killer character also has supernatural hearing plus the ability to track bloodstains and scratch marks left by the survivors—you know, like all great slasher movie villains. Alongside great gameplay, the game also has a ton of skin customization options, many of which are inspired by famous villains from ‘80s and ‘90s slashers.
3. Resident Evil Village
The 8th major installment in the Resident Evil franchise, Resident Evil Village takes place a few years after Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Ethan Winters and his wife Mia are finally living a peaceful life, free from the horrors of the past … but that doesn’t last long. Their 6-month-old daughter Rosemary is kidnapped and brought to a sinister-looking European village, possibly in Romania, filled with supernatural creatures—including Lady Alcina Dimitrescu, a super-tall vampire lady who could easily crush you beneath her giant shoes.
Like the previous game, you play Resident Evil Village from a first-person perspective, which amps up the fear factor tenfold, while the game itself feels like a blend of both the fourth and seventh Resident Evil games. Weapons are plentiful, so unlike many of the titles on this list, you have a much better shot (no pun intended) at defending yourself instead of hiding in a locker or around a hallway corner. However, you’ll still need to ration your ammo as there aren’t as many ammo boxes or crafting materials as would be ideal for shooting hordes of werewolves and other creatures that want to rip the flesh off your face.
Ultimately, Resident Evil Village is lighter on the jump scares compared to previous Resident Evil games, but the entire unsettling environment makes up for that. Each villain’s lair feels like a different subgenre of horror, culminating into something that feels like a horror anthology of short stories. If you have yet to pick this game up, spooky season is a great excuse to finally do so.
4. Man of Medan
Supermassive Games, the developer that brought us Until Dawn, is the same developer behind Man of Medan, which is part of its “Dark Pictures Anthology.” What starts off as a fun ocean trip to explore a long-lost World War II plane wreckage quickly turns into a terrifying tale of survival in the middle of the ocean. Between pirates and ghosts who are out to kill you, let’s just say the odds are stacked against you.
Man of Medan offers single-player and multiplayer options—but multiplayer is by far the best way to play it so you can share the scares with your friends. (Sharing is caring!) There are two multiplayer options including online multiplayer for two people and co-op for up to five people sharing a single controller.
Because Man of Medan is a game about choice and consequence, just like Until Dawn, what you do and say matters—only this time your choices affect the other people who are playing with you. The online multiplayer mode is the best way to experience the game since each player will simultaneously interact with different scenes, or interact in the same scene at the same time but see totally different things. Is that a demon you’re trying to kill, or is that your friend? Who knows!
5. Outlast + Outlast 2
We’re recommending both Outlast and Outlast 2 since they’re too good to pass up this Halloween season. Both games let you take on the role of an investigative journalist trying to get the scoop on an abandoned asylum (Outslast) and a religious cult in the middle of the Arizona desert (Outlast 2) at night … and it goes about as well as you’d think it would.
Both games fit into the religious horror subgenre, although that’s more pronounced in the second game due to the flashback scenes of the Catholic school the protagonist attended as a child. Both games do not skimp on the gore, but Outlast 2 tests how much of it you can take thanks to some disturbing imagery early on in the game.
In both games, players will also need to rely on their camcorder’s night vision to find their way in the dark. Finding enough batteries to keep your camcorder is just as anxiety-inducing as running away from the area’s many creepy residents. Much of the horror in both games is psychological. That combined with macabre imagery around every corner guarantees the kind of scares spooky season demands.
Carrion, which means “the decaying flesh of dead animals,” is a reverse horror game in which you play a monster trying to escape from a laboratory—appropriate if you consider how many humans you must kill on your path to freedom. You move through the lab’s corridors and ventilation ducts with the grace of a swan, but you chomp down on all its employees like it’s a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Carrion is cathartic like that.
The more people you eat, the larger you grow. If you grow large enough you can deposit parts of yourself into the water supply for safekeeping, or you can stay fully intact so you can unleash your devastating powers on your victims in multiple ways, using powers like possession and echolocation. If you like puzzle platformers and hack-n-slash games, Carrion has buckets and buckets of pixelated blood for you to get your tentacles wet.
Phasmophobia treats you to a virtual ghost hunting experience from the safety of your own home. In a team of four, you and your fellow ghost hunters must use your ghost hunting equipment—EMF readers, spirit boxes, thermal cameras, and other devices—and communicate with spirits in some seriously haunted locations.
Each location you visit has increasingly hostile spirits, and each spirit has a different personality, so you never quite know what you’re going to encounter. (Is that the spirit of a child or a demon pretending to be a child? Spooky!) The user interface is minimal, so you can focus on your surroundings and communication with your paranormal investigation team. If you gather enough evidence of a haunting, you can sell it to a ghost removal team.
One of the most interesting mechanics of Phasmophobia is that you can use your real voice to interact with the ghosts in the game if you’re using a spirit box or an Oujia board. The ghosts might or might not respond, but this helps ensure no two playthroughs are exactly alike. The ghost hunting process itself is set up like a real-life professional one, too: some players can choose to wander the building while others hang back at central command to monitor things on the CCTV feed.
If you like the thrill of trying to figure out if it was a teammate whispering in your ear or a malevolent spirit, Phasmophobia is sure to get you in the Halloween spirit.
8. Layers of Fear
Most horror games incorporate jump scares to some degree, but not many on both rely heavily on them and can pull them off well. Layers of Fear is a brilliant exception. Players assume the role of a painter who is slowly descending into madness. Rooms change appearance constantly, making you feel like you are walking through the Winchester Mystery House at night. You won’t get lost thanks to the game’s linear progression—but it gleefully forces you toward the horrors inside your character’s mind.
Most of those horrors are in the form of jump scares, but the same type of jump scare is rarely used twice. So not only does the game make you feel like you have to constantly question reality, but it also takes away your ability to predict when or what will happen. It could be a chair that was in the opposite corner when you last looked, or dozens of doll heads floating around you like bubbles. Layers of Fear is best played with headphones on and the lights off. If you dare.
From Frictional Games, the developers that brought us Amnesia: The Dark Descent, SOMA is a game that plays with your perception of reality. This time you’re trying to escape an underwater research facility in the year 2104. Your only guide is someone named Catherine, who may or may not be human.
Escape would be easy if it wasn’t for all the monsters lurking about the facility. Your only method of defense is sneaking around them, but you have to change your methods for each one. Some are hypersensitive to movement. Some pick up on sounds. But every single monster has a past in the facility and a grotesque appearance. And all of them are out to get you.
Underneath the horror is an extremely insightful game about what it means to be human, in body, spirit, and mind. There’s much more to SOMA than creepy monsters and sinister sea creatures. It makes us question what it means to be us. Is it our mind? Is it our body? Is it our free will? At what point are we no longer human? If you love horror with a side is existentialism, SOMA is definitely for you.
10. Doki Doki Literature Club
Don’t let the pretty pastel colors fool you—_Doki Doki Literature Club_ is downright terrifying. The game starts out innocently enough; you’re a new student who’s joined the school’s literature club. You make friends. You develop a crush. Life is good. And then the game crashes inexplicably. When you reopen the game, something is dreadfully wrong. The cheerful tone of the Literature Club deteriorates into something much darker with each passing minute.
Unlike all of the other games on this list, Doki Doki Literature Club is a visual novel with multiple endings. It’s also a game that deals with heavy emotional topics, such as suicide and abuse. The way those things are dealt with in the game is shocking, so just know that going in. There is a Plus edition with content warnings before those scenes, so players who might be uncomfortable with how the game addresses those issues can walk away before the scene starts.
One of the big draws of Doki Doki Literature Club, however, is its ability to break the fourth wall in a way that feels immersive. These moments are essential parts of the game, so we won’t spoil them, but the developers really nailed the feeling of being in the game, not just controlling a character from behind a computer or TV.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.