Feature: Ten Games to Play This Halloween
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Not for the faint of heart
Halloween is now just one week away, while many horrors await: ghosts, zombies, children in masks demanding sweets and candy. Up to now we've focussed on Resident Evil and Castlevania, but now we're just looking for thrills to take us to the darkest night of the year.
To get us started we decided to produce a list of games that can be considered as perfect Halloween gaming. All of these titles were chosen because they're either scary, spooky or, in a couple of cases, simply overwhelmed with an ominous atmosphere. Some of the selections will be expected, while a couple are included for those who want an engrossing experience without necessarily being scared witless. Check them out below.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask — For gamers who want a vintage title with an ominous vibe, Majora's Mask is certainly an option. Considered one of, if not the darkest entry in the Zelda series, this title introduces environments, characters and themes that are anything but cuddly and cute. It's a Link adventure with a spooky vibe, an irresistible combination.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes — When the original Metroid Prime was released on GameCube, it was roundly praised for creating a sense of isolation on a strange planet. The sequel, arguably, took these themes a step further by introducing frightening new enemies, a light/dark gameplay mechanic and moody, sci-fi gothic environments. An entry in the series that divided opinion, it's suitable nevertheless for an engaging, engrossing experience.
Super Castlevania IV — Super Castlevania IV has plenty of demons and ghouls as a warm-up, before Frankenstein, the Grim Reaper and Dracula emerge onto the scene. The atmosphere in the whole series is wonderfully dark and gothic, with this title getting the nod due to its exemplary controls and level design. Honourable mentions must go to Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood.
Resident Evil 2 — The Resident Evil series is renowned for revolutionising the survival horror genre. While the Resident Evil remake on GameCube was a triumph and Resident Evil 4 took the series in a new direction, we've opted for Resident Evil 2. This was the first title in the series to arrive on a Nintendo console and was packed with B-movie scares and terrifying monsters.
Avenging Spirit — Now available on the 3DS Virtual Console, this title can be regarded as a forgotten gem. While relatively light-hearted in appearance, the premise of taking control of strangers' bodies and discarding them as corpses is remarkably sinister. The horror is in the actions that you take, not how they're portrayed.
Doom 64 — When this title was released on Nintendo 64, it received a mixed critical response due to the gameplay being a relic of a previous age. In terms of horror gaming, however, it's a valuable, shiny relic worth finding. The simplistic shooter gameplay of the SNES original, combined with far superior graphics, means that the environments and horrific monsters are more frightening than ever.
Lit — Rather aptly released on 30th October 2009 in the EU - though less suitably on 9th February of the same year in the US - this title makes good use of darkness as its central premise. Clever use of the Wii Remote, tricky puzzles and a desperate need to stay in the light ensure that this is a welcome entry on the WiiWare service.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem — Exclusive to the Nintendo GameCube, this title earned critical acclaim, and a major award, for character development, innovative gameplay and exceptional design. The scope of ambition is impressive, with its moody visuals capturing the imagination, while features such as the 'sanity meter' demonstrate unbounded creativity. Lengthy and challenging, this is a title worth experiencing.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories — While the title of this game would suggest a remake of the PlayStation entry, this is in fact a wonderful reimagining of the original. The capabilities of the Wii console and Remote are utilised fully, while the top-notch presentation emphasises the horror of the surroundings. Clever use of psychological profiling and the lack of any weapons - if you see a monster, you run - mean that this is a standout horror title on the Wii.
Dead Space: Extraction — When a Dead Space game was announced for the Wii, excitement ensued. The news that it was an on-rails shooter was an immediate disappointment, but developers Eurocom demonstrated that genre limitations need not apply. This title is immersive, well paced, gruesome and, when all is said and done, frightening. Definitely an experience perfectly suited to a dark room and a pair of headphones.
These recommendations should help capture the mood for the upcoming All Hallows' Eve, though we're barely scratching the surface of scary games. You can vote for your favourite from the list in our Facebook poll, and we'd love to hear about titles you enjoy at this time of year: whether they make you play from behind the couch or simply engross you with a gloomy atmosphere. Tell us all about them in the comments below.