Level Up! | Five Horror games to try this Halloween Weekend

Level Up! is a biweekly blog about all types of games, from Dungeons and Dragons to Mario Party.

By Sinead McDevitt, Digital Manager

Horror in video games is an entirely different beast than horror in film, because while in film you might yell at characters making stupid decisions, in a game, you make all the decisisons, and if they turn out to be stupid, it’s your fault! Though you will gain an appreciation for how hard it is to think clearly while one wrong move away from instant death.

There are a lot of very fun — though deeply stressful — horror games out there, but here are some of my favorites. Quick recommendation, though — play with the lights on.

My Big Sister (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch)

One of my favorite pastimes is going through what games are on sale on the Nintendo eShop and picking up a whole bunch of games I’d never heard of for $4 each. That was how I discovered this little gem.

Stranga Games initially released this game on Steam and itch.io in 2018, and it was ported to consoles in 2019. This surreal game follows Luzia and her sister Sombria who are trying to return home after getting kidnapped by a witch who also turned Sombria into a monster. Along the way they meet a bizarre cast of creatures and monsters who are no less intimidating just because they’re rendered in pixel art style. Throughout the game you’re faced with contradictory info from different characters, and ultimately in the final chapter you have to decide who you trust to determine the sisters’ fate. It’s not a long game, but it’s one that sat with me after playing and certainly got my heart pumping in timed sections.

Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins (App Store, Google Play Store, Playstation 4 XBox One, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch)

Depending on who you ask, “Blink” is one of the best Doctor Who episodes ever. It’s more of a horror short film than anything else — The Doctor barely features and you can watch it without really knowing any context from the rest of the series other than the fact that The Doctor is a time traveler. This episode introduced The Weeping Angels — aliens who are stone when you look at them, but the second you look away or blink, they can get you. This episode was also responsible for scaring me so much as a child I stopped watching the show for several years.

“Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins” is a direct sequel to “Blink,” continuing the story of the characters introduced in that episode in game form, and certainly does the original episode justice. Given that I was 20 when I first played it and not seven, it didn’t give me as many nightmares, but it’s still a very tense game that got me more stressed out than I initially expected going in.

“The Lonely Assassins” is a “found phone game,” meaning the player finds a phone and has to go through it to figure out what’s going on, with the help of Doctor Who side character Petronella Osgood. You don’t actually have to know about Doctor Who to enjoy the game, but you will have to watch “Blink” to understand anything that’s going on. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, but the process of piecing together clues to figure out what’s going on is fun, the cutscenes are tense and the moments where you’re suddenly given control and have to act quickly are heart racing.

I definitely recommend this to any Doctor Who fan out there looking for a good scare.

Ib (Microsoft Windows)

What’s scarier than a museum? Well, lot’s of things. But a museum where the paintings come to life and try to kill you is pretty scary — just ask Ib.

The original version of this game came out in 2012 on Microsoft Windows, and follows Ib, a 9-year-old girl who gets separated from her parents at an art exhibit, and wanders into another world. Art pieces quickly start coming to life, and no one’s nice just because she’s young. The player has to solve puzzles, sneak past living works of art and overcome all sorts of traps to get Ib, along with her companions Gary and Mary, out of there.

For the 10-year anniversary of the game, the developer, kouri, remade the game in RPG Maker MV, which was then published by PLAYISM on Steam. An official English translation came out a few months later, and now the game is on its way to Nintendo Switch in 2023. “Ib” is a horror classic that uses atmosphere very well even with its minimal cast and graphics.

The Witch’s House (Microsoft Windows, Mac, Nintendo Switch)

Speaking of classic games remade on RPG Maker MV, “The Witch’s House” is the game to check out if you want to die instantly whenever you make a mistake. “The Witch’s House” also came out in 2012 before getting a remake, though in this case the remake came out in 2018.

Viola is a young girl who gets lost in the woods and, having nowhere else to go, ends up entering the house of a local witch. While the house is apparently empty, it’s not safe, and things start trying to kill you very quickly. Whether they’re suits of armor, killer flowers or giant teddy bears, anything can spell your doom, and it takes quite a bit of trial and error to get through. The remake even comes with an extra hard mode that changes the solutions to certain puzzles and makes it easier to die, though you are rewarded with extra lore if you manage to beat it.

After you’re done with the game, you might want to check out the prequel manga, which is a pretty creepy — albeit spoiler-heavy— read on its own.

Until Dawn (Playstation 4)

A group of teenagers go to spend the weekend in a secluded mountain at an empty lodge — that just so happens to be near an abandoned asylum — where their friends died mysteriously a year before! What could go wrong?

Yeah, so this group has just walked into a horror movie, and it’s your job as the player to get them out of it. Or not — doing something outrageously dumb and getting everyone killed is a valid — and sometimes funny— option. But if you want to get as many people off this mountain as you can, you’ve got to make your choices carefully, examine everything thoroughly and avoid the death traps laid out in front of you.

“Until Dawn” is probably one of my favorite horror games out there, simply because several of the choices that don’t get you killed require you to not act sensibly, but to use horror movie logic to get everyone out of there. If you’re a fan of horror, and in particular films like “Scream” and “Cabin In The Woods,” you’ll have a lot of fun being in the driver’s seat with this game.