Think “Halloween video games”. What comes to mind? Probably some terrifying hack-and-slash survival horror classic that leaves you looking over your shoulders for days.
If you enjoy those games, more power to ‘ya! But there are unconventionally creepy games out there for those who love strategy, puzzles, engaging stories, and unusual experiences. Here are new and classic games that will get you in the Halloween mood without you losing your sanity.
Platform: Windows and PC
Game genre: RPG
Release date: September 15, 2015
Metacritic score: A whopping 96/100
Price: $9.99 on Steam
Undertale is like the love child of Earthbound and Beetlejuice. You’re a girl who is faced with a series of awkward moral choices as you try to escape a monster-ridden underworld. Only those monsters can talk, and have hidden agendas, and sometimes they want to date you. (Told you it was weird.)
Thanks to its quirky dialogue, storytelling, and game mechanics, Undertale has earned one of the most coveted Metacritic scores of all reviewed PC games. What began as a small independent venture funded by Kickstarter has become one of the most talked-about independent games in the second half of the year. The game—nor its creator—take itself seriously despite being faced with ever-mounting danger and malicious smiles.
2. Battleground Z
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game genre: Beat ‘em Up
Release date: April 2015
Metacritic score: Unavailable
Price: $4.99 in the Nintendo 3DS store
Save the good people of Hobbiville from the incoming zombie horde just long enough for a cure to be uncovered.
Fend off the zombies with weapons and characters you pick up along the way—literally, thanks to the 3DS’s StreetPass technology. That means your Nintendo 3DS is being social even when it’s in sleep mode. As you carry your 3DS with you about town you’ll automatically exchange information with other 3DS carriers, ultimately collecting useful items and characters that will help you fight back. (And if you can’t find enough 3DS owners, you can at least get in-game money based on the number of steps tracked by the 3DS’s pedometer.)
Battleground Z is more likely to get you in the mood for a good walk about town than freaking you out. The game doesn’t take itself seriously. Zombies can be fended off with shopping bags and disco balls. The zombies themselves have the behavior and appearance of haphazard children in Halloween costumes. However, get overrun with them and your heart will be palpitating.
BATTLEGROUND Z game playthrough
This unsuspecting gem has replay value as all StreetPass games are regularly updated, and the gameplay changes depending on who you cross paths with. It’s best enjoyed when you’re around highly populated areas where more 3DS candidates might be wandering.
The downside is that if you can’t find those 3DS players, you’ll be forced to get walking (a lot) to earn enough coins to buy items and characters. Battleground Z is difficult without the assistance of seven to ten StreetPass players. Luckily, the game allows for three retries before you fail the mission.
3. Left 4 Dead series
Platform: Mac, PC, Xbox360
Game genre: First-person shooter, survival horror
Release date: November 2008 (Left 4 Dead), November 2009 (Left 4 Dead 2)
Metacritic score: 89/100
Think of a zombie survival media property and what comes to mind? The rag-tag group of survivors, of course! The people left out on their own usually are outnumbered by zombies eventually, and it takes a village to escape the safety.
That’s the ticket for this iconic series. What makes the enduring Left 4 Dead series memorable beyond its mélange of mutated zombie-humans is its excellent cooperative gameplay. You’re a member in a group of four, each having his or her own special contribution to the group. You help each other overcome the odds. L4D’s developer Valve even designed in a system that ensured a buddy system that lasts through your entire play experience: you can see the outlines of your team members through walls, and even if one member falls off the side of a ledge, another member automated team member will run over and catch them.
The end result is a game that focuses more on cooperative play than on simply killing zombies, and that’s what makes Left 4 Dead a unique take on the survival horror genre. You’re in for a good time whether you’re playing the game with friends or the in-game A.I. system.
4. Deadly Premonition
Platform: PC, Xbox360, PlayStation 3
Game genre: Survival horror
Release date: February 2010
Metacritic score: 68/100
Price: $10 – $50
Every list of “scary Halloween” anything requires a dose of campy. Perhaps its heavy cues from the TV series Twin Peaks inspire the game to not always take itself seriously despite the grim setting. Laugh at the terrible writing, keep playing for the eerie manhunt.
The story is simple but its open-world mechanics keep things interesting. Welcome to the remote town of Greenvale, Washington. There’s a killer on the loose whose recent victim was an 18-year-old woman. Follow an FBI agent who has been hot on the trail of a national murder spree, where every Greenvale citizen is a suspect. (Squint and it almost looks like Twin Peaks, amirite?)
Ugh. Writing and voice acting that’s so bad, it’s good.
Deadly Premonition is open world, meaning it’s non-linear and relatively realistic in its gameplay: sleep to regain health, explore the world on foot or car, take time for personal hygiene, and so on. Characters have their own schedules so in order to complete the game, you’ll have to coordinate schedules. Symbology is rampant throughout the game. Pairs of contrasting symbolic ideas are explored a such as white and red, day and night, criminals and victims, reality and abnormality, good and evil, and the forest and a red tree.
So, Deadly Premonition’s reception was terrible. Don’t let that stop you from having a delightfully hilarious (and occasionally scary) run of it!
5. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
Platform: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Game genre: Tower defense, third-person shooter
Release date: February 2014
Metacritic score: 78/100
It’s safe to say that Plants vs. Zombies have found a comfortable home in the hallowed Gaming Hall of Fame. It’s now considered a classic mobile game that won over players and critics alike with its intuitive interface, replayability, and its wacky personality.
So it’s only logical that its developers take it to the next level with a 3D experience.
What makes Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare different from its predecessors is now you’re boots-on-ground in a real-time battle instead of strategically placing an army and watching them fight. Plants throw bombs, piranha plants gulp down enemies and burp, and pea shooters throw exploding hot potatoes. Zombies call on their usual quirky cast of which each member has a specialty: mad scientists have low health but access to crazy weapons, the all-star can take on different sports, and the engineer can have ever-important skills like… plumbing?!
This is another game that’s best played with friends in either versus or four-player cooperative mode. Lose your sanity in 24-player mode where the chaos is fun and objective-based in a capture-the-flag style of play.
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare is fun, lighthearted, and ridiculously funny.
6. Typing of the Dead
Platform: PC via Steam
Game genre: Educational survival horror (which is probably the only game that falls in this genre)
Release date: 1999
Metacritic score: 71/100
Price: $20 with DLCs for $3 each
“It’s incredibly dumb but it works.”
“This is a no-holds-barred novelty amusement. It is stupid and dumb and very, very fun.”
“If you like typing really quick, zombies, and wisecracking: look no further.”
Yup, that’s pretty much what you’d expect from a video game that requires you to type words in order to kill zombies. I don’t know about you but I loved educational typing games as a kid. They fade into the distance of foggy memory as the daily drudgery of typing as an adult replaces fun ‘n’ games. Here’s an excuse to renew the fun with a hilariously terrible survival-horror spin.
Type fast to kill the onslaught of zombies in “Bayou County”. You’ll encounter them in only the classiest of places such as swamps, abandoned houses, strip clubs, and meat-packing warehouses. Delightful!
Enough of the campy—let’s talk about the scare. The game often comes out of left field where you don’t know what will happen next. The anxiety rises as you’re given longer and longer words to finish before a zombie gains ground on you. Hilarious phrases will remind you in the middle of a particularly terrifying escape that the game doesn’t take itself seriously. Phrases like “Sexual Tyrannosaur” followed by “A wonderful piece of work” will leave everyone dying of laughter if you’re live-streaming your game with an audience.
Getting tired of typing? Switch to “shooting” mode. (Though, be warned: it’s pretty lame. Crosshairs over zombies and a mediocre interface leave much to be desired.)
Now go type your fingers off—or else they’ll be bitten off!
7. Grim Fandango Remastered
Platform: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS
Game genre: Puzzle adventure
Release date: January 27, 2015
Metacritic score: 86/100
Price: $14.99 on Steam
Manuel “Manny” Calavera’s job is as a “travel agent of the afterlife”: he brings souls to the land of the dead and decides how they should get to the underworld. Is it a quick trip that only lasts a couple minutes? Or do you walk alone for years until you get there? Talk about a stressful vacation.
Your goal as Manny is to save Mercedes “Meche” Colomar, a virtuous soul, from an unfortunate fate. This game is heavy on the puzzle solving and dialogue, which borrows inspiration from Film Noir classics such as The Maltese Falcon, On the Waterfront, and Casablanca. Travel through the underworld meeting unusual characters whose design is inspired by Aztec Day of the Dead lore. Being dead has its perks: you don’t have to worry about the horror and gore of fighting off enemies.
The writing and voice acting of GRIM FANDANGO is a special kind of ridiculous.
Grim Fandango was originally released by LucasArts in 1998 and is considered one of the top video games of all time. Tim Schafer, famous producer from LucasArts who created his own successful studio under the name Double Fine Productions, revived the game for fans this year with improved lighting, controls, and live soundtrack.
There’s your review of the weird, off-kilter, strange, and surprisingly unconventional scary games for Halloween. Which have you already played? Which are you excited to play?