‘Tis the season to dim the lights, eat your kids Halloween candy, and scare the absolute crap out of yourself with a good horror game. Sure, watching a scary movie can be fun, but there’s something to be said about actively participating in one that’s just so much better. Horror video games are pretty much like horror movies, only you’re the one in control and you’re the one putting on that brave face while taking on all sorts of nightmarish creatures. You’re also the one making terrible choices just like those frustrating horror movie characters you wish you could scream at and tell them what to do.
While there’s no shortage of great horror games for adults, there are some different options out there for kids depending on their age, so I’ve included some kid-friendly horror games here. Playing video games with your kids can be a great bonding experience, and watching them jump from a well-timed scare is just too good an opportunity to pass up.
Kid-Friendly Horror Games
Costume Quest 1 & 2
Costume Quest isn’t necessarily scary, but it definitely fits right in with the season. During a night filled with trick-or-treating, your sibling is kidnapped by a monster and it’s up to you to get them back. Battles play out turn-based (like older Final Fantasy games) and each character you control can transform into whatever they are currently dressed up as (like a giant robot) when the fight starts. With Costume Quest, Double Fine (Psychonauts, Gang Beasts) crafted a surprisingly gripping RPG experience around the premise of Halloween. If you’re interested in something a bit more light-hearted, both Costume Quest games are definitely worth checking out.
Originally released on the PS1 back in 1998, MediEvil captured the hearts of many with its tragic & heart-warming tale of Sir Daniel Fortesque. The story of Sir Dan’s triumphant win against the evil sorcerer Zarok is one worthy of a hero. What actually happened that day though was Sir Dan took an arrow to the eye literally seconds after the battle started, and Zarok went into hiding. It wasn’t exactly a heroic story, so the king covered it up. Luckily, Sir Dan was brought back to life and given a second chance to redeem himself. On your undead quest to defeat Zarok once and for all, you’ll encounter different kinds of zombies and critters, but it’s all whimsical in a Tim Burton kind of way. With plenty of levels and loads of secrets to discover, you and your kids will spend hours trying to prove yourself worthy to join the afterlife in the “Hall of Heroes” in this wonderful remake of a beloved classic.
Five Night’s at Freddy’s: Help Wanted
Made up entirely of jump scares, Five Nights at Freddy’s might not do anything for you, but your kids will definitely be on the edge of their seat. Tasked with working the overnight shift at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza (or different locations, depending on which entry in the series you’re playing), you need to keep an eye on all of the animatronics. You see, Freddy and the gang like to just get up and roam the building after hours, so you need to check security cameras and close doors if they get too close to you. To make matters even worse, you have a battery gauge to keep track of. If you’re spending too much time looking at cameras and keeping doors closed, you’ll run out of power and it’s game over. Survive the night though and you get paid poorly! While the jump scares will get repetitive over time, the atmosphere is always top-notch with this series.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
Oozing with loads of charm and spooks, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is arguably the best in the trilogy. The animation on each of the characters is extremely well done and the gameplay is tight. Once again, Mario has been kidnapped and it’s up to Luigi to save the day, but this time you’re exploring a haunted hotel. The animation on each of the characters is extremely well done and the gameplay is tight, requiring you to use your trusty Poltergust to suck ghosts up. Luigi’s Mansion 3 also features some fun multiplayer games for up to eight-players once you’re done with the single-player story.
Little Nightmares 1 & 2
The Little Nightmares games teeter ever so precariously on the edge of being too scary for kids, and just the right amount of scary. It reminds me of something that would come from those Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark novels. They were considered children’s books, but it always felt like I was reading something I shouldn’t have… which was awesome and made me feel like a badass when I was younger (while also making me keep a light on at night). The majority of each Little Nightmares game involves you sneaking around and trying to solve environmental puzzles in order to get to the next area. What makes these games so great though are the enemies. Some of them are pretty terrifying, and the fact that they’re way bigger than you and you usually can’t fight back just exasperates each encounter even more. You just have to run as fast as you can and hope you don’t mess up your escape.
Not So Kid-Friendly Horror Games
Have you ever wanted to play a slasher film in video game form? Until Dawn was made for you. Besides the excellent graphics and production design, the big draw with Until Dawn is the decisions you make have a direct effect on your story. This choose-your-own-adventure style of gameplay featuring 8 playable characters leads to some stressful, split-second decision making that could lead your character (or others) to survival or certain doom. Even if you do get a game over screen with one character, that just means the story continues with the others. Until Dawn features three different endings, but there can be up to 256 different variations in regards to how you get to those endings, so the replay value on this one is through the roof.
Phasmophobia quickly became a hit because of it’s great online multiplayer experience. You and three other players are tasked with entering a location (ranging from a suburban home to a prison) and trying to figure out what sort of spirit is haunting that area. You’ll use different kinds of equipment to pinpoint exactly what the spirt is, all the while making sure you don’t die in the process. Being able to communicate with your friends while also calling out to the ghosts can lead to some pretty funny moments, making this one of those games that juggles both genuine thrills and laughs with ease if you’re playing with friends.
Alan Wake follows the story of best-selling thriller novelist Alan Wake as he tries to uncover the mystery behind his wife’s disappearance during a vacation in the small fictional town of Bright Falls. Each of the events he experiences over the course of the game are events from the plot in his latest novel, which he can’t remember writing. It’s an interesting premise that plays out with non-combat scenarios during the day, with you asking around and searching for clues. At night though, all hell breaks loose. The combat is fast-paced and feels great, with you juggling battery power for your flashlight and ammunition in order to take on murderous shadows known as ‘Taken’. The combat being great though shouldn’t be a surprise since Alan Wake comes from Max Payne and Control developer Remedy Entertainment. With the recently released Alan Wake Remaster now available, it’s the perfect time to go back to Bright Falls if you missed out the first time around.
When it comes to Resident Evil, all of the games hold a special place in my heart. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but for full-blown, panic-inducing terror, Resident Evil 7 delivers. I feel that just the opening part in RE7 alone is worth the price of admission. It’s some truly harrowing stuff that I won’t spoil here if you haven’t played it, but within the first hour you’ll have sweaty palms and definitely be reconsidering walking down into that basement you just heard blood-curdling screams come from. If you can make it through that first hour though, you’ll be treated to a Resident Evil game heavily influenced by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Definitely not for the squeamish.
What “best of” list involving horror games would be complete without the mother of all “playable teasers”. P.T. is often considered one of the best horror games ever, and it was literally a demo to announce a new Silent Hill game directed by Hideo Kojima. Unfortunately, the project would be cancelled before development even really started, and Konami would even remove the demo from the Playstation Store. Despite that, this tiny demo spawned legions of games trying to evoke the same terror from this demo. It continues to make an impression on the industry years after its release. If you were lucky enough to download it before it was removed from the store and still have it on your PS4, absolutely throw it on again for some quick scares this Halloween.
Back in 2001, Silent Hill 2 perfected the psychological horror gameplay and storytelling that made the 1st entry in the series so unique and captivating. In Silent Hill 2, you play as James Sunderland. You’ve just received a letter from your wife telling you to meet her in Silent Hill. That might seem nice, but the problem with that is your wife has been dead for three years (what is it with missing wives and horror games?). It’s a scary set-up that only builds in tension and scares as the game progresses. Everything from the enemy design to the locations to the music is wonderfully creepy, and it all culminates in a genuinely horrific finale. Oh yeah, and it also introduced us to the terrifying and iconic ‘Pyramid Head’. If you’ve never played a Silent Hill game before, put this one at the top of your must-play list.