It’s the most wonderful time of the year for goths, cosplayers, witches and wizards, and general ghoulish people: Halloween!
We here at Kotaku Australia wanted to wish you a Happy Halloween, and hope you have a very spooky time. We hope you get treats, give treats, and that no tricks happen upon you. If tricks do happen to you, we hope they are non-lethal and easily cleaned up.
We thought it would be nice for each of us to talk about our favourite horror game, and why they are our favourite ones. In the same note, we’d love for you to comment down below and tell us what your favourite spooky game is! It doesn’t have to be genuinely terrifying, it could even just be Halloween-themed (like Costume Quest), spooky adjacent (like Grimm’s Hollow), or even just a little unnerving to play (like Omori).
Here are ours!
David’s pick – Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Eternal Darkness is a psychological horror game from 2002 by Silicon Knights for the Nintendo Gamecube. Right from the jump, there was something different about this game. It was the first game rated MA15+ that Nintendo ever published, AND the first game the company released after the great Satoru Iwata took over as president.
The game follows a woman named Alexandra Roivas who returns to her family estate after the brutal murder of her grandfather. With the police investigation into his slaying stalled, Alexandra begins to hunt around his creepy old mansion looking for clues. In a secret room, locked away, she stumbled onto a book bound in human skin: the Tome of Eternal Darkness. Because she is very smart, Alexandra reads the skin book immediately, discovering it is full of accounts written by people from the past. Their intertwining stories, which you will now play through, tell the terrifying story of a Roman Centurion named Pious and the awful things he did in the service of an unknowable, cosmic horror.
The game flicks between perspectives — Pious in 2000 AD, a young Persian named Karim in 565 AD, a Canadian firefighter named Michael in 1991, a court dancer named Ellia in 1150AD, a Franciscan monk named Paul Luther in 1485, a Frankish messenger named Anthony in 814 AD, and Maximillian Roivas, Alexandra’s own ancestor, in 1760. On each playthrough, you will only encounter three playable characters, and the choices you make determine who you get.
On top of this, your three main characters are all subject to the same three variables — health, sanity, and magick — to differing degrees. It’s the sanity meter that you really need to watch. The lower it gets, the closer your character becomes to going insane. This meter decreases when you are spotted by an enemy and, if it sinks low enough, triggers Sanity Effects, which are randomly generated moments when the game will go out of its way to scare the shit out of you, in line with your character’s weakening grip on reality.
This could manifest as subtle changes to the environment, like the camera slowly tilting to a Dutch angle, or mysterious noises and statue heads that follow you wherever you go. It could be a horrific room you never entered, the abrupt death of a character you are interacting with, or even a TV-style promo for Next Time On Eternal Darkness.
This game RULES, still, today. Play it. It’s scary as fuck and so inventive. That it never got a sequel is a crying shame. The perfect Halloween game.
Ruby’s pick – Alice: Madness Returns
Alice: Madness Returns is a psychological horror hack-and-slash action-adventure platformer developed by American McGee’s Spicy Horse studio and released for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011.
It’s also the sequel to American McGee’s Alice, which I’ll admit I haven’t played yet. When I played Alice: Madness Returns, I was fresh out of a scene phase but still had a deep love for all that good goth shit and found myself playing more and more dark games like Bioshock and whatnot.
Alice: Madness Returns follows the story of Alice Liddell, a trauma-ridden teenager that lives in a very sus orphanage after being discharged from a psychiatric clinic. In order to rid herself of the trauma caused by the death of her family and to learn more about her past, she ventures back into a twisted Wonderland.
There was, and continues to be, a lot that I love about Alice: Madness Returns. When it comes to the visual design of the game, I really like how the game pays plenty of homage to the world of Wonderland while actively paying a lot of attention to detail to make it look truly evil. Everything in the world is so lovingly crafted that it’s just a pleasure to explore.
Then there’s Alice herself. I adored the different costumes that Alice would wear throughout the game. As well as this, the hack-and-slash fighting mechanics just felt so right. The story of Alice Liddell is just so horrifically sad, but her perseverance and strength made me want to keep on playing so I could eventually see her win.
The character design is all so delightfully twisted, especially the enemies. All the various Ruin monsters, the Bitch Baby, and the Dollmaker were all creatures that I remember being truly unnerved by, but I also loved every second of it.
And the Dollmaker. Dr. Bumby. I hate that evil, wretched motherfucker. There are very few video game antagonists that I felt a burning hatred for more than Dr. Bumby. Bum ass guy. The big twist at the end of that game (which I won’t spoil because I highly recommend you play it) followed by the following events have stayed with me ever since I finished the game all those years ago.
In my opinion, there’s a lot to love about Alice: Madness Returns. It reeled me in, freaked me out, and beat the shit out of me. It might even be time for a replay for me!
Now how about you? What’s your favourite horror game, or spooky game, or Halloween game? Let us know, and Happy Halloween!
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