Kotaku’s Weekend Guide: 8 Certified Chillers For Your Halloween Enjoyment

Kotaku’s Weekend Guide: 8 Certified Chillers For Your Halloween Enjoyment

Halloween lands on a weekday this year, which means this upcoming weekend is the single best time to enjoy the spooky vibes of the season. But if you’re like me, no one’s invited you to a Halloween party. Not to worry, that just means there’s time to stay indoors with the haunting glow of a game filling the dark corners of your lonely mind. (Um.)

In the spirit of the holiday we’ve put a special focus on spooky game picks this week, so all our recs are some level of scary or otherwise “of the season.” Perhaps you’ll find some enjoyable weekend scares for yourself, here.

Resident Evil 4 (VR)

Gif: Capcom / Armature Studio / Oculus Studios / Kotaku

Play it on: Meta Quest 2/Pro/3 (or the flat version’s on just about everything)
Current goal: Starve myself of upgrades until I get the good guns

I’m surprised how rarely games feature in my VR playtime. Standalone Meta Quest games, which have sucked the lion’s share of development dollars away from the (in my opinion) more exciting realm of PC-powered VR, frequently strike me as small in scope and unexciting. Instead, my killer apps these past few years have been VRChat and Bigscreen VR. I find socializing in fantastical user-made worlds and screening obscure flicks with distant pals well worth the price of admission.

But, Claire decreed we were doing Halloween games this week, and I’m in the honeymoon period with a new Quest Pro, so I finally got around to starting Armature Studio’s Meta Quest-only VR version of Capcom’s 2005 classic Resident Evil 4. Verdict so far? Wonderful. (The headset’s pretty good, too.)

Resident Evil 4 was the first game in the series I really loved, but having not revisited it since the GameCube OG, I’ve been long overdue for a replay. This VR edition’s virtual reality you-are-there element offers a newly intimate perspective on Leon S. Kennedy’s iconic adventure, heightening both the creepiness and my immersion. It does this so well that I think RE4 VR is now ruining me on all the older “pancake” (2D, flatscreen) versions.

Armature did an amazing, thoughtful job converting the 2D game to VR. Leon’s hands in particular are great. It feels so cool to grab your pistol off your hip, headshot a goon, drop the gun, pluck a grenade from your chest, pull the pin with your other hand, hurl it at the mob, retrieve the shotgun from over your shoulder, pantomime the reload, rack it… Once you get used to the motions they become second nature, making combat frantic and fun in a very fresh way.

Yeah, Leon’s new agility (strafing!) makes the fights easier; you can turn that off, but it feels bad to do so in VR (definitely disable the laser sight, though). Given how differently it plays, you can basically consider this a wholly separate game. But no sweat. It’s super fun, and I’m finding it hard to imagine the OG pancake versions feeling quite as satisfying, now. (Beyond moddability, the one definite advantage they still hold is that Ada Wong’s “Separate Ways” campaign is regrettably missing here.)

Resident Evil 4, I am reminded, is an exquisitely well-designed video game, full of everything I love about the medium. It’s proving a joy to revisit in VR, and it’s also really neat how it now runs on a little computer attached to my face. If the Quest platform (or VR in general) gets more games of this quality, I might find myself spending a little less time in VRChat. — Alexandra Hall

Hey! Listen!

A nifty app called Quest Games Optimizer makes it easy to run RE4 (and hundreds of other Quest games) at considerably higher resolution. It’s well worth the $US10 on Quest 2 or Pro, and legit essential on Quest 3, being the only way to conveniently take advantage of Q3’s extra GPU horsepower in older games.
If you don’t have a Quest, there’s a pretty good fan-made PCVR mod for the recent RE4 remake, and the PS5 version of the remake’s getting official PS VR2 support in the near future. (Capcom…please remember your PC players…)

Slay the Princess

Black Tabby Games

Play it on: Windows, macOS, Linux (Steam Deck OK)
Current goal: Kill the monarch

I’ve already rolled credits once on Black Tabby Games’ time-loop horror visual novel Slay the Princess. But I find myself once again walking up the hill to the cabin and down the stairs to the dungeon where a princess is awaiting her demise, as I’m compelled to see if it will end differently this time.

Slay the Princess is the inverse of the Far Cry definition of insanity. I do the same thing over and over, knowing even the slightest variation will make it demonstrably different. The only constant is that I will find a princess, who is supposedly going to end the world if she escapes the cabin, locked up in a dungeon awaiting a dagger through the heart.

I can do this without question, or I can sit down and talk with her, or I can turn around and leave, but all roads lead to either her death or mine. Each of those paths is unnerving, elevated by Slay the Princess’ stellar writing, pitch-perfect voice acting, and haunting black-and-white art. I didn’t need to see every variation to reach the “end” of the game, but knowing those permutations are still out there keeps me walking down the cabin’s stairs to see what horrors await me at the bottom once again.

By the way, the game is on sale until November 2, so you can get it for 10 percent off. — Kenneth Shepard

Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Screenshot: DotEmu

Play it on: SNES, Genesis, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Windows (Steam Deck: YMMV)
Current goal: Overcome past traumas

Anxiety, guilt, fear. Emotions we must all grapple with in this waking life sooner or later, and ones I was introduced to all at once via watching my older brother play the 16-bit LucasArts run-and-gun classic Zombies Ate My Neighbors back when it first released 30 years ago.

Today, I come to you a grown-ass man who is now, maybe, probably, brave enough to play through ZAMN Level 4: Chainsaw Hedgemaze Mayhem. For those unfamiliar, this is the stage in which you are introduced to nigh-unkillable hockey-masked psychos who will chase you down relentlessly and kill your beloved, shit-for-brains neighbors should you dawdle.

The sounds are what really get me still. Layered over Zombies’ excellent soundtrack are the anguished off-screen yelps of my pals as they’re being bisected and the constant revving of chainsaws, mowing down hedge mazes, hungrily seeking flesh until your player-character can make a clean escape.

OK, you know what? Having talked through it now, let’s do this next Halloween. — Eric Schulkin


Screenshot: rose-engine / Kotaku

Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows (Steam Deck: OK)
Current goal: Re-piece together the story (I’m lost)

If I’m not playing indie sci-fi horror delight Signalis this weekend, it’s only because one of two things happened: I’m stuck in the Dark Place, or Signalis’ wonderful presentation and nostalgia-invoking gameplay has inspired me to make creepy synthesizer sounds into a messed-up reverb patch for hours at a time.

Read More: Signalis Is A Grimy Exercise In Survival Horror, And I Love It

Signalis is the kind of game that nourishes both the gamer and artist in me. Its damaged, lo-fi, retro aesthetic entirely permeates the game down to its menus, delivering a fully integrated experience of creepy uncertainty and dread. Once you boot it up, you are in its world. Signalis’ visual presentation, all haunting corridors visible from a top-down camera punctuated by first-person puzzles, creates that kind of classic PlayStation experience I remember fondly.

As a survival horror, Signalis shares much in common with classic Resident Evil games. Clomp around hallways populated by mean and nasty things that scream and try to kill you; gauge whether or not running or spending ammo is worth it; solve cryptic puzzles; collect keys to unlock rooms, etc. It’s a satisfying game loop, often oscillating between a feeling of being helplessly lost and then elation as you find the right key or figure out the correct sequence for a puzzle. Throughout, that satisfying sense of dread.

Right now I find the story, mostly told through in-game documents and cryptic cutscenes, a little hard to follow. Signalis keeps its cards close to its chest, at least early on. A sense of mystery and confusion fits right at home with this eerie survival horror game, but I’ll probably take the time to re-read all the various documents I’ve found so far to try and understand exactly what’s happening here. — Claire Jackson

Lords of the Fallen (2023)

Screenshot: HEXWORKS / Kotaku

Play it on: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows (Steam Deck YMMV)
Current goal: Survive the dead realm of Umbral

Lords of the Fallen is the latest Soulslike to drop this year. Being part of such a stressful genre of games, it already has the capacity to send shivers down your spine with its many tense boss encounters.

However, this reboot of the 2014 game of the same name is particularly horrifying because it stacks an undead world on top of a living one. The realm of Umbral is scary. Rotting flesh is everywhere. Moths circle carcasses like vultures. Gigantic, mummified-looking humanoids cling to buildings reminiscent of Bloodborne’s Amygdala. And if you stay long enough, a red-cloaked reaper known as the Scarlet Shadow will hunt your soul relentlessly.

It’s rather frightening, making it the perfect game to play as spooky season nears its end. Just make sure the lamp you carry has enough fuel. You’ll need it to make your way through the land of the dead. — Levi Winslow

Amnesia: The Bunker

Screenshot: Frictional Games

Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, (Steam Deck: YMMV)
Current goal: Take deep breaths

I’m returning to Frictional Games’ white-knuckled survival horror Amnesia: The Bunker this weekend, and I’m hoping I don’t scream as much as I did the first time I played it.

Its simple premise shields an infinitely entertaining gameplay loop: You’re trapped in a desolate World War I bunker with a creature that wants to eat you, and you have only one bullet. You need to avoid being brutalized by picking up randomized items from inside moaning metal drawers and puzzling your way out of the gray inferno, or you die.

The Bunker has some unintentionally scary elements, too, which irritated me when I picked it up ahead of its release this summer; the hunchbacked monster’s AI is occasionally fucked, and it has chosen to rip me apart no matter what clever (I think) combination of flare, flashlight, and hiding shamefully, like I peed my pants, I commit to. I will practice mindfulness and meditation on this playthrough, though. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go back to therapy. — Ashley Bardhan

Resident Evil 6

Screenshot: Capcom

Play it on: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, Windows (Steam Deck OK)
Current goal: Convince my partner that it’s actually a good game

Resident Evil 6 gets a lot of hate for being one of the worst games in Capcom’s beloved survival horror series. RE6’s rejection mostly stems from it not really feeling like a survival horror game that’ll scare you in the same ways its siblings will. In fact, when the game was released, critics rightfully panned it for straying from its survival horror roots. Instead of conserving ammo while fending off zombie hordes in narrow alleyways, RE6 has you travel across the world suplexing the undead and bomb-striking giant kaiju. The game’s a freaking action-adventure game cloaked as a horror game, and I love it unconditionally. That’s right, I’m one of those “Resident Evil 6 is actually good” propagandists.

RE6 has you play four interwoven story campaigns as Leon and Helena (the “good” campaign), Chris and Piers (the wackiest one), Sherry and Jake Wesker (the edgiest one), and Ada Wong (the one that actually feels like the classic RE gameplay experience). As in Resident Evil 5, part of RE6’s charm is that you can experience the game’s Michael Bay-ass cataclysmic story missions with a pal through couch co-op—which in my opinion is the most fun way to play the game.

Hopefully, my partner—who loves scary horror games—will find the same joy I do super-kicking things that are meant to intimidate me when I broach the idea of playing RE6 together via this blurb. If not, expect a follow-up post about me having to sleep on the couch. — Isaiah Colbert

Alan Wake 2

Screenshot: Remedy Entertainment / Kotaku

Play it on: PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Windows (if your machine can handle it) (Steam Deck LOL)
Current goal: Write my way out of the Dark Place

I have barely scratched the surface of Alan Wake 2, and I don’t even want to say much about what little I have experienced, because I think that if you can go in cold, you should.

But while avoiding any narrative details, I can tell you that I think it has maybe the most confident opening stretch of any mainstream game I’ve played in a long time. Rather than feeling the need to reassure you about what it’s doing or to make you feel grounded in familiar gameplay elements, Alan Wake 2 puts the needs of the story it’s trying to tell and the mood it’s trying to cultivate first. Doing that takes time, and the game gives it all the time it needs. I love that.

This weekend, I intend to plunge deeper into its mysterious horror tale, and to bask in the environmental atmosphere it so expertly cultivates. If you’d like to read a bit more about what this game is doing and why I’m so excited about it, check out my recent interview with Remedy Entertainment creative director Sam Lake. — Carolyn Petit

And that wraps our round-up of Halloween-worthy games. What are you playing this weekend? And, will you be screaming?

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