It’s about six months to Halloween, and sometimes you just really need to feel that trickle of warm fear-pee in your pants. (Don’t judge.) You can check the horror section on Netflix, but they’re all either movies you’ve seen before or stuff that was literally shot with a friend’s camcorder in a basement somewhere.
You know what might really hit the spot? A good, creepy video game. Games like Silent Hill and Amnesia: The Dark Descent left you up all night in the past. Too bad video games cost money. Unless, that is, you play some of these amazing horror games that are totally free. Tell the shadowy figure in your closet “You’re welcome” for us.
1) A Mother’s Inferno – Demons on a Train
A Mother’s Inferno, developed by students at the Danish Academy of Digital Interactive Entertainment, starts off with a pretty basic premise: Your son was kidnapped in front of you on a train and you have to go rescue him. Also, your only weapon is a shard of glass. Oh, and the kidnappers are demons. That part is important, too.
The game is a psychedelic first-person exploration where you grab demons and chop off their heads with your trusty glass shard. It doesn’t get any more normal from there. The terrain outside gets trippier as you progress, and you start encountering things that don’t belong in train cars, like cathedrals and rivers.
Things reach the apex of weirdness when, approximately halfway through the (relatively short) game, you’re required to gouge out your own eyes with your piece of glass to continue. A first-person game where you’re blind is exactly as insane as it sounds, for the record.
2) 7 Days – Fear in a Handful of Blocks
7 Days is sort of like a horror film made inside Minecraft. It’s that blocky, pixelated style, but with surreal terror. You begin by exploring a house that’s completely empty of people, but otherwise normal. After a little exploration, you come across a note reading “IT’S NOT TIME YET” and the first day ends.
This continues for six more days, as indicated by the title, with each day getting creepier and more bizarre. Doors and pathways will change and move behind you, a ghostly black shape follows you, bloodstains coat the walls, and things are generally bananas, culminating with an escape from the house. We won’t give away all the scary parts, but just know that if you’re freaked out by creepy childlike figures, you might want to give this one a pass.
3) Slender: The Eight Pages – The Woods Are Really Scary at Night
Slender is yet another first-person exploration game, only this one is based around the internet’s favorite bogeyman, Slender Man. You’re lost in some deep, dark woods with only a flashlight (and even that runs out after a few minutes). There are eight pieces of paper randomly spread around ten landmarks (meaning that two are empty, and you don’t know which two) that you have to collect before Slender Man grabs you. It’s simple, but it works, even if you don’t give a shit about the Slender Man “mythos” or whatever.
Each page causes him to pop up more and more, closer and closer to you. By the sixth page, you can’t even turn around because he is literally right behind you at all times. You just have to book your ass to pages seven and eight and hope you can grab them before he gets you or you die of toxic shock from all the fear-pee building up in your body.
Bonus: If you like the freebie version, there’s also a full-length game for sale by the same developers.
4) Eyes: The Horror Game – Me Tie Dough-ty Disembodied Head
It has one of the corniest names in video game history, but Eyes can make your skin crawl right off your bones. You’ll never see that skin again, either. It’s gone, man.
Eyes is also a “collect stuff while a creature hunts you” game like Slender (you may be noticing a pattern, now), but much faster paced, and instead of Slender Man it’s a woman’s disembodied ghost head and she looks like this:
So you’re running around a tiny, cramped house trying to avoid that. It gets pretty intense, because she makes the room shake when she’s nearby. Also, she sings when she floats by, like something out of those old Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, and if she spots you, the game yells at you to RUN! But it doesn’t tell you which direction, so you just kinda flail and get caught and never sleep ever again.
5) Yume Nikki – Perchance to Dream of Really Weird Things
In the style of Super NES-era RPGs like Earthbound or Chrono Trigger, Yume Nikki places you inside the dreams of a young woman, Madotsuki, who apparently has a lot of issues. There’s no real plot or even any direction to it. You are, once again, exploring things, plus there are 20 some odd items you can pick up (you may be noticing yet another pattern). There is an “ending” if you get them all, but it doesn’t really make a huge difference.
Basically, you just explore Madotsuki’s dreams and that’s it. It may sound dull, but the game contains a surreal quality that’s great at capturing the feel of a fever dream, or maybe a too-much-pizza dream. It gets pretty creepy. For example, you can come across this phallic-looking guy, who just stares at you and rubs that rail. What’s that supposed to mean?
6) Gyossait – God Damn It All
Gyossait is a horror platformer, which sounds weird but it works. The gameplay itself isn’t creepy, like some of these other games, but the environments, sounds, and everything else are. And the story, if you can piece it together, is pretty insane as well. (Hint: It involves an omnipotent god who kills his wife in an argument, then kills himself to reunite with her. We think.)
You spend most of the game with only a shield to protect yourself against various weird things trying to kill you, but later on your head can get cut off and then you can use some sort of machine gun-like weapon. That is probably the weirdest sentence you’ve ever read, but that’s honestly what happens. The game’s bosses are especially impressive and epic, and hey, it’s not another exploration/collection game.
7) Kraven Manor – The House That Evil Mannequins Built
Kraven Manor is a first-person puzzle game created by students at Southern Methodist University, which probably shouldn’t really strike you as a place from which you can expect abject horror. In the game, you explore a spooky haunted house that can change its shape based on a scale model in the house’s foyer. (Note: The original standalone game has been replaced by a demo for a soon-to-be-released remake of the game, but a simple Google search can turn up the old version.)
And no, that’s not extremely scary on its own. What’s scary about it is what it’s haunted by: Weird, bronze mannequins that only move when you’re not looking at them. The Internet loves the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who, and this game’s primary antagonists are basically that. As soon as you’re not shining a flashlight at them, you hear a furious squeaking sound coming up behind you, and upon turning around, you’ll see the bastards right in your face and probably let out a screaming, barking sound that doesn’t impress anyone. Least of all the faceless, knife-wielding spectral being who’s been sneaking up on you this entire time.