Cryptic games present Halloween alternatives

Watching scary movies, partying at raves or blasting blood-curdling sound effects at haunted houses aren’t the only ways to spend Halloween.

For those who don’t have the time or interest to go meandering through haunted houses or dancing at crowded clubs, there are a few scary video games that can get your heart pounding in no time.

In no particular order, here are three of the most terrifying games that will leave you begging to keep the light turned on when your roommate comes home.

Dead Space (2008)

Ever wonder what it would feel like to fight an army of monsters in one of the scariest settings in the universe? In Dead Space, players assume the persona of Isaac Clarke, an engineer who has landed on a space mining ship with orders to fix its communication system. But, as Clarke, you soon discover the entire crew has been infected with an alien mutation, transforming them into maniacal creatures called Necromorphs, who are hell-bent on making you their next meal.

Taking place in the darkest ends of space, the setting is as menacing as it gets: It’s dark, claustrophobic and eerily reminiscent of the Alien movies.

Staying true to location, some of the areas in the spaceship lack gravity, forcing you to create your own path amid shadows on the walls and ceilings.

But the atmosphere alone isn’t everything. Critics and consumers have ranked Dead Space’s creative, combative, gameplay two thumbs up. To survive, players must forge improvised weapons out of whatever they can find — anything from guns to buzz saws. But successfully killing Necromorphs requires violent dismemberment, resulting in horrifyingly graphic and tricky assaults easily worth a good gasp or two.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2011)

When it comes to bloodthirsty, zombie-like monsters, video games usually prepare us for battle by stocking us up with artillery.

But what happens when the hero is weaponless and all you can do is run for your life?

In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a first-person, horror/adventure game, players become the eyes and ears of an amnesiac named Daniel, who wakes up in a seemingly deserted castle. What you soon discover, however, is danger is everywhere, and any of the winding paths might lead you closer to one of the many bumbling monsters haunting the corridors.

The most interesting aspect of the game is the lack of weapons — when confronted with a raging monster, your only options are to run, hide or use your wits to avoid being slaughtered.

On top of that, Daniel is an unfortunately unreliable character. Staying in the dark for too long causes Daniel to lose his sanity in the form of unintelligible muttering, wacky camera angles and hallucinogenic visions. Unlike Dead Space, the setting in Amnesia is enough to startle you into switching on a nightlight before your mind begins to follow Daniel’s footsteps.

Limbo (2010)

If you’re looking for something frightening, but not so realistically grotesque or “in-your-face” terrifying as Dead Space and Amnesia, Limbo is the perfect alternative.

In Limbo, players take on the role of a nameless, little boy trying to find his sister in a fascinatingly disturbing 2-D, virtual world. But this 2-D platformer has a twist: Unlike most games typical of the genre, Limbo is music-less and colorless, and its protagonist lacks both a backstory and a weapon of choice. All these features help establish a spine-chilling and desolate environment children and adults alike can enjoy.

In contrast to most contemporary horror games, Limbo is less about killing bad guys and more about solving puzzles without falling victim to otherworldly hazards.

Though game play is relatively simple, don’t let the childish graphics fool you. The puzzles are ridiculously hard to decipher, and the death sequences that accompany failed missions are utterly disturbing. With every failed challenge, you are forced to watch as the boy gets decapitated, dismembered, impaled or electrocuted. It’s not so much about how realistic the graphics are as it is about the innocent, childlike fantasy element that ultimately elevates this game to a top-notch experience.

You don’t have to be a gamer to sit down and enjoy the fear these games will engender. As college students, we might not be children anymore, but that doesn’t mean we’re too old for some fun and games on Halloween night.


Hannah Muniz is a junior majoring in East Asian languages and cultures and creative writing. Her column “Game Over” runs Wednesdays.