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Treat Yourself With These 10 Games That Capture The Halloween Spirit
Most Halloween game lists are full of various horror titles. While titles like The Last of Us or Dead
Space are certainly worth playing during Halloween, October’s holiday is about
more than scares. Some Halloween classics have a sense of spooky mystery, while
others have a playful atmosphere of childlike wonder. All of these games may
not scare your pants off, but they’re easily some of the best games to get you into
the spirit of Halloween.
For many people, the classic Halloween movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas. So when an entire world was based
on it in the first Kingdom Hearts, the game became a Halloween staple by proxy
alone. The location has since appeared in other games, but Kingdom Hearts’ was
the first rendition that truly explored it the most. The level design is filled
with spooky locales as you visit iconic locations from the movie like Spiral
Hill or Oogie’s Mansion. This level alone makes the Kingdom Hearts series an
instant Halloween classic.
One of the most important things about Halloween is experiencing it
with child-like wonder. It’s hard to capture that but Double Fine managed to
in their aptly named Costume Quest. An amazingly written comedy game with
simple but solid RPG elements, even the mechanics follow the Halloween
aesthetic. Candy counts as currency, costumes dictate the character’s classes
and trick or treating is highly encouraged. Since the game takes place on
Halloween (with some Christmas DLC) the world is filled with decorations and interactive
festivities. Even better still are the gamut of costumes available from robots
and unicorns to French fries and a giant eyeball. The over the top battles and
cute writing makes this game feel like Halloween through a child’s eyes.
Decorating is a big part of any Halloween celebration. So what better way to
get in the mood than to decorate your whole house in cute pumpkin furniture or
like a mad scientist’s laboratory? You can also scare other villagers into
giving you candy to exchange a special character for more furniture, adding to the
cycle of decorating, which is better than dealing with this game’s real horror:
crushing real estate debt.
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon
Nothing screams Halloween more than a haunted house and anyone who has spent a
night alone in a creaky old mansion knows how spooky it can be. Luigi, despite
being labeled a coward, manages to do it for two games! While the first Luigi’s
Mansion set the ground work, its sequel Dark Moon built off that solid
foundation. There have been quite a few games set in haunted mansions, but
Nintendo’s attention to detail makes this series stand out. Luigi jumps out of
fear and nervously hums as he combs through each mansion’s various puzzles and
traps. The playhouse style took advantage of the 3DS’ hardware and strengthened
the ghost story aspect, which makes playing Dark Moon feel like sitting around
a campfire telling tall tales.
It’s a story almost as old as time: a group of teenagers decide to spend a
night at a cabin in the woods until their night of debauchery turns into one of
horror as they get picked off one by one. It’s a perfect Halloween movie trope
that Until Dawn nails thanks to its realistic graphics. Actors went through
strenuous mo-cap sessions so that everything done in the game felt more
lifelike. Each action a player takes has a “butterfly effect” that changes events
later in the game. This makes each playthrough horrifically unique, ensuring
that even friends who are just watching are also entertained.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Mask isn’t a traditional Halloween game but it’s filled with similar themes.
The town is putting together a festival to celebrate the passage of time, not
knowing they’re counting down to their own demise. Link wears masks, which
grant him new abilities. Even the antagonist Skull Kid is particularly creepy. The
entire game is filled with this looming dread as you constantly go through a Groundhog Day-esque death spiral in
order to save the town. This story is still largely up for debate as people try
to figure out the true meaning behind Majora’s Mask. Considering the game’s
quality writing and atmosphere, it’s no wonder this game is still considered
one of the strangest Zelda games to date.
Life sucks and then you die, except in Tim Schafer’s classic adventure game
there’s a lot more paperwork. You play as Manuel “Manny” Calavera, an undead
travel agent who helps souls reach their final destination. Each year on the
Day of the Dead, souls are allowed to come back to visit their living loved
ones. This may sound dreary but this classic adventure game has amazing writing
thanks to the folks at LucasArts. While it isn’t a traditional Halloween game,
Grim Fandango is based on the Day of the Dead which is a sort of cultural
equivalent. It’s a treat to see a film noir style game that has characters which
grow during the story’s four year arc. The recent Double Fine remaster is your
best bet if you want to try out this refreshing take on life after death.
Pranks are just as much a part of the Halloween spirit as candy or costumes,
but no game nails this quite as well as Bully. Since the game takes place over
an entire school year, eventually October rolls around with plenty of mischief
to cause. Players can smash pumpkins, throw eggs at people or set off fireworks
all in an effort to cause trouble. Various authority figures aren’t around for
this event, so there’s no worry about being caught. It’s an excellent excuse
for a day of debauchery even if people make fun of your lame costume.
The oldest game on this list, Apogee used to make plenty of
shareware games that allowed users to play through the first part for free and
then pay for the rest of the game. This meant many of the first levels of those
games were easily accessible to kids. While Halloween Harry (unfortunately
renamed to Alien Carnage) would seem more in line with the holiday spirit, it
doesn’t hold a candle to Monster Bash. When the Johhny Dash’s dog gets
kidnapped by the villain, he grabs his trusty slingshot and enlists the help of
a few monsters to get through 28 horror-themed levels. Players have to collect
candy for extra points or voodoo dolls for extra lives. This cute platformer
was light on scares but was easy enough to pick up and play. It was fairly
simplistic but is an interesting history lesson on early Halloween games that
were done right.
If someone turned a playground argument of who would win in a fight
between a vampire, a mummy, and Frankenstein’s monster into a video game it
would probably look like Darkstalkers. This series was originally built with
the same hardware that powered Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Street Fighter
Alpha 3, which helped give the series its solid mechanics. While some of the
characters are a bit sexual, all the classic movie monsters are here: vampires,
werewolves, zombies and even little red riding hood make
up the cast of this spooky brawler. Levels keep to the same motif, letting you fight
in spooky cemeteries, abandoned towns, and even in front of a giant demon
fetus. While the flagship character, Morrigan Aesland, has crossed over to
other titles, the majority of the cast for this game are only accessible in a
few releases like the most recent Darkstalkers Resurrection. Unfortunately
that’ll probably be the best way to play the games as Capcom doesn’t seem to
have plans for the franchise right now.
Scares aren’t the only thing a game needs to get
people into the Halloween spirit. Mechanics and DLC can help a game be themed
for the season, but it takes a little more than that to also be a great game.
Still sometimes it’s amazing to just sit back and enjoy something particularly eerie,
so I hope a few games on this list help you to have a happy Halloween.
Source: Game Informer