Unless you're out begging old people for sweets, or getting drunk along with the twenty other Heath Ledger Jokers at a mate's party, the best way to spend Halloween is in front of your games console, headphones on, lights off, playing something that will scare you senseless.
In case you're too frightened to go into the attic to dig out your old scary games (you should be, there are definitely ghosts in there) here's our roundup of five terrifying games you could be playing this Hallow's Eve.
5. Half-Life 2
Mostly regarded as an action first-person shooter, Half-Life 2 is nevertheless infamous for its "We Don't Go To Ravenholm" level, a terrifying slog through a zombie and monster infested ex-mining town in the middle of nowhere. The sheer number of undead is terrifying enough, calling on your survival skills to bait them into snare traps and jury rigged saw blades. But it's the noise those things make that'll really scare you; the zombie's agonised screeching sends enough chills up your spine to freeze it solid. Here, watch this YouTube video and see what we mean:
See, they're talking to you, except it's garbled by the Alien-style headcrab attached to their face. And if that's not enough to scare people (it definitely, definitely is) then there's the Fast Zombie, a leaping, wailing, emaciated corpse with the most horrifying foley in game history:
Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes, the Fast Zombie is hiding under your bed. Sleep tight.
4.Shadow of the Colossus
A bit of a sideways choice this one that never really makes it onto scary game lists. But stay with us.
If you haven't played Shadow of the Colossus, Fumito Ueda's cult hit for the PS2, then it's kind of hard to explain. You play an unmanned swordsman travelling a distant, and eerily lifeless forbidden land. Scattered throughout its enormous wilderness are sixteen gigantic creatures, or Colossi, that need to be killed in order to revive your dead lover.
The Colossi are effing massive:
And they each occupy a hidden, murky area of the game world. Shadow of the Colossus is incredibly creepy, the forgotten land containing almost no life or sound save for a few birds and some very, very eerie music:
The forgotten land is a real nowhere place, with just you, your house and these terrifying, sluggish monsters rattling around its massive landscape. And whenever you come across one, they seem oddly willing to die, behaving passively even as you climb up them to attack their weak points.
It's just...creepy, it feels wrong. Like the Overlook Hotel or the Moomins, Shadow of the Colossus has a subtle off-ness to it that's best experienced first-hand. It won't make you jump or anything, but when you're wandering around the game's enormous, dead fields, it's hard not to feel disturbed.
3. Resident Evil 2
Let's just pause a minute while everyone rushes to the comment section to rant about how Resident Evil isn't scary anymore...Done? Ok, great.
Pixelitis recently published a great article in their Liner Notes section on Resident Evil 2's music. Linking to several cuts from the OST, and calling the game's score "rife with horrific ambiance", Pixelitis hit on exactly what makes the old RE games scary, and the new ones not so much: Sound.
Here's "The First Floor", one of the predominant background tracks in Resident Evil 2:
And here's "Dining Hall", a similarly low-tempo record from RE6:
Which are you more scared of? Bear in mind that if you say "Dining Hall", the Fast Zombie will get angry.
Seriously though, for all its dumb jump scares and silly-looking monsters, Resident Evil 2 still manages to scare just because of how it sounds. The sudden door slam in "The First Floor" is more frightening than all of the game's zombies combined, creating the impression that despite the stillness of the police station, somebody is in there with you.
Like Colossus, there's a prevailing sense of disquiet throughout Resident Evil 2, a lingering, paranoid atmosphere that never lets up even when there are no baddies around.
The soundtrack keeps you constantly on your toes, twitching and jumping at every pitch change whenever you walk into another cold, blood-stained hallway.
2. Battlefield 3
Again, not a conventional horror game this one, but get bogged down in one of Battlefield 3's frantic firefights, or behind the wings of its fighter plane level, and we dare you not to get scared. Battlefield 3 is terrifying. Try not to get goosebumps watching the dogfight at 5:15:
Or during the absolute chaos of the game's first big shootout:
The jet level is Battlefield 3's horror masterpiece, a dizzying, cacophonous rollercoaster ride that sickens you with its first-person camera. The enemy planes are terrifying, vicious dots on the horizon that fire and fire at you, sending your pilot's radio chatter into frenzied barks of "dump flares now!" while the incoming missile siren wails in the cockpit. It's horrible because you can't move; you're just the gunner, locked in to this beserk waltzer ride that just won't end.
And then there's the shootouts themselves, confused, frenetic assaults on the senses that are impossible to feel good about. Again, the voices on your headset play a big role, the above video in particular demonstrating just how scary it can be when everybody starts screaming "open fire" all at once. On top of that, your enemies are usually silhouettes in the distance, ready to shoot your head off if you so much as think about leaving cover. For the most part of Battlefield 3, you're cowering behind cinder blocks, your sergeant yelling rushed, uncoordinated orders while shrapnel and bullets fly over your head. It's a complete sensory overload, plugging into our natural fears of loud noises and loss of control.
A great war shooter, too.
1. Silent Hill 2
Swearing is discouraged in professional journalism, so let's try and be polite about this: Silent Hill 2 makes love with your head. Does that sound weird? It does? Whatever, it's not half as strange as our scariest game of all time.
The eponymous Silent Hill is an abandoned rural town in Midwest America, loosely based on the real life Centralia, Pennsylvania. Thanks to its history of cult and paranormal activity, Silent Hill's appearance fluctuates to play on different people's psychology; in Silent Hill 2, for example, Angela, a support character sees the whole town as being on fire, since she's guilty of burning her abusive father's house down.
You play as James Sunderland, a tortured soul who, it's revealed, murdered his terminally ill wife Mary after she became too sick to have sex with him. Using his subconscious, Silent Hill conjures up busty, monstrous nurses, creatures that look like two sets of slender legs placed end on end, and Pyramid Head, a hulking, brutish creature that - and stop when you spot the subtext - repeatedly penetrates the other creatures with his enormous sword.
Most frightening of all is Maria, a flirtatious, carbon copy of Mary who dresses in a short skirt and low cut top. She's repeatedly killed by Pyramid Head, but keeps returning to life without memory of even dying. She forces James to constantly relive what he's done, watching his "wife" get murdered over and over with increasingly sexual overtones.
There's also a prevailing sense of being trapped; the town shifts to cut off the way back where you came from, a thick fog laying heavy over the roads.
It's absolute psych-torture, playing on James' guilt and messing with your expectations of how a game should work at the same time. Combined with the dank and filthy backdrop of the town itself, and Akira Yamaoka's groaning, backwards soundtrack, Silent Hill 2 is the best way to scare yourself sleepless this Halloween.
Here's a clip to play us out: