With Halloween fast approaching, now is the time of year to really embrace your inner scaredy-cat. Of course, you’re going to want to dust off all those classic horror films, grab a bowl of popcorn, and then not eat any of it because you’re too scared to move a single muscle. You might even dress up in a costume and go to a party. But you know one thing you should absolutely do this Halloween season? Haunt friends and strangers online in a horror survival game!
Now, there is a huge list of video games that we could recommend you play, but given our mission to connect you with the best in online gaming, we’re going to give a special nod to those that can get horror right—and let you experience that trauma right alongside some friends. Some might be open world, others might just be multiplayer, but these games all are about survival. And what is more terrifying than being hunted?
Zombies are a tried and true staple of the horror genre—as they have every right to be—but I cannot think of a video game that made them more threatening and imposing than those terrible shamblers found within the dilapidated city of Dying Light. Though they might seem easy to kill at first, slow as they are, any foolhardy player who spends too much time engaging them knows that fighting zombies in Dying Light will almost always be a losing fight. They’re just too hard to kill, too plentiful, and too dangerous.
But where Dying Light really shines is in the multiplayer, especially when playing at night, when the volatiles come to life and begin stalking the darkened streets of the city. These monsters can take a beating, and being spotted by one almost always turns into a tense chase where you will need to use all of your abilities to escape alive.
Dying Light is one of the few zombie games that really gets the whole “feel” of zombies spot on and iterates on the fiends in a way that ensures that they are always threatening and hard to deal with. Forcing you into decisions where it is much safer to hide or run makes encountering the zombies of Dying Light frequently tense, and bringing a few friends along for the ride only enhances those moments as you struggle to survive together. Of course, you’re also free to play as the zombies in the competitive multiplayer mode, which unlocks the power of the volatiles for you to wield against your foes.
If you’re hunting for a great multiplayer survival game to play this weekend, Dying Light should be first on your list. It is gorgeous, intense, and a lot of fun to play with friends.
The Dark Souls video games have carved a reputation for being brutally difficult and dark, but Bloodborne brings both of those elements to a whole new level. Bloodborne might not cause you to leap from your seat, but every moment of your descent into Yarnham will be filled with a pervasive sense of dread that will linger long after you’ve put the controller down.
H.P Lovecraft has left his mark on our minds, but Bloodborne is one of the only video games available that perfectly captures the essence of Lovecraftian horror. It is confusing, unsettling, and downright disturbing. The monsters that you’ll slay on your quest to purge Yarnham from its affliction will frequently cause you to recoil in horror, and the bosses are creatures so nightmarish that you’ll fondly remember the first time you ever saw them claw their way toward you.
Bloodborne is intense, but that tension is only heightened by the multiplayer mode that wraps itself around the core game. If you opt to play online, there is the frequent threat of invasion, where other players can enter your version of the world and attempt to kill you for rewards. These invasions can happen at the most unfortuitous of times, making an already deadly encounter that much more nail-biting. Of course, you’re also free to bring some friends along with you (and we recommend it) to help you navigate the treacherous passageways that sprawl beneath you.
Bloodborne is dark, masterful, and, most of all, really fun. If you love a good challenge, have some friends who want to play, and want to explore one of the most vividly realized fantasy worlds, Bloodborne is where you should spend your Halloween weekend. Just don’t come crying to me when you witness the horror of some of its later bosses and realize you are in way too deep.
Killing Floor 2
What Halloween wouldn’t be complete with some gory zombie action? Sure, Dying Light might offer you some of that, but Killing Floor 2 buys its gore in bulk and we love it. Europe is ravaged by a zombie virus (sound familiar?) that you must survive by quite literally cutting your way through the hordes of zombies. You can play alone, but Killing Floor 2 is best enjoyed with five of your friends helping to keep you alive.
Killing Floor 2 really takes the survival aspect of survival horror quite seriously. It is, in its simplest form, a game where you and your team must survive wave after wave of increasingly more deadly zombies until everyone is killed off. Fortunately, Killing Floor 2 gives you plenty of tools and options to customize your character to increase your odds of survival. As a first person shooter, you have a variety of guns and melee weapons to eviscerate the hordes of the undead, and you’re also able to strategically block off areas of a level to help better route the zombies into your deliciously violent kill zones.
A Matrix-like bullet time triggers for the whole team whenever someone scores a headshot, which becomes very useful during some of the more intense encounters where you need every second of your time. Survive enough waves and you’ll also have to take on an extra vicious boss monster. Like all great zombie games, Killing Floor 2 doesn’t just throw the shambling dead at you but includes a variety of terrifying and powerful ghouls that you’ll need to work together to defeat. If you’re a fan of slasher flicks, then Killing Floor 2 is what you should play.
I’m certain that there are quite a few people who will take issue with me suggesting that a Halloween be spent playing through this open world zombie game—after all, DayZ isn’t exactly an intense experience through and through. But you know what? I still kind of love it. Whether you decide to play the standalone version or fiddle about with all of the various mods for Arma II, DayZ still offers a rather compelling experience that I have to return to every once in awhile.
The thing is, where some of these games on this list are explosive and violent, DayZ is plodding and isolating. If you play it in the dark with the sound cranked up, it’s easy to immerse yourself in your desperate bid for survival. Being such a wide open sandbox means you could easily play all night and not encounter another player or make a wrong move and get sniped to death instantly. But what I will always remember about DayZ are those incredibly tense moments when you happen upon another player without either realizing it.
Few games have ever managed to get my heart beating out of my chest quite like DayZ did that one time I stalked another player through a village before ruthlessly robbing him and leaving him for dead. It was an experience that had the hairs on my neck stand up more than once, which is exactly why these types of big open world survival games aren’t the worst place to spend your Halloween. Just don’t be upset if the evening is wasted hunting for a can of beans and then dying of dehydration in the woods.
Dead Realm is really just the silliest kind of horror experience you can have. It’s cheap, quick, and very effective. While it might be designed from the ground up for the face-cam YouTube culture where young men and women scream and earn millions from ad revenue, there is no denying that Dead Realm can actually be an awesome way to kill an evening with a few of your friends.
The premise is simple: You either play as a ghost or as a human. If you’re a human, you need to find 10 watches, which opens a portal that lets you escape or survive until the time runs out. If you’re a ghost, you’re objective is to find and kill all the humans. It’s basically one big game of hide and seek that can become a scary and hilarious good time with the right people.
The levels are ripped right out of classic horror as you scrounge through spooky mansions or creaky factories, hunting for the watches and paying close attention to the subtle cues that let you know a ghost is approaching. If one manages to sneak up on you, you can attempt to run and hide, but once they grab you, you are subjected to a jump scare that can be a surprisingly effective climax to the whole tense chase.
Dead Realm is still in early access, but if you’ve got a group of friends and want to take a swing at making one of them scream their brains out, Dead Realm is worth it. It’s the kind of campy horror that, even if you hate horror, just about anyone can play and enjoy.
If you’re going to hide from the kids ringing your doorbell outside, you might as well drown out the onslaught of “trick or treats!” with a good pair of headphones and one of the creepy games above. I tried my best to select one that evokes a different theme of horror, so if you’re looking for something bloody like Killing Floor 2 or something that makes you check over your shoulder every once in awhile like DayZ, hopefully, you can find something to your taste.
What about you, what are your favorite survival horror games of 2016? Disagree with any of the ones mentioned on this list? Let us know in the comments!Related: Halloween, Horror, Survival, Top List