Editor's Note: Full disclosure here, folks; we were originally going to publish this article back on Halloween, but PC Gaming Week was delayed. However, we didn't want to waste this writer's hard work, so we're running it now; Halloween is the superior holiday, anyway! - Christian Guyton
Fear is vast and wide, like both the insecurities and imagination of the human mind when it’s given a few moments to wander in silence. That’s part of what makes horror games some of the most interesting to explore across the myriad genres out there; our imaginations hold virtually no limits, allowing video games to play at our own fears, chasing each and every mental terror our heads can conjure.
The horror genre is a haunted home to many sub-genres, including less ghastly affairs, so fear not if it’s the candy you’re sweet for on Halloween – and not the street lights that flicker in the night, like some sort of paranoid pulse, intended for no one but felt all the same.
Whether it’s tricks, treats, or something weird in between, TechRadar has the best PC games to play - even if All Hallow's Eve has passed us by and we're swiftly approaching 2023. We’ve got a few familiar favorites but don’t worry, we’ve also got some hidden haunts and old-school oddities as well.
Cult of the Lamb
A surprise hit of 2022, Cult of the Lamb may seem violent and twisted but I can assure you that there’s nothing new under the sun in terms of cruelty, only in how we label and organize it.
You won’t find the backroom business bureaucrats of our failed reality in Cult of the Lamb, but the violence and horrors of colonization are still sprayed against the back and sides of this twisted mixture of The Binding of Isaac and Animal Crossing.
Cult of the Lamb puts you, a young lamb, over a flock of followers after edging away from death in the most disturbing way. Or maybe the most exciting way? You kill legions of enemies while taking down a hierarchy of those that tried to kill not only you, but also previously sacrificed “The One Who Waits”, an eerie and powerful deity.
The One Who Waits gives you power and responsibility in the same way Uncle Ben did with Spider-Man, except he wants you to sacrifice a bunch of cult followers and murder everyone that opposes him, all in a quest for ultimate power and glory. So it is a little bit different from Peter Parker's humble story.
Cult of the Lamb and all of its real-world parallels can be explored on Steam, as well as all three modern consoles, including Nintendo Switch.
Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. A bunch of rich people have cornered the organ market and now there’s an economy that runs off the short supply of very essential healthcare. That’s right. Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator is just a video game but there’s no wiggle room on the sense of dread - or addictive gameplay - as it plays on the very tangible horror of navigating the American healthcare system.
Maybe we shouldn’t have a stock market where people bid on the organs of others, but also, maybe you should just work harder and pull yourself up by your bootstraps so you never find yourself in short supply of money (or organs, for that matter).
And if you've got that bootstrap money, you can pick up one of the sharpest indie horror titles to release in a while. Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator is available on Steam, as well as the Nintendo Switch and other modern consoles.
Alan Wake is a third-person action horror game that does pretty stuff with flashlights, especially in the shiny, new 'Enhanced for PC' version.
Alan talks too much - but he is a writer, so maybe that’s on us. But other than him running his mouth more than his legs in the creepy woods of its small-town rural setting, Remedy’s 2011 pacific west adventure is worth the trip.
Alan Wake is a writer running from shadows and searching for his missing manuscript pages, which seem to be connected much more than any other book pitch he’s made. A clever gameplay mechanic where enemies must be weakened with your (limited) flashlight batteries before becoming vulnerable to a shotgun blast makes Alan Wake’s Lynchian adventure in the woods add sparks to a captivating underlying story.
Existing fans of this horror classic can rejoice, as we’re finally getting Alan Wake 2 after waiting over a decade. If you haven't played the first game, that's just another reason to pick up one of Remedy’s best games on Steam or Epic Games Store.
Pumpkin Jack turns down the scares in favor of a spooky Halloween-themed platforming party, and it’s a good time. It’s the perfect distraction with just the right amount of tricks and treats, especially if you either grew up with older platforming games or simply enjoy them.
In fact, this game is a pitch-perfect homage to an era of mascot-led action-platformers like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro, dressed up in a pumpkin-riddled paint job and originally released for Halloween 2020. It's not the most refined game on this list, but it oozes the same character that made those console classics sing.
Pumpkin Jack also makes the eternal wait for a Medievil II Remake a little easier to bear, so if you’re a fan of Sir Daniel Fortesque’s antics then look no further than Pumpkin Jack.
Pumpkin Jack is available on just about everything, including Steam and Epic Games Store.
Doki Doki Literature Club
Doki Doki Literature Club is a visual-novel game that keeps a lot in its pocket until the exact right time for a dramatic reveal, which makes it difficult to discuss while recommending. I don't want to spoil you - this is a story best experience with no foreknowledge.
As the name deftly implies, Doki Doki Literature Club stars a group of happy-go-lucky anime girls that are all part of a book club that meets after school. The game is essentially packed with horrific non-book-club-related events, though, and the non-linear nightmares along the way make it a must-play.
Doki Doki Literature Club is available on Steam, Epic Games Store, and Nintendo Switch. The base game is free on Steam, but you might want to pick up Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!, which brings additional content to the game.
You Are Jeff Bezos
You are Jeff Bezos is probably the most horrifying game ever made - well, purely from a modern-day existential standpoint, anyway. It's not conventional 'horror' as such, but more of an art piece designed to force you to think about how horrible the world is.
Keep scrolling on if you have a weak stomach or struggle with especially awful things. You’ll find ghouls and creatures of all sorts on this list but few can prepare you for this.
You Are Jeff Bezos is simple but that doesn’t soften the impact of your actions. It's a purely text-based game (hence the lack of a screenshot here) that can be played to completion in your browser in just a matter of minutes, but it really highlights quite how messed up our current hypercapitalist global society is. The itch.io page puts it best so we’ll let them say the rest:
“A simple text-based adventure exploring the age-old question: What would you do if you had more money than any single human being should ever have?”
You Are Jeff Bezos is available on itch.io.
Costume Quest (and its sequel) are cute, fun, and enjoyable for gamers of all ages! They’re turn-based RPGs from Double Fine with an adorable art style, where the child protagonists adopt mighty combat forms during battle based on their Halloween costumes.
A cardboard robot costume becomes a giant Gundam-esque mecha, for example, while a pointy hat and fake beard sees your young hero transform into a towering Gandalf lookalike. These games may be light on the scares, but they're short, sweet experiences that are perfect for any younger gamer whose favourite month is October.
Oxenfree has never been described better than my partner starting out by saying “oh, this is just friends hanging out in a cave,” before declaring the game was officially too scary just minutes later.
As you might have guessed, Oxenfree begins with a group of teens heading off to a quiet oceanside town for a party weekend. Things start off with your basic, standard 'teen horror' tropes, like ducking under fences into abandoned areas and petty arguments around campfires, but then the horror kicks in and delivers some pretty convincing scares and psychological teases despite the stylized but relatively simple art style.
We will let you meet these characters for yourself when you pick up Oxenfree on Steam or Epic Games Store. Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is on the way too, so there’s never been a better time to tune in.
I Made A Game With Zombies In It
I Made a Game with Zombies in It, or if we’re going to be technical, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1N IT!!!1, is a top-down twin-stick shooter - and it’s free so just stop reading and go play it. We put it last on this list for a reason.
IMAGWZII - phew, what an acronym - also has a genuinely amazing soundtrack, something most of the games on this list can't claim; unfortunately, it seems that 'spooky' as a musical genre doesn't have that much range.
In any case, this is just the best music and the best gameplay for the best price (the best price is always zero dollars). Fans of this year's excellent top-down roguelike Vampire Survivors will definitely want to check it out, so if that's you, go find it on Steam already!
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