We are all in need of some distraction as the election and COVID-19 drag on. With Halloween around the corner, why not talk about some of my favorite horror games? Are these games suitable for children? I’ll let you take a wild guess on that one. Even with their mature overtones, there’s a lot to enjoy and scare yourself with after the young ones have gone to bed.

I’m sure Isaac is as calm and cool as ever under that mask

Dead Space Series

Set hundreds of years in the future, humans have slowly used up the earth’s resources. So the next best thing to do is explore the galaxy and tear apart other planets so they can survive. That’s very human of us after all. After a mining vessel over a remote planet goes silent after calling for help, you (Isaac Clarke), a simple space engineer, show up with your fellow crew mates to answer the call and repair the ship. It goes about as well as you can imagine.

Zombies stories, in my opinion, do not come better than what Dead Space offers. And the space setting is very chilling, as it captures the same suspense horror that was made classic in the movie ‘Alien’ from 1979. But what’s even better than the jump scares is the story itself, which is incredibly moving as it drifts between an mere engineer struggling to survive while slowly edging towards insanity and a much bigger social commentary on religion and humanity’s selfish nature.

It’ll scare the hell out of you and is not for the faint of heart. Even the most criticized of the series, Dead Space 3, is an incredible thrill ride that is only judged harshly because it had to stand up to the giants that are Dead Space 1 and 2.

Rating: 10/10 for all 3 games, which hold up well even though the first was released in 2008

Child Friendliness: Sweet mercy, no! If you’re finally drinking age, you may be ready to play these games.

“A man chooses, a slave obeys.” — Andrew Ryan, Bioshock

Bioshock Series

This series is inspired by ideas and themes from writers such as George Orwell and Ayn Rand, and the book Atlas Shrugged. Notably, it is also one of the first games to bring horror and choice together into one, not only commenting on dystopian themes such as unbridled capitalism and the true nature of humans, but also adding the layer of allowing players to make very controversial choices on their own.

In the 1st game the underwater city of Rapture is built by the visionary Andrew Ryan. He dreams of a capitalist world free from government and ethics, allowing people to do and progress as they please. Everything you can imagine goes without regulation, from shady business, murder, and genetic mutation. A true test of the basic economic principle of “the invisible hand.”

The idea goes as badly as you can imagine, and building a city on the bottom of the ocean was only going to end in disaster anyway. Your character, Jack, is thrust into this city in the aftermath of its own downfall. Under the decay of this underwater imploding city, you fight through hordes of mutated citizens whose use of plasmids (the genetic engineering tool I mentioned) has turned them insane and powerful. The most terrifying though is the “Big Daddy” (seen above in the picture), a mutated monster who’s only purpose is to protect the “Little Sisters” (also in the pic above), the source of the plasmids. If you’re able to dispatch the Bid Daddies, you then decide the fate of the Little Sisters as you can save them or use their plasmids to empower yourself. This moral dilemma reflects the ethics of not just the game characters but also the player themselves.

Though this is a trilogy of games, they are less connected than other classic trilogies, as the 2nd game explores the aftermath of the 1st game, and the 3rd game is even more bizarre (in a wonderful way) as you follow a similar story but based on a floating city in the sky, Colombia. Regardless of which game in the series you play, it is all riveting and unpredictable. Each game presents these dystopias as beauties, but you quickly find their true disturbing nature. This best (and most disturbing) example of this is Rapture’s Sander Cohen. Those that have spent time in his hellish corner of the world do not forget it, and won’t go back. I haven’t at least!

Rating: 10/10 My personal favorite was Bioshock Infinite, but for Halloween’s sake you should play through the original for true horror.

Child Friendliness: The opening scene is breath taking in each of these, which happens to be child friendly part of these games. Hard no.

The Last of Us, Part I and II

Playing a game about a pandemic, during a pandemic, may not be the best idea from some of us with COVID19 stress going through the roof. But with the immersive story telling, you move past that quickly and become lost in this amazing narrative.

Set in present day, a fungal pandemic ravages the world, killing most everyone. The dead are then reanimated as the fungus overwhelms their nervous system (for some reason). The aftermath that follows the initial outbreaks creates a hellscape that makes living seem worse than dying in many cases. You follow Joel and Ellie in both stories as they navigate the zombie outbreak and, even worse, the survivors of the outbreak.

For the overused zombie trope, this is actually one of the most refreshing takes on the zombie genre. The zombies themselves are unique, being inspired by the zombie-fungus ants highlighted in Planet Earth and have a disgusting distinction that separates them from other zombie stories. You’ll never forget the ‘clickers’ or ‘bloaters’ once you meet them. But more importantly, the zombie outbreak quickly moves to the background as the story focuses on the survivors and what human nature will lead to when left with nothing to lose.

The inhumanity is the most difficult and disturbing part of this story, despite the zombie threat. People will go to extreme ends to survive and out of their selfish interests, including the protagonists. It makes you question yourself and ask if you would make similar choices. As Joel and Ellie’s relationship grows through the story, it begs the question of “what would you do for a loved one?”

Without giving too much away since Part II came out a few months ago, all I will say is that you need to try this series, especially Part I. Again, it is not for the faint of heart, as you see people at their very worst.

Rating: 10/10 There are not a lot of games that I constantly think about, even months after I finish it. This is one of them. It will envelope your entire life even after you finish it, and will rip your heart out and kick it down the road. And you’ll love every minute of it.

Child Friendliness: Surprisingly, out of the 3 discussed here, your children should be no where near you while you play this. It’s realism is incredible and very disturbing at the same time.

Enjoy yourself and have a happy and hopefully COVID19 free Halloween. If you have any good horror games, message me, I’d love to have more to play.

Happy Halloween!

I am a doctor and video game extraordinaire! And by extraordinaire I mean I’m kind-of okay.

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