Ghost stories are regularly told around this spooky time of the year, and so Forge Games have decided we’ll tell our own – with the natural gamesy twist. Several contributors have written for us scary moments, experiences, or games that still haunt them to this day. Be warned, adventurers, this article is not for the ill-willed for the faint hearted: only the brave survive.
There’s absolutely nothing to worry about, of course! We’re kidding. You can trust us. Promise.
Until Dawn – Meredith Graham
I thought that watching playthroughs of Until Dawn on YouTube would have completely prepared me for any and all scares this game could throw at me, but lo and behold, I was utterly mistaken.
Until Dawn was released in 2015 by Supermassive Games, and the narrative was widely praised for being a cunning and complex “cabin on a mountain with no phone signal” horror game. It was major news at the time for both the brilliant cast of actors, including Rami Malek and Hayden Panettiere, and for its variety of alternate routes and endings.
I played this game with a group of friends in a pitch-black living room at about 2am. This was either the best or worst decision ever. Each taking turns to play as different characters, we were filled with dread as the pressure of failing quicktime events or choosing a negative dialogue option would make the animation of a butterfly effect appear on-screen. This means you’ve probably messed up,and your character is now going to die because of your actions. Or be maimed. Maybe both.
Almost every choice you make has an impact, and that’s what makes this game so terrifying. Not only are you facing down a masked killer, a creepy psychologist and missing friends, but bam a wendigo. Add time pressures, a gorgeously eerie colour pallette and disturbing ambient sound design and you have a recipe for a room full of screaming twenty-somethings, throwing one another the PS4 controller to take over playing and a pact to keep the lights on for the rest of the night.
Tails Doll – Arya Damavandy
One of my most bizarre and memorable scary-gaming experiences is also somewhat embarrassing to look back on. I was a very paranoid and jittery kid back in Year 5 and 6, whilst also being quite sheltered. As you can imagine, I was easily spooked by any dumb creepypasta or chain letter I read on the internet. Cue the ‘Tails Doll Curse’. The Tails Doll was a playable character in an obscure racing game called Sonic R, which was meant to be a robotic version of Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog. What made kids on the internet latch onto it being “creepy” was the fact it was a limp floating rag doll with lifeless eyes. This got to the point where entire rituals for summoning the doll and cursing yourself had been made up, as well as an evil backstory and tons of gory fanart and fanfiction (as Sonic fans are want to do).
My curiosity got the better of me and I read about it constantly, even talked about it with other kids at school. Part of me definitely wanted to believe it was real (life was pretty boring back then). I also had an active imagination and would recognise (spooky!) faces in ordinary shapes and objects, so for a good month or so I was deathly afraid of the Tails Doll. I didn’t like being alone in my room, and would be overly cautious about keeping lights switched on wherever I went.
Looking back on it, the whole affair was funny as hell. I own a copy of the game now (big up Sonic Gems Collection) and because of this experience, playing it is a barrel of laughs.
Shadow of the Colossus – Angelo Irving
An indelible memory for me is the first time I played Shadow of the Colossus. I had the house to myself for the weekend and my friend had given me a copy of the game to play. Five minutes after turning the console on, I had to take a break.
Some games try to scare you. They use traditional techniques like jump cuts to artificially create fear in the player. Shadow of the Colossus doesn’t try to scare you, it tries to isolate you. In the first few moments of playing I was painfully aware that the only living creatures I had seen was a bird of prey, a horse and a man. The world was dark enough to feel monochrome and the sounds were sinisterly magnificent. The pipes, the faint choral music and the strings combined to leave me shivering – even though my room was warm.
The game also makes you feel small. The contrast in size between Wander, the playable protagonist, and the Colossi, the monsters that Wander must conquer, is stark. That, combined with a certain repetition (upon beating each Colossi, you are returned to the centre of the world to do the same thing again), left me pondering my greatest fears.
The Shadow of Colossus is a truly great horror that stays with you. Blood, guts and screaming in video games are too ostentatious for my tastes. A game which forces the player to consider being alone and the dark consequences of human desire ultimately creates a true experience of horror.
XCOM 2 – Alex Bruce
Fancy picking up something spooky to celebrate Halloween? Not a fan of traditional horror games where you creep around a haunted mansion waiting for the next jumpscare (just because Resident Evil did it well we don’t need to repeat it ten million times)? Well how about trying a different kind of horror game: XCOM 2.
On paper, this seems like a weird statement to make. XCOM 2 is, after all, a sci-fi turn-based strategy game with no dark corridors, immersive first person perspective and no ghosts, ghoulies, or monsters popping up out of nowhere.
When looking for horror elements in XCOM 2, the story is a decent place to start. While the original XCOM and remake where focused around fighting alien invaders on earth, XCOM 2 presumes you lost the battle. You are now a small resistance group trying to bring down the new alien order. You spend the entire campaign constantly short on resources, struggling to stop the ticking clock of the “Avatar Project” which threatens to destroy your resistance movement.
Where the real horror starts however is in the combat. Aliens ranging from humanoids to giant snakes, with all kinds of abilities from lasers to mind control, makes keeping all your soldiers safe a nightmare. Over the course of the campaign and hours of tense battles, you will grow a real affinity to each squad member, and the fact that they can die at any moment makes for a nail-biting experience. Even in full cover, there is a small chance of death. The “War Of The Chosen” expansion ramps the action up even higher by adding zombies called “The Lost”, which always feel one missed shot away from overwhelming you. If you are feeling brave this Halloween, get this game and play on a high difficulty.