A lot of horror games force the player to run away from homicidal patients in a hospital, underwater monsters or a ghost. This Halloween, I say it’s time to get a little revenge for all the times we’ve been scared. The following game recommendations all feature a way to fight back against whatever scary enemies the player may encounter.
A gore warning follows for all the games listed.
Initial release date: May 13, 2016
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
Price: $19.99 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. $59.99 on Switch
Doom isn’t a horror game per se, it’s like a horror game from the monster’s perspective. The player is the one on a killing rampage as they rip and tear through any demon that’s unwise enough to get in their way. It’s the perfect anti-horror game.
Doom is a first-person shooter game about a man so angry that he will stop at nothing to thwart a demon invasion of Earth. The player character, the Doom Slayer, wages an eternal war against the demons of Hell. Imagine John Wick as a demon-killing machine and then add a metal soundtrack.
The Doom Slayer’s battle with the demons of Hell is fierce and eternal.
“The scribes carved [the Doom Slayer’s] name deep in the tablets of Hell across eons, and each battle etched terror in the hearts of the demons. They knew he would come, as he always had, as he always will, to feast on the blood of the wicked. For he alone could draw strength from his fallen foes, and ever his power grew, swift and unrelenting,” according to an excerpt from a lore entry in-game.
Doom has a lot to love, from its satisfying gunplay to its absolutely brutal glory kills when demons are low on health. The music provides the impactful bass backing tracks to the player’s demon-killing spree.
Initial release date: Oct. 18, 2005
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Price: Varies by platform and store, $9.99 on PC on GOG
F.E.A.R. is a first-person shooter game about trying to stop a psychic cannibal who has taken control of super soldiers. The player controls a soldier called the Point Man in the First Encounter Assault Recon team. It’s a simple enough premise, but where F.E.A.R. shines is in its enemies’ behavior and artificial intelligence, or AI.
The game isn’t especially scary in the first couple of hours. However, it is very tense later on, thanks to the AI. As I was investigating a warehouse, I encountered a squad of five enemy soldiers. After taking out the first one, the remaining four split up into two groups and attempted to flank me from opposite entrances.
This encounter may sound standard, but it was incredibly tense waiting and trying to gauge where the remaining enemies were coming from after they were alerted. Enemies will also throw grenades to force the player to abandon their cover if they stay in the same spot for too long.
I played F.E.A.R. on PC, which required a quick fix for a performance issue with the frame rate. Just download a file and copy it into the game’s installation folder and then the framerate triples.
Initial release date: Oct. 13, 2008
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Price: $19.99 on PC, $14.99 on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360
Dead Space is a third-person shooter game. The player controls Isaac Clarke, a spaceship engineer that fights off zombie-like creatures called necromorphs. Isaac uses repurposed tools, along with conventional military weapons, to dismember the limbs of the fast-moving necromorphs. A stomp attack can be used to make sure necromorphs are really dead and open ammo containers.
Another novel aspect of Dead Space is the heads-up display of the user interface. Where the player would typically have a health bar and ammo counter in the corners of the screen, Isaac’s suit has a glowing bar, which displays his health along its spine. The weapons display a holographic projection that shows how much ammo Isaac currently has.
Dead Space includes a lot of the typical horror tropes, such as jump scares. However, it defies convention and subverts player expectations. When the player turns one corner, there might be a jumpscare, while at another corner or the next several, there might be nothing. It keeps the player guessing when the next jump scare will be and when they can shoot it in the face.
Whether it’s the unstoppable Doom Slayer, the tactical Point Man or the resourceful Isaac Clarke, these games give the player the agency to interact with monsters in ways unlike typical horror games. The player is allowed to fight back against the monsters instead of just running away. It emboldens the player to overcome challenges, even if they appear scary at first.