The run-up to the holiday season is when the video game industry goes bananas for chucking games at you. It means you may struggle to find some horror games to give as gifts among the mountain of advertising given to the newest, hottest titles. Yes, horror games as gifts, because it is an apt gift for the season of violence, confrontation, disgusting behavior, and shocking events (no? just me then).
Here we’ve put together a varied list of horror video games and other related tites released this year that may chill the heart of a loved one (this is a good thing, honest) when they unwrap them/put in the code on Steam.
Phantom Halls (PC) Digital Only
Phantom Halls pays loving tribute to B-movie horror, whilst poking playful fun at the tropes of the genre. You send a team of papercraft horror stereotypes into an ever-changing house of ghouls, ghosts, and assorted other beasties.
Perhaps best of all is it has free Evil Dead DLC, which comes with the infamous cabin and of course, the square-jawed savior of humanity, Ash Williams.
Vampyr (PS4, Xbox One, PC) Physical and Digital
Life is Strange still remains the brightest light in DONTNOD’s history, but Vampyr shows it isn’t going to sit back and pump out safe and steady iterations of the indie teen drama.
Set in a Spanish Flu-ridden early 20th Century London, you play a doctor who has been turned into a vampire and has little recollection of what happened. Our dear undead doctor works in the local hospital as cover while investigating the streets at night, where he faces feral vampires, vampire hunters, and more.
It’s a little rough around the edges, but it more than makes up for it with its dark atmosphere, branching story, and intriguing lore.
Dead Cells (Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC) Physical and Digital
This roguelike adventure is akin to a grimier 2D Prince of Persia with a splash of Souls-esque combat and a deliciously rewarding gameplay loop.
You play as a sentient blob of green slime that takes over the dead bodies of fallen warriors in repeated attempts to leave the monster-infested city. The game has a wonderfully dark sense of humor to go with its compelling ‘one more run’ cycle. If time is short, Dead Cells short bursts are the perfect antidote.
Jurassic World Evolution (Ps4, Xbox One, PC) Physical and Digital
The dream of creating your own Jurassic Park is almost a reality thanks to Jurassic World Evolution. You get the standard Theme Park-style structure, but rather than worrying about broken rollercoasters and vomit, it’s the slightly more concerning issue of the attractions possibly eating the guests.
The sim-side of JW Evolution is a touch light, but the game does let you take the controls for park rangers so you can view the dinos up close, and deal with the more unruly ones.
God of War (PS4) Physical and Digital
When GOTY discussions come up in December, God of War is surely going to be high among the candidates and deservedly so.
Kratos’ moved on from killing the majority of Greek mythology to, slightly more reluctantly, taking on that of the Norse. The rage-addled Greek and his son Atreus embark on an epic journey that takes in the undead, dragons, and of course, Gods.
The Exorcist Legion VR (PSVR, PC) Digital Only and VR Headset Required
VR has had a strong year, and horror has been well represented once again. One of the best examples being The Exorcist Legion VR, a five-part series of connected short stories that build upon the lore of The Exorcist universe (particularly The Exorcist III).
Each episode is no more than an hour long, but there’s plenty of demonic scares to contend with in that time. Oh, and headphones are a must.
Monster Hunter World (PS4, Xbox One, PC) Physical and Digital
Monster Hunter World is a fascinating game. Not only does it see you face off against huge, intimidating beasts with your friends, but it also teaches you about their ecosystem, eating habits, and the like.
While that upcoming film adaptation might sour the newfound goodwill towards the series, you can be safe in the knowledge that Monster Hunter World won’t let you down. This is a rich, rewarding adventure that excels with others joining the hunt.
The Forest (PS4, PC) Digital Only
The survival genre has been done to death, even bleeding into other genres at this point. So when a game does it right, it deserves to be pointed out. The Forest is one such survival game.
Finally out on Early Access and on PS4 as well as PC, The Forest sees you take on the role of a father protecting his son in the wilderness after surviving a plane crash. Unfortunately, the son is taken by a cannibal group living there, and you must balance trying to survive the harsh wild with searching for your boy.
It’s nice and open-ended, with the choice of what to do firmly in your hands. The cannibals are genuinely intimidating and every night you survive feels like a victory.
Diablo 3 Eternal Collection (Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC) Physical and Digital
It’s not been a banner year for Diablo after some pretty hot controversy concerning a mobile spinoff, but on the upside, Diablo 3 came to Nintendo Switch, thus giving the world full-fat Diablo in portable form.
While Diablo 3 Eternal Collection would be a fine gift on any format, for the Switch owner in your life it’s a perfect time sink (though you might regret that when they keep missing their stop on the bus/train home because of it).
Hollow Knight (Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC) Physical and Digital
Imagine if Castlevania was a black and white game about a world of bugs who wield weapons. Now imagine no more because Hollow Knight is pretty much that.
The Castlevania comparison is merely a structural one because Hollow Knight has a style of its very own. This is a visually arresting title, with beautifully animated characters and a strikingly designed world, even with its monochromatic palette. It’s a tough world to enter, yet when it clicks, it won’t let you go easily.