Ever since Resident Evil opened the door to its horror house in 1996, we’ve willingly taken on survival games that put our underpants at risk.
With the nights growing longer and the darkness creeping in, now is the perfect time to settle in with some of the scariest games out there - with nothing betweeen you and a Cabin In The Woods-worth of monsters, ghouls and ghosts, apart from a controller, mouse or keyboard.
Just make sure to give your neighbours a heads-up about the screams.
The Evil Within 2
Ripped straight from the twisted mind of Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, The Evil Within was a dark, demented trip through a virtual reality world - only that reality had been warped by the mind of a serial killer. Think demons, zombies and lots of barbed wire - not a pretty sight. And the sequel is scarier.
It builds on the genre, giving you more freedom and creativity while still finding ways to keep you on edge. Finding a perfect balance between creative open spaces and more claustrophobic close quarters, it ratchets up the tension and doesn't give you time to breathe. Don't waste those shotgun shells - you're gonna need 'em.
It’s hard to be scared of anything that you can easily blast to death with a load of bullets. That’s why Outlast 2 strips you of any weapons, and only provides you with a night-vision video camera to find your way around. If only you’d eaten your carrots as a child.
This more intense sequel pushes beyond the frights of its predecessor, giving you an experience that’s high on tension and even higher on the scare factor. Whether you’re running from imminent death or slowly exploring the spooky environment, this first person fright-fest will surely pile on those jitters.
The suffocating atmosphere of space is perfect fear fodder - especially when the colossal orbital station you're working on is now home to inky-hued, shape-shifting aliens that leap out at you from places you wouldn't expect. Prey's mimics are smart, experts at camouflage and desperate to introduce their tentacles to your esophagus.
When you're not fighting off extraterrestrial horrors, an eerie tension permeates every corner and hallway, with a strange, crackling sound design that does a superb job of setting your mind on edge. One to play with headphones, definitely.
Friday the 13th: The Game
While it’s true that this game has more bugs than Jason has corpses in his cabin, Friday the 13th is absolutely still worth playing. This online multiplayer scare-em-up either puts you in the shaking boots of a screaming teenager trying to escape the masked killer, or Jason himself on a good old murder spree.
The fact you're being hunted by another player, and not some faceless AI makes things all the more scarier - especially as Jason can't be stopped, only slowed down. If he gets too close, your weak teenage bones don't stand a hope in hell.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Resident Evil 7 shakes up the long-running survival horror franchise by switching to a first-person perspective, while returning to its roots with a slower pace and emphasis on scares, instead of shooting. It works, too, as you learn to make every bullet count and worry about what’s hiding around every corner.
One of this year’s scariest games is also one of the best games out right now that you can fully play in virtual reality - with a PlayStation VR headset, you’ll be able to get get scarily up close with the deranged Baker family. You’ll never complain about your real-life family dinners again.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
For a game about mental illness, you'd best believe Hellblade knows a thing or two about making you doubt your sanity. We're not talking Eternal Darkness-style memory card corruptions or fake death screens, either.
Senua's Sacrifice makes use of a number of tricks to perpetuate the feelings of dread, anxiety, and fear associated with the condition - from cunning camera perspectives and terrifying visuals, to frightening binaural audio. A captivating psychological terror from beginning to end.
By far the best Alien game so far, Isolation is basically just hide and seek. The only difference? Being found doesn’t mean you become the seeker; instead, you get a xenomorph’s tongue shoved down your throat. At least buy us a drink first, you creep.
It's a few years old now, but Isolation's timeless 80's sci-fi style hasn't aged a bit. That alien has wildly unpredictable AI, too, so no two games are ever the same - making this perfect for repeat plays.
Visually and aurally, Little Nightmares absolutely nails surreal horror. Imagine a postmodern Grimm's fairy tales, only told via the medium of a games console and you're half way there.
It preys upon simple childhood fears, but the way so much is concealed from you suggests there are greater scares to be found in the fear of the unknown. Monstrous terrors lurk in dark spaces, and you'll have to stay unseen to avoid becoming dinner.
When the blonde girl gets stabbed in a horror film, we're all too quick to criticise her ‘stupid’ decisions. "Don't open the door!", "Don't go swimming in the lake after dark!", or "Don't eat the cupcake contaminated with haunted zombie bacteria!" - you get the idea.
Until Dawn puts your scary movie survival skills to the test to see if you’d truly fare any better. If you can resist getting the annoying sidekick characters killed off on purpose, that is...
Anyone who’s seen Jaws can testify that the ocean can be a terrifying place, which is exactly why the team behind Amnesia thought it’d be nice to trap you in an underwater research facility in SOMA.
It isn’t just about the jump scares, though. It’s the story that will terrify you, with organic, H.R. Giger-esque contraptions, creatures and craziness waiting for you around nearly every corner.
UNTIL DAWN: RUSH OF BLOOD
Platform: PS4 (VR)
Double Until Dawn? We wouldn't list both if they didn't feel like completely different games. Just released this month, Rush of Blood is a PlayStation VR exclusive, and it swaps the survival horror premise of the original for an on-rails, Time Crisis-esque arcade shooter.
While giving you guns might empower you, the scares keep coming as you blast scads of creepy clowns and other aggressors in darkened rooms.
SLENDER: THE ARRIVAL
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Slender Man is the super creepy result of a message board (seriously) that somehow spiraled into a bit of modern folklore: the lanky, blank-faced, suit-wearing pursuer appears and attacks as your delusions begin.
Unsurprisingly, it's a perfect fit for a video game, as you explore an abandoned house and the surrounding woods… and ohhhhh god there's Slender Man, run! It can be slow in between, but the startling moments are a fabulous payoff.
THE BROOKHAVEN EXPERIMENT
Platform: PC (HTC Vive)
One of the most popular HTC Vive games released to date, The Brookhaven Experiment is a first-person blaster in which you're quickly surrounded by threats – be they human-like beasts who look like horrible burn victims, or giant spiders.
It's a pistol-packing shooter that you'll primarily experience in the dark, whether you're in a field with a flashlight or being attacked from all angles inside sewer pipes. Maybe don't go down there next time.
AMNESIA: THE DARK DESCENT & A MACHINE FOR PIGS
Platform: PS4, PC
We're giving this one a combined series recommendation, because collectively, these are two of the most twisted horror games there have ever been.
Both are big on psychological scares amidst the first-person puzzling, as you dip in and out of sanity, but also have their share of gruesome sights and really unsettling plot points. Both entries are also coming to PS4 in November as a bundle; a little late for Halloween haunts, but still well worth your time.