Top 10 Games to get into the Halloween Spirit
The unknown. It is both our greatest fear and the singlemost thing which galvanizes us, which holds our attention, and which inspires us to act. Why are we afraid? Because our imaginations present a million and one possibilities of a reality immeasurably worse than our own. Why are we still attracted to it? Because there still remains the hope that the unknown contains a reality better than the one we live in now, and humans are notoriously bad at reckoning the odds. Halloween, though westernized, Anglicized, and removed of its teeth, still remains a humbling reminder that the only reason the world is not more than we think it is is that we simply haven’t made that discovery yet. It creeps in at the corners of our perception, making us question our mundane world, and opening us to the chance, the most minute of chances, that there is something more out there which would change everything. That unique Halloween spirit is difficult to capture in its entirety, but aspects of it are visible in the following titles.
10. Clive Barker’s Jericho
The inestimable master of horror lent his name and unique premise to this 2007 title which was sadly not as well received as its inherent genius warranted. Perhaps had it been made today some of the repetition in the first-person shooting elements could be circumvented with more inventive gameplay, but that’s neither here nor there. In Jericho, you play as a member of the eponymous special forces team who is promptly blown to itty bitty pieces and spends the rest of the game possessing his teammates. Supposedly God created a being before Adam and Eve known as the Firstborn, and when God saw his creation awake he was so disturbed that he banished it to the Abyss. Such was the strength of the Firstborn that it would try to break free from its prison seven times throughout history, each time dragging bigger pieces of the material world back with it until its final attempt occurs in a future that is being written only now. Primordial forces and choices with consequences far reaching abound and send the hairs of the back of the neck on end.
Admittedly, this one was a bit of a sleeper, but the concept was solid. As professional thief Charles Deckard you are hired by the mysterious Black Order to steal an artifact from a New York museum which proves to be the fabled Pandora’s Box. Of course you open it, but rather than releasing misfortunes unto the world, Pandora’s Box proves to be a beacon of incredible power which summons creatures of old. You must race through crumbling New York against powers you don’t fully understand while trying to survive griffons, krakens, werewolves, and other beings that have since hidden from the world under the encroachment of man’s civilization, to an end you know nothing of in hopes of returning your world to some semblance of sanity. How’s that for suspense?
8. Batman: Arkham City
Bruce Wayne is thrown behind bars in Gotham’s most radical prison experiment, Arkham Island. Batman is not far behind to save him and get to the bottom of the rampant corruption and villain-run gangs controlling the lawless prison colony. Lightly falling snow, neon signs, desperate prisoners, and predators walking the cobblestoned streets and soaking the brick buildings red all contribute to a dour outlook mirroring the stalwart, blasted mindscape of the caped crusader himself. Brutal combat, efficient technology, and no remorse whatsoever will quickly get you into the kill-or-be-killed black and white of a world free from mankind’s sense of order. This is what it’s like to live beyond the pale, folks.
7. Darksiders 2
In the sequel to the game that was hailed as Zelda on steroids, you play as another of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a warrior so puissant that no other moniker fit him save that of Death. He carries with him the souls of the vanquished and rides the Pale Horse in his quest across the many realms of Creation to exonerate his brother War from the serious charges against him. There is far too much backtracking in gameplay for my tastes, but the roleplaying elements which include near-constant weapon upgrades and creation (often with their own backstory to add to the delightful ambiance of the game) add a new dimension which was not present in its predecessor. In terms of feeling, Darksiders 2 manages to combine ancient lore with the cold, winding wind and emptiness of the grave.
6. Alan Wake
In Alan Wake, you play as Alan Wake, which probably surprised a few people (the same folks that immediately grab a hot plate when their waitress has just warned them that it’s hot), a bestselling novelist with writer’s block. And that might be an original storyline if you’ve never heard of Stephen King. Up to the forests of Washington you go for the whole Twin Peaks quiet lumber town with a dark secret vibe, along with your doting wife, in hopes of getting you back on the horse and typing like the good little bitch of the literary industry you are. Cue strange dreams, blackouts, and surreal encounters with deranged versions of the local townsfolk, all thanks to a darkness that dwells in the lake and has abducted your wife (because Save The Princess is a new concept to at least one person on the planet). But for all the hokiness involved, Alan Wake has a rock solid handle on psychological horror in which the protagonist can’t tell the difference between reality (or if indeed reality is warping before his eyes) and the manifestations of his own crumbling mind.