It’s Halloween, my ghoulie friends. And in the spirit of 2020, it is not going to be a Halloween like previous years. Considering all that is going on, it would be totally acceptable if you wanted to take your bucket of candy and settling in with some video games. At least these scares are manageable. Some of these games are a bit of fun with the kids. Some of these games are squarely for GeekMom and GeekDad after the kids have gone to bed (around about the same time we raid the loot for “parent tax”). Either way, here is a list of the freshest meat… I mean games for your Halloween. Just a taste of the best video games for Halloween. Just a bite…
- Unbound: Worlds Apart
Let’s start with a sweet little game called Unbound: Worlds Apart from Alien Pixel Studios. During the time of Halloween, the veil between the land of the living and the land of the dead is at its thinnest. Unbound: Worlds Apart is the perfect game to push on that veil and see how easy it is to cross over.
It is a beautiful action/adventure game, using puzzles, platforms, and portals to move you along the journey. You play as Soli, a little novice wizard who is searching for crystals to help save his world. The shards of crystal you find can be used to open small portal pockets into other worlds, changing your circumstances just enough to navigate the new dangers that abound. As a 2D platformer, the gameplay is simple with most of the challenge coming from the puzzles and the timing for your portals. The artwork is breathtaking and sweet, in that forest spirits type of way.
What really appeals to me is the creative thinking in both the problem-solving and exploration. Some portals grant rather unique perspectives, including “anti-gravity.” On one hand, it creates a new path for you. And yet, on the other hand, it forces you to stop and reconsider the magical environment around you. I love a game that encourages you to stop and look around, rather than racing through.
The prologue demo is currently available for free on Steam with the full version coming to PC and Nintendo Switch in the 2nd quarter of 2021. This is a great intro to the best video games for Halloween and I’m sure the full game will be high on the list for best games in 2021.
- Pumpkin Jack
This game is a bit of crazy fun and perfect for Halloween. If you’re going to want a Jack-o-Lantern, then you should only have the best: Pumpkin Jack. This game is absolutely Halloween-centric! The 3D action platformer is reminiscent of old-school favorites from 20 years ago (how’s that for raising the dead?) but with a fresh new face and endearing characters to seal the deal.
Starting with the appropriate fairytale opening, complete with a kingdom named “Arc En Ciel” (which is French for rainbow). The story revolves around one single but important fact: the Devil is bored. As any parent will tell you, that is not a good thing. To “liven” things up, the Devil makes a deal with Pumpkin Jack: defeat the sorcerer who is trying to stop the Devil and in return, Jack will be free. The problem is, the Devil sent some demons ahead of you and they are too stupid to recognize Jack as being on their side. So you have to fight your way through the rural villages, navigate tricky bridges, kill a few monsters (who totally attacked you first), and find a way to bring the devilish mayhem you were contracted to do.
The game is an even mix between puzzle obstacles and action while you fight off scarecrows, skeletons, and ghostly knights. The dialogue is appropriately dark and dry with the humor, which suits my Halloween needs.
Pumpkin Jack is currently available on Steam, Epic, GOG, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. It’s coming to PS4 in a few weeks.
- Polter Pals
Social Distancing: Halloween level. You are a fresh ghost—so fresh, you have no friends and are feeling a little lonely. Death has essentially social-distanced you from everyone you know. So, how are you going to make new friends? Well, first you have to make new ghosts! If this sounds a tad macabre, then skip ahead. BUT if you love games with a bit of fun and a dark side to the humor, then you will love this game. Polter Pals is still finalizing its development but you can have a taste with the free download available on Steam.
Polter Pals is a puzzle game with multiple scenarios playing at once across diorama-style levels. It’s a lot like Think of the Children from PAX Aust 2017, in both style and context. The goal is to lead the other characters to comically fatal accidents, thus making ghosts and subsequently making friends via the afterlife’s hottest social media app, “LiveBurial.” On face value, it is cute fun, and weirdly entertaining. For a deeper analysis, it is also a peculiar insight into our own consumerist and an easily-distracted world of the living. One of the best video games for Halloween—at least for the laughs.
Polter Pals is currently available as a free demo on Steam, with the full version to be released shortly.
- 8Doors: Arum’s Afterlife Adventures
You want bravery on Halloween? Meet Arum, a brave young girl who travels to the Afterlife to find her father’s soul. The game is 8Doors Arum’s Afterlife Adventures, a 2D action platformer based on Korean folk tales of the afterlife. It comes from the creative mind of developer Rootless Studio and I cannot express how simply gorgeous the artwork is. You have to address the visuals first because they could be a short animated film in itself. The smoky grayscale touches on the wispy nature of spirits, with flashes of red in some of the more violent scenes. Word of warning: for what essentially looks like a sweet cartoon-style game it does have some rather intense violence. I mean, Arum is fighting off demons who are wanting to eat her soul so I’m not surprised to see some violence. I’m just glad I played it through first before showing my 7-year-old daughter.
The story itself is also impressive. Arum must travel through the eight (8) different areas of purgatory in the Afterlife and overcome various enemies to find her father’s soul and escape back to the land of the living. She is guided along the way, including her new companion—a talking frog. A talking frog? Now that’s cool. This is where the 2D platform setting works very well. Some sections take a bit of weaving to work through but the story remains true: Arum must work her way through the Afterlife to reach her goal.
8Doors has a free demo available on Steam while the full game is yet to be released. Even still, the demo is a short simple pleasure for your Halloween night.
- Felix the Reaper
Okay, who is ready for some funky Reaper moves? Felix the Reaper was released on Steam in Oct 2019 from Kong Orange and is also available on Nintendo Switch. (On sale in the US until Nov 9 for the ridiculously cheap price of $2.50—It’s a steal!) Don’t be fooled by the chill-out vibes from Felix. This game is a seriously challenging single-player 3D puzzle game with fatalistic tendencies. You are Felix and your job is to make people die. Not kill them per se, simply arrange for their death. The only rule is you must stay in the shadows. Sure, you can manipulate the shadows so long as you still complete your task: people must die. And don’t forget to groove along to the music while you are doing it.
The soundtrack is an entity of its own. Compiled from over 10 indie music artists, the funk is strong and it really helps build the rhythm as you work your way through the puzzles. You can purchase the soundtrack separately to complete your Halloween season too. You can’t help bouncing along with the beat and be inspired by Felix’s sweet moves. Side note: All of the dancing from Felix was gained from the collaboration of several dancers who worked directly with the music. Hell, the game was even inspired by art, The Danse Macabre. The only thing that would top this would be Sir Patrick Stewart dancing across the screen… Trust me on this.
- Nine Witches: Family Disruption
To be totally honest, I was hesitant to include this game on the list of Best Video Games for Halloween (purely for the WWII factor). However, I know of a lot of geeks who love their weird Halloween and esoteric references. Remember all that talk in Raiders of the Lost Ark about the Nazis in WWII with their fascination for the occult? Nine Witches: Family Disruption is based on an alternative history to explore that exact weird concept. And yes, they have a bit of fun along the way.
It was a dark and stormy night in the remote Norwegian village of Sundäe. The Third Reich’s Okkulte-55 Division has moved into the area to investigate the hotspot for paranormal behavior. Only you can stop them! (*cue retro horror movie music*) Throughout the game, you can swap between two playable characters: Professor Alexei Krakovitz, a Russian paranormal scholar, and his assistant, Akiro Kagasawa. There are plenty of clues to discover and characters to meet as you explore the area, always trying to stay one step ahead of the Nazis.
The game is firmly set as a retro-experience. The language and storytelling are all part of the iconic horror/conspiracy-driven genre from WWII and afterward. Some of the language can be a little colorful, so perhaps leave this for the slightly older geeklings in your family. The gameplay itself is well-crafted pixel art, with dialogue and style very much like my favorite games from the 1980s (see The Mad Doctor below). There is a strong narrative inspired by history and filled with enough paranormal elements to fill a parlor room,and then some.
Right now, Nine Witches: Family Disruption (Prologue) is available as a free demo on Steam and is definitely worth the play through on your Halloween night. Once you have the taste for some old school goodness, purchase the full copy for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Steam, or GOG on December 4, 2020. The game is created by Indiesruption and published with Blowfish Studios.
- Graveyard Keeper
It wouldn’t be Halloween without raising the undead, right? Graveyard Keeper has been reanimated with new DLC, Game of Crone. The original Graveyard Keeper was released in 2012 as “the most inaccurate medieval cemetery management sim of all time.” (Their words, not mine.) And from everything I have seen so far, they aren’t wrong. Since then, they have released two DLC packs: Stranger Sins and the newly released Game of Crone. Clearly, they have no shame in their DLC names, however, it is befitting of your character as the new graveyard keeper.
The story is fairly straightforward: You wake up in a strange world with no idea of how or why you are there. The only thing you do know is you are a new graveyard keeper. And you know this because the talking bouncing skull told you. And it was confirmed by the talking donkey. Once you realize how crazy everything is, you soon realize the only way to return home to complete the tasks required to find the portal. This is a game filled with ethical dilemmas and questionable decisions. The first time you play this, every little mistake is going to make your very existence feel like purgatory. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be farming zombies and burning witches in no time. (While I take personal offense to this, I see where they are going with this.)
This is one of those easy-going farming simulators with a dark twisted sense of humor thrown in for good measure. The graphics are simplified but there is still a bit of gore and violence. The latest DLC, Game of Crone, has released in time for Halloween and brings new features like VAMPIRES, the mysterious death of your predecessor, teleportation scrolls (you are going to need them for the expansive map), and the talking donkey’s Revolution (absolutely worth it). Graveyard Keeper and all DLC are available on Steam.
- Remothered: Broken Porcelain
And now moving on to the hardcore horror games for Halloween. This one was top of the list and highly anticipated. Remothered: Broken Porcelain is a survival horror game and follows on from Remothered: Tormented Fathers. To be perfectly honest with you, I haven’t played the first one so I called in a friend to help me with this review (and to hold my hand…). N.S. Kane is a horror comics book writer and creator, so she knows her horror (check it out here).
Like its predecessor, Remothered: Broken Porcelain is a psychological narrative filled with puzzles and clues as you piece together your character’s tragic past. Set in an asylum, there is a lot of storytelling and hidden secrets needed to fill in the memory gaps from the first game. You do not need to have played the first game to understand what is happening in Broken Porcelain. All you need to know is how to sneak, sleuth, and survive. And while neither Kane nor myself are fans of kids being main characters for horror games, Remothered: Broken Porcelain has an “Alice the Madness” vibe to it, which works well.
The visuals are the absolute key. The graphics have improved since the first game, allowing more detail to the scenery and subsequently easy access to most clickable items. Even though horror games are normally dark (to create an atmosphere more than anything else), leave it too dark and you miss out on the details for the game—including necessary clues. There is so much to explore as you piece together the story (and the history).
For fans of the Remothered series, Broken Porcelain continues the true horror genre and builds with the villains. This is not “hack and slash” or pure gore; as Kane put it so eloquently, “this game challenges the player to think and takes you on a mysterious visual journey scaring you to your core instead of cheap jump scare thrills.”
Remothered: Broken Porcelain is available on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo. Important note: This is not a game for the kids. This is a serious horror game, with plenty of freaking out and bad language (from both the characters and the freaked out players). This is the game for GeekMoms after the kids have passed out from their Halloween hijinks.
- Mad Doctor
For a finishing touch to the best video games for Halloween, I’m taking you way back to the legendary Commodore 64. When I was much younger, my absolute favorite game was Mad Doctor. It was originally released in 1985 as an action horror game with puzzle elements and heavy on the Frankenstein vibes.
You play as the mad doctor and your goal is to build your very own monster. Naturally, you need body parts for this, and you start off with the relatively mild method of digging up graves. Unfortunately, further experiments indicate fresher samples are required (read: your local villager neighbors). The thing is, the villagers aren’t too happy about this either. They slowly become concerned, fearful, angry, and then dangerous. It soon becomes a race between your science and your defenses against the flaming pitchforks at the gate.
This game is seriously old school. So old, if you want to play it, you will need to install a C64 simulator on your computer. Lifehacker has a great guide on how to play C64 online for free. Let me know if the nostalgia hits you too.
Plenty of fresh meat to choose from here. Let us know what games you were playing on Halloween, or any new games you are following for future developments. If you’re looking for some tabletop for your Halloween night, check out the GeekDad article with 13 Monstrously Fun Games for Halloween. In the spirit of Halloween, it’s all fun and games!