Just a couple days ago we shed some light on some potentially horrifying games from your childhood that you might not have realized were so disturbing. Halloween's coming closer and closer though, and you're probably wishing you had some intentionally nerve-wrackingly frightening games to rip into. Forget Dead Space or Silent Hill. You've gone through them a million times anyway. Instead, trick or treat with five criminally underrated horror games, each a little off the beaten path but still ripe with enough scares to warrant leaving every single light in the house on and at least as scary as Iwazaru's "voice" in Killer7. Put on your big girl pants and let's go.
LSD: Dream Emulator
If you've ever wanted to experience all the mind-numbingly terrifying hallucinatory visions of LSD without the damaging effects of actually taking it, then LSD: Dream Emulator is for you. Though technically not meant to scare you out of your wits, it hardly does anything else. You're supposed to be exploring the limits of "dreams" so calling LSD a game is actually a bit of a stretch. You'll walk around aimlessly, your only goal to explore what the limits of each dream world has to offer. If you happen to die in your dream, you'll "wake up" and be sent back to the title screen. Among the vast amount of genuinely strange visuals you can find an enormous man who takes up the space of an entire room, eyes on walls, human faces randomly patterned along the walls of certain areas, giant fish, expanses of nothingness, and the most unsettling soundtrack this side of Akira Yamaoka. Oh, and a little boy eating a hot dog. You really just have to see these things to believe it. This PlayStation import never received an official US release, so you'll have to be crafty about obtaining it, but it's so genuinely disturbing at most points that it's hard not to recommend for a solo gaming session on a stormy night after you've stayed up all night reading creepypasta. Head on over to YouTube and see what I mean. I dare you.
The Dark Eye
I found The Dark Eye in my youth at a Big Lots. When my father and I went to check it out together, we were met with a flurry of macabre sights and sounds all stemming from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. It can be classified as a point-and-click adventure, however there are no real subjective points to achieve. You simply explore several of Poe's classic tales ("The Cask of Amontillado and "The Tell-Tale Heart for example) from two different perspectives. Despite Poe's stories taking center stage, the actual plot revolved around the main character's spiral into madness, though rather than relying on puzzles or inventory management to advance it, you needed only to find the right spot to click in order to spur on the next scene. Despite Poe's tales being grotesque to begin with, The Dark Eye combined soulless claymation, puppets, and bone-chilling environments to explore, which only made the main character's descent into insanity even more believable. Thomas Dolby also lent his talents for a darkly ambient soundtrack. For a game released in 1995 it holds up remarkably well today and can easily plant the seeds of many a bad dream if you decide to seek out a copy. Don't say I didn't warn you.
It seems that dreams often lent a horrifying lilt to some of these hidden gems. Yume Nikki is based on the dreams of a young girl who lives alone. This independent cult hit may be a bit hard to decipher, but certainly isn't short on the chills. You'll enter Madotsuki's dream world and encounter untold horrors, whether it's an armless girl, the Toriningen who grab Madotsuki and whisk her away to an inescapable wasteland, or the fabled Uboa. The game is strange, no doubt, and exploration is absolutely required. While there's no tangible narrative to speak of, the conclusions you may draw simply through exploring Madotsuki's troubled dreams more than make up for the lack of conventional story-telling. The surreal world you'll find yourself in can be likened to Earthbound in terms of art style, but that's where the comparisons to more conventional titles end. When you set out to explore a new dream world, all you can really do is wake up. This lends an ethereal quality to an already otherwise dread-filled game world. Yume Nikki is certainly a strange one, and it may not be for you, but it's freeware and it costs nothing to give it a try.
Saya no Uta
The penultimate reason I wrote this list, Saya no Uta has stood out for me for quite some time now as one of the most underrated examples of body horror and Lovecraftian imagery I've ever found in a video game. It follows one medical student who wakes up after an experimental surgery seeing the world around him in an entirely different light. People are grotesque, slimy tentacle monsters. Walls and surfaces ooze and seem to be alive. A disgusting stench fills the air. What is reality? Why does he see these things? Fuminori Sakisaka is locked in his own tortured mind until he meets a beautiful young girl named Saya, who oddly enough appears in a normal human form. Sakisaka finds comfort in this mysterious girl and her normalcy in his world gone mad, but things quickly go awry when Saya's actions hint at what she might truly be. A shining example of just what the visual novel genre can do. If you can't pick up a translated copy to play, at least give the YouTube playthroughs a look.
Imagine if all the monsters of Resident Evil were out to rape and torture you rather than kill you. That's the case in Haunting Ground, a lesser known survival horror title from Capcom that shares many of the same tropes and similar gameplay as its more popular cousin. You're unable to defend yourself through conventional means such as weapons and must instead rely on items found scattered throughout the environments, as well as your faithful canine friend. Haunting Ground and the Clock Tower series also share many similarities, and the beautiful locations juxtaposed with the horror of being stalked and hunted make Haunting Ground a worthy choice if you're looking for something to up the dread this Halloween. It's likely waiting in a PlayStation 2 bargain bin at GameStop or a fair price on eBay.
These are but five great suggestions -- there's more! What are some underrated horror games you can't wait to force your friends into playing?
Brittany Vincent is a freelance writer who routinely eviscerates virtual opponents and tempts fate by approaching wayward Zoloms. A connoisseur of all things bloody and bizarre, she's available to chat via Twitter @MolotovCupcake, and is always ready to take on new projects. You can peruse her archived work at PfhortheWin.com