The "No Zombies" Playlist

Silver Linings #7

Hello, and welcome back to Silver Linings where I find the best and weed out the worst.

Halloween is my favorite time of the year. I get the perfect excuse to dig out the monster movies and games (like I really need an excuse considering I already covered two horror movies last month). They eat up the entire month of October for my girlfriend and me, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

However, I couldn't help but notice that too many horror games in the last 20 years revolved around zombies, and, to be honest, I'm actually kind of sick of them. As it turns out, I'm not the only one. Even the YouTube game reviewer "Angry Joe" Vargas spoke of being sick of them in his "Dying Light" review. It's gotten to the point that people ostensibly connect the terms "horror game" and "zombie game" like they're one in the same.

So, I decided to comb through the last few console generations and find some great games to dig out for Halloween that largely leave out the walking dead. In alphabetical order, here are 15 great titles to play with the lights off this month.

'Alan Wake' (PC, Xbox 360)

Alan Wake is one of the most creative horror shooters ever. The plot revolves around a writer who gets trapped in a nightmare that appears to have been written by him, and the less I say, the better. The atmosphere is thick as pea soup, the gameplay is fantastic with some very creative boss fights, and the story is as ambiguous as Kubrick's film of The Shining.

'Alien: Isolation' (PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

It took 35 years for a game to do the Alien license justice. Alien: Isolation is an entirely different beast from Aliens: Colonial Marines and Aliens Vs. Predator. It is a terrifying cat-and-mouse hunt between your character (Ripley's daughter) and one Xenomorph. That may not sound like much except it can approach from any direction, it has extremely smart AI, and YOU CAN'T FIGHT IT! This is one of the scariest stealth games ever made and a fitting continuation to the original Alien film.

'BioShock' (PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

Science gone wrong is a recurring theme in horror, and BioShock shows that in startling detail. The mutant Splicers are freaky as hell, and the fights with the Big Daddies never fail to get the pulse racing. The underwater city of Rapture has absolutely unparalleled atmosphere; you are never at ease. Playing on the hardest difficulty is one of the most harrowing experiences ever.

'Castlevania: Symphony of the Night' (Playstation, Saturn, Xbox 360)

Look, I know there are zombies in this Castlevania game. I'm still including it for three reasons. 1) The zombies are only in two rooms in the whole castle. 2) Every monster you can think of is here as well. 3) This game is so awesome that it created a whole new genre. The artwork is still gorgeous even now, and it has one of the greatest musical scores ever put into a game. This is my all-time favorite game, and I find every excuse to pull it out.

'Clock Tower' (Playstation)

Point-and-click adventures don't get much scarier than the original Clock Tower. This is one of the first playable slasher flicks. The puzzles can be as brain-teasing as other games in the genre, but they become extra intense when the Scissorman can pop up at any moment. Get used to getting impaled by the three-foot garden shears again and again.

'Condemned: Criminal Origins' (Xbox 360)

While the second Condemned game got WAY too silly (including fighting a bear), the first really felt like a playable season of The X-Files. The fights with the various drugged-up psychos are intense (especially in melee), the levels are set up to keep you completely paranoid, and the trip out sequences are completely WTF in all the best ways.

'Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem' (GameCube)

Eternal Darkness is gothic horror. It just is. The story spans centuries, the puzzles are well done (if typical), the locations are still impressive now, and the insanity effects which actually mess with the player (not the characters) were absolutely genius. With rumor that this will show up on the Switch, let's hope more people get to experience this one.

'Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly' (Playstation 2, Xbox)

Everything that the original Fatal Frame (Project Zero outside the US) got right, the second game did better. The haunted village stays chilling throughout, and the cinematics make you feel like you're watching a great Japanese horror movie. The scoring mechanics when catching the ghosts with the mystical camera actually reward you for getting freaked out! The Wii U sequel could've learned a thing or two from this one.

'Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location' (PC)

YouTubers got big from playing the Five Nights at Freddy's games, and the latest is the best of the bunch. The visuals are the best and creepiest they've ever been, and there's a ton of variety in this one. The crawl through the dark room is one of the creepiest sequences in the whole series. If Scott Cawthon truly won't make any more games in this series, this was a hell of a way to end it.

'Genma Onimusha' (Xbox)

Though others may prefer the insanity of the Devil May Cry series when it comes to slashing demons, I prefer the quiet exploration of the Onimusha series. The Xbox-exclusive director's cut of the first game was the best of the series with its tense combat, puzzles that reward exploring everywhere, and thick atmosphere. What'll it take to get Capcom to bring this franchise back?

'>OBSERVER_' (PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One)

While Bloober Team's Layers of Fear was just OK, their follow-up >OBSERVER_ knocked it out of the park!  You play a detective who uses technology to dive into people's minds. The atmosphere is unbelievable, and the stealth segments are some of the most chilling ever designed. This is a cyberpunk nightmare where you truly can't trust what you see.

'Outlast' (PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One)

Picture this. You're a reporter. You're trapped in an insane asylum.  Psychopaths are on the loose. You can't fight them; you can only run and hide. To top it off, you can't even see them without the night vision on your camcorder. That's the original Outlast, and it is one of the most terrifying indie games ever made.

'Resident Evil 7: Biohazard' (PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One)

Who'd have thought that the series that brought zombie games to the mainstream would have its greatest success by GETTING RID OF THE ZOMBIES? Resident Evil 7 is easily the scariest game in the whole franchise, taking plenty of gritty, disgusting cues from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I can only imagine the nightmares people who play this one in VR have had.

'Silent Hill' (Playstation)

Yes, it's almost 20 years old. Yes, there's a reimagining on the Wii. Yes, it has nicer looking sequels. I don't care; the original Silent Hill is STILL the best game in the whole franchise. A man searching for his lost daughter in a town under the influence of a demonic cult is the perfect hook. It has freak-outs that still work to this day. The score still puts me on edge. I was driven to see the different endings. The original Silent Hill is still the gold standard for horror games.

'Until Dawn' (Playstation 4)

Until Dawn is the closest any game had ever come to being a playable slasher flick. The visuals and voice acting are perfect, bringing the various protagonist tropes to life. The butterfly effects can lead to numerous endings. You can save all the kids, or you can get them all killed. The choice is yours.

I know I left out plenty. What's on your Halloween playlist? Let me know, and game on!

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