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Five short, spooky games to play this Halloween

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Anatomy

There’s no shortage of great horror games out there, running the gamut from subtle psychological thrills to straightforward zombie shooting. But with Halloween a few days away, it’s a good time to explore experiences that won’t take a whole weekend to finish.

So in the spirit of the season, we’ve put together a small collection of tense, dark, and creepy games that you can play in one or two sittings, leaving plenty of time for costume parties and trick-or-treating.

IMSCARED

If creepypasta were a game, it’d be IMSCARED, a demonic tangle of lo-fi glitch horror that feels like a ghost sliding inside your machine. In this self-described “pixelated nightmare,” you’re on the run from a grinning white skull in a world so blocky and primitive you’d think it couldn’t be all that scary. You’d be wrong. Its deceptively simple graphics belie a devious game where horror hides in what seem like glitches, slipping into your mind and across your computer desktop in ways you’ll never expect—or forget. Remember, once White Face starts coming after you, it’ll never let you go.

What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch

What Remains of Edith Finch isn’t exactly a horror game, but its fixation on death makes it a great companion for a spooky evening. The adventure tracks the the history of the titular Finch family and the game structured like a short story collection. You’ll experience a brief moment in the life of a dozen different people, spanning around a century. Each story is very different, but they all end the same way: death. No matter what you’re doing in Edith Finch — swinging on a tree as a child, or going through a dreary evening working at a fish cannery — the spectre of death is always looming. There’s even a chapter that plays out like a literal horror comic book. The experience lasts around two hours, and Edith Finch packs in a huge range of experiences into that short span, with stories both terrifying and delightful, each with their own unique gameplay. They all may end in death — but you won’t always see it coming.

Uncle who works for nintendo

The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo

You're a kid at a sleepover, and your friend keeps talking about their uncle who works at Nintendo, getting them access to all the best and newest games. This is usually an apocryphal figure, but in The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo, he's real — just not quite human. He's also visiting at midnight, and he's very hungry. A free visual novel built in Twine, The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo draws real dread from the weird mystique around game development, the subtle one-upmanship of childhood friendships, and the simple horror of waiting for a late-night knock on the door.

Anatomy

Fear is a feature of the architecture in Anatomy, a body horror tale about a haunted house where the body is the house. The game shudders awake with a screen that looks very much like a VHS tape, then drops you in a shadowy room where lines of static occasionally drift across your vision. There are no jump scares as you explore the house, only a sense of dread that grows as you inch your way through corridors cloaked in a darkness that dares you to step forward. A cassette player in the kitchen crackles with a message: “There is a tape in the basement.” Will you go?

Near Death

The best way to describe Near Death is "The Thing, but with no Thing." It's the 1980s, and you're a pilot who's crash-landed at an abandoned Antarctic research base. With no human contact except a teletype machine, you're forced to brave the coming storm with little more than a handheld heater, scouring darkened buildings for the supplies you'll need to escape. Even if there's nothing explicitly trying to kill you, Near Death's eerie, lonely world inspires an almost religious terror. The wind and snow are a force of their own, clawing at you through open doors and shattered windows, unless you use your limited supplies to set up a temporary shelter. But unlike a lot of game monsters, the Antarctic landscape also inspires a sense of wonder, and when you reach the end, you'll see exactly how beautiful it can be.