Halloween is the best time of the year. All you Christmas buffs may be rolling your eyes, but for me, it’s a special holiday. It’s the only time that one of my favorite genres gets some time in the spotlight. Any excuse for me to talk about horror games is one I’m going to take with delight. We’ve seen some incredible horror games release over the past few years, most of which can be played on Xbox Game Pass. If you’re looking for something spooky to play this Halloween, read on, as this is a list of the best horror games on Xbox Game Pass you can download right now.
8. Alan Wake
Let’s start by talking about the best horror games from the 360/PS3 era. Despite releasing over a decade ago, Alan Wake still holds up as one of the greatest horror experiences out there. It doesn’t rely on jumpscares but instead builds suspense by having you walk through pitch-black forests with only a flashlight as your sole source of light. The open level design makes you constantly feel like someone is watching you, and the possessed residents of Night Springs can almost always be heard in the distance. You know something’s going to attack you, but you’re never sure when.
Alan Wake also ratchets up the tension by having players scrounge for every battery and bullet. There’s nothing more terrifying than being stuck in the middle of the forest with a handful of bullets, a couple of batteries, and the end isn’t even in sight. It constantly pushes you forward, and you’ll never feel more relieved to be standing under a lamppost. Remedy Entertainment is fantastic at horror, and Alan Wake is horror at its finest.
7. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
One of the most horrible things in the world is the human mind. Mental health is no joke, and one of the worst things a person can go through is some kind of serious mental disorder. Hellblade takes the topic of mental illness and gives players an insight into what it can feel like. Ninja Theory’s main goal was to accurately simulate the feeling of a person suffering from psychosis. Senua hears voices constantly, both offering her advice and degrading her at the same time. The abstract and bizarre visuals are meant to symbolize the real-life hallucinations someone suffering from psychosis can experience.
And then there’s the Dark Rot. Hellblade has a unique mechanic where when a player dies, a substance called Dark Rot will creep up Senua’s arm. Die too often, and the rot will envelop Senua completely and your game is over (before it was debunked anyway). This rot is a constant part of Hellblade, and ups the stakes with each death. It instills a sense of anxiety in the player and, combined with everything else, makes Hellblade a truly unique experience. If you’re going to play it, make sure you plug in your best pair of headphones.
Observation is one of the more abstract horror titles on this list. It’s unique because, unlike most horror titles, you’re not actually playing as a human. Rather, you guide astronaut Emma Fisher around a deserted space station playing as the space station itself. You’ll flick from camera to camera to keep track of Emma, all with the goal of finding out what’s happened to Emma’s fellow astronauts and how to get back home. The horror in Observation doesn’t come from the suspense or the odd jumpscare, but fear of the unknown.
Shortly into the game, you find out that you’re not as close to Earth as you originally thought. An unknown incident has knocked the space station off course and you find yourself deep in space with no clue how you got there. It’s a game about being lost and alone. Most people will have experienced being stranded in the middle of nowhere, and Observation plays on those fears and is a very unique experience because of that. I wouldn’t call it a thriller, more of a puzzle game if anything, but if you’re looking for a tamer horror experience then give Observation a try.
If you want to learn more about Observation, check out our review or our interview with the game’s creator Jon McKellan.
5. Alien Isolation
Time for a more traditional horror title. Creative Assembly took the idea of the “stalker” and designed an entire game around it. Alien Isolation is regarded by horror fans as one of the scariest games out there. Nothing ups the heart rate more than hiding inside a locker as an eight-foot alien is sniffing around outside. As the title suggests, Alien Isolation is a truly isolating experience, having you explore an abandoned space station knowing full well that there’s a killer alien roaming the halls that could find you at any time.
In fact, Creative Assembly made damn sure to focus on the Alien’s unpredictability. The AI in Alien Isolation is an impressive feat of ingenuity as the Alien constantly learns and adapts to the player’s actions and goals. Scripted jumpscares are all well and good, but having an unpredictable AI capable of learning by itself makes subsequent playthroughs of the game unique. You and a friend could play through the game side by side and have completely different experiences. Alien Isolation is a technical marvel and a bloody scary one at that.
4. Doom Eternal
One of the more recent horror games on Xbox Game Pass is Bethesda’s fast-paced shooter Doom Eternal. Many of you will likely disagree on whether it’s a horror game, but I beg to differ. Whilst it may not be particularly scary, it still ticks a lot of boxes of the horror genre. It’s gory, it’s brutal, and it’s full of demon hell-spawn. Doom Eternal is a horror game in the same way SAW and Evil Dead are horror films. They’re not particularly scary or full of jumpscares, but the sheer levels of gore in them is enough to fill people with that same level of dread that a jumpscare might.
And when it comes to gore, there are very few games that revel in it as much as the Doom series. Whether you’re shoving a grenade down the mouth of a Mancubus or pulling the eye out of a Cacodemon, Doom Eternal has enough blood and guts to make a butcher wince. It’s the perfect game to play if you want to get into the spooky spirit, but don’t want the heart problems associated with more traditional horror.
3. Dead by Daylight
Pretty much every horror game on this list is a singe-player game. But what if you have friends you want to spend Halloween with? Look no further than Behaviour Interactive’s Dead by Daylight. With a wide range of killers to choose from, you must hunt down a handful of survivors trying to restart generators in order to escape. You need to cripple them, hang them on a meat hook, and keep them there until they’re no longer on this mortal coil. It’s a game all about working together to escape the clutches of a deranged killer who could find you at any moment.
Despite its horrific launch, Behaviour Interactive has worked tirelessly to turn Dead by Daylight into a true cult classic. Since then, the game’s only grown in size and has even collaborated with some of the most famous horror franchises in the history of the genre. Leatherface, Freddy Krueger, and even Pyramid Head are playable killers making Dead by Daylight a must-play for true horror fanatics.
2. Resident Evil 7
After the disaster that was Resident Evil 6, Capcom needed a palette cleanser. Fans and critics alike felt that the series had lost its roots, focusing more on mass-market appeal rather than appeal to their already established fanbase. Enter Resident Evil 7, a true return to form, although from a different perspective. It’s the first game in the series to go first-person, something which the game benefitted from overall. This new camera angle made the Baker mansion feel much more claustrophobic and made the chase sequences tenser.
The Baker family themselves were a huge part of Resident Evil 7’s success, each one with their own unique quirks and murderous tendencies. It was a return to the camper side of the series seen in Resident Evil 4. Ever since, Capcom has been smashing it out of the park with the series. The game is available on Xbox Game Pass, but if you’re reading and you’re a PlayStation fan, I’d highly recommend playing through the game in VR. It’s a whole new experience and makes things a whole lot scarier.
1. A Plague Tale: Innocence
We’re going to round off this list of the best horror games on Xbox Game Pass with another milder horror title. Asobo Studio is responsible for one of the most criminally underrated games of this generation. A Plague Tale: Innocence is a testament to how great developers don’t need millions of dollars to make a great game. Playing as Amicia, you have to look after your brother Hugo as you evade Inquisition soldiers in a world plagued by man-eating rats.
Some of the scenes in this game are truly heartbreaking. Hugo’s innocence is slowly destroyed as the world around him becomes cruel and unjust. Since the game is heavily story-based, I’ll refrain from speaking too much, but for those arguing that this isn’t a horror game, go watch someone be devoured by rats and try to tell me that’s not horrifying.
As always with lists like these, there are loads of horror games on Xbox Game Pass that I didn’t mention. I tried to include a range of horror games as I know not everyone likes jumpscares or suspense. If you have an Xbox Game Pass subscription and are feeling spooky over the next week or two, one of these games will definitely do the trick.