I'll be honest here. Halloween absolutely terrifies me. No, it's not the prospect of being inundated by witches, undead and evil spirits that concerns me. I have become very adept at dispatching such gruesome wickedness in games like Left 4 Dead and Silent Hill. No, what fills me full of dread are the feral little kids who play trick or treat on me each year. The first time they came a-knocking at my door, I answered their question of "trick or treat, madam?" with no little nonchalance. "Oh, trick sounds so much more fun," I said, daring them to do their worst. I was not feeling so cocky the next morning when I heard that my granny's house had been burnt down, witnesses reporting four evil-looking urchins cackling to themselves near the scene.
Thankfully, Nana was out at bingo at the time. So no serious damage done. But it meant that the next year I was a lot more careful. No sooner had they started knocking on the door than I was there thrusting a brand-spanking new X-Box games console into their grubby little hands. That should get them on my side, I thought, as I quickly closed the door on them and retired trembling to the tent I had made out of my duvet. It didn't of course. The next day, as I entered into my car for work, I noticed the words 'PS3 rules' etched neatly into the window screen. I don't know what I am going to do this year. Maybe I'll give them a bottle of whiskey in the hope they will get drunk and forget me. Or perhaps I will simply leave the country.
So, I suppose, compared with my scurrilous little trick or treaters, this list of ten scary online games is not that scary at all. Still, the games should give you the odd fright or two.
If, like me, you had to change your underwear after watching The Descent - Neil Marshall's terrifying 2005 film about a group of amateur potholers who become trapped underground - then you best get some fresh knickers ready before playing this game, because the plot has many similarities. You are part of a party of tourists on a tour of an underground cave. Suddenly all the lights go out, and you are left to stumble around blindly in pitch darkness. If that was not bad enough, someone or something is killing your fellow party members one by one. You know this from the blood-curdling screams they let out as they die. Neverending Light is one of the slickest Flash games around. It is also one of the scariest. Play the game here.
2Haunt the House
In this unique and brilliant game, you are not the one suffering the heebie-jeebies but the one dishing out the frights. You see, you are a ghost and you have a house full of noisy party guests to terrify. You spook the guests out by possessing objects - such as tables, beds or lights - and making them do odd things. You might make a table move around, for instance, or cause a storage box to pop open with a jack-in-the-box style skeleton. Don't get too carried away, however. Scare the guests a little bit and you become more powerful, but frighten them too much and they might end up doing something unexpected. Haunt the House could almost be described as an RPG for ghosts. If my experience is anything to go by, humans should find it pretty fun too. You can play the game here.
The thing that scares me most about this game is that it reminds me of how old I am. I remember when isometric adventure games like this were state-of-the-art - think classic titles like Knight Lore and my personal favourite Head over Heels (which can be downloaded for free here). GraveShift is one of the best Flash takes on the classic isometric adventure game genre, featuring wicked puzzles, beautiful graphics and an intriguing and not a little frightening storyline. The land of Fairosel is under siege by evil warlocks and is on the verge of falling. But there is one last hope - you. GraveShift can be played here. An equally fun sequel can be played here.
This point and click game calls on you to turn the lights down and the sound up before you play but, if the truth be told, there is really no need to do either. The game is spine-chilling enough anyway, without resorting to such gimmicks. Australian game developer Ben Leffler has managed to create one of the scariest Flash games it is your misfortune to encounter, thanks to atmospheric music, dark forbidding graphics and strong story-telling. Play Exmortis here. If you enjoy it, you may want to check out the sequel here. And there is even a third game, which you can play here.
What more can I say about this game that has not already been said before. Doom is one of the most famous games ever made. At the time of its launch in the early 1990s, its faux 3d graphics were revolutionary, marking the beginning of the era of 3D first person perspective blockbusters. But it was arguably the game's forbidding atmosphere that impressed the most. The game was absolutely terrifying. Grown men literally quaked in their boots playing the game. And now, you too can partake in the for-then shockingly frightening action, thanks to this Flash port of the game. Play it here.
6The Last Stand 2
If zombies give you the heebie-jeebies, then you will probably want to steer clear of this game, for it is absolutely chock-a-block with them. Not just one type of zombie either. There are fat housewife zombies. There are skinny geek zombies. There are even canine zombies. And each and every one of them is out to get you. Thankfully, you are holed up behind a sturdy barricade and have a small arsenal of weapons at your disposal. Nevertheless, this is one of the most terrifying zombie games ever made, especially on later levels, when you are constantly under threat of being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the zombie onslaught. You can play ConArtist Game's defend-your-base masterpiece here.
7Survive the Outbreak
When it comes to scares, films have generally done them a lot better than games. Certainly, no game has ever come close to frightening me as much as horror flicks like The Descent and Dawn of the Dead. The developers of Survive the Outbreak have taken heed of this, creating an experience that is more interactive movie than a game. The end result - you will be pleased to hear - is downright terrifying. You can play this game-cum-movie here.
Another spine-chilling offering from the warped imagination of Ben Leffler, who was also responsible for No 4 on this list. Purgatorium may be the shortest game we've included here - it was created in just a week - but what it lacks in size it more than makes up in scares. As one fan of the game commented, "I've played the game before and I know what is going to happen, but it still scared the hell out of me". You can play this nasty little point-and-click game here.
Not all zombie games are non-stop gory action. Some actually require you think a bit. Desolation 2 is one such game. Find items and solve puzzles in this atmospheric and hair-raising point and click game, and help the hero to track down a remedy to cure a zombie illness that has struck down the local population. You can play Desolation 2 here.
This defend-your-base style game is damn scary, especially when a zombie continues to drag itself along the ground towards you after you have shot its legs off. The zombies in this game do not die easily, which is a real shame, because there are lots of them and they are all after you. Cursed Village can be played here.