They're SO pretty!

I've recently talked about scary horror games here and here, so now I think I need a break from the darkness. For that, I want to look at games that just so beautiful you can't help but take a moment to appreciate them with your eyes. This would be a straightforward task if I just wanted to talk about just the realistic beauties in gaming with great graphics like Assassin's Creed Odyssey or Red Dead Redemption 2, but what I'm looking for today are also the 'artistic' ones—the ones that do something unique and different but still capture our hearts (and eyes) with every frame of the game.

1. Flower

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1oZnf3475c[/embedyt]

The game that really reinforced the idea that 'video games are art', Flower is an artistic experience that set the tone of what the developers at Thatgamecompany (yes, that's what they're called) wanted to achieve. You literally play some petals drifting in the wind and it opened up the conversation of artistic expression in video games. Nowadays, you'll often find video games in museums and art galleries as part of interactive installations or for the fact that video games are indeed art in their own right. A lot of that is because developers like Thatgamecompany made games such as Flower.

2. Journey

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVFLq4OS_pU[/embedyt]

Thatgamecompany (really it is a confusing name for a development studio) went on to make other artistic video game experiences including my personal favourite, Journey. Quite a different game where you're a lonely character heading towards a light. That's it. Doesn't sound like much but the sparkling sands and setting sun set a spectacular scene as you slide across the shimmering silica. The real beauty comes in that feeling of loneliness, until you come across another player. That's right, it's kind of a multiplayer game, a great example of anonymous multiplayer. You don't know who that other player is and they could come and go as they please. You could team up or they could abandon you at a whim. The only form of communication you have is your movements and a pinging noise you can make, but if you end up sticking together till the end, you might feel that you've made a friend for life, only for the relationship to end forever once the game is over. If that doesn't stir up some emotions, I don't know what will.

3. Gris

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvECQlxrhbw[/embedyt]

A newer entry to the list, Gris is a wonder to look at from it's deliberately drawn yet smooth animation to the supreme use of watercolours. It's rare to see a game look like this and the way it incorporates the visuals into the gameplay will impress even the harshest art critic. Besides the colours and designs of the characters and world, the animations are just unbelievably smooth and unique, making this probably the most beautiful video game of 2018.

4. Guacamelee

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh3NoeIuOgs[/embedyt]

A fun and lighthearted expression of a game, this brings the Mexican aesthetic to your screen in a fun metroidvania action game with an unbelievably colourful vector style. If you've ever tried colouring something in, you might've found that if you use too many colours it just looks like an absolute mess, but somehow in Guacamelee they seem to have used every colour imaginable and still kept it coherent and beautiful. Those looking for high-end art might not recognise this as typically beautiful but it brings a new flavour in my opinion and nothing else quite looks like this in the way it pulls it off.

5. Ori and the Blind Forest

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cklw-Yu3moE[/embedyt]

An emotion and beautiful metroidvania game where you play a small creature against the world. Visually this game looks amazing and magical; the colours and designs of everything on screen will draw you into the environments. Subtle animations and attention to detail really bring it to life too. What's more, the sequel to the game, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is scheduled to release in 2019, so if you haven't gotten enough beauty from this game, more is on the way.

6. Bastion & Transistor

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RT55lch6y_U[/embedyt]

Beautiful games with amazing soundtracks, these are just a pleasure to look at but also a pleasure to listen to. Built on emotional stories, the style of these two games from the same developers brings you into their worlds and if you play through them they're ones you never forget. Might also be because you end up finding their soundtracks on Spotify and end up listening to them on repeat, or maybe that's just me?

7. Shadow of the Colossus

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFgusTYInas[/embedyt]

This is a game where the beauty comes from its loneliness. The fact that you are a lone character travelling across an uninhabited land, not even running across a bunny let alone an enemy to fight. You explore the world looking for giant stone colossi to defeat in an attempt to save the one you love, so it's a journey searching for companionship steeped in being alone.

8. Dark Souls & Bloodborne

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzwnFYKNNdc[/embedyt]

Many wouldn't think of the 'Souls games' as beautiful and maybe they don't fit the traditional definition, but there is definitely a haunting beauty to these games. It's always my opinion that the 'horror aesthetic' is something that can be morbid but beautiful, as I talk about in this other article, and the Dark Souls series along with Bloodborne express this perfectly. Epic landscapes, unique architectural designs, haunting music, and otherworldly creatures are all amazingly crafted in these dark games.

9. BioShock Infinite

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_gEzOZKyE4[/embedyt]

On the slightly more 'realistic' side, BioShock Infinite was designed to be surprisingly beautiful. Coming from the dank and dark predecessor game, in this one you rise above the clouds into a glimmering utopia. A city that's pretty on the outside and rotten on the inside, but still really pretty on the outside nonetheless. The abilities in the game from Vigors, Gears, and Infusions also give a magical steampunk vibe to the game, which plays into the almost magical theme of the city and the magical feeling you get looking around.

10. Okami

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yoSaz9Qzuw[/embedyt]

This whole game is styled as if it's a sumi-e painting and it's a great action-adventure game filled with amazing characters to boot! In the game, you discover new brush techniques so that you can paint your way through and you can even attack enemies by painting at them. The whole game is unrelentingly stylistic from the colours to the distinct inky outlines and it's a game that makes you want to pick up painting in real life. The music won't disappoint either, ranging from pretty and pleasant village tunes to epic and evil boss fights, the iconic soundtrack will keep you sucked into the painted world. This game is so well loved, despite the game studio that made it no longer existing, it's been remade into HD and is even now on the Switch and on Steam, so I can't recommend this game enough whatever platform you want to play it on.

Which video game do you think is the most beautiful of all time? Let us know in the comments!

Totally NOT sequels!

I've recently talked about video game remasters and it got me thinking of another kind of revival—the spiritual successor. A spiritual successor is a video game that is made to be almost like a sequel to an older game BUT it can't officially be called a sequel for various reasons. Maybe the original developers no longer work in the industry anymore or it could be the company that owns the name of the game doesn't want to make another game. That doesn't stop some people from wanting to make a new version of an old game though and with all the remakes and remasters going on right now, spiritual successors are in just as much demand from gamers. Knowing where your favourite games come from can make you appreciate them more too.

What Makes a Great Spiritual Successor

Copying What's Good & Leaving Behind The Bad

A video game spiritual successor is a game that's made years or decades after the original game it's based on. Game development, gamers, and ideas have changed in that time and not everything a game did in the past should be used just for the sake of it. Many spiritual successors try to copy an old game exactly, warts and all, and bring a lot of bad gameplay into a new game or they don't copy some of the best things. Doing that can very easily lead to a boring or unsatisfying spiritual successor. A great spiritual successor should take all the good things that an old game did and copy them into the new game, while at the same time identifying all the bad things that made the game less fun, annoying, or frustrating and leave them behind.

Maintaining The 'Feeling'

Like playing a sequel, the new game needs to feel like it's the same game but better. This can be difficult to define as the feeling you get from playing a video game isn't exactly scientific facts. However, there are things you can do in game design to recreate the original feeling. You could use an updated but similar art style, some games use the same voice actors that were in the original game, or it could even be the kind of humour and jokes told that are the same kind of jokes as the first time around. Including things like those are clear homages to the original game and fans would recognise them immediately, making them feel like they are playing a 'proper' sequel.

10 of the Best Video Game Spiritual Successors

1. Cities Skylines (2015)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gI2N10QyRA[/embedyt]

Inspired by SimCity (2013)

The original SimCity literally invented the concept of the city-building game in 1989. Fast forward to 2013 and SimCity (5) released and everyone hated it. It had tiny maps, always online restrictions, and just wasn't all that great to play. It's gotten better since but it's too late. Soon after, Cities Skylines was released and it was everything SimCity (5) was supposed to be. Bigger, better, and more fun to play, Cities Skylines is basically the new SimCity, making it one of the most successful and popular spiritual successors of all time.

2. War for the Overworld (2015)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkgnMLyPmNo[/embedyt]

Inspired by Dungeon Keeper (1997)

The original Dungeon Keeper was made by Bullfrog, a development company responsible for games like Theme Hospital, Populous, and Theme Park. Dungeon Keeper has in recent years become a shell of its former self with a pretty bad mobile game, but fret not, War for the Overworld is one of the best spiritual successors to a game ever. Not only does it feel and play the same as its inspiration, the voice actor is the same guy too. It truly feels like a proper sequel, despite not being called 'Dungeon Keeper'.

3. Two Point Hospital (2018)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjrcU1gwkjc[/embedyt]

Inspired by Theme Hospital (1997)

Speaking of Bullfrog and Theme Hospital, Two Point Hospital is now a thing and this game is so much of a sequel that the people who made it actually made the original. The developers from Bullfrog Productions are now working at Two Point Studios and making simulation games again starting with Two Point Hospital. It plays like an updated Theme Hospital, taking what made the original great and changing what was frustrating and bad. It's hard to imagine a better sequel to Theme Hospital two decades later than this.

4. Parkasaurus (2018)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijabNx7WmGg[/embedyt]

Inspired by DinoPark Tycoon (1993)

There was an old game that I played growing up called DinoPark Tycoon that you can actually play in browser for free now HERE. When I saw Parkasaurus, I immediately recognised it. The art style has gone from pixels to cartoony, but the layout of the park, the shops you can visit, and the overall gameplay is exactly what DinoPark Tycoon was like except Parkasaurus has a ton of improvements and gameplay in it. It's always great seeing a small game from the past get revived into something new and although not many would remember DinoPark Tycoon this is still a great spiritual successor.

5. Obduction (2016)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbkDxmrCAiQ[/embedyt]

Inspired by Myst (1993)

Myst was the best selling PC game of the 90s until The Sims came along and the massively popular puzzle series unfortunately came to a slow death in the early-2000s where Uru: Ages Beyond Myst (2003) and Myst V: End of Ages (2005) just were not all that great. A decade later in 2016, the same developers were inspired to make a new game and Obduction came to be. It's the same kind of game, first-person puzzle solving in lonely and mysterious worlds that you teleport between. It feels almost like a Myst game when it comes to the theme, the characters, the worlds, and even the art style, making Obduction a pretty good spiritual successor to Myst.

6. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (2019)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKlR0SEmIoI[/embedyt]

Inspired by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

Although not released at the time of writing, Castlevania is an absolute classic series, even helping establish the whole Metroidvania genre. Bloodstained has been in production for a while and a playable demo was also made available and it feels very much like Castlevania. Makes sense since it's made by the same producer of the original.

7. Perfect Dark (2000)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMDGhKwp8cg[/embedyt]

Inspired by GoldenEye 007 (1997)

GoldenEye 007 was one of the first multiplayer first-person shooters to really take off before the days of Counter-Strike and the like. This is a situation where both games were developed by the same developers, Rare, and they wanted to make a new and upgraded version of GoldenEye but Electronic Arts got permission to make the next James Bond game (007: Tomorrow Never Dies). As with many spiritual successors, the solution is to lose the name and make the game anyway, which led to Perfect Dark that turned out to be a critical success despite not having anything to do with 007.

8. Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFgusTYInas[/embedyt]

Inspired by ICO (2001)

Originally kind of intended to be a sequel to ICO, the same development team set out to make a new game after the release of ICO. A new story with new characters but with similar gameplay and aesthetic, Shadow of the Colossus is very nearly a sequel to ICO, which makes it a spiritual successor as those who enjoyed the first game will love this one too.

9. Bioshock (2007)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGMzkNApMUI[/embedyt]

Inspired by System Shock (1994)

The original System Shock was the first 'intelligent FPS'. Before it, first-person shooters were just go around and shoot things. Not much story, no real thinking, just shoot the monsters. System Shock changed all that and what followed was a bunch of other 'intelligent FPS' games like Half-Life, Deus Ex, Thief, Dishonored, and quite notably Bioshock. All these games mentioned are basically spiritual successors to System Shock but the first Bioshock really took its inspiration to heart and created a worthy successor.

10. Dark Souls (2011)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzwnFYKNNdc[/embedyt]

Inspired by Demon's Souls (2009)

The beloved Dark Souls series isn't where it all started. Before Dark Souls there was Demon's Souls, which itself is a spiritual successor to a game called King's Field that goes all the way back to 1994. Much like the world of Dark Souls itself, the game's real life existence is built upon layers of history and a lot has been forgotten by most. Not to mention that Bloodborne that came after could be considered a spiritual successor to Dark Souls itself, it seems that the developers (From Software) have no intention on stopping when it comes to continue the 'series' with more spiritual successors. The next game on the way is Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which very well could be considered a continuation in the line of spiritual successors.

Example of an Unsatisfying Spiritual Successor

From Dust

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7NtfXxdhDU[/embedyt]

Inspired by Populous: The Beginning (1998)

Why is this not a great example of a spiritual successor? At first glance, you can clearly see the inspirations. You play a kind of god, you look after a small village using your god powers, and the levels are set on small worlds. However, what made Populous: The Beginning unique and fun was missing. It's a case of taking the wrong things from an old game and missing the good stuff. Populous was a full-blown RTS strategy game with base building, resource collection, and multiplayer whereas From Dust is kind of just a simple god-game simulation. So although the inspiration is clear, the games are different on a fundamental level, which means anyone who is a fan of Populous: The Beginning would not really enjoy From Dust because of their love of Populous. They might like From Dust for other reasons but that still makes it unsatisfying as a spiritual successor.

Which spiritual successor do you think is the best? Let us know in the comments!

The past revived!

Do you remember playing a brilliant game 20 years ago and thinking it looked great but when you try playing it today it just looks terrible? That's when a remaster might be in order. With Warcraft 3: Reforged being announced at Blizzcon, it's clear that reviving old video games is a trend that's continuing to grow. Remastering or remaking games is nothing new in the gaming world but there's a new trend recently to particularly remaster very old games. Now, I'm not talking about just re-releases where a game is released again as a 'HD edition' with slightly tweaked gameplay, all the DLC included, and more high-resolution textures. The ones I'm talking about are 20+ year old games made to be compatible with modern systems, enhanced gameplay, revived multiplayer, and added quality of life improvements to make something from a previous era feel like it was made in today's gaming world WITHOUT making it feel like an entirely new game.

Why Remastered Games Are Popular Now

1. Anniversaries

The thing about games that are 15-20 years old is that they often enjoy celebrating their anniversaries by releasing the game again. There's the Myst 25th Anniversary Collection, The Settlers 25th Anniversary History Collection, and even Age of Empires started being remastered in 2017 for its 20th anniversary.

2. Kids Who Played Those Games Are Now Adults With MONEY

Remember the video games you played when you were 12 years old? Those were the best, weren't they? Though most likely at that age you didn't have a lot of disposable income yourself. Well, 15 years later, you're now a 27 year old with a job that pays money and a remaster of your favourite childhood game comes out. That's a very likely sell and game publishers know this too.

What Makes a Great Remaster?

When it comes to remastering an old game, it's more than just creating a 'definitive edition' like many newer games do. For example, Skyrim's Special Edition or The Last of Us Remastered that made some graphical updates, a few gameplay tweaks, and maybe including all the DLC and expansions. Old games need more than that and can go one of two ways:

1. Staying True to the Original

One big point of remastering an old game is because those of us who played the game 20 years ago want to play it again, and when I say play it again I mean play the exact same thing again. Those who have gamed for long enough will experience a phenomenon—you remember a game from your past looking great but when you load it up today you are shocked by how bad it looks and plays. This is what we call a game that didn't age well, because it looked great for the time but it's ugly 10-20 years later. You want to have that same wonderous experience again, so a good way to make a remaster great is to remake everything but without changing anything. Sounds like a contradiction but we've seen some remasters that pull this off beautifully.

2. Modernising the Game into Something Kind of New

Taking an old video game and remaking it from scratch, not limited by the original. That means you can redesign levels, change the art style completely, and even rewrite the story. This is usually an attempt to create a new game for a new audience, gamers who have never played the original, and it allows game developers the freedom to make it like a game made today. The risks of doing this is that you make a game that no one recognises and it's easy to lose what made the original great in the first place.

5 Great Remasters That Stay Original

1. StarCraft: Remastered

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ypU9j4w3_w[/embedyt]

A brilliant job of remastering an old game to something that just works today. Graphics were updated without making it look too different, the multiplayer scene is revived and the remaster can cross-play with people who have the original game, and they ever added in LAN support! There is a bit of discussion on whether they should have modernised some mechanics, like increasing the limit on unit selection to more than 12, but personally I find changing things like that would fundamentally change the whole game. Sticking true to the original was the best path they could've taken in my books.

2. The Settlers History Collection

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kw_liZOW2yw[/embedyt]

Being released for the series' 25th anniversary, the History Collection is going to include all 7 games but in HD, optimised for modern PCs, and revives multiplayer. For fans of the series, this would be a good time to jump back in not only because some of the old Settlers games are hard to run on newer PCs, but also a new 8th Settlers game will be releasing in 2019.

3. Full Throttle Remastered

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNFkmjC6-aI[/embedyt]

Unlike Monkey Island (shown above), the remaster for the point-and-click adventure game Full Throttle manages to recreate all of the design but maintaining the original feel so well you might not even notice the difference until they're side-by-side. It's like they took the memory of the game (where people remember it looking and sounding great) and made that vision a reality.

4. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRw4Sz1AMVo[/embedyt]

This 3D running platformer trilogy of games is a classic and Crash Bandicoot is a legend in gaming. The N. Sane Trilogy rebuilt the game and it looks great, though the classic controls and level designs can take some getting used to, you soon get the hang of it. One issue is the hitboxes for platforms have changed from being perfect rectangles to ones with curved edges, so the remaster is actually harder to play as it's easier to slip off edges if your jump isn't quite right. Some like it and some don't, but it's still a remaster that makes you feel like you're playing the original.

5. Resident Evil 1 Remaster

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjxFtFwY6jk[/embedyt]

The series that basically invented the survival-horror genre, the original Resident Evil is a classic and the remaster overhauled the graphics while not ruining the atmosphere that was so important. Not to mention the addition of 5.1 surround sound now can make the game even more immersive and they redid the controls so it isn't as clunky and awkward, bad controls being a symptom of 90s gaming.

And Unfortunately A Recent BAD Remaster

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOEMc0pJHY8[/embedyt]

Not every remaster is successful and recently (and sadly) Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, the remaster to the 1997 original Age of Empires 1, turned out bad in so many ways:
1. It's super exclusive on the Windows Store for Windows 10 only

2. Many promises made were not fulfilled like better AI and pathfinding that are actually worse than the original

3. There's no classic mode for multiplayer or campaigns, so if you wanted to play the original experience you still have to get an old CD or something

4. Few modernisations that were sorely needed like ranked multiplayer or a replay system

5. The game was rushed into release then development was abandoned just 2 months after, leaving the game unfinished, buggy, and simply unsatisfying

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is now my go-to example of how NOT to create a remaster or remake of an old favourite video game.

5 MORE Remasters on the Horizon

Of course this wouldn't be a lasting trend if there weren't more remasters, remakes, and revivals on the way. They could turn out good or bad, but for now all we can do is keep an eye on them, so here are more to come!

1. WarCraft III: Reforged

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2zfx5hQ3CE[/embedyt]

2. Spyro Reignited

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xM5xUAuPEM8[/embedyt]

3. MediEvil Remake

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19Dj520a3Og[/embedyt]

4. Myst 25th Anniversary Collection

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IL4mfS_d2U0[/embedyt]

5. Final Fantasy VII Remake

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3sBZ5Nr4hc[/embedyt]

Which remastered video game are you most interested in playing? Let us know in the comments!

So good but so much nightmare fuel!

Horror video games are amazing. They can be one of the most unique and memorable experiences in gaming and over the past couple decades there are absolute classics that horror fans can live and relive. Not everyone is a fan though, some people just can't handle the scariness (me), the games could give you nightmares when you go to sleep (me), and playing them can feel like the most stressful thing you could possible do (yes me, I'm not very good at playing horror games, okay?). Despite those feelings though, I can't help but see beauty in the darkness and there is so much to appreciate in a really good horror game.

This is an article on horror games, scary and violent things ahead!

Why I LOVE Horror Games

It Can Be Real Art

These aren't just scary action games with zombie hordes running at you and the occasional jump scare. Horror is so much more than that. H.R. Giger, the creator behind the iconic Alien design, said:

"There is hope and a kind of beauty in there somewhere, if you look for it." -H.R. Giger

If you look into true horror creations, a lot of thought and creativity goes into making them come to life and to evoke the feelings they're meant to. H.R. Giger even has a museum for his works of art. All the good horror video games view their own designs as art too, many inspired by Giger, Tim Burton, or other notable horror designers. A favourite example of mine is American McGee's Alice (and the sequel, Madness Returns, which you can buy on Origin). A game based on Alice in Wonderland but it's turned dark and twisted, but as H.R. Giger said, there is a beauty to its horrors.
[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFrs5UGB-ns[/embedyt]

There is No Experience Like a Horror Video Game

It isn't like watching a horror film. It isn't even like going through a haunted house. You sitting alone at home (in the dark if you're hardcore) with 100% control of your character but almost paralysed in real life. You can run from a guy in a zombie costume at a Halloween event but all that physical energy is trapped when playing a video game. That tension and adrenaline has nowhere to go and it's all poured into your mind in the game. If you're into horror games you'll know that kind of rush can't come from anything else.

Why I HATE Horror Games

Stress & Fatigue

Just from a physical point, horror games stress me out! Playing a really immersive one for even an hour can mentally and physically leave me drained and that just adds another level of challenge when it comes to completing them. Of course the more hardened of you gamers wouldn't face this problem, being all tough and stuff, but after a while of playing a horror game I need to go outside and look at a flower or pet my cat or something.

Nightmares & #nosleep

The horrors during the game are one thing but do you ever get that effect where after consuming some horror media, even if you're okay during the game/film/book, later on you just aren't comfortable closing your eyes in the shower? Maybe that night when you sleep you get a nightmare inspired by the game that feels way more real than the game you played. Again, not everyone gets nightmares, but I sure do and I kind of like getting my beauty sleep.

Amazing Scary Horror Video Games (that I'll never play but still love)

1. Amnesia: The Dark Descent

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1nY_5-UrY4[/embedyt]

No horror games article can escape from mentioning Amnesia: The Dark Descent. From the setting, to the darkness, to the fact that you have to slowly and manually push and pull on doors, every bit of this game is designed to keep the tension and put you on edge. Then there's the water bit...


[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WO2SxMum20[/embedyt]

One of my favourite premises in horror games, maybe even in games overall. Without spoiling anything, your mind somehow gets transferred to somewhere else after a medical checkup and things go downhill so fast it's actually just a cliff. Robots, underwater, questions about what life and consciousness actually is—there's a lot to SOMA but also it is very scary.

3. Dead Space 1

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Secfn81KB8k[/embedyt]

The Dead Space series slowly turned into an action shooter kind of game but the first one started as a deep dark horror and kind of survival game. Set in space where you're a dude in power armour sounds okay but basically alien monster zombies come for you. It's generally agreed upon that the second game is more fun but if you're looking for a focus on horror then the first game is where it's at.

4. The Evil Within 1 & 2

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvR7-pZh_0M[/embedyt]

Filled with psychological horrors and about how the mind manifests the worst things you can think of, The Evil Within games were both loved by fans of the genre and was made by the creator of Resident Evil, so it's going back to pure survival horror.

5. Resident Evil 7

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS05LB-3W4c[/embedyt]

Speaking of RE, Resident Evil is the game series that basically invented the survival horror genre and the 7th main game in the series is just horrific. I mean, look at that video, and it comes in VR too for those of you who really have no fear.

Solution 1 : Find Not So Scary (but still good) Horror Games

Now these are games even I can play! When you want to appreciate the horror aesthetic but not actually ruin a week's worth of sleep, a great thing you can do is look for games that aren't too scary but still bring all the good things that you love about horror, like the art and atmosphere. The point of these games aren't to scare you but to immerse you in a dark but interesting world, so this is where the art of horror can shine.

1. Tormentum - Dark Sorrow

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pA2s-7DwoP4[/embedyt]

A point-and-click puzzle adventure game that's heavily inspired by the works of H.R. Giger. At first this might not look like much but when I played it I couldn't stop for some reason and ended up finishing the game. It's not a long game and most of the time you can appreciate the art and design of the environments and characters.

2. Lone Survivor

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xtt0ZezljHk[/embedyt]

A pixel art zombie survival game where you can imagine is as basically the film I Am Legend with Will Smith. You are alone and you get to decide how you want to survive. Sneak around, scavenge for things, or shoot everything in sight. The feel and design of it though is very well made and the gritty pixel art style lends itself to the atmosphere.

3. Darkwood

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3S3tmWfFACQ[/embedyt]

A unique take on survival horror with a top-down perspective. Being further away from the action and having a bird's eye view of things can cut down on the scare factor but you're not seeing everything. Your view is limited and the world is dark and full of terrors. A lot about this game will just make you feel unsettled but it's a great game and not as scary as other games in the genre.

4. Hollow Knight

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iS-v4NMQkBg[/embedyt]

One of the best metroidvanias to ever be made in my books, Hollow Knight takes you on a journey through a lost and decrepid world. It's sombre, dark, and morbid as a whole, including the visual style, narrative themes, and music. At its scariest it manages to build tension and is very creepy, but it doesn't try to scare your pants off and perfectly uses the beauty and complexity of horror aesthetics without freaking you out. Oh, gameplay is fantastic too.

5. Bloodborne

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Crk_GpxGQE[/embedyt]

Like Dark Souls but leaning more in the horror direction, the world of Bloodborne and the city of Yharnam can be considered one of the most beautiful yet morbid worlds ever created. The game is tough as nails and you will die a lot, but if you're into it you'll be left in constant awe as you explore the world of Bloodborne.

BONUS GAME! - Alice: Madness Returns

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZHFQ_oTXM4[/embedyt]

I mentioned this one at the start of this article but American McGee's Alice is such a fantastic creation it's worth mentioning again. It's not 'scary' but everything about the world and characters scream 'horror'. It's an older game but definitely worth checking out if you haven't already.

Solution 2 : Watch Someone Else Play

Pushing 'W' or forward on the analogue stick can be the hardest part of a horror game, so let someone else push it for you. You can still experience the whole thing by finding someone on Twitch or YouTube who's played through the game. Sit in the dark (if you're up to it) and join someone else on the scary adventure where they will take the brunt of the scares while you get to enjoy not only the stories, worlds, and environments but also a little bit of schadenfreude (pleasure from other's misfortune) when it comes to the streamer getting scared out of their pants.

Do you love or hate playing horror video games? Let us know in the comments!

Gaming to get into the spooky mood

Halloween is a great excuse to talk about scary games but in this article I want to focus more on exciting and fun zombie games to play. No ultra scary horrors here like Amnesia or SOMA; zombie games tend to be more action-oriented or survival-based. I've split the games to single-player and multiplayer, that way you can find the games you want most depending on whether you're feeling like playing solo or with friends. Also, even though these games are great for Halloween season, they're great to play year-round too, so let's have a look.


Single-player for some Solo Halloweening

1. They Are Billions

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MmFslPILuM[/embedyt]

Survive against waves of the zombie horde as you collect resources, build your city, and train an army. Part city-builder; part RTS; part tower defence, They Are Billions charged its way into the gaming scene and was an instant hit with its high level of difficulty and unique zombie steampunk setting. You will die a lot in this game especially when you're learning the ropes but there's something about trying to build the perfect base and defences then watching the almost fluid-like zombie horde crash upon your walls and disintegrate. Few games can provide that satisfaction.

2. Graveyard Keeper

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd5S5rlKf_M[/embedyt]

Think Stardew Valley but alongside managing a farm you develop a graveyard. Set in medieval times, there are obvious inspirations from Stardew Valley with farming, fishing, dealing with the locals, and even dungeon crawling, but this has the addition of corpses as a resource and burning 'witches' at the stake. Not a scary game but a perfect one to chill and relax with around the Halloween period.

3. Organ Trail

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6P3vsdi1MFU[/embedyt]

No, I didn't mean Oregon Trail, this is a journey with significantly more dead and it's not just because of dysentery (although there is still dysentery). Styled after the original 1985 game Oregon Trail, here's a retro-themed zombie apocalypse that plays the same but with more gameplay mechanics and zombies. Scavenge for supplies, manage your resources, travel across the US, fight off bandits, upgrade your car, and put down infected party members. If you're feeling old school, give this a shot.

4. Plants VS Zombies 1 & 2

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=060ua2qSd9w[/embedyt]

On the more casual side but still in the zombie mood, Plants VS Zombies (PVZ) can be fun and there can be surprising depth behind it's cute visuals. PVZ is a massively popular game and you've probably already heard of it if not played it, but it's good for some nice chill gameplay especially if you're on the go and only have your phone with you. Maybe something to play while waiting for a Halloween party to start?

5. Dead Rising 1 & 2

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILwLoR3OFU4[/embedyt]

Over the top, hilarious, and insane, the first two Dead Rising games are known to be fun and action packed. 'Creativity kills' here with ridiculous weapons and using the environment in novel ways to clear the zombie horde. A good and funny zombie game is hard to come by, which is probably why the 3rd and 4th game in the series aren't so well liked, but this kind of 'lighthearted horror' is perfect for the season and the 2nd game even has 2-player co-op if you want to team up with a friend.

6. Resident Evil

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjxFtFwY6jk[/embedyt]

The game that defined 'Survival Horror', there are now a lot of Resident Evil games out there. Many are critically acclaimed and loved by the community (some aren't as loved, so check reviews before buying) and there's even a remake of the absolute favourite 1998 Resident Evil 2 in the works set for 2019. If you've never played one before, the first game got a HD remaster, and if you're a fan maybe you could go back to the start and relive the nightmare.

Multiplayer & Co-op to Survive with Friends

1. Left 4 Dead 1 & 2

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jz6FCFoL3k4[/embedyt]

Probably the best and most fun zombie game to play with friends ever, team up and shoot your way through the undead, working together and keeping each other alive. You and up to three friends against a post-apocalyptic world is a great experience with the story, five expansive campaigns, and a ton of weapons. It's an older game at this point with the sequel being a decade old but if you've never played it or haven't in a long while, you can try another run. It's super cheap on Steam too and often goes on sale, so that's not an issue either.

2. The Forest

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6l09tvwt1A[/embedyt]

You and a few others have crashed on a mysterious island and need to build a base, fight off local cannibals, and uncover the mysteries around you. Don't worry, the zombies will show up before long and soon you'll be surrounded by monstrosities. This game was in development for a long time and wasn't all that great at the start. Now, however, it's grown into something quite epic. It's a large island with lots to see and do, so you could go it solo but embarking on this adventure with a few friends makes it all the more fun.

3. Dying Light

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VkS3beywvk[/embedyt]

If you don't remember this one from 2015, it's the one with parkour and zombies. The sequel is in the works but what sets this one apart is not just the fast-paced movement but also the day/night cycle where you dominate when the sun is up but at night the zombies can parkour too. It's another one you can play by yourself but 4-player co-op is available for the story campaign and special co-op challenges and see which of you is better at surviving until dawn.

4. State of Decay 2

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjLOFZjGClY[/embedyt]

A zombie survival game where 4 players can build a community of survivors, establishing a base, developing abilities, and manage resources in a world where your choices will have consequences. Politics come in when it comes to making allies and every step comes with risk and reward. A word of warning though, this game is known to be a bit buggy and might not be as refined as it should be. Check reviews before buying then at least you can go in knowing what you're up against.

5. Killing Floor 2

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM-cRB3-DDA[/embedyt]

6-player co-op and 12-player versus survival mode make this a good one for zombie multiplayer and you can actually play the 'Zeds' (zombies) now. It's an action packed one with lots of over the top gore, as you can see from any of their trailers, and Halloween themed events makes this even more of a pick for this season. The game is very well liked and if you're into this kind of thing you can see why. Polished gameplay, constant updates, and somethings that doesn't take itself too seriously. A good one to jump into for an action, shooty, zombie game.

6. Call of Duty: Black Ops IV Zombies Mode

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQ-vta0oFDw[/embedyt]

A new Call of Duty is on the way and there is much hype for Black Ops 4, which is also including a zombie mode that you can check out this Halloween. A new cast of characters and three separate zombie-themed experiences will be available at launch and it looks like it might be able to set itself apart in its own unique way. Call of Duty games aren't always the best of the best in the games industry though and some are definitely better than others. A safe bet would be to check reviews before buying, but with a good group of friends any zombie game can be a thrilling experience.

A Note on The Walking Dead by Telltale Games!

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtkkHAmgYWs[/embedyt]

Telltale games... if you haven't heard, the iconic adventure games studio has recently gone bust, leaving many game series up in the air without a conclusion. Most notably, The Walking Dead adventure game is in its final season and it's unclear if the end of the game will ever be made. Recent reports now say Skybound will pick up the series and finish it, but new developers half way through the season could change things up. Either way, right now it's an amazing game with a great zombie apocalypse story without an ending, which isn't the worst thing in the world. If you're okay with that, give it a play, but if not then keep an eye on the news to see if the new studio does a good job completing it.

What is your favourite zombie video game of all time? Let us know in the comments!

Games everyone will enjoy together!

Holiday season is approaching! Whether you're having a party for Halloween, Christmas, New Years, or maybe just your birthday, video games can be a great thing to have to get the room having some fun. When you're hosting a party a lot of video games might seem like a good idea when it comes to getting the room excited and entertained, but are they really the best choice? Not everyone coming is going to be the same kind of gamer you are, games that might seem simple to you would be super confusing to others, and even if they're great games they might not be that great for those who aren't playing and just watching (remember, you only have so many controllers).

What Makes a Good Party Video Game?

That's an image from Overcooked 2, which is a perfect choice for a party video game, but it'll be helpful knowing what to look for in one and some examples of what NOT to play at a party. To narrow our search for great party games, here are the 6 elements that I think make a good one:

1. Multiplayer

The new Spiderman game is pretty fun right? Everyone loves Spiderman too! Not everyone is going to love watching you play it by yourself though. Your party isn't your Twitch channel, you have to get at least two people playing a game otherwise it'll be hard getting a room of people into it. So NOT Spiderman or God of War!

2. Short

You need to boot up games that don't take 60+ hours to play. Games should have short matches that don't last long allowing people to switch up who's playing or stop any time to get a drink. If you open up Stardew Valley, it'll take hours to make significant progress. So NOT Stardew Valley or Factorio!

3. Fun & Funny for Others Watching

No matter how many people can be playing at the same time, if your party has over 4 people it's likely not everyone is going to be able to play at the same time. This means that those standing behind the couch need to be able to watch the screen, cheer people on, and get sucked into the game too. So NOT Divinity: Original Sin or ARMA!

4. Easy for Non-gamers to Understand & Get Into

If you can't explain the game in a single sentence, it's probably too confusing a game. You need to be able to tell people who not only haven't heard of that game before but maybe don't play ANY video games. If understanding the story, setting, or characters is absolutely essential to enjoying the game, it's not a good choice. So NOT Portal 2 or Dark Souls!

5. Not So Serious or 'Hardcore'

Few things are worse than gathering a bunch of friends together and wanting to show off a cool new game and you boot up something like A Way Out. That's an amazing co-op game but a total buzzkill for a party and you can bet most people in the room would tune out. It's a party, not serious emotional feelings time. So NOT A Way Out or Unravel Two!

6. Competitive

A great way to make sure a game will engage your party members is to choose games that have at least a slight competitive element to them. This will allow people to try and best each other for top spot and people watching can root for those playing. So NOT Terraria or Don't Starve Together!

4 Games That Fit The Bill

So for every game you consider for your party, think of the 6 criteria and see if it's a good choice. Let's have a look at 4 games I think rank well:

1. Rocket League (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYpEGBrv64E[/embedyt]

Straightforward, short, and extra flashy with fast cars and rocket boosting! Total support for local split screen co-op and VS modes make this a flexible choice too depending on how many people want to play and how they want to play. Even if you're not a football fan, turning players into cars seems to remove the 'seriousness' of the sport and make it an entertaining match for everyone (even if they're bad at driving virtual cars).

Multiplayer? - 2-4 split screen local multiplayer
Short? - Each round is only a few minutes
Fun for Watchers? - Fast, exciting, and flashy
Easy to Understand? - "It's football with cars"
Not serious? - It's football with cars!
Competitive? - Winner scores the most goals

2. Mario Kart 8 (Switch, Wii U)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKB9FEXhJ68[/embedyt]

A staple to any 'party video games' list and for good reason. It gets a lot of people together to race, crash, and mess with the others in some good lighthearted fun. You don't need to know all the characters to like them either, but it's almost guaranteed that everyone will know the 'mains'.

Multiplayer? - Up to 4 player local co-op
Short? - A race doesn't last too long
Fun for Watchers? - It's flashy and you can cheer people on
Easy to Understand? - "Characters race around a track and there are obstacles and powerups"
Not serious? - All good fun here
Competitive? - Only one person can get first place

3. Mortal Kombat X (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCHmqJgs1ow[/embedyt]

Okay, MAYBE a little violent and gruesome for some people, but you'd be surprised how many people will enjoy fighting and watching Mortal Kombat. The level of violence in an MK game is straight up cartoony and watching two friends rip each other's limbs off can be pretty funny... don't quote me out of context on that.

Multiplayer? - 2 players can fight each other
Short? - A match would rarely go over a couple minutes
Fun for Watchers? - Super flashy and over the top, plus they can root for their favourite player or character
Easy to Understand? - "Two characters fight to the death"
Not serious? - Although violent, there aren't really any serious feelings attached
Competitive? - Only one person can win a match

4. Overcooked (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch)

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKNrJpnyFPQ[/embedyt]

What I personally consider to be one of, if not THE BEST, party video game. Four of you can play on the same screen all trying to work together while things fall apart. Even non-gamers can get into this immediately and will be screaming and laughing at the fires breaking out, orders being missed, and onions not being chopped.

Multiplayer? - Up to 4 players on the same screen
Short? - A round is only a couple minutes
Fun for Watchers? - Stressful and funny watching a kitchen fall apart
Easy to Understand? - "You prepare and serve food in a restaurant"
Not serious? - Cute characters save the world by making burritos
Competitive? - Everyone's on the same team but you're all trying to get the highest score

More Games to Choose From

Want more recommendations? Here are a bunch more video games you can check out that might just be great for your party! Mount Your Friends, Broforce, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Nidhogg, and of course any party video games article has to mention the ever popular Jackbox Party Pack 4.

Which video game has been the BEST party experience you've ever had? Let us know in the comments!

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