[Update: In the original version of this article, we listed Slender: The Arrival as the scariest game available for the Mac. Later that day, it was released on Steam for PC only, and the previously available Mac version was discontinued. From what we could tell, the developers—Blue Isle Studios—weren't able to learn how to make it work properly on the Mac. So be it. As such, we've replaced that entry with Anna, and adjust our rankings.]
Hopefully trick or treat is over by now and you were able to get rid of all those Necco Wafers. This past weekend may have been your costume party, too, and now you can go another year without having to dress up like the undead (or, if you’re a lady, the sexy undead). This means you have until Thursday, October 31st to do nothing more than scare the bejeezus out of yourself, and there’s no better way to do that than with the five scariest Mac games you can play alone in the dark.
[Editor's Note: Alone in the Dark is not one of the five scariest Mac games you can play alone in the dark.]
Horror movies are one thing, but do you really want to go through another Friday the 13th or Pumpkinhead marathon? Even when horror movies are scary, it’s still just you staring at a TV screen. With Mac games, you’re involved. It’s not some dumb teenager walking into a darkened basement with an untested flashlight, it’s you walking into a darkened basement with an untested flashlight, and you may or may not be a dumb teenager. I try not to judge.
So, if you really want to give yourself a fright, turn off the lights, put on a good pair of headphones, and play one (or more) of these horror games on your Macintosh.
5. Anna – Extended Edition
Developer: Kalypso Media, GmbH
You know what just sounds scary? A sawmill. I’m all for exploring derelict buildings, but if I learn after ascending/descending a few flights of stairs that said building a sawmill, I’m heading back the way I came. I didn’t with Anna, and therefore found myself exploring a creepy old house attached to a creepy old sawmill that provides quite a few good startle moments, if not much of a coherent story to tie it all together.
I originally left Anna off this list because I haven’t played the extended version, which offers new environments and puzzles, enhanced graphics, and more clues as to what’s going on around you. Considering the game has eight possible endings, however, it could certainly be worthwhile to take another trip into the sawmill even having completed the original.
That, and I can’t think of a better way to spend Halloween than discovering just what “The Wife Doll” is. You can do the same by grabbing Anna – Extended Edition from the App Store.
4. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Developer: The Chinese Room
Bill Stiteler recently reviewed this game for us, and said:
The setup: you awake in your dark mansion in bed. Your bed is surrounded by a cage. You hear the voice of your children calling out, asking you to find them. Skulking about the halls, attics, and basements with little more than a lantern, you start to get mysterious phone calls explaining your children are in danger, and to save them, you must restart The Machine. There are monsters. There are no weapons, and your lantern gives your location away. You must run and hide to survive. The game is so dark (that is, dimly lit) and sound is so important to hearing the monsters that pretty much the only way you can play is in a dark room with headphones on.
Does that description make the game sound intriguing? It hits the mark of scary amazingly well, so well that I dreaded booting up the game, and found each creak of the floorboards and unidentified rattle down the hall deeply unsettling.
You can find out just how unsettling amnesia (and machines for pigs) can be by visiting thechineseroom.co.uk.
3. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Developer: Frictional Games
While we’re suffering from amnesia, we may as well attempt to recall The Dark Descent from 2010. I braved this one for our AppleTell review, and said:
As is implied by the title, your character, Daniel, not only has amnesia, but he’s also on a (get this) dark descent. The descent is through a castle, and yes, it’s dark. Very dark, and not just in gamma. The story is dark, your character is dark…this is not a happy game. As per usual, who you are and why you’re there is revealed slowly through journal entries you find and memories that return as you progress deeper through the castle. But not everything is left up the imagination. Along the way, you’ll see some pretty horrific things. Amnesia is not a game for those with a week constitution.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent achieves most of its scares by building a sense of dread as you play through it. There are disturbing images and plenty of startle moments, but its true ability to creep you out comes from those moments when you’re trying to find your way around or to solve and puzzle when you just know that at any moment you’ll be detected and have to run for your life. Doing so can be frustrating, but perhaps that just adds to the sense of dread. Find out for yourself at www.amnesiagame.com, if you dare!
2. The Last Door
Developer: The Game Kitchen
Price: Free to play unlocked episodes, donations required for current episode
Before we get too far in this game’s description, take a look at the screen capture below:
Yes, those are the actual graphics in all of their pixelated gory…I mean glory. And if you think a game with primitive graphics can’t be haunting, then…well, compare The Haunting with the remake and let me know which was the scarier of the two, despite the special effects.
Or, you could just read what Bill Stiteler has to say about the game.
The Last Door plays it very low key. There are no monsters to kill, only obstacles to overcome and a sense that bigger things are moving just below the surface. It is, nonetheless, disturbing. The first episode (available to play for free on the game’s website) is full of scenes of cruelty, and you then find notes left by the victims that will make it even worse once you realize what happened. You’ll also have to discover a very nasty way to attract a cat.
The game makes extensive use of flashbacks, dream sequences, and strong writing to take these pixelated characters and invest them with enough character that the horror of the situation (once revealed) really lands.
The Last Door…some pixels are born bad.
1. The Walking Dead
Developer: Telltale Games
By now, everyone is well aware of The Walking Dead, either through the graphic novel, the TV show, or this fantastic series from Telltale Games. Yes, it has zombies, but like the source material, the real horror comes not from having to fight them off, but from having to deal with other human survivors and with the choices you make that affect them, and yourself.
Again, the AppleTell review(s) came from Bill Stiteler.
There is no shortage of video games featuring zombies. Some force you to think your way around battles, hoarding every bullet, while others are run and gun mayhem fests where you mow down fields of the undead. The Walking Dead by Telltale Games is something different, taking the popular comic book/TV show and fusing it with the classic point and click adventure game. It’s not a horror game because things come crashing through windows (though that happens), but because you’re constantly being placed in the position of having to make a choice, and live with the consequences.
Taken as a whole The Walking Dead may not represent a great leap forward for gaming: the puzzles are beyond simple, combat is extremely forgiving (even if you die, the game restarts at the point you screwed up), and even in the life-or-death decisions you make, you’re choosing between a set of largely interchangeable characters. But in terms of interactive storytelling that feels like your decisions have weight, it’s simply astonishing. The emotional investment I had in these characters and their safety gave the final scenes an emotional punch I haven’t felt from a game in a very long time.
In other words, this is a horror game that’ll stick with you well after you’ve turned the lights back on and shut off the computer. Are you brave enough for that? Find out by visiting www.telltalegames.com.
Good luck surviving these games, and from all of us at Appletell…