It's no secret that I've long harbored ambitions to decimate the perpetual backlog of amazing video games that has trailed behind me for years. In 2022 alone, I've started and completed over 40 unique titles, and I have no intention of slowing down my persistent consumption of exciting and unique gaming experiences. For the spookiest of months, October, I aspired to continue my war against the backlog — but with a theme.
Assisted by Microsoft's expansive Xbox Game Pass subscription service and my own library of Xbox titles, I set out to only play horror, thriller, and otherwise-spooky games for the entirety of October. Not only did I manage to play more games in a single month than ever before, I also discovered that Xbox Game Pass is a paragon of value for horror fans, with many of the best Xbox horror games only a button-press away for subscribers.
My history with the horror genre
Before this year, I admittedly didn't have a lot of exposure to the illustrious horror genre of video games. I had witnessed my best friend play Bloober Team's Layers of Fear on my Xbox One S years ago, and I was familiar with infamous franchises and titles like RESIDENT EVIL, The Evil Within, Amnesia, Outcast, and more. Despite my proximity to the genre, though, I had never actually sat down and played a single horror game myself — a side effect of my past inability to complete games at all.
My renewed dedication to revisiting — and finishing — past games, as well as enjoying new releases, inevitably brought me face-to-face with the horror genre once again. In 2021, I played what may have been my first horror game with Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!, a haunting psychological experience I'm not quick to forget. I've enjoyed countless incredible gaming experiences throughout 2022, but a defining moment that will stick with me for years was my fateful introduction to survival-horror with Tango Gameworks' The Evil Within. Shinji Mikami's debut creation under his new studio, after masterminding the legendary RESIDENT EVIL franchise, is undoubtedly rough around the edges and filled with oddities. Still, I nonetheless fell in love with The Evil Within's undeniable charm and the terrifying foundations upon which its gameplay is built.
I haven't visited The Evil Within 2 yet, which is supposedly massively improved over its predecessor and sees the nascent horror franchise truly come into its own, but I was already irrevocably addicted to horror solely off what I experienced in the original. It was only a matter of time before another horror game occupied my thoughts, and I chose none other than the masterfully crafted RESIDENT EVIL 2 (2019).
I couldn't stay away from the products of Mikami's brilliant mind, apparently, as my next foray into horror was the remake of a Capcom title that helped shape the future of the survival-horror genre all the way back in 1998 — 10 days before I was born. RESIDENT EVIL 2 (2019) is visually stunning, perfectly suspenseful, absolutely horrifying, and hands-down one of my favorite games I've played all year. My transition to a horror game fan was officially complete after rolling the credits on Leon and Claire's harrowing adventure in Racoon City; horror would now be a regular rotation in my maelstrom of visited games.
Losing sleep during spooky month
I manage to avoid ADHD-related burnout while playing video games by constantly switching franchises, genres, and vibes when traveling through the backlog. If I play an emotionally-charged, narrative-heavy game, I might next detox my heart with a first-person shooter or action-adventure. If I invest dozens of hours into a JRPG, I might next wile away a handful of hours on a peaceful, cozy title. As 2022's spooky month rapidly approached, though, I decided it was necessary to deviate from my tradition and dedicate all 31 days to horror (besides a handful of days spent finishing Temtem, that is).
My first stop was none other than A Plague Tale: Requiem, a narrative-driven stealth-adventure that I reviewed for Windows Central. Requiem is the sequel and narrative conclusion to A Plague Tale: Innocence. The game earns its spot on this horror-centric list through its bleak depiction of loss and tragedy, and the terrifying hordes of up to 300,000 rats that wreak havoc and destruction throughout the entire game. It's stunning, unsettling, emotionally devastating, and one of 2022's best games. A Plague Tale: Requiem was a fantastic beginning to spooky month, and I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a game that'll play their heartstrings like a violin.
For my second game of the month, though, I wanted to play something a little more consistently horrifying. I chose Layers of Fear, the only non-Xbox Game Pass title I visited during the entire month. Due to my best friend's previous playthrough of the game on my Xbox, it was waiting in my library for me to install and play. Criticisms levied toward Bloober Team aside, I believe Layers of Fear is a generally excellent horror game with beautiful art design, fascinating themes, an intriguing narrative, and (mostly) good spooks and scares. Its Inheritance DLC is more of everything, but maybe with fewer scares than I expected.
My next selection brought me back to Xbox Game Pass for a game I had heard discussed in whispered tones among internet communities, hinting at experienced horrors. After months of quietly avoiding it, I dived headfirst into Creative Assembly's Alien: Isolation. Exploring the space station of Sevastopol as Amanda Ripley provided some of the most memorable gaming experiences of my video game career; avoiding the always-hunting Alien stalking its corridors was genuinely terrifying. I wasn't expecting Alien: Isolation to be as long as it was, but I also felt myself missing its perfectly dark atmosphere and maze of convoluted environments when the credits began to roll. Alien: Isolation is a game I'll remember fondly — and with some trepidation. Any horror fan shouldn't hesitate to add this gem to their backlog.
Alien: Isolation carried me into the second half of October, and I was surprised by my hunger for more horror games. Normally, I need to dramatically shift genres with each successive game to maintain my interest, but devoting myself and my time to horror games resulted in me wanting to play more. Next on my list was another recent release and day one addition to Xbox Game Pass, in the same vein as A Plague Tale: Requiem — IMMORTALITY.
This wholly unique thriller is truly unlike any game I have ever played, and it's likely to be unlike any game I will ever play. IMMORTALITY has players sift through hours of lost footage from three movies starring missing actress Marissa Marcel. At first, IMMORTALITY is confusing and strange, but it also provides a tantalizing mystery that's almost impossible to ignore. When I first finished it, I described Sam Barlow's latest masterpiece as "being given a giant puzzle, but you have no idea what the finished picture is." This fascinating, experimental game obsessively occupied my thoughts for days, and I have rarely felt satisfaction in gaming like the feeling of finally piecing together the puzzle and realizing what was truly happening. IMMORTALITY will certainly alienate some players with its unorthodox gameplay and delivery, but those who stick with it will be rewarded for their time and effort.
My completion of IMMORTALITY brought me face-to-face with an obvious addition to my spooky month plans: Scorn. Ebb Software's debut horror title accrued a plethora of hype leading up to its high-profile Xbox Game Pass launch, but its resulting reception was on the mixed side. Many players were expecting Scorn to be more combat-oriented, but the finished product focuses more on the puzzles and exploration than anything else. After finishing Scorn, I understand why the game is divisive — the combat is awkward, and Scorn doesn't provide any narrative tools or information to assist the player. Despite that, I adored it. Scorn's world is one of the most fascinating and horrifying I have ever explored, with a consistently stunning, unsettling, and disgusting atmosphere that likely would've won me over, even if the game didn't have a single moment of action.
My mind still reeling with Scorn-centric speculations, I then visited a horror cult classic that I still hear regularly mentioned in video game circles over a decade after its release. Amnesia: The Dark Descent recently joined Xbox Game Pass as part of the Amnesia Collection, and I simply couldn't turn down the chance to play it. While the game clearly shows its age in a variety of ways, it undeniably possesses a spooky mixture of gameplay and atmosphere that clearly shows why The Dark Descent is revered so highly by the horror community. Frictional Games made it onto my radar, with the other Amnesia titles added to the backlog, including the now-on-Xbox Amnesia: Rebirth.
With the end of October rapidly approaching, I surmised that my next title may be my last for the month, so I decided to dramatically shift gears with a comfortably creepy cozy horror adventure. Beacon Pines is not nearly as spooky as the other games I visited this month, but it is a powerfully emotional, wonderfully written, narrative-driven game that surprisingly became one of my favorite games of 2022. Beacon Pines is genuinely incredible, and is a worthy addition to a hallowed group of legendary indie games that deserve the attentions of any and all players. It would've been the perfect feel-good conclusion to my horror-laden journey. Alas, Beacon Pines proved both too addictive and too short, and I could scarcely put it down until I had 100% the game and its Achievements. Another game down, with enough time left in the month for one more title.
I decided to return to Frictional Games and their one non-Amnesia horror. SOMA is a sci-fi survival horror epic that finally arrived on Xbox in years past and is now an awesome addition to Xbox Game Pass. I certainly chose a depressing game to conclude spooky month, though, as SOMA is aggressively bleak in its atmosphere, world, and story. The surprisingly emotionally touching narrative explores the nature of humanity and the lines we draw between "human" and "other," "life" and "death." It's devastating and depressing, but it's a generally excellent title only occasionally let down by performance stutters, one or two frustrating crashes, and lackluster enemy AI. With eight new games under my belt and over 6,000 Gamerscore added to my Xbox profile, 2022's spooky month was now concluded.
Seeing the scary side of Xbox Game Pass
Looking back at the last month of intense horror-themed gaming, I've played and finished about as many games as any person could reasonably expect to do while working a full-time job to pay the bills, taking care of and spending time with the family, and living at least part of a life away from the Xbox. Despite this, my backlog of spooky games feels like it has hardly shrunk, let alone the dozens of non-spooky games I want to visit in the future.
Inside Xbox Game Pass, I still want to play The Evil Within 2, and that's before Ghostwire: Tokyo presumably comes to Xbox and Game Pass sometime in 2023. I have a taste for Amnesia games, and I now want to explore the rest of the franchise with A Machine for Pigs, Justine, and Rebirth (which is finally on Xbox and is a day-one addition to Game Pass). SIGNALIS is another day-one launch title for Xbox Game Pass, and it looks supremely interesting and mighty spooky. Who knows what else is on the horizon for Microsoft's gaming subscription? There's clearly enough horror here to entice any spooky game fan, and it's likely that more will join the service with time.
Outside of my favorite service, RESIDENT EVIL 3 (2020) is currently installed and ready to be played; I'm excited for RESIDENT EVIL 4 (2023) to arrive with the new year; and I want to explore the story of Ethan Winters with RESIDENT EVIL 7 biohazard and Resident Evil Village. This is a singular horror franchise, and it's bringing four premier gaming experiences to my backlog. Before the end of the year, The Callisto Protocol will be terrifying players all over the world, with Dead Space (2023) joining it in the bustling survival-horror genre at the beginning of 2023. Layers of Fears may signal a return to form for Bloober Team; S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl looks absolutely stunning and terrifically unsettling. How many games am I still missing?
After all this, though, the undisputed victor of 2022's epic spooky month is absolutely Xbox Game Pass. It surprised me how many of the greatest Xbox Game Pass titles fall under the "horror" umbrella, and I had no shortage of terrifying titles from which to choose during my spooky escapades. Seven out of the eight games I played in Oct. 2022 came from Xbox Game Pass (only Layers of Fear was the exception), and four of those titles were day-one launch additions to the service. I may have denied myself sleep for an entire month via the games I played, but Xbox Game Pass certainly made the strain on my wallet less frightening.
Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer primarily focused on covering the latest news, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life, and have been with Windows Central and its sister sites since 2019. While originally brought on to write about all things Minecraft, Zachary has since expanded to write about practically everything that Windows Central covers. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.
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