Three scary horror-themed iPhone games for Halloween

by Phil Hornshaw

One doesn’t usually immediately think “horror games” when picking up an iPhone or an iPad. Games on the iOS platform tend to thrive on cartoon graphics, appealing more to the Angry Birds aficionado than the Dawn of the Dead fan.

There are a number of really great and scary games in Apple’s iTunes App Store that often get overlooked. With Halloween fast approaching, here are a few games worth your time that deliver horrific atmospheres, no matter how small the screen.

When there’s no more room in Hell…

Zombie games are nothing new to the App Store. Tons of games utilize the shambling, cannibal undead as fodder for bullets and even as the stars of puzzle games. Very few actually take the zombies seriously, however, or recognize in more than a passing way their roots in dramatic horror.

That’s not the case with The Walking Dead: The Game. Telltale Games’ latest point-and-click adventure title, based on the graphic novel series of the same name, is remarkably well-written and deep. The story follows survivors in the American South as they search for a way to live through the zombie apocalypse. The Walking Dead is filled with great characters under a lot of pressure, combined with moments of think fast, frightening action.

The Walking Dead is a pretty adult game with a lot of tough moments and some gorier sequences, so it’s not for the squeamish or for children. But if you’re looking for a solidly written, well-made horror title, it’s among the best you can get on any platform, mobile or console.

In space, no one can hear you scream

One of the better games in any genre in Electronic Arts’ mobile game stable is Dead Space. Based on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC franchise of the same name, this futuristic third-person shooter is primarily about fighting alien monsters that used to be people. The deadly, disgusting mutants take over a space station, and it’s up to you to get out alive.

Dead Space’s gimmick is that its gross monsters can’t be put down with headshots. You have to dismember them, slicing off their limbs with various cutting weapons, in order to put them down for good. It makes for a different kind of strategy than most shooters utilize, and that adds to the terrifying fun. Dead Space manages to capture that “console quality” feeling with fantastic production value.

As for scares, Dead Space cakes on the atmosphere, putting players in dark corridors filled with creatures that often leap from the walls and floors, or plod forward in waves. It is often gory, so be warned. Where The Walking Dead relies more on a horror that builds as the situation gets worse, Dead Space’s scares are more of the “jump” variety, and there’s generally more action to go around.

Trapped in an abandoned asylum

Speaking of high production values, another great-looking title with a horror theme is Dark Meadow. Phosphor Games’ first-person title takes a lot of inspiration from the Infinity Blade series, with players taking on monsters with a sword, dodging their attacks and landing blows to defeat them. Most of the game is spent uncovering the mysteries hidden in the dark halls of an abandoned hospital or asylum.

Dark Meadow is an interesting title in that most of the game takes place during the day. It’s not the scariest title in the App Store, but it does manage to build an atmosphere of dread as you move through it. You will find yourself trapped in the hospital, exploring its rooms and hallways and finding shreds of evidence like newspaper clippings and notes, explaining what went on in the past. And of course, interspersed with these story elements are strange monsters hellbent on killing you.

There’s no shortage of atmosphere as you explore Dark Meadow, however, and players are led through events by a character who communicates through the hospital’s public address system. He adds another layer to the events as they’re taking place, as it’s tough to know if he’s trustworthy, or even completely sane.

If you’re looking to get into the Halloween spirit the next time you fire up a game on your iPhone or iPad, these are among the best. They’re all a little more adult than most of the fare in the App Store, and that’s definitely to their credit. If you’re serious about horror, spend your Halloween with these games.

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