We are in the throes of spooky month and you know what that means: all the Halloween content. Developers love incorporating holiday themes from real life to add a little bit of spice to their games. It can be an easy-themed level to put the player in a particular mindset, it can be an update to celebrate the season, or it can be an entire game that is trying to showcase its spooky nature.
However, I’m not trying to pick games that are scary. Instead, I want games that would fit in at a Halloween celebration. Show me the jack o’lanterns, bobbing for apples, candy, and cheesy decorations. These are the elements that scream Halloween and not just a horror game. Grab your bags and let’s ring the bell of our first entry.
Auburn Hollow – Costume Quest
What can be more Halloween than an entire town dressed to impress in its Halloween best? Costume Quest is all about the holiday spirit from its core concept to its setting. Auburn Hollow is a little suburban town that sees our heroes wandering around in their costumes with the freshly fallen autumn leaves setting the backdrop nicely. Houses are covered in pumpkins, cobwebs, jack o’lanterns, and other Halloween props.
There is no other game quite like Costume Quest as it makes you feel like you really are reliving some of your childhood memories of begging strangers for candy. The neighborhood is almost entirely overrun by children in costumes looking to satisfy their sweet tooths and living their best haunted hollow lives.
The Mansion – Luigi’s Mansion
Luigi’s Mansion took one of the most timid characters in Nintendo’s lineup and put him in a cartoon spooky setting with his own mansion. This haunted house has all the stereotypical trappings of a Halloween haunted house that you might see at a fair with cobwebs, creaky doors, and ghost babies that try to kill you. Like I said, all the usual stuff.
Luigi’s mansion might not be decked out with orange and black, but it certainly meets the aesthetic of a game that I could see being represented in a classroom Halloween party. The charming yet creepy nature of the ghost family helps to elevate this game. It walks the line between being too scary for kids and being cartoony and friendly enough where even a kid can conquer the shadows. And isn’t that what Halloween is really all about?
Haddonfield – Dead by Daylight
Nothing can be more terryfing than the familiar becoming a place of terror. Haddonfield represents that philosphy by turning a quiet suburban neighborhood into a place of horrors as the survivors must struggle to stay alive among the pumpkins and swingsets as killers chase them down. A quiet town settling during a night around Halloween is a great inclusion in this game meant to collect iconic horrors.
It’s all the more horrifying when you realize that some of the most blood-curdling villains have been rounded up in the game, and your childhood monster might just be the one chasing you through the house that resembles your grandmother’s. Haddonfield could even be a complete retelling of Halloween if you are lucky enough. What better way to celebrate the holiday than to be chased down and hung up like a fish by Michael Myers? Well, I can think of a few things, but for the masochists out there…
Mad Monster Mansion – Banjo and Kazooie
Banjo and Kazooie has some fantastically themed levels, but Mad Monster Mansion is definitely one of the better ones. The level takes place on the grounds of a mansion that is filled with ghosts and ghouls. It’s your job to go around and clean up the Jiggies and Jingos from their hiding places which will require coming face to face with disembodied hands and venturing into a haunted maze where ghosts glide in and out of the walls.
There is a lot to appreciate in this level, but the highlight has to be the Mumbo Jumbo transformation where Banjo will become a little pumpkin. The pumpkin allows Banjo to access areas like the toilet’s pipes and a sewer drain. Plus, every time the pumpkin hops around, its carved top will separate from Banjo for just a moment. It’s cute, and I won’t hear you tell me otherwise.
Level 7 – Simpson’s Hit and Run
Simpson’s Hit and Run is a standout licensed game with some on-brand writing and great world-building throughout its playtime. The “levels” are simply a collection of missions in a certain area of the world, and it helps to designate where in the game’s timeline they are taking place. Level 7 is the last level, so everything hits the fan here because it’s revealed that aliens were behind everything! Hit and Run is great at making each proceeding level more and more ridiculous.
The missions play like something out of a Tree House of Horror special with everything having a milky green tinge to it, an organ is playing in the background, jack o’lanterns are in the Kwik e Mart, and there are a few aliens hovering around. Everything is a little extra haunted in this later section of the game, and it might be my childhood rearing its ugly head but driving around Springfield here makes me feel like wearing a sweater and sipping a hot drink — ideally not spiced with buzz cola.
Pumpkin Hill – Sonic Adventures 2
This level always stood out to me as a kid. The entire level takes place in some other dimension where pumpkins cap all the mountain peaks. The geography and look of the area almost feels like it was ripped from a children’s book, but that only adds to the feel of the level. You play as Knuckles as you search for chaos emeralds. It’s an enjoyable mission because it’s so different and transports you into the middle of October, even if it’s only February.
Trees with menacing smiles groan as you pass them. Their branches are swaying whether, by their own volition or the breeze, that’s for you to decide. The creepiest thing in this level is that the jack o’lanterns feel like they are watching your every move. Judging you based on how quickly you can find their hidden chaos emeralds.
Halloween Town – Kingdom Hearts
The Nightmare Before Christmas is THE Halloween movie, and luckily for us, it was represented in Kingdom Hearts. In the shoes of Sorra, we have the chance to explore Haloween Town as we’ve never been able to before and see Jack’s stomping ground first hand. Run around the town with Jack in tow as you meet with Boogie, the Mayor, and Dr. Finkelstein.
Honestly, the big draw of this is playing within a space that already has so much Halloween connotation wrapped up within it. The cemetery, iron gates, and other gothic and Tim Burton traits help boost the appeal. Plus, Sorra and gang will start to put on their own terrifying costumes to better fit in with this scary town. Halloween Town really is the capital of Halloween.
Big Boo’s Haunt – Mario 64
Another Haunted Mansion that’s set in the Mario universe, but this time it’s one run by King Boo himself. Mario will have to deal with ghosts coming out of the walls and eyes that follow him around the room. Not to mention the weird layout of the mansion that can turn anyone’s perception of reality on its head.
The mansion is merciless when it comes to letting you move around freely. You’ll need to avoid dark pits and be on the lookout for other avenues to traverse if you want to see the entire level uninterrupted. There is a lot to find in this small pocket dimension mansion but make sure that you watch out for the haunted piano. It won’t hesitate to take a bite out of you.
TK Baha’s Bloody Harvest – Borderlands 2
The Borderlands series loves to make themed areas in its run-down Pandora society. They even have a Halloween-esk level in The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned in Borderlands 1. Still, I think TK Baha’s Bloody Harvest does a better job at hitting multiple Halloween themes rather than just being a dark zombie island.
Bloody harvest has pumpkins, bare trees, and nearly dead people scattered across its bountiful fields. A giant full moon takes up most of the night sky, helping to remind you that you are playing during the twilight hours where the Halloween-themed enemies come out to play. My favorite part is being able to use the jack o’lantern helmet on my character, effectively making me the headless vault hunter.
Pelican Town – Stardew Valley
Few games are able to celebrate Halloween in a genuine way that looks at the holiday as a community celebration, but Stardew is able to do that and make it feel special. All through the fall season, leaves will fall from trees, squirrels will scurry looking for food, and people are out enjoying the brisk autumn air. On the 27th day, Spirit’s Eve will be celebrated in the town square.
Tables will be set with decorations, skeletons will be placed on display, and you can even run through a maze. If you manage to escape the confines of the hedges, you can win prizes like a golden pumpkin or a spooky rarecrow. It’s a night to walk among the digital spirits and enjoy the championship of your community. A true home away from home for many, I’m sure.