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The game that gave me a heart rate warning – and four other spooky titles to play for Halloween

Never mind those first date butterflies, forget those job interview nerves – nothing gets my heart rate soaring like a good scare.

As if to prove it, I spent last weekend braving one of this year’s spookiest video games and received the first-ever heart rate alert from my Apple Watch.

Dead Space was terrifying enough when it debuted in 2008, and 2023’s remake made it even more of a fright fest.

If you’re looking for a bone-chilling experience for Halloween, here are five games to choose from on modern platforms.

Dead Space

Dead Space. Pic: EA
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‘Put your hands above your head… not like that!’ Pic: EA

There is no better place to start than with the game that made me think I might be having a medical episode.

Dead Space casts you as a starship engineer in the 26th century, stuck on an abandoned mining vessel swarming with zombie-like monsters called Necromorphs.

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Fifteen years and several generations of Xbox and PlayStation have done wonders for the visuals, and by that I mean they have made everything look all the more horrifying.

It’s hard to think of another game that boasts such disgusting enemies, or such a staggering variety of ways to kill you.

But it’s the sense of dread that really makes the scares hit home when they do arrive, with the ship you explore absolutely dripping with atmosphere.

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The stellar sound design – from your lonely footsteps and creaking doorways, to the blood-curling screams of the Necromorphs – doesn’t hurt either.

Resident Evil Village

Resident Evil Village. Pic: Capcom
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There are worse ways to wake up. Pic: Capcom

The latest in the long-running survival horror series from Japanese developer Capcom is a visual tour de force, and against all the odds it made it to the iPhone on the eve of Halloween.

Resident Evil Village hit consoles in 2021, but Apple’s new device is so powerful it now lives there too.

Give it a look and you’ll likely be gripped in no time, given its opening hour sports enough Hammer-horror-style bedlam to sustain most entire games.

Stumbling across the titular European hamlet; fighting werewolves and werewolves on horseback, and then more werewolves with big hammers; losing half your hand; being pulled through a spooky castle by two vampire ladies, dragging your character around via a pair of scythes embedded in his calves…

I mean, it’s really hard to put down.

Alan Wake II

Alan Wake II. Pic: Remedy
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Don’t you just hate it when you get lost on a countryside walk? Pic: Remedy

It’s a good week for scary games, as Village’s iPhone release came days after the long-awaited Alan Wake II.

The 2008 original was a love letter to Stephen King, casting players as a horror author whose new novel comes to life around him while he searches for his missing wife.

It became a cult classic and the follow-up has been even more warmly received, with some of the best review scores of the year.

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It is once again based in the fictitious Pacific Northwest town of Bright Falls, which would look right at home as the moody backdrop of a Twin Peaks season, and offers jump scares aplenty.

Developer Remedy’s games always wear their film and TV influences on their sleeve, and with some of 2023’s most realistic visuals, this would be a fun one to play with friends or loved ones by your side.

Five Nights At Freddy’s

Five Nights At Freddy's. Pic: ScottGames
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Not quite Winnie the Pooh… Pic: ScottGames

Between The Last Of Us and The Super Mario Bros Movie, it had already been some year for video game adaptions before Five Nights At Freddy’s stormed the box office last weekend.

If you’re new to the franchise there are plenty of jumping-in points, with nine main instalments since 2014.

Each is set around a chain of pizza restaurants and the creepy animatronic mascot Freddy Fazbear – who is best described as the Chucky of teddy bears.

The first game quickly became an internet phenomenon, with its jump scares making it a hit with streamers, but subsequent entries have continued to sell despite a mixed critical reception.

Hardcore fans enjoy coming up with theories about the series’ weirdly rich lore, as its cast of creepy characters expands.

If you want to know what all the fuss is about while the film is in cinemas, most of the series is available on smartphones for less than the price of a coffee.

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Luigi’s Mansion 3

Luigi's Mansion 3. Pic: Nintendo
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Turns out afraid Luigi is afraid of no ghosts. Pic: Nintendo

Halloween isn’t just for the sicko grown-ups among us, and Luigi’s Mansion 3 is the perfect pick for those of a more trick-or-treat age.

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Emerging from brother Mario’s shadow, the lanky, green-capped plumber gets kitted out with Ghostbusters-like gadgets and gizmos as he explores a haunted hotel to rid it of ghouls and rescue his friends.

The sheer amount of creativity displayed is delightful, with each floor of the building given its own theme. One resembles a 1980s disco, another has you exploring an overgrown greenhouse.

There are just enough gentle jump scares to give young ones a jolt, and given it’s on the handheld Nintendo Switch, they could even take it under the covers if they’re feeling brave.

But this is certainly more Goosebumps than Exorcist and reminds us Halloween can actually be rather wholesome… if you want it to be.

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