Horror games that will blow everyone away in 2018

Good news, horror fans: 2018 is shaping up to be your year. If you like building bases and fighting for survival in the face of an apocalyptic menace, you'll be busy all year. If you want to jump head first into the world of one of the most popular shows on television, enjoy a psychological thriller crafted by some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, or slow things down while exploring spooky, surreal environments, you're covered. If you love zombies, in 2018, the game industry is delivering in spades. And if you're sick of the undead, there are vampires, mutants, and all other kinds of nasties to choose from.

In short, no matter how you prefer to get your creepy-crawlies on, 2018 will have something for everyone. You just have to make one choice: which of the following games is going to scare the bejeezus out of you first?

Overkill's The Walking Dead

Like The Walking Dead's zombie hordes, Overkill's The Walking Dead is proving very, very hard to put down for good. First announced in 2014, the first-person survival shooter from the studio behind Payday and Payday 2 was originally scheduled for a 2016 release. In January, 2016, Starbreeze Studios (Overkill's parent company) pushed the game into the second half of 2017. As that timeframe quickly approached, Starbreeze announced another delay. Now, The Walking Dead will shamble onto Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC in the second half of 2018—fingers crossed.

Hopefully, it'll be worth the wait. See, Overkill's The Walking Dead isn't your run-of-the-mill zombie shooter. We've got plenty of those. Instead, The Walking Dead casts you as a survivor of the undead plague and, like the show, asks you to survive the zombie-ridden wasteland (in this case, the city formerly known as Washington, D.C.) using a combination of action, stealth, and resource management. Like Rick Grimes and his followers, you won't be going it alone, either—while you can play Overkill's The Walking Dead solo, cooperative multiplayer is the big focus here, so you better make sure your partners are trustworthy. We've all seen what happens when survivors don't get along.

Payday 2 is one of the better cooperative shooters, and if Overkill can keep some of that magic while capturing The Walking Dead's signature sense of foreboding, this could be something special. With Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman's Skybound Entertainment co-producing, we have high hopes. You should, too.

Transference

And now, it's time for something completely different. Ubisoft didn't explain much about Transference at E3 2017, but here's what we do know: it's the company's first collaboration with Spectrevision, the production company owned by Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood (who features prominently in the game's first, intentionally vague trailer). It's a virtual reality experience that bridges the gap "between movies and games." Press reports compare the game to Being John Malkovich, and the story has something to do with entering a person's (or, possibly, multiple people's) minds in order to rescue corrupted memories and discover the truth about a fractured family. There are multiple endings. The words "thriller" and "dark" get tossed around a lot.

In short, the whole thing sounds trippy and mysterious, and while nobody is clear on exactly what Transference will require players to do—although puzzles figure in somehow—the game's reveal trailer oozes style. With any luck, that'll translate into a compelling game—or, at the very least, an interesting story—when Transference arrives on the major virtual reality platforms (PlayStation VR, the HTC Vive, and the Oculus Rift) in spring, 2018.

State of Decay 2

The first State of Decay was full of great ideas. You just had to battle through a horde of glitches and bugs to find them. With the sequel, Undead Labs gets a do-over. As in the first game, State of Decay 2 forgoes active zombie hunting and asks you stay put, hunker down, and build a base that can protect you and your followers from the bands of zombies that have claimed Trumbull County.

That's easier said than done, and every choice you make has lasting consequences. For example, if you want to grow food, you need a garden. That might mean forsaking other vital structures—a guard tower, for example. You'll also need seeds and equipment, which means you'll need to lead excursions into town in order to secure supplies. Choosing which of your followers you bring along, each of whom has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, will affect the outcome of your mission. So will your approach to killing zombies: it's faster and easier to pick them off with headshots, but guns make noise that attract attention. In some cases, slow and steady might be the way to go.

That kind of variation (in addition to the procedurally-generated community members, which ensures that no two settlements will be alike) is what makes State of Decay 2 so compelling. You'll never play the same game twice. Sure, sometimes it's unfair, but that's life in the zombie apocalypse. Just try to survive, and hope for the best.

The Shattering

Most horror games look the same. The environments are dark and full of shadows where all kinds of nasty creatures can hide. There are all kinds of creepy-crawlies and countless jump scares. Eerie sounds. Lots and lots of blood.

The Shattering has none of those. Instead of a dimly lit warehouse or cabin, it takes place in a series of tranquil white rooms. There's no combat, and no monsters. You have no inventory to manage, and you can't really die.

So what, then, makes The Shattering scary? According to Super Sexy Software, which is developing the game alongside Deck 13 Interactive, it "relies on convincing us that a world filled with emptiness scares us more than a world shrouded in darkness." Players will need to find their way through each room in The Shattering's surreal dreamscape using clues you find while exploring. But as pretty as it is, the environment isn't stable—not only will objects and room layouts change as you go (sometimes in direct response to the decisions you make), but the world will actually fracture as you progress. The only way to survive is to make it through before the world falls apart completely.

The Shattering should be an interesting experiment—there's nothing out there quite like it. Hopefully, the young studio can deliver on its promises.

Metro Exodus

The Metro franchise, based on a series of novels by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, doesn't have the name recognition of games like Dead Space, Bioshock, or Alien. Metro Exodus might change that. In a post-apocalyptic world where nuclear fallout—and some nasty mutants—have forced humanity to retreat to underground subway tunnels to survive, players must help Metro: Last Light protagonist Artyom fight his way out of Moscow and cross the continent in search of a better future.

Exodus players will still need to engage in meticulous stealth-based challenges and fast-paced combat to survive, and gathering vital supplies is still a big part of Metro Exodus' core loop (from the looks of things, crafting plays a big, big role in the latest Metro adventure). But it shakes things up by combining Metro's linear levels with new, open areas for players to explore. It's an ambitious game, especially for a small studio, but 4A Games—a self-described underdog—insists it's up to the task. Judging by the reaction to Metro Exodus' show-stealing E3 demo, we're inclined to agree.

Resident Evil 2 Remake

First, a caveat: nobody is sure that the Resident Evil 2 remaster will come out in 2018. It just seems likely. For one, producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi says the game will be out "soon." For another, 2018 is the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation classic. That's no guarantee, but next year seems like the perfect time for Capcom to release the hotly-anticipated remake—something Capcom surely knows very, very well.

In any case, whenever it comes out, expect Resident Evil 2 to continue the tradition of high-quality RE remakes that started with 2015's Resident Evil HD Remaster and continued in 2016 with Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster. But don't expect the same game you played in 1998. According to Capcom, Resident Evil 2 is being rebuilt from the ground up, with brand new graphics, audio, and gameplay (the original game's voice actors won't return, either).

Hopefully, that'll also mean that Capcom will eliminate the cumbersome "tank controls" that aged the original prematurely (both Resident Evil and Resident Evil 0's recent remasters feature a new, modern control scheme). Otherwise, "if it's not broke, don't fix it" seems to apply: Resident Evil 2, which details Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield's attempts to escape the zombie-infested Raccoon City, is the best of the classic RE titles. Fans want a remake for a reason, and if Capcom can stay true to the game's roots while bringing some of Resident Evil 2's quirks into the modern age, they'll have a sure-fire hit on their hands.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

If Netflix's record-breaking Castlevania series has you jonesing for a fix of gothic Belmont-on-vampire action, well, you're out of luck. The last entry in the storied franchise was 2014's Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, and the last traditional, 2D Castlevania installment, Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth, launched all the way back in 2009. Despite the animated series' success, Konami doesn't seem to have any more Castlevania projects on the horizon.

Thankfully, longtime Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi has you covered. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night isn't an official Castlevania game, but it might as well be. Like Castlevania, Bloodstained stars a cursed protagonist (Miriam, a young alchemist who's slowly turning to crystal) who explores a spooky castle filled with demons and secrets. As you explore, you'll find items and unlock skills that'll help you reach previously inaccessible areas of the castle in your quest to find the summoner Gebel, who holds the key to lifting Miriam's curse—and who has been completely corrupted by the forces of evil.

According to hands-on reports, you'll amass a wide array of weapons and face all kinds of monstrous foes in your journey, while robust RPG-like levelling and crafting systems will ensure that Bloodstained never gets old. And yes, while Bloodstained is a Kickstarter-backed game, don't let recent disappointments like Mighty No. 9 and Yooka-Laylee turn you off: despite previous promises, Igarashi and his crew recently delayed the game until 2018 in order to make sure Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night lives up to its potential. "At the end of the day," Igarashi says, "I want to go with the quality. This is important to me."

Dead Matter

Quantum Integrity Software might be a small operation—representatives say the company only has 10 employees, and no office—but they talk a big game. On Dead Matter's Steam Greenlight page, Quantum Integrity claims that Dead Matter will be "the definitive zombie survival game," and will let you enjoy the undead apocalypse however you see fit. Maybe you're a homebody who wants to build an impenetrable base, and otherwise be left alone. Maybe you want to roam the wilds, picking off zombies and scrounging for supplies. Maybe you want to team up with friends to become a multi-man wrecking crew, bashing heads and taking names.

Dead Matter will let you do all of that, at least in theory. And it's not like Quantum Integrity came out of nowhere—Dead Matter has been in production for years. It started in 2013 as a mod for Crysis 2, hit Steam Greenlight in 2016, and recently whizzed past its $47,734 Kickstarter goal. When the final product arrives (a basic version is expected in early 2018), Quantum Integrity promises the game will include a deep crafting system, an explorable open world based on real-life Alberta, Canada, fully-functioning medical and electrical systems, hunting and farming, random events driven by advanced artificial intelligence, and more. Fighting off zombies never sounded more fun.

Code Vein

Mix Dark Souls with vampires, and what do you get? Okay, well, Bloodborne. Throw in some anime-inspired art, however, and you end up with Code Vein, the upcoming horror-action title from Bandai Namco.

Code Vein wears its influences on its sleeve—producers aren't shy about evoking the Souls comparison, and why should they be? Dark Souls' combat is just as thrilling as it is difficult, and you'd be hard pressed to find a better model for an action-RPG. But Code Vein isn't just a knockoff—that's where the vampire element comes in. Players can suck their enemies' blood and then use the super-charged fluid to unleash special attacks, buff their characters' stats, and access all kinds of other supernatural powers.

Oh, and by the way, Code Vein is spearheaded by Hiroshi Yoshimura, the same man responsible for the God Eater series, which brought an in-depth storyline and an all-new style to a typical Monster Hunter-like adventure. Expect Yoshimura to adapt the Souls formula in the same way. While Souls' intentionally obtuse storyline, which requires players to explore and piece together the story on their own, is one of its big selling points, sometimes you just want to sit back and enjoy the ride. By all indications, Code Vein will let you do exactly that.

Days Gone

If you've ever watched Sons of Anarchy and thought it'd be better with monsters, then Days Gone is for you. The upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive details the adventures of a biker-gang-turned-survivalist group in the Pacific Northwest in an open-world adventure that takes cues from Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto, and The Last of Us. As Deacon St. John, you'll traverse the decimated Pacific Northwest's varied terrain by motorcycle, attacking enemy outposts while making sure your gang remains on top.

The monsters will make that difficult. Set two years after a plague ravished the Earth and killed most of humanity, the world of Days Gone is filled with zombie-like creatures called Freakers. The Freakers aren't your typical undead foes, either. They don't shamble or shuffle, they run—and they're damn fast. In addition to his human enemies, St. John will need to outmaneuver and dispatch swarms of hundreds of swarmers, all while making sure he's got the resources he needs to fight another day. While the specifics of Days Gone's story remain elusive, the technology on display in the demos is undeniably impressive, and we're looking forward to learning more about this one before its assumed 2018 release.