October means one thing: Halloween. To celebrate, let’s explore five creepy retro PC games from the ’90s (and one from the ’00s) that are still fun to play. Best of all, they’re all available for purchase and play on modern Windows PCs. Trick or treat!
Zork Nemesis: The Forbidden Lands
This underrated, Myst-style point-and-click adventure from 1996 oozes with mystery and grim horror. It’s full of devious puzzles (including one involving a severed head; you’ve been warned) and many atmospheric locales to explore.
At the time of its release, critics noted how dramatically Zork Nemesis departed from the goofy tone of the previous Zork game, Return to Zork (although, there’s still some humor involved). The result is a classic adventure experience that sticks with you after you play it.
Of all the games on this list, you’ve probably heard of Diablo. It’s a masterful action RPG, with a dark horror-fantasy theme. It was a mainstream hit for Blizzard in 1997 (although it was released December 31, 1996). It spawned several sequels with expansion packs.
In Diablo, you’ll find plenty of creepy stuff, including crypts, undead skeletons, and dark magic. Also, the atmospheric soundtrack by Matt Uelman will sear into your memory—especially the Tristram Village theme.
The best part is you can now get Diablo and its Hellfire expansion DRM for free at GOG.
Blood: Fresh Supply
If a rollicking first-person shooter featuring a wisecracking, film-quoting protagonist sounds more like your cup of tea, we recommend Blood. Originally released in 1997 for MS-DOS by Monolith Productions, Blood combines tight controls with masterful level design.
It also has great sound effects, and creative weapons for hours of nonstop retro horror fun. And yes, there’s plenty of blood, although its campy presentation makes the gore feel strangely appropriate.
Even better, you can now purchase a 2019 remaster of the original called Blood: Fresh Supply. It runs on modern Windows PCs in widescreen and supports gamepads. So, run (don’t walk) to your nearest online game store and try Blood today. You’ll find it on Steam and GOG.
This suspenseful adventure from 2006 is set in a creepy old house. Although it’s the most recent game on the list, it already feels like a lost Windows classic. Scratches combines Myst-like first-person point-and-click gameplay with lushly illustrated, 360-degree environments.
There’s a lot to explore and plenty of puzzles to solve. It’s also genuinely terrifying at times, but without being gory or gratuitous. It’s a great choice for suspense or atmospheric horror fans.
Realms of the Haunting
There’s no doubt that 1996 was a great year for creepy MS-DOS games. Realms of the Haunting uniquely synthesizes the gameplay of several genres—first-person shooter, full-motion video adventure, and survival horror—into one glorious title.
You play as Adam Randall, who’s investigating his father’s death in a haunted mansion. Along the way, you’ll encounter wild supernatural foes and eerie puzzles, all of which are perfect for this time of year.