5 spooky, cozy horror games to try this Halloween

These spooky (but not scary) video games are perfect for having a cozy night at home this Halloween.
Cozy Horror Games for Halloween - The Past Within

It’s a magical time of year for Halloween lovers, with pumpkins and spiderwebs to be displayed, costumes to be worn and sweet treats in abundance. Even if you aren’t the type to go all-out and head to a party with friends or trick-or-treat with family, there’s enjoyment to be had in soaking up the festive feelings with some horror games.

With a quiet night at home and a good game, you can immerse yourself in all the spooky season goodness, without the mental effort of social interaction. If you’re too afraid to dive into the hardcore horror genre, though, it can be tricky to find games that scratch the itch.

To help with your decision fatigue, we’ve put together a selection of low-stress, low-fright games – we’ll even go so far as to label them as part of the ever-so-difficult to define ‘cozy game’ genre – to help you get into the Halloween spirit. 

We’ve ranked them out of five for their level of scariness, to ensure you’re making a well-informed choice in relation to how much spookiness you can handle. We’ve also included some short and sweet options, so if you’ve left your festivities to the last minute, there’s still time to have a complete, creepy experience in one night.

Birth (2023)

Platforms: PC and Xbox
Playtime: 1-2 hours
Terror level: 👻

Birth is a short adventure puzzler by solo-developer Madison Karrh where you explore the desaturated streets of a quiet city, solving puzzles in the stores and apartments you encounter. Each completed room rewards you with a bone or organ, and the sum of these spare parts will eventually become your new friend – the protagonist of this story is very lonely, you see.

The cityfolk, dressed neatly in their Sunday best, all have animal skulls for heads, but they’re very much alive … just don’t expect them to talk to you. You’ll encounter lots of insects, eyeballs, skeletons and potions on your exploration of the coffee shop, library, apothecary and more. It’s all very suggestive of spookiness without ever being scary. 

With its romantic hand-drawn art style and melancholic soundtrack (including original music and a well-placed guest appearance from Debussy’s ‘Clair De Lune’), Birth’s overall atmosphere lulls you into a meditative state where you can slowly work your way through the simple yet satisfying puzzles.

Play Birth on PC and Xbox.

Monster Prom 3: Monster Roadtrip (2022)

Platforms: PC and Nintendo Switch
Playtime: 1+ hours per playthrough
Terror level: 👻

Monster Roadtrip is a narrative survival adventure with dating sim elements that can be played in single or multiplayer modes. You need to manage your resources, and the whims of your mythical travel companions, in order to make it to one of a number of end destinations. If you run out of resources before then, it’s game over.

This may not seem like an obvious cozy game, but with its quippy dialogue and overall cartoonish vibes, it certainly evokes warm, fuzzy feelings. It’s reminiscent of a cheesy teen movie, which is a staple for any Halloween movie night, crossed with the cartoons you likely raced home from school to enjoy as a kid. 

You might have already heard of the first two entries in the Monster Prom dating sim series and Monster Roadtrip does include references to the previous games, so you may wish to start from the beginning. Any of them would be perfect to play for Halloween, but we’ve specifically selected the third instalment for one particular reason.

The developers, Beautiful Glitch, have just released a free update in collaboration with Cult of the Lamb – another spooky, cozy game that you’ve no doubt already heard of, after its smash success – where you can date the famous cult leader, The Lamb. If you want to play a somewhat demonic but lighthearted and scare-free game, this is the one.

Play Monster Prom 3: Monster Roadtrip on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Strange Horticulture (2022)

Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch and Xbox
Playtime: 6+ hours
Terror level: 👻👻

Strange Horticulture is about as cozy and Halloween-y as a game can get. You play as a horticulturalist who has inherited a small shop in the gloomy town of Undermere from their recently-deceased uncle, and now has to take over the duties of its operation. Surrounded by plants, parchment and jack-o’-lanterns, you work away with the quiet companionship of your black cat, Hellebore.

Running the shop is a blissfully simple existence, listening to the sound of the pouring rain outside as you tend to your pot plant garden and helping customers to find the correct plants to remedy their problems; be that strange dreams, or a lock that needs picking. You can use the hints in the letters you receive, in conjunction with the map, to find new plants and expand your business – but only if you’ve gathered enough of ‘The Will to Explore’.

Just for that extra layer of creepiness, there’s also an ancient occult mystery afoot in Undermere, and you can investigate it by piecing together little snippets of information you gain from your customers. It’s a cleverly told narrative, with plenty of lovingly-written documents and dialogue to enjoy, and room for you to use your imagination to fill in the gaps as you ponder the mysteries.

Play Strange Horticulture on PC, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox

The Past Within (2022)

Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android
Playtime: 2 hours per playthrough
Terror level: 👻👻👻

The Past Within, from the makers of the Cube Escape/Rusty Lake series, is a unique co-op escape room-style experience where two players team up to solve puzzles on alternate timelines. You need a trusted friend and two copies of the game on separate devices, as it functions completely without an internet connection.

Upon launching the game, you are asked to select the same symbol, a butterfly or a bee, and the opposite timeline, either The Past or The Future. From there, your worlds will be aligned and you can work together to uncover the mysteries of Albert Vanderboom.

The puzzles are not only a test of your wits, but an exercise in communication and coordination because you need information visible only to your partner to unlock the hatches and activate the carefully concealed mechanisms that will lead to your success. You can do this via voice or text chat, or in person … but no peeking!

You don’t need to have any prior knowledge of the Rusty Lake universe to enjoy The Past Within, as it’s all rather cryptic anyway, and the communication-based puzzling is a real treat. It might not look like a cozy game beyond the art style in The Past, and there are appearances from shadowy figures and objects of a visceral nature, but having another player to hold your hand through the experience ensures that any creepiness is kept at bay.

Play The Past Within on PC, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android.

Bonus Entry: Cube Escape Collection (2015-2020)

If you don’t have a friend to play with, you can still enjoy Rusty Lake’s unique brand of escape room puzzling by yourself with the Cube Escape series that started it all. Each title offers short, digestible puzzling in spooky-cozy settings, such as a windmill, a lake house or a birthday party. However, don’t let its outward appearance fool you: these are not, we repeat NOT, jumpscare-free, so only give them a try if you’re feeling brave.

Read: Rusty Lake’s Cube Escape games still haunt me

The Cube Escape games were originally available for free as browser-based titles, until the death of the Flash Games era, but you can still access them for free on iOS and Android, either as a collection of the first nine games in the series, or by individually downloading all eleven free titles. Alternatively, if you prefer to play on PC, you can support the developers by purchasing the paid bundle on Steam.

Play the Cube Escape Collection on iOS, Android, and PC.

Dredge (2023)

Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch

Playtime: 10+ hours

Terror level: 👻👻👻👻👻

Okay, technically Dredge could be called a horror game – so consider this the option to choose if you want to challenge yourself – but it has the makings of a cozy game too, we promise. It also won Game of the Year at the 2023 SXSW Sydney Game Awards recently, so you know it’s a good catch.

In this single-player fishing adventure with a sinister undertone, you captain a fishing trawler and explore the waters around a remote island to find your daily catch. By day, this is a mostly peaceful experience, hauling up fish and managing your inventory. If you’re not back on dry land by nightfall though, things start to feel more menacing and life-threatening. Two words: big fish.

Read: DREDGE review – An inescapable siren song

The routine of catching more and better fish to sell to the island locals, completing quests to learn more about the mysteries of the area and slowly upgrading your trawler all give Dredge that addictive cozy game quality. If the ominous vibes during the day are enough for you, you can make sure to return to land before sunset to avoid the worst of the terror factor … but it might be worth pushing yourself.

Play Dredge on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox.

Christie McQualter is a Melbourne-based journalist, specialising in games. She has a particular interest in playing indie games in hopes of finding a hidden gem – though she has endured many strange adventures in the pursuit of doing so. You can find her sharing her love for The Witcher 3, 2000s nostalgia and any game with a dog in it. Follow her at @auralynxian on socials.