If you really want to be spooked for Halloween, there are few mobile games that can do the job better than Kaigan Games’s Simulacra. This is a game I included on my list of games to get you in the Halloween spirit specifically because it’s the most horrifying game I’ve played on a phone, bar none.
This is quite a feat, as mobile games general have a hard time being particularly evocative. Experiencing something on a small screen and in bite-sized chunks just can’t compete with things that you’re meant to sit and be immersed in over long periods of time on a larger screen.
What makes Simulacra work though is that it doesn’t attempt to bring a cinematic or console-like experience to the small screen. In fact, if the game were ported to other platforms, I imagine it wouldn’t be a very fun experience at all. This is because the entirety of Simulacra takes place within a simulated phone interface.
In this interface, you learn about a woman named Anna. The game puts you in the shoes of a person that has stumbled across her phone, and the point of the game is to go through everything you can find on her device to learn about her. There are quite a few games like this out on the App Store (like A Normal Lost Phone), but Kaigan Games puts a horror spin on this phone-snooping genre almost as soon as the game starts.
I don’t want to give away too any details of the game’s story, as discovering Simulacra’s plot is a very core part of the game experience, the game pulls tons of tricks on you to freak you out. Some of these are really overt, like glitched out videos of Anna freaking out and warning you of the danger you’re in. But, there are also times where things shift ever so slightly on the phone and cause you to question whether the game’s messing with you, or if you’re just seeing things.
These horror tricks, combined with the fact that you—the real person holding this simulated phone—play the role of a morbidly curious voyeur, make your time with Simulacra feel really unnerving. You’re not just watching things happen to a character you’re supposedly “playing as” and being scared by thing that happen to them. You are the main character in this story and all the scary stuff in the game is happening directly to you through Anna’s phone.
As a game, Simulacra isn’t exactly perfect. At its core, it's a puzzle game where you alternate between using common phone features like messaging apps and emails to dig up information for passwords and completing some very unrealistic hacking mini-games to restore pieces of data on Anna's phone. All of these things are fine in a mechanical sense, but the hacking moments really do a lot to take you out of what feels like a surprisingly immersive experience.
Regardless of that though, Simulacra is still a completely terrifying (and great experience). It finds a way to transform your phone into a gateway to another world, and it's not one you're entirely sure you should be looking at. If you want to freak yourself out this Halloween, play this game in a dark room with headphones on. You won't be disappointed.