Horror is the staple of any media and video games often take it to a level we never imagined we would love so much. Scary video games can be ultra-immersive, and that feeling of really being there makes the horror all the more adrenaline-pumping.
Whether you are solving the latest serial murder case or wandering about a haunted asylum, the actions of the main character will feel like your own.
Sometimes that means running like hell from the scary monster, or sneaking up behind a thug and snapping his neck. Horror is here to make you question your actions in extreme circumstances and wonder if thrill-seeking is really what you are doing playing this game.
The list below contains fifty of the best scary games of all-time, going all the way back to the 90s. Though horror has come a long way since games like Alone In The Dark, it is important to see where the genre has come from, how it has grown since, and how diverse the scares have become.
Read on to see our mega list of the 50 scariest games to play, and let us know in the comments if we missed any essentials!
Silent Hill 2
Release Date: September 24, 2001
Systems: PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, PC
Horror, thy name is Silent Hill 2. The first game was good, but the second was even scarier. If you have not yet played this mark in video game history, do so now (there was a remaster for the PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2012 and it is well worth it).
The game begins with a mysterious letter from the main character’s dead wife. What is he to do but try to find his wife? If there is even a chance she is still alive, he is willing to go through hell for her — and he does. For the first part of the game, even though all you are doing is finding keys, Silent Hill is a town that will creep into your mind, not unlike the constant fog that surrounds you.
Turns out, Silent Hill really does get to your head. Everything about this game has become iconic in the horror genre, so many games paid homage to it afterward — even Resident Evil 7, with the letter from someone who is supposed to be unable to do so.
With rumors of a Silent Hill PS5 reboot swirling, you might want to go dive back into this classic horror gem right about now.
Resident Evil Series (1-4)
Release Date: March 22, 1996
Systems: PC, Nintendo DS, NES, GameCube, PSP, Wii, PlayStation, PS3
If Silent Hill defined horror, Resident Evil defined the FPS horror genre. The Resident Evil games hand you a gun, say “good luck”, and proceed to hide enemies in the worst (or best) places. The moment you think you are safe, out pops a monster and your aim is suddenly horrendous. But Resident Evil is not all about jump scares, it builds atmosphere too.
The games usually build the atmosphere with long hallways, mysterious sounds, and enemies that will have you running in the opposite direction. These monsters are a result of a virus that usually stars as the main antagonist, or at least the thing behind it.
Most of the Resident Evil games are about secret agents working to protect experiments on horrific viruses. Things go wrong, as they always do, and you are usually fighting your way in or out depending on the game. The monsters will send shivers down your spine, like ominous Verdugo that guard the ever more terrifying Ramon Salazar.
Resident Evil also appears on our list of the best zombie games of all-time, so you know we hold it to high regard here at Nerd Much?.
System Shock 2
From the brilliant mind of Ken Levine comes System Shock 2, another historical landmark for video games. This game hit the history books because of its strong story, environmental design, and the famous twist at the end. The story follows an unnamed soldier who wakes in the aftermath of a genetic infection. You are contacted by one of the survivors, Dr. Janice Polito, and she gives you your mission: stem the infection, collect all remaining survivors, and get the hell out.
Though simplistic by today’s standards, System Shock 2’s environment set up an atmosphere that was unmatched by no other space horrors at the time. Creeping through each corridor, listening to what happened before you woke up, all of it perfected to keep you on edge. The twist at the end is a tribute to Arthur C. Clarke’s The Space Odyssey, but it took players by surprise anyway — it was in equal parts terrifying and awesome.
See Also: 49 New Horror Movies of 2019
This would not be a true horror list without mentioning Alien Isolation. This game is horror survival like no other before it, basically playing like a giant game of hide n seek between you and a xenomorph. In this game, you really felt like if you did not run fast enough, the big black alien would surely kill you. You may have a gun, but the game is specifically geared to make sure you hardly use it.
Alien Isolation does this by limiting your ammo, crafting materials, and making the enemies able to take a lot of damage. This makes for stealth strategies even those who are experts at Dishonored would have to die first to figure out, such as: throw the molotov cocktail to set the alien on fire and hope it dies, or run like hell and hope the next room over has a locker you can hide in.
It’s one of the best jump scare games pc and console players can both enjoy.
Though you need the physical disc to actually play this game nowadays, it would not be a horror games list without Alan Wake. This horror game took a look at Silent Hill and tried to improve the narrative. The setting, as implied in Silent Hill as well, is a work of fiction, made up entirely by the mind of Alan Wake. Wake is a writer, caught in the midst of his own creation. Every enemy is a manifestation of his own imagination and parts of his life. Though in Silent Hill it is less by the main character’s own design than it is a really terrible coping mechanism.
Much like Fatal Frame, or Project Zero, Alan Wake does not use a weapon to attack enemies or “ghosts.” Wake uses a flashlight to burn the enemies away, reveal who they really are (regrets, unresolved grievances, etc), and then destroy them. Though some might argue that the flashlight functions about the same way as a gun would, the metaphor is more important.
Layers of Fear
Now here’s a game with horror, especially for those of us with claustrophobia. This scary game may be, at its core, just a glorified haunted house tour, but there are a few unique elements that help it stand out.
For one, you do not play the sweet and innocent protagonist working against the psychopathic ghosts. Nope — this time you are the psychopath and you are keen on finishing your painting. You need the right materials before you can, however, and by fetching these materials, the players explore the house and the mind of the psychopath within.
Second, this haunted house doesn’t just have creepy paintings, the rooms shift and change depending on the main character’s state of mind. If he’s feeling particularly angry, rot and rats will invade the room until there is an illogical abyss at the center. When he is feeling panicked, the rooms become distorted and mixed, not unlike a botched painting.
The scariest moment for me was when you are on the run, you go to the end of the hall and close the door behind you. The objective, as usual, is to go into the next room. But each locked door you try disappears as soon as you turn away from it. Eventually, there are no doors at all. As someone who can hardly stand caves in a video game, the panic was all the more intense to find that there was no exit, not even a window. If you spun around often enough in your panic, a door would appear, and it would open all by itself.
Layers of Fear can be an acquired taste, but for most, it is the combination of the unique elements mixed in with the old tired ones that really make it a thrill to play. If you ever have a free evening, give Layers of Fear a try and see how many coats of paint you can peel away to reveal the truth, as it’s easily one of the best horror games 2016 gave us.
The Evil Within 2
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Systems: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
As a sequel should, this game takes the series to a whole new level. Sebastian Castellanos enters STEM once again in hopes of saving his daughter, Lily, and helping MOBIUS. The enemies here are fully developed characters, people who have entered STEM and been corrupted by it and the potential power within Lily.
The game is still mostly an FPS with a little survival thrown in, closer to RE7 than it is Outlast or Alien Isolation. That said, it is really the enemies and narrative that you play an Evil Within game for.
The photographer, for example, sets up an elaborate trap for you long before you meet for a real fight. He reminds me a little of Pagan Min from Far Cry 4, with his suave attitude and penchant towards manipulation rather than true violence. Not that either character shies away from the ol’ pain as motivation.
If you thought the first game was a little too glitchy for you, the second fixed a lot of those problems. The story is not exactly the same, of course, and it is not nearly as satisfying to uncover the mystery when you already know most of what is going on. That said, The Evil Within 2 has well-written characters and enemies, making it definitely worth a play-through and a spot on this list.
If you thought what BioShock really needed was aliens, Dead Space is for you. This game is a twisted story of a Borg-like alien race determined to conquer the universe through monoliths called Markers. These Markers carry an alien virus that will convert whatever species it touches into Necromorphs through their corpses. The Necromorphs, reanimated dead, spread the virus by attacking the living until they are the only thing left. Together, they form a large enough biomass to make themselves a whole new alien to send out more Markers.
As the main character, your options are fairly bleak. You can never be sure which is the right decision as the people telling you what to do have rather questionable motives the entire game. On top of that, Isaac is constantly tortured by his supposedly dead girlfriend and we are never really sure if she is uninfected or a Necromorph by the end of the game.
If you like jump scares, alien zombies, and curb stomps, Dead Space is for you. It’s sci-fi horror at its finest, and it is one of the most brutal space horror games to play. It just does not let up in both violence and narrative twists.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Though all the other games on this list can be terrifying and will have you shaking in your boots, Amnesia is at the absolute top of our picks for the scariest of scary games, with only Fatal Frame as its main competition. In this game, not only are you completely weaponless, you are defenseless as well. The monsters will get you in one hit and there is nothing you can do against them but run for your life.
The catch, as there always is in a horror game, is that they cannot see you if you are in the dark. Problem is, your sanity takes a nosedive if you spend more than a few minutes in complete darkness. Your sanity is not just a meter in the top right-hand corner either, your vision gets shaky and your breath quickens until your own panic is all you can hear.
This mechanic alone is enough to propel the entire game, but there is so much more to Amnesia. You get so wired, the slightest thing will have you turning tail and running like hell. Like a torch, you did not light, or a doll suddenly appearing while you were busy checking out the rest of the room.
If you can find someone who likes horror games, but has not played Amnesia yet, watching them play will be so pure and hilarious. Amnesia, without a doubt, is worth paying money for. Maybe keep the lights on though, and let your heart settle into a more steady rhythm.
This is not a game necessarily out to have you trembling in fear like Amnesia or Silent Hill, but it will keep you on edge. Horror will happen, and it will consist of so much more than the little girl at the end of the hallway. The story itself, for example, as plenty of twists and turns like any other Resident Evil game.
F.E.A.R. received critical acclaim mostly for its combat style. Inspired by John Woo films like Hard Boiled, F.E.A.R. really knows how to make every player feel like a badass lone wolf. In combat, you have the capability of slowing downtime. This way, each shot counts and you can take your time aiming to really get everyone in the room. Not only that, but the world also distorts and explodes around every bullet and grenade, making for beautiful art Michael Bay can only dream of.
F.E.A.R. is probably the best of the psychological horror games, and if you haven’t played it, we highly suggest you check it out.
Fatal Frame is pure Japanese horror in game form. If you ever managed to get through the Japanese version of The Ring, you can understand the enormous differences between what Americans think is horror, and what horror really is. Fatal Frame has one main mechanic that has since been unmatched in other horror games, your Camera Obscura. This fancy camera allows you to attack spirits, but one snap is never enough to do the trick. You must keep the spirit as close to the center of the frame as possible, snap a picture, and then do it again until they are freed or gone entirely.
In addition, the story is hardly simple. The more you play, the more you discover just how deep and truly terrifying this house you have wandered into is. Almost every spirit you encounter is someone else who thought they were going to make it too. Only every time, you find a newspaper clipping or something that tells of their death. Each story certainly makes it feel less and less likely that your main character is truly any different, even with your Camera Obscura.
Basically the movie Cabin in the Woods, only in game form. A group of eight friends go out to a cabin in the woods for a vacation. They have not been there long before the first death occurs and all the characters must strive to survive until dawn. The player switches between each of the teenagers, getting to know them and helping them survive in the cabin and outside.
There are plenty of decisions along the way as well, some are to stay still and hide, others are to attack and hope for the best. Sometimes it works, sometimes you get killed. All of your decisions accumulate to what has been reported as hundreds of possible endings and ways to get there. It is possible for the player to keep all the teenagers alive, but it is not easy.
Though Until Dawn came out in 2015, the graphics still hold up. This is likely because of the cinematic nature of the gameplay. Until Dawn is not a game focused on combat or technical gameplay, but rather on quick-time events, exploration, and collecting information to make future decisions that could mean life or death for the characters.
If nothing else, the monster designs should have you open-mouthed with something between terror and awe. Some monsters are just plain gross, others are grotesquely beautiful, and others still tell a sad story with the way they move and what weapons they use.
Bloodborne has many layers, everything is there to be read and interpreted as mythology belonging to the world or adding to the story the player hardly knows they are in.
Bloodborne, just like its predecessor Dark Souls, is not keen on handing out details. The player is given a vague mission with even vaguer morals, yet told not to worry this is the right thing to do. By the end of the game, if the player was not paying close attention, he/she could be entirely lost as to the meaning of the ending and why one choice seemed to be preferred over the other.
This is a game that took the concept of Fatal Frame‘s camera and put a different spin on it, allowing players to navigate dark areas with its night vision capability. Since Outlast does not lend the player any sort of weapons, seeing in the dark is tantamount to one’s survival. The monsters were once human too, making killing them somewhere between putting them out of their misery and killing an innocent person – so many innocent people that were manipulated by circumstance and taken advantage of.
In the end, you might feel that you have escaped, but the game inserts doubt so cleverly you will never be sure. Interestingly, the mechanic of the camera will reward you with a nearly complete movie of your entire play-through. Such a tidbit shows just how much you use the camera and how skillfully the game was designed to make you use it at so many key moments.
Is Outlast the scariest game ever? It’s a top 10-er for us here at Nerd Much?, for sure.
Unfortunately, this sequel is not as good as the first game, but it’s still one of the best scary games of all-time. It still uses the camera mechanic, and this time, there are no weapons to use. Your only options are to run and hide or the enemies will instantly kill you.
This becomes a problem when the apparently open world game turns out to be very linear. It wants you to run in a specific direction and hide in a specific place. If you do not manage to find that on the first or fifth try, the enemies will see you regardless of how well you think you are hiding.
Furthermore, the enemy characters are less developed and well designed. However, if you enjoy a story about religious extremism, Outlast 2 is for you. Especially if this is not a subject you encounter often, Outlast 2 tells a fascinating story of how easily certain religions can lead to unseemly and contradicting behavior in the followers, and it’s filled with scares aplenty.
Just how scary is Outlast 2? Well, in my opinion, I found it actually more terrifying than the original. Rhys disagrees, but I thought it is worth noting.
If Grand Theft Auto was thought to be a violent game, it is a walk in the park in comparison to Manhunt. This is an early game from Rockstar, and remarkably, it still holds up under the test of time. The graphics are, of course, terrible by today’s standards, but the gameplay is still great.
You play the part of a criminal on death row who wakes up not dead but stuck in someone’s sick version of The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. Sure, the latter is about hunting one human at a time, but Manhunt is about killing many humans in the most violent and spectacular ways possible. You get more points for how brutal or sneaky the attack is, depending on what is demanded of you on that level. That is nothing to say of the sexual aspects involved in some of the levels.
Manhunt may not have jump scares or ghosts, but it does have violence and the kind of subtle psychological scares that horror games rarely bother with. The situation and your actions really make you think about what your life and that of others are really worth.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
In this game, you play the part of an FBI agent who gets framed for the murder of two officers by Serial Killer X. This creatively named fellow is going after other serial killers that the main character had been investigating, further cementing his supposed motivation and guilt. This game has been criticized for its linear paths which do not allow the player to put together the investigation themselves. However, the linear path and transparent mystery are overshadowed by the close combat of Condemned.
Players really feel the first-person-perspective with each kill made. Combat is focused almost entirely on melee, getting up close and personal with every enemy you encounter. Your weapons range from a paper cutter blade to the more usual wrench. Each is as brutal as the last, offering sickening crunches and violent finishing moves for all your enemies.
Run n’ gun is the name of all Doom games, but Doom 3 took the cake with enemies lumbering out of the pitch black corridors, or scurrying out of ventilation holes. That is to say nothing of the voices you will hear as you encounter certain enemies.
Some will ask you to follow them, leaving behind bloody footprints and leading you into an ambush. Others will scream, the sound sending a red light throughout the hallway, then going out just as quickly. Enemies are abundant, of course, forcing the player to guess where they are before shooting them or the light goes out.
No matter how confident you are at Doom games, Doom 3 will keep you cautiously approaching any and all new rooms, especially the dark ones. There will be plenty of jump scares and enemies coming out of corners you could have sworn you checked out beforehand.
Much like Netflix’s Black Mirror and so many sci-fi media before it, Soma asks exactly what is consciousness and what really makes something a person. Though the game has a few gameplay problems, like the enemies you have to run from, it is not quite enough to detract from the fascinating story this game tells.
You wake up as some random dude with no idea how you got to a facility this many leagues under the ocean. Despite such a generic beginning, unfolding this mystery is how the game tells its story. The best thing about this game, are the robots. Each of them has the full consciousness of a human and believe they are human.
Yet, they are ugly junkyard robots, hardly functioning in the decrepit facility they inhabit. These are not the sleek robots of the future we are used to seeing in other sci-fi media. In this way, Soma states that it is easier to humanize a Porsche than it is a Ford Fiesta. Then it asks exactly what does personhood have to do with looks.
What do you do when horror quite literally comes knocking on your door? Stories Untold asks just that through a series of stories told with text-based commands on monitors and sound, like the good ol’ days. Save for one story, which is in the usual first-person perspective. Each story is connected and will eventually accumulate to a very suspicious knock on your door.
It is difficult to describe Stories Untold without getting into spoilers, but the sections are well told and there is a certain nostalgic 80s aesthetic to it all. The horror is not so much jump scares as it is an immersive storytelling. The visuals and actions required of the player aid help to create an atmosphere that keeps you questioning what is going on, morality, and exactly who is knocking on your door. This ending is somewhere between an out of body experience and shaking-in-your-boots horror.
The Evil Within
Before Sebastian Castellanos knew what STEM is, he was investigating a mass murder at Beacon Mental Hospital. Unfortunately, his partner Joseph Oda and Junior Detective Juli Kidman get sucked into the world of STEM. There, they are met with every kind of horrible monster from the mind of Ruvik.
The design of these monsters has been highly praised as each is unique and often put a twist on common horror tropes. For example, body bags hanging from the ceiling, only this time one of them is still screaming. Or a dead body that turns into a many-limbed banshee determined to drown you in blood. Only Evil Within could marry Japanese horror with Western combat so well.
The Evil Within builds atmosphere through almost detective noir style of the mystery. The combat is more FPS and though it sometimes detracts from the otherwise clever ideas within the game, the first Evil Within still stands strong today. That said, some fans still find it a bit too glitchy to be worth playing, especially when you are cornered by monsters and the save load lands you in the same spot with no way to defend yourself.
An indie game from the makers of Layers of Fear, only instead of wandering around a haunted house, Observer takes the cyberpunk route. You play the part of Daniel Lazarski, a special kind of detective that can hack into peoples memories and fears.
You are to observe their last moments of death or discover their motivations. Nothing is a secret from you, nor can you keep any secrets from your superiors. This dark cyberpunk game explores a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by war and addiction; the two vices of humanity besides sex.
Each use of your fancy hacking ability has a cost, as such things always do in video games. Your ability to tell the difference between reality and the memories of your suspects becomes blurred.
Soon enough, your investigation will take a back seat as you just try to survive the horrors within your mind. Observer may suffer from the occasional break in pacing and linear path glitches, but the overall game builds an enthrallingly dark world with even darker secrets to uncover.
If you enjoyed Don’t Starve but were left wanting more, Darkwood is for you. Darkwood is still a top-down survival game but it differs from Don’t Starve by really sinking its teeth into atmospheric horror. While playing this game you are far more afraid of what you can hear than what you can see.
With such a limited field of view, Darkwood makes sure you are not looking the right direction when something breaks through the floorboards or growls quietly off to your left. Survive the night and you have to use each agonizing daylight hour to scavenge for more supplies. These supplies help you gain skills (like a larger vision cone), better weapons (that need constant maintenance), and reinforcements so that whatever is hiding in the night will have less of a chance to eat you.
Darkwood tells its horror through the characters you meet out in the woods, the creatures and things in the night, and the occasional reading material. The latter is never a newspaper reporting on the details of the apocalypse you are currently living, but magazines and scraps of journals. It is small elements like that, and the sound design, that make Darkwood so immersive and frightening.
Doki Doki Literature Club
So you are browsing Steam, looking for a visual novel with cute anime girls, boobs, and very short skirts. You come across Doki Doki Literature Club and it looks decent enough, the usual “one man, many women” kind of fantasy. Seems like you have a fun and cute hour ahead of you.
And you do, the first half of this game is not suspicious at all if you do not know what is coming already. The poems for the literature club are getting a bit weird, but all poetry is weird, right? At one point the game ends rather abruptly, it looks like the game crashed. I assure you, it has not. Try again and play the game through again, you will notice some subtle differences that will make it clear why such an apparently cute anime game is on a top 50 horror games list.
Doki Doki Literature Club is all about facades, one after the other. It is up to the player to peel away the layers and discover what is left in the end.
We Happy Few
Despite the controversy surrounding this game’s Early Access price, there is a lot to love. First of all, We Happy Few is the most successful book to video game adaptation I have ever seen. As you may be able to tell from the game’s trailers, We Happy Few adapts Brave New World by Aldous Huxley with a little Agatha Christie and 1984 by George Orwell thrown in for extra spice.
Secondly, you really live the life of someone like Bernard Marx from Brave New World. Arthur Hastings, the main character of We Happy Few, is clearly unimpressed with the world around him and what it has come to, but fear pushes him to conform. You would not want to be a Downer, now would you? The world is as immersive as it is frightening without hardly saying a word.
Thirdly, the survival gameplay of We Happy Few lets you find more than one solution to problems, be it through stealth or brutally whacking your way through both guards and citizens willy-nilly. The game promotes stealth, of course, but the guards and citizens are not completely unbeatable. If you play your combat carefully, you can manage it.
The Land of Pain
Though this game can be accused of being too easy without much in the way of complex gameplay, The Land of Pain is focused almost entirely on exploration. You could almost call it a walking (or running) simulator as the point is to again, explore, read your way through various journal entries, and observe.
Built by one man, Alessandro Guzzo, on the CryEngine, The Land of Pain offers detailed and beautiful landscapes worth relaxing into – until the creature gets too close. Furthermore, there are plenty of gruesome scenes and areas that tell the horrific tale of what this creature can do and where it comes from.
One somewhat let down about this game, however, is that death does not have much in the way of consequences. You are immediately spawned at your last checkpoint and it is never far from where you were busy investigating. This might be because of the focus on exploration, wanting the player to be properly immersed and not wanting death to break that immersion. Whatever the case may be, The Land of Pain is a purely atmospheric horror game that is sure to keep you heading towards the next clue.
This game is a hard sell for those that like their FPS to do something new and be a little less linear. Despite the stock FPS and combat elements, and the occasional one-shot kill Get Even holds itself up with a fantastic story. There are so many layers to uncover as you progress through the game that the moment you think you have a hold on what is going on, the game turns it all upside down and scatters the pieces.
The FPS elements aside, Get Even uses a futuristic device fused to the main character’s head to uncover how he became trapped in an asylum, who is speaking to him, and how to escape. The story and mechanics are so much deeper than this, but it is difficult to explain without getting into spoilers.
Needless to say, Get Even prefers to tell a great story than iron out unique FPS elements. Much like The Land of Pain, the focus is far less on traditional gameplay. The difference, however, is that The Land of Pain does not try to disguise itself as anything other than what it is. Get Even is no more an FPS than The Land of Pain is, but only of these games tries to be otherwise.
As one of the oldest games on this list, it has a lot to live up to. It does not quite stand the test of time, as by now we have seen these tropes over and over, but the mystery of 7th Guest still holds up. All the ghosts and people in the game are inserted film clips, a strategy that later popularized the FMV genre in gaming.
That mystery pales in comparison to the core of the game: who is the 7th guest? Is it the player’s character? Is it someone else? And how, exactly, did the lord of the manor manage to murder so many people in one go? There are far too many questions and too few answers until you finish the game.
The puzzles of 7th Guest can be easy or very difficult, as there can be a very specific way to complete it. This is often the way of such old games. Nonetheless, the trick is to just keep trying until you get it. You cannot give up and move on anyway, each puzzle uncovers a key part of the mystery.
Long before Star Trek told the story of the Borg taking over the universe, there was Half-Life. A scientific experiment goes wrong and opens a portal to another dimension. The Xen come pouring through, trying to escape another alien race (the taking over the universe kind), but they are just as hostile to the main character.
Half-Life is critically acclaimed for its stunning graphics at the time (the particle effects of your guns shells and explosions are especially well done), and revolutionary FPS elements. Refined from the likes of Doom and Wolfenstein, Half-Life making shooting smoother, enemy hitboxes more accurate, and the ability to kill multiple enemies with grenades.
In addition, there are sections in Half-Life that are far more dynamic than generic corridor number 34. For example, the motorized rail cart has you shooting enemies around every corner as the cart moves you to your destination.
Left 4 Dead
No aliens or ghosts this time around, Left 4 Dead is a zombie game from 2008 that taught zombie lovers how to play co-op. This game is a must for those who enjoy zombie games and want to share that love with friends.
Left 4 Dead has four scenarios, bookended like movies with posters and credits, that are more or less unrelated. Each scenario has a different environment, like a train station, hospital, house, and cornfield. Teamwork is paramount to your survival, even if you are mostly screaming at each other to get this enemy or that player revived.
This game is not so much creepy or scary as it bloody and filled with faceless zombies to be shot down. The horror likely comes when a team fails to work together and has to rethink their strategies on the next play-through. I would not blame them, some of those zombie bosses can be downright terrifying.
Friday The 13th: The Game
A violent multiplayer that places eight players in a summer camp, just like from the movies. Seven players take on the part of teenage camp counselors, tasked with either escaping or surviving the night. Escaping takes a lot of searching, however, as you have to fix a car, boat, or radio to do so. Each requires parts that are scattered about the level, randomly placed each time you start a new match.
The eighth players really get all the goodies, however, as they get to play Jason Voorhees himself. You can pick one of the eight different versions of Jason from the respective movies. Each version has different upgrades and abilities, like increased movement speed, weapon damage, and grapple strength.
Since Jason is clearly the most fun to play, being over-powered and all, each player gets a randomly selected role per match. The game has been criticized for this, but it can be argued that this is rather accurate to how the movies are.
Alone In The Dark
This is the oldest game on this list and some consider it to be the game that popularized the survival horror genre, much the same way Wolfenstein popularized the FPS genre. Alone In The Dark is the first to really get survival horror right, from inventory management to being nearly defenseless against monsters.
Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, this game shows a lot of weird and wonderful monsters from the other side hiding in the oddest of places. Like a bathtub, for example, as any monster should in a horror game. As the player, you are equipped with melee combat weapons, usually a sword or dagger. In addition, the old controls force you to rethink combat very carefully and figure out how to properly hit your enemy without getting damaged yourself.
If you have an emulator and the patience of a saint, Alone In The Dark is worth checking for a fun history lesson in game development. You will really get to see where so many tropes in games like Resident Evil come from and how they evolved in later games.
Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs
Though a great deal of the mystery is lost for this sequel, since the first one answered most of the questions, A Machine For Pigs still holds up as a good scary game. Remarkably, the story continues with just as much interesting depth as you slowly realize the character you are playing is less and less innocent than one might usually presume. This unreliable narrator is uncovered with journal entries and the occasional speech from the antagonist determined to make you think you are even worse than he is.
The sanity meter is removed, a very unfortunate change, but that does not make the environment any less frightening. Pig-headed monsters are still attracted by your light, like a moth to a flame, but this time the only things you sacrifice is a loss of sight and not knowing if the monster saw you or not.
That said, A Machine For Pigs lacks the interesting puzzles of its predecessor. They are boring, annoying, and do nothing to immerse you in the world of Amnesia. There is no descent into madness when you are replacing fuses, and moving boxes in a crawl space.
Among The Sleep
Though a rather short game, at about three hours long, Among The Sleep has both interesting gameplay elements and story. The gameplay elements include playing the part of a toddler, the act of hugging your teddy bear gives off an extra light, and much more that are plot relevant. As a toddler, your height and the basic understanding of the world make for compelling details, like the inability to read or how you get to things out of your reach.
This game might give parents a few heart tugs, like a two-year-old climbing around the kitchen and opening anything with a door. It only gets worse, as there is so much more to Among The Sleep than a child running from a scary monster.
This game is about the journey of coping with childhood trauma and doing so through more abstract experiences like dreams that can help make more sense of something a toddler might not fully understand.
Infidelity is a sin that will never stop haunting you and your dreams in Catherine. You play the part of Vincent Brooks, who is hesitant to commit to the idea of marriage to his girlfriend Katherine. Just as Brooks begins to seriously mull over the situation, the beautiful Catherine comes along. She throws a wrench in Brook’s decisions in a way an affair never has. His act of cheating haunts his dreams and Catherine is never letting go either.
Catherine combines supernatural and role-playing elements which might be described as a platformer but is hardly that. The goal of the gameplay is to get to the top of the tower, but it is not about jumping or climbing. Brooks must pull out blocks and push them to the appropriate spots to get higher, all the while some horrible monster is coming after him.
Just remember to get the Director’s Cut version of this game, as the original is very glitchy and the gameplay can get quite frustrating for coming out in 2010. Nevertheless, Deadly Premonition makes it to the list with a compelling story, a unique cast of characters you will never see anywhere else, and deeply terrifying visuals that will stick with you forever.
Despite being a little on the weird side, Deadly Premonition does tell a good story and the combat is an average FPS flavor. The story centers around FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan as he investigates the murder of an eighteen-year-old woman. This case turns out to be a part of a series of similar murders across America done by the Raincoat Killer.
Unlike most horror crime games, Deadly Premonition also has survival elements. Not the lack of weapon type, but the feed your main character and make sure he puts on clean clothes type. It is an odd choice to be sure and does not really influence the main plot, though it is something that could be worked within a future sequel if there ever is one.
Japanese developers sure know horror and it is displayed yet again in Forbidden Siren. This game follows the events within a Japanese village called Hanuda. Isolated from the rest of the world, the village has some rather extreme religious beliefs that make living there, or even stumbling upon it, a study in survival and stealth.
One of the unique mechanics of this game is the main character’s ability to Sightjack enemies. This is a psychic power that hijacks an enemy character so you can see through their eyes and hear what they hear. You cannot move them, however, but it is a useful tool to tell where your next objective is and how to get around the enemies.
However, what really puts this game in the history books, is the facial animation. This was done by taking images of real human faces from various angles and plastering them on the polygon game version. This actually ended with an exceptional result, easily making it a part of the motion capture development history.
Alice: Madness Returns
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Systems: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Spicy Horse
Alice: Madness Returns is the sequel to American McGee’s Alice, which was published in 2000. This psychological horror twists the story of Alice in Wonderland by focusing less on the fantastical world of Wonderland, and more on Alice herself and her struggle to overcome her trauma-induced psychosis.
The game begins with Alice Liddell’s release back into society from the asylum she’d been comatose in during the previous game. The player alternately must traverse a corrupted Wonderland and a hallucination-wrought Victorian London as Alice.
Wonderland is separated into sections, each of which has a different theme, and a different memory as the prize. Each step you take puts you further along the path toward discovering the truth about how your family really died and simultaneously saving Wonderland itself.
This “trial by death” puzzle platformer may not be as trigger-happy as many of the other games on this list, but it certainly has what it takes to get your blood pumping.
In Limbo, you control a little boy as he traverses a series of sinister environments on his quest to find his sister. The game uses an almost film-noir stylization to boost the visuals and ambiance into horror genre levels. Each puzzle you complete propels you further along the boy’s path. Failure, however, results in your vicious and often gruesome death.
Limbo has been esteemed more as art than an actual video game. The absence of a direct narrative allows the player to come up with their own conclusions about the boy and his unfortunate situation. Despite its short gameplay, Limbo is well worth the money, especially since it has been made accessible on so many different consoles, even iOS, and Android systems.
This game technically counts as a puzzle platformer like its predecessor, but the dystopia in which it is set is unnerving enough to earn it a spot on this list. Inside is a platformer wherein you control a little boy who has to navigate his dystopian world. The goal of the game? Like any good game with horror elements, the goal is to survive. Inside complicates this process by making the player complete clever environmental puzzles throughout.
The horror of this game isn’t overt like in other games; instead, you are kept on the edge of your seat by music cues, and the boy’s desperate need to survive this world. There are so many ways for him to die, many of them vicious, including dog-attacks or being shot by his pursuers. You eventually begin to feel the anxiety of his flight just as if you too were running for your life.
Release Date: April 28, 2017
Systems: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Little Nightmares is a game about an insatiably hungry little girl in a yellow coat named Six. Or at least, we think she’s a little girl. The creatures you encounter are grotesque and hardly human. The object of this game is to hide from and evade the Guests as you ascend from the lower depths of the Maw, a hotel-like vessel that caters to the whims of the Guests. If you’re caught, you’re dead.
Much like Inside, Little Nightmares is a survival horror platformer. Unlike Inside, however, you aren’t so much solving puzzles (though they exist); you’re playing high-stakes hide-and-go-seek. Despite being a simple platformer, Little Nightmares tells its story through the background. The devil is in the details.
This game relies entirely on its soundboard and its visuals to provide its horrific elements. The animalistic sounds of the Guests and the eerie music combine with the ghastly, filthy world create the necessary suspense. Much of the environment is covered in brown splatter that we hope (but aren’t sure) is blood, among many other unidentifiable stains that are probably each little nightmares on their own.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
What happens when you mix ancient Celtic culture and Norse mythology with a little bit of Dante’s Inferno and a touch of schizophrenia? You get Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. This game follows Senua as she traverses Helheim to retrieve her lover from the clutches of Hela. Senua is haunted by Darkness throughout her quest, voices of “Furies” that whisper to her and make her relive memories from her past.
While none of the mythology is faithful, this game shows an incredible awareness and accurate depiction of psychosis. Ninja Theory worked closely with neuroscientists, mental health specialists, and people with similar conditions to ensure that they would provide an accurate portrayal.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice uses a combination of melee combat, puzzle solving, and psychological horror to make Senua’s travels through Helheim seem all the more traumatizing. Stunning graphics and unparalleled use of voice acting have caused critics to applaud this game as a work of art. Truly, this game is one you must wear headphones while playing because the voice acting is absolutely crucial to getting the full experience.
BioShock is a laissez-faire capitalist’s dream turned nightmare. The vast majority of this game exists in a subaquatic city called Rapture during the 1960s. Where once it was a playground for plutocrats of all kinds, it is now a twisted, macabre shadow of its former glory.
BioShock is a biopunk game that immerses the player in an environment that makes them question a number of moral dilemmas, including whether or not a life is precious when it has been so thoroughly perverted. You as the player must navigate through this first-person shooter under the direction of the mysterious Atlas, who very politely sets you on a number of tasks.
All the while, you must fight off horribly disfigured, once-human Splicers. On top of these monsters, you must also pick your way around behemoth protectors called Big Daddies, whose sole purpose in life is to protect the morbidly sweet Little Sisters as they harvest the source of Rapture’s downfall.
If you haven’t checked it out already, would you kindly do so?
Return to Rapture in this sequel to the original BioShock game. Now ten years after Jack’s crash landing, in Bioshock 2 you play Subject Delta, a prototype Big Daddy to the Daddies you had to fight in the original game. It seems Rapture can’t even go a decade without forming a cult.
Subject Delta’s goal is to be reunited with his Little Sister, Eleanor, from whom he was viciously torn by her mother Sofia Lamb two years prior to the events in BioShock. The urgent need to protect Eleanor makes itself known as Subject Delta discovers Lamb’s true intentions for her daughter. Subject Delta must fight his way through Lamb’s cultists, along with your everyday Splicers, all the while growing more and more uneasy with each Audio Diary you listen to, and with each motif of a blue butterfly you see.
The Last of Us
With over 200 Game of the Year awards since its initial release on the PS3, The Last of Us hardly needs an introduction. This survival horror game tasks your character, Joel, with chaperoning a young girl, Ellie, across post-apocalyptic America in a desperate attempt to cure humanity of a fungal infection that turns those affected into rabid, zombie-like monsters.
This isn’t just your standard zombie-outbreak survival game, either. Naughty Dog brilliantly based the strain of fungal infection in this game after the real-world Cordyceps fungus. Now, the real-world version of this fungus doesn’t affect humans (yet) but it sure makes the dystopian reality within The Last of Us that much more believable.
What makes The Last of Us one of the best games across both PlayStation systems are the incredible graphics, intense gameplay, and a storyline that will have you sobbing in T-minus 20 minutes after you pick up your controller.
The character development alone is heralded as one of the finest points of the game, with you as the player watching Joel become a little more human, and Ellie turning into one of the most badass characters in-game.
Every aspect of this game puts you in survival mode, and your actions in-game quickly become less about morality, and more about what it takes to get you to the next step. It’s well worth the playthrough with its newly renovated PS4 version — just bring a tissue box.
Of course, because of the brilliance that was the first TLoU, we’re now anxiously awaiting the release of The Last of Us 2 (which is currently slated for 2020).
Resident Evil 4
We can’t really have a horror game list without putting Resident Evil 4 on it. This 6th major installment to the Resident Evil series follows Special Agent Leon S. Kennedy as he escorts Ashley Graham, the daughter of the US President. The goal of the game is to bring Ashley back to American soil from rural Spain after she was kidnapped by a cult that calls themselves “Los Illuminados,” who are hell-bent on infecting her with a strain of the Plagas virus. Leon needs to fight his way through violent villagers throughout the Spanish countryside and simultaneously ensure Ashley’s safety.
While it still used a lot of the mechanics from its predecessors, Resident Evil 4 is what changed the whole Resident Evil series from the survival-horror it was at the outset to the action-packed genre we know it as today.
It took a beloved character from Resident Evil 2, made him better, and then gave him his own game. The influence of this game on the industry as a whole cannot be overstated enough. Any 3rd person shooter within the last decade has aspects in it that were undoubtedly drawn from the success of Resident Evil 4.
There’s nothing scarier than a story based on true events; it just makes everything more real. Kholat is an indie walking-exploration horror game based on the Dyatlov Pass incident of 1959, wherein nine Russian college students mysteriously disappeared on Kholat Syakhal in the Ural mountains. Nobody knows to this day what happened to them or why which is where Kholat gets a foot in. In the game, you as the player investigates path these disappeared hikers took, as well as the recovery team that later found their brutally murdered bodies.
This game features an incredibly large map that you can spend hours exploring, but be warned; there is more on this mountain than just you. Entities track the tracker, and your expedition is not a deathless one. As you walk about the mountainside with little to no defense, the tension in Kholat comes from needing to avoid these harbingers of death, the eerie music, the ambient desolation of the Urals, and the well-timed voice-overs from narrator Sean Bean.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a detective-style horror game where you (surprise!) investigate clues and puzzles to determine just what happened to Ethan Carter. You as the investigating character Paul Prospero traverse the incredible open world of Red Creek Valley, WI as you come up against paranormal phenomena and clues that suggest something sinister has happened here.
The game makes use of visuals first exhibited on the BBC’s Sherlock, with Prospero’s deductions floating on the screen as he examines the clues left behind. Things are not always as they seem, though, and this must-buy game will have you sitting at the edge of your seat with its inventive storytelling and use of ambiance to keep tensions high.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Release Date: January 24, 2017
Systems: PS4, PSVR, Xbox One, PC
Though this game is obviously a part of the Resident Evil series, it must be listed separately simply because it is the first in the series to enter VR. It was also the first game marketed for the PSVR that anyone thought might be half decent. And boy did it blow our minds. If you thought you were scared of other Resident Evil games, Biohazard has you shaking in your boots.
There is more to be scared of than deformed monsters in this game. Lift a pot lid and you will find a swarm of cockroaches, peek around a corner and a door will creak open, a mannequin will move, or the old lady is suddenly at the top of the stairs again. Next, you might be trapped in a psychopath’s version of a birthday party.
What’s more, VR let you truly feel like you were really there, no matter how much you knew it was a video game. In fact, it has been recommended for first players to play for no longer than half an hour at a time in VR. First, Biohazard really is terrifying. Second, VR is an intense experience and can easily overwhelm even the best of gamers.
biohazard was one of the scariest horror games of 2018, and it’ll go down as one of the best of all-time.
Are Horror Games Fun?
As a gamer, you either love horror games or hate them; scary games aren’t for everyone. In fact, horror games can influence your mood, cause anxiety, provide fuel for your nightmares, and generally give you a feeling of unease. I know a lot of people who are avid gamers but tell me ‘I can’t play horror games’ simply because it triggers their anxiety.
Where to Play Horror Games?
One undeniably good thing about horror games is that virtually all consoles provide some options for every level of horror gamer. Personally speaking, my preference is to play these games on the PC. However, there are numerous scary games on Xbox Series X, as well as PS5.
You can find tons of great horror games on the Nintendo Switch, believe it or not, including Layers of Fear, Outlast, Dead by Daylight, and so many more.
And, there are a few horror games on the Meta Quest 2 that are worth playing, including Blair Witch, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, and Lies Beneath.