Best Horror Games
Warning: Some content in this article may be upsetting for some readers.
The best horror games have the capacity to reduce even those with the strongest fortitude into shivering messes, quaking at the idea of withdrawing from whatever temporary sanctuary they’ve found and venturing out to fight fear again. To be fair, it’s a scary prospect to inhabit the body of someone stuck inside a haunted asylum or a zombie apocalypse. Mediums like movies and literature can represent horror in all its terror, but only the best horror games possess the unique trait of forcing you to face those fears yourself. Whether you’re tilting forward the joystick or holding the W key, it’s all on you to force your way towards the end - so here are ten of the best horror games ever made for you to try and conquer.
Best Horror Games: Amnesia: The Dark Descent (#10)
Amnesia: The Dark Descent was a turning point in indie horror and the title that put Frictional Games on the map. The emphasis on hiding and running away from the monsters instead of fighting them resonated with players and inspired an entire subgenre of horror throughout the 2010s. Part of its rise into the stratosphere was thanks to YouTubers like PewDiePie, whose let’s play content highlighted the effective horror gameplay up front and has helped keep it fresh in the canon of video game horror. Despite many developers mimicking Amnesia since, none have been able to capture the feeling of hopelessness and despondency it so perfectly displayed with its mechanics.
Best Horror Games: Babysitter Bloodbath (#9)
Puppet Combo has become a big name in the indie horror scene, amassing over 1,900 patrons on their Patreon page, largely thanks to the development of niche horror experiences like Babysitter Bloodbath. They certainly don’t veer far from their proverbial stomping ground, but this has led to a catalogue of classics that effectively evoke the blood-soaked slashers of the 80s and tank-controlled PS1 horror of the late 90s. Babysitter Bloodbath is a fine example of this that combines two decades and two mediums into one scare-filled experience. It goes to show, no matter how small the budget and simple the graphics, the grittiness of home invasion horror is an effective foundation for absolute terror.
Best Horror Games: System Shock 2 (#8)
Immersive sims and horror are genres that go hand-in-hand thanks to series like System Shock, which even has a remake on the way. Stuck on a starship in the void of space, whilst a genetic infection turns all the crew into horribly mutated creatures, and a rogue AI hunts you because it wishes to enslave humanity… eek. System Shock 2 is a haunting experience from the beginning to its infamous and endlessly memed ending. It has the open ended gameplay inspired by RPGs that allows players to feel in control, only to reign it back in with the haunting atmosphere and existential sci-fi horror that makes them think twice about every door to hack and vent to open. It’s considered one of the greatest games of all time for a reason and it undoubtedly belongs on this list for its powerful presentation alone.
Best Horror Games: Dead Space (#7)
Moving on to another titan of space horror we have Visceral Games’ Dead Space. Drawing from the action horror and camera of Resident Evil 4 and the body horror of Silent Hill, Visceral sought to create an experience that was unrivalled. They put a lot of focus on immersion, resulting in the iconic diegetic HUD and an atmospheric soundscape based on realism that reinforced an oppressive sense of dread. The main enemies, the Necromorphs, were also terrifying with unnatural, jerky movement and unnerving voices that had a base of recognisability, such as the Lurker which combined a baby's screams with a panther's growls for a horrific cry that echoed around the claustrophobic environments. It's another title with a remake on the way, but whether it can hold up to this classic is yet to be seen.
Best Horror Games: Resident Evil 7 (#6)
Due to the utter trainwreck that was Resident Evil 6, Capcom returned to the drawing board for the next entry in the series and managed to develop one of the greatest comebacks in gaming history. Resident Evil 7 returned to the series' roots by focusing on a smaller, more refined setting loaded with puzzles and then simultaneously changed it up by offering a new first-person perspective. Even though Resident Evil had shown a willingness to change and evolve before, this was an unexpected turn that was welcomed. Dropping you into a decrepit Louisiana bayou manor, hunted by the sadistic Baker family and their army of mould men, made for a memorable experience with some of the scariest moments of the entire series. Plus, Jack Baker might be the greatest video game stalker of all time.
Best Horror Games: I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (#5)
Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is one of the most viscerally terrifying short stories of all time, portraying a post-apocalyptic Earth where a malevolent A.I. called AM has exterminated humanity, and the handful of survivors have been rendered virtually immortal allowing them to be physically and mentally tortured for eternity. The video game adaption is a point and click that dives deeper into the short stories characters, where AM has constructed metaphorical adventures for them all based on their flaws. Ellison himself wrote the script and voiced the omnipotent AI, bringing a sinister authority to the character. It touches on some horrific themes such as insanity, paranoia, and sexual assault - pulling back the simple veneer of post-apocalyptic fiction, to present one of the most frightening realities ever conceived.
Best Horror Games: F.E.A.R (#4)
Monolith Productions have a near unrivalled horror pedigree in gaming with the F.E.A.R and Condemned series. The former managed to combine the bombastic, kinetic energy of a shooter, with Japanese inspired psychological horror to create one of the most iconic games of all time. It’s known for its incredibly advanced AI systems that constantly challenged the player, careful use of silence to enforce paranoia, and the memorable antagonist Alma - a paranormal little girl who haunts you throughout. F.E.A.R is an experience that has never been replicated, and an example of how to scare players even when they inhabit a superpowered soldier with bullet time.
Best Horror Games: Silent Hill 2 (#3)
Silent Hill 2 is one of the most haunting portrayals of guilt in all of video games. The series itself is a staple of survival horror that we’re all desperate to see return, but the second instalment is a legendary title that will be forever petrifying on a human level. Explore the titular town as James Sunderland, as you’re cursed to face off with manifestations of his grief and trauma, which is a spine-chilling prospect. During a time where games were in their relative infancy, Silent Hill 2 stood high as an example of games as art. Horror often doesn’t get the fair shake it deserves in most mediums, but this game proved that it could be more than vapid scare-fests. Instead presenting a fully realised dive into the mind of a grief-stricken man, battling with the turbulence from his wife’s death to cancer and the complicated emotions that arise from such a situation.
Best Horror Games: Alien: Isolation (#2)
The Xenomorph is one of horror cinema's finest creations, a lifeform that can forcefully impregnate its victim before bursting from their chest to grow into a phallic stalker that is the sight of nightmares. This makes Alien: Isolation seem like one of the most obvious ideas for a game ever - trapping you on a space station with a terrifying extra-terrestrial in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Well it’s as scary as it sounds, and without a doubt makes for one of the finest horror experiences in gaming. You play as the daughter of Ellen Ripley - the protagonist of the movies - and through stealth and some shrewd crafting you manoeuvre your way around whilst avoiding and outsmarting the Xenomorph and humans whose morality has been lost to fear. It features an atmosphere faithful to the movies, complemented by the retro sci-fi and industrialised space aesthetic, excellent sound design utilising the recordings from the original film, and alien AI that learns from your actions to surprise and challenge you. In space no one can hear you scream, but with Alien: Isolation your neighbours certainly will.
Best Horror Games: Honourable Mentions
- Nightslink - An incredibly cinematic horror short, with a post-apocalyptic atmosphere and one of the best representations of Lovecraftian horror that will have you questioning your own sanity.
- Outlast - A member of the Amnesia school of horror design, Outlast is another game that prioritises flight over fight. Arming you with just a camcorder, you will play an investigative journalist exploring an abandoned asylum whose patients have begun to run the show.
- P.T - Legendary game designer Hideo Kojima and Director Guillermo Del Toro teamed up for this short experience that was a tease for their Silent Hill game that never came to fruition. It’s short, but it’s simple gameplay and complicated puzzle design left an impression on gamers that few demos ever could.
- Spec Ops: The Line - Not strictly a horror game, Spec Ops looks more like a generic modern military third-person shooter than maybe any game ever, but it’s egregiously deceptive. Peeling back the mask on modern shooters, Spec Ops: The Lines metanarrative sought to deconstruct player choice and their role in the events on screen, making for a unique way of presenting psychological horror in a video game.
Best Horror Games: Resident Evil (#1)
The classic that kicked off one of gaming's most iconic franchises, the first Resident Evil is often replicated but never bettered (except for the HD remake). The Spencer Mansion is a famous location for a reason; the dissonance of its opulent halls and statues paired with the horrific zombies and mutated monsters created by the T-virus has embedded itself into the minds of entire generations. The static camera angles and tank controls also made for effectively curated horror, letting the developers decide exactly what they want you to see and when. The feeling of slowly creeping down a hallway, whilst the camera is positioned directly on you, not knowing when the camera will change and what will be revealed on the other end is a haunting prospect - and one Resident Evil genuinely brought to life.
Make sure you check out all of our best Halloween games too, which are all of the top games featuring the spooky holiday season.