It’s finally getting colder. Temperatures are dropping, the leaves are falling from the trees and the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back on sale. It’s almost time for Halloween. Almost. But if you just can’t wait for the spooky season to really kick in, how about playing some terrifying videogames to tide you over? We’ve put together a list of some of the best around and some of the more obscure titles you might want to check out if you’re in the mood for a scare! In no particular order, here are our top 20 horror games.
1. Silent Hill
Often regarded as the game that kicked off the whole horror scene, Silent Hill is one of the most easily recognised, referenced and inspiring titles of the genre. Its unmistakable setting, based on the ever-burning city of Centralia, Pennsylvania, is home to countless nightmarish creatures, all vying to kill you in the most disgusting of ways. Cinematic camera angles hide horrors around every corner, daring the player to carry on into the haze of mist and ash, all in a bid to find the protagonist’s missing adopted daughter Cheryl. Amongst the fog, a cult attempts to revive their diabolical deity, apparitions appear, and sanity is drained as the cryptic secrets of Silent Hill unravel. It remains to this day an absolute classic.
Inspiring a whole new generation and sub-genre of horror, Amnesia: The Dark Descent pairs an intriguing original story with innovative gameplay wherein the player is utterly helpless. Taking control of amnesiac protagonist Daniel, the player must rely solely on running and hiding to survive the terrors within the walls of Brennenburg Castle. Mutated soldiers hellbent on murdering you, haunting auditory hallucinations, and whatever is splashing around in the water, all hinder your progress towards the Inner Sanctum of the castle. All you have to go on is a note you left for yourself before you deliberately erased your own memory and passed out. That’s got to be one of the worst things to wake up to.
Do you ever think about all the countless miles of unexplored, pitch-black ocean on the planet and all the horrifying creatures that could dwell in the depths? Imagine that but it’s a whole planet of sea. Subnautica drops you into its watery world and, at first, all seems calm and friendly. Fascinating aquatic alien life, clear blue water. Lovely stuff. But the deeper you dare to go, the more you risk stumbling upon something… a whole lot larger and a whole lot scarier. Subnautica’s depths are teeming with giant cephalopods, leviathans whose screams echo across the ocean, hypnotic fish that compel you to swim into their jaws. Still want to go for a swim? We dare you!
If there was ever a game more deserving of the descriptor ‘viral’ we’d be very surprised. Taking the internet by storm with its oh so simple but oh so terrifying gameplay, Slender takes that horrible feeling of being followed and makes it a grisly reality. Based on a popular Creepypasta story about the titular character, Slender uses all the horror clichés but in such a simplistic way that it catches you off-guard. Your goal is to collect 8 pages scattered around a fairly small area. As you collect more pages, the atmospheric music begins to build and your chances of looking over your shoulder only to see Slenderman’s ghastly featureless face (and pleasantly tailored suit) increase. It’s no surprise that this game became so popular, wigging out streamers, YouTubers and gamers alike with so many people daring to download and share the game with friends. If you’ve still never played Slender, you should definitely give it a go. Lights out, headphones in of course.
A bittersweet entry here with Hideo Kojima’s wonderfully crafted yet ultimately doomed Playable Teaser. P.T is widely regarded as one of the most chilling, haunting, and nightmare-inducing experiences a human being can have, featuring a seemingly endless walk through a looping house. Each time you walk through the door and into the same room you just left, everything gets gradually worse and worse, revealing tiny hints and fragments of a story. A story of a father killing his whole family and then himself. Not only was P.T. a masterpiece in horror, but it also looked stunning. While we may lament on what Silent Hills could have been, there still remain some very unorthodox ways to acquire the Playable Teaser that we wouldn’t recommend. Or you could buy a PS4 console with the demo preinstalled for the measly sum of $1000 dollars! Pocket change, really.
6. Clock Tower
Released in 1996, this inconspicuous point-and-click game set a whole new level for horror games of its time. Most of the popular games that passed for horror back then were your everyday platformers, shoot ‘em ups and beat ‘em ups with a horror ‘skin’; games like Doom and Castlevania. Clock Tower plays out at a much slower pace, building tension and fear with random, spooky happenings occurring throughout the game. You play as the recently adopted Jennifer Simpson who, having arrived at her new terrifying home, must survive and escape while avoiding a man wielding giant hedge clippers. It sounds ridiculous (and it is) but it is genuinely panic-inducing when you’re exploring a room and suddenly hear the psycho-style violin stabs that let you know the Scissorman is near!
7. Five Nights at Freddy’s
If you’ve ever wanted some incentive to stay away from fast-food restaurants, Five Nights at Freddy’s will definitely have you sticking to your diet. With a cryptic, fascinating backstory, a talented creator and some really ghastly jump-scares, FNAF quickly rose to fame and became one of, if not the most successful franchises of the modern horror game scene. Its simple gameplay is perfectly balanced with all the horrors of animatronics with raging bloodlust to make you jump right out of your skin. That’s okay though because you probably won’t be needing your skin when Bonnie stuffs you into an empty animatronic…
What can we say? Resident Evil was always going to make it onto this list somehow and what better way than with a gorgeous new remake? Honestly, whether you’re playing the remake or the original, it’s plain to see why RE2 is one of the best of its kind. Grisly gore, lurching zombies, incredible atmosphere. And the remake offers you authentic bullet damage so when you’re blasting through waves of the undead, you’ll really feel it.
A masterpiece in storytelling, world design and new takes on old tropes, The Last of Us really has it all. It took the zombie genre and did some truly imaginative things with it. It also boasts some of the most endearing, well-written and well-acted characters in gaming. Stealth elements heighten tension, excellent sound design brings you new ways to experience the horror of the zombies, and solid gameplay keeps you totally immersed. It’s simply wonderful. And those clickers are creepy as all hell.
10. Alien: Isolation
For years we’d been waiting for a real, proper Alien game. Alien Isolation finally gave us the nerve-wracking, beautifully crafted and exquisitely nostalgic experience we’d been craving. The Xenomorph has such a chilling presence, shuffling around in vents, lurking around every corner and the setting of the ransacked Sevastopol station itself is so unforgivingly labyrinthian. This is the most genuinely terrifying Alien game to date and is a must-play for fans of the movies and horror games alike.
11. The Evil Within
This trippy title from Resident Evil series creator Shinji Mikami still resonates with horror fans in spite of its few hiccups. The Evil Within’s unrelenting use of gore and gruesome atmosphere remain consistent throughout its 20-hour length, a hefty playthrough that will leave you grossed out, baffled and spooked in the most abstract of ways. The Evil Within drops you into its nightmarish corridors, drowns you in blood and guts, and pits you against some truly tough, terrifying adversaries making for a challenge that will leave horror lovers more than satisfied!
12. Dead Space
We’re taking another dip into the endless vacuum in which no-one can hear you scream with this classic survival horror shooter. Renowned for its signature scythe-limbed mutant monsters, graphic, gory violence and body horror, Dead Space remains to this day one of the scariest space trips a gamer can take. Not only is the tension palpable throughout, but the story is also gripping and takes more than a few head-spinning twists. Dead Space is delightfully dreadful and one we definitely recommend for those who’ve yet to try it.
An instant horror classic comes in the shape of Outlast. As you first drive up to the entrance of Mount Massive Asylum, there’s no way you could prepare yourself for the terrors that lie in wait just beyond those big iron gates. Countless jump-scares, mutated patients, unseen entities, hiding in lockers to avoid being pulled apart. Mount Massive really doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to good, old fashioned fear. Outlast is one of those games that’s as fun to play as it is to watch someone play so why not get a few friends together and scare yourselves silly? We promise you’ll all be sleeping with the lights on for a good few nights.
14. Doki Doki Literature Club
Another title that spread through across the internet like wildfire, Doki Doki Literature Club went viral, spawned memes and a huge fanbase faster than you can say Monika. Just Monika. Starting out as a seemingly harmless, cheery, and utterly delightful visual novel/dating simulator, DDLC takes a massive turn about 2-3 hours in. For the unsuspecting players, this brutal, graphic, and wholly unpredictable moment absolutely threw them for a loop. From that point on, the game is a seemingly unending barrage of gore, torment and fourth-wall-breaking horror. This is an absolute must-play for fans of the genre and an instant classic that certainly cemented its well-earned moment in gaming history.
15. FAITH, FAITH: Chapter 2
One of the more lesser-known titles on this list, FAITH chapters 1 and 2 rely heavily on their unassuming retro style to take players by surprise. The initially charming throwback graphics may lull some into a false sense of security. But the FAITH series certainly packs a punch when it comes to visual, graphic horror. It also boasts some of the scariest fully voiced dialogue you can come across in gaming. The robotic, expressionless tones are so unnerving and hypnotic. Coupled with the FAITH’s theme of demonic possession, some truly horrifying imagery and clever multiple-ending stories, FAITH chapters 1 and 2 make for an excellent overall spooky experience. Did we mention that it incorporates real recordings of an actual exorcism into the sound design? Because it does.
16. Fatal Frame
Here we have a true achievement in Japanese supernatural horror complete with disembodied hands, suicides, ghosts and creepy forests. Despite being pretty much abandoned for the past few years, Fatal Frame is still one of the most terrifying franchises you can find. It’s core mechanic of taking photos of spirits to vanquish them forces you to face your fears and get up close to some truly awful entities. Its atmosphere is exactly as sinister as you’d expect, keeping that quintessential Japanese Horror vibe going throughout. Although the titles in the series are spread about over a few different platforms, the first three that release on the PlayStation 2 are a solid choice for some real terrors.
17. Layers of Fear
A failing artist, his tragic muse and their ghostly child all come together to create a truly eerie game in which you will get utterly lost. The hallucinatory, shifting house you make your way through is filled with horrors and ominous supernatural happenings. As the story unfolds, the tragedy and futility of the protagonist’s life becomes more and more apparent. Layers of Fear is a mind-bending game with a few different endings depending on how you play through. It spares nothing when it comes to spooks too, with shambling ghosts, creepy laughter and frequent inexplicable events. This title is not one to be overlooked if you’re wanting a classic horror experience.
Often overlooked as a horror game, what with it being a FromSoftware game which is basically a genre of its own, Bloodborne still definitely holds up as a terrifying title. Unfathomably grotesque monsters, the constant threat of death and one of the most panic-inducing symphonic soundtracks ever made really put Bloodborne on the map as a top-calibre horror game.
19. Until Dawn
Until Dawn is slowly but surely becoming the predecessor to a whole new genre of horror games, what with its success having spurred on the creation of Man of Medan; another excellent title that’s currently sweeping the Letsplayer scene off its feet. It plays like a movie, only you have control over what happens to every character! Well, some control. Its split-second decision-making mechanics tailor every playthrough of the game to the player and their choices. That and the inclusion of Quick-Time Events which, although frustrating at times, are challenging and really add a sense of panic to certain scenes. It also looks incredible, with gorgeous graphics and excellent actors including the likes of Oscar-winner Rami Malek. It’s a perfect choice for a night in with friends helping you decide what to do next!
As eerie and unsettling as it is beautiful and poignant, Limbo is still praised to this day for its original art style, challenging gameplay and clever mechanics. The pacing is perfect, the difficulty ramps up smoothly, the concept is simple yet stunning. Everything about Limbo is understated which inadvertently makes it all the more disturbing. There are no sudden, loud noises, no unnecessarily graphic gore or overly dramatic moments. Just quiet, subtle, insidious dread. Limbo is a masterpiece in its field and is a definite must-play for any horror fan or really anyone. It will leave you haunted yet wistfully wanting more.
That concludes our list of horror games to get you in the mood for Autumn and all its festivities! Are there any other games you think we should scare ourselves silly with? Leave your suggestions in the comments!