It’s time to get into something spooky. Even though Halloween isn’t for another month or so, I still want to discuss something that can send a shiver down your spine. I’m of course speaking of horror, and in this case, horror games. When it comes to horror games, they can be put into the same vein as horror movies. Both have the ability to give you the type of scare you look for in the horror genre. I know what you’re thinking, “Why would someone want to purposely scare themselves?” Well, the way I see it, it’s enjoyable.
I’ve played plenty of horror games, and I’ve seen my fair share of horror movies to the point that I can say for certainty that the type of fear state it puts you in can be enjoyable if the content is done right. Now, much like horror movies, horror games aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. So, I would like to introduce you to ten terrifying horror games that will scare your pants off, and to even the playing field, I will also be mentioning five horror games that I feel tried to be scary, but failed. And on top of all of that, some of the games mentioned here are here because even though they don’t fit in with the horror genre as a whole, they still trigger some psychological horror that some crave from the horror genre. Just going to mention this before you read on that there may be some spoilers for games that you may have not checked out yet, so read with caution. But, I’ve chosen games that have been out for enough time to allow for spoilers to not be considered dire.
15. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
When it comes to horror games, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is known by many to be one of the best survival horror games every made, and for good reason. You’re a man traveling deeper and deeper into a haunted house to find clues and complete puzzles to reach an end goal. Admittedly, I was nowhere near as prepared as I should have been for this game as it succeeded in scaring the pants right off of me on several different occasions. It has got everything a horror game needs without reaching too far, while still maintaining a great narrative. Worth at least one play through, even though I’ve experienced multiple. And if you’ve never experienced this game for yourself, I would certainly recommend it as it’s one of those games that you’ll never forget, and trust me when I say that you should go into this game completely blind.
14. Alien: Isolation
To my own fault, I don’t remember the Alien movies. Although, from what I’ve seen with Alien: Isolation so far, you don’t really need to know a whole lot as the storytelling brings you up to speed. Besides that point, the game is an excellent inclusion in the survival horror genre. Not only does it take the best of what a survival horror game needs, it has the added narrative of the Alien franchise, and uses it to scare you by any means necessary. Believe me, if you’ve never experienced fear before, you’re going to now. And if you’re really into knowing a story before playing the game for yourself, be sure to do your research. If I were to go back in time, I would have done my research before getting into this game because the entire first part of the game would have made so much more sense.
While some people have said that this game seems too easy, or it’s not scary, I beg to differ. Outlast delivers a full fledged survival horror game in its best form. You play as a journalist who’s mission is to find out what’s been going on at an abandoned mental asylum. Not scary enough for you? Well, you find mutated humans along the way and there’s nothing to help you but the light of your camera. Still not scary enough? Well, did I mention that you eventually lose your camera for an extended part of the game? Yeah, now it’s scary, huh? Outlast is a must play for those who are fans of the survival horror genre. There’s jump scares around every corner, and the twist near the end of the game makes the game worthwhile on its own. I guarantee you will need a new pair of pants after this one.
12. Dead Space
Okay, I know Dead Space wouldn’t necessarily fall into the category of horror, but if you’re looking for something that will punish you for simply trying to survive, well this is it. Dead Space has been known by many to be one of the best survival games ever made and even its sequels weren’t that bad, which is rare for a game of this caliber. In fact, I remember reading reviews about Dead Space II being the better of the three games in the Dead Space lineage. In Dead Space, your main goal is to fight through an alien scourge that has taken homage in a mining star ship. Along the way, you find that the entire crew has been slaughtered, and some have been reanimated as “Necromorphs.” It’s one of the few games back during its release that used the “over the shoulder” third person perspective and did so appropriately.
There have been some positives and negatives about the new era of horror games, and SOMA would be somewhere in-between, but leaning more towards the positive. What’s better than a survival horror game? Well, throw some science fiction in there. SOMA does this and does it well. While the game doesn’t start out as scary as you’d expect it to, you end up in an underwater world with the sole purpose of finding out what the underwater facility was used for. At the same time, you start to realize that the machine you’re investigating is starting to learn human like traits. Instead of using jump scares or scary monsters, SOMA uses psychological horror to its advantage by creating an atmosphere of scary sounds and dread. Don’t worry though, the scary monsters are still in plenty supply, they’re just not used for the sole purpose of scaring you.
10. Layers of Fear
Much like SOMA, there are a special few that use the psychological horror structure and create something that is both memorable and exciting. Layers of Fear follows the story of a painter who ends up getting obsessed with his work, to the point that it’s the only thing that matters to him. The unique perk that brings people into this game is the fact that the game will change while you play. For example, you go into one room, and you go back through the same door, you’ll be in a different room. It does use jump scares and the surroundings to scare you, but the game really shines in its use of psychological terror and story driven commentary. On top of all that, you’ll find yourself feeling mind-blown while also realizing the truth behind everything that happens to you. If you are a story nut, check this one out.
9. Welcome To The Game
The overwhelmingly positive ratings and the low price for Welcome To The Game are two of the big reasons why everyone is so enamored with it, but from my own experience, I’ve found much more to love about it. The simplest way I can put this is that you’re in control of a character who has been given access to the deep web. What this means is that you’ll be looking into links that lead you to online black markets or sites dedicated to satanic rituals.
The strength to this game isn’t just you getting access to the dark web, it also shines in its ability to make you feel like you’re being watched. The only things you control are which links you click on, and the light switch behind you. Think back from when you were a kid, and you’d be sitting downstairs on your mom’s computer at two in the morning. You didn’t know what you were doing and sometimes you felt like there was something behind you. What, that was just me?. Well, that’s what this game will bring you back to, and let me tell you, it’s worth every cent.
8. This War of Mine
There aren’t very many military simulators out there, but the ones that are out there are not very good. However, we often get rare gems that arise from somewhere, and This War of Mine falls into that category. I’ve never experienced anything post-war before, so I’m not the best person to describe what does or doesn’t happen, but everything I’d expect it to be like would be what is described in This War of Mine as “a fight to survive”.
You play as a crew of people in an abandoned house, and your sole purpose is to branch out, find supplies, and survive for as long as possible. The added strength to this game is the fear that you’ll lose one of your crew members, or you’ll run into the wrong neighborhood ill prepared. Much like some of the other games I’ve mentioned here, it’s not necessarily known as a survival horror, but the sense of dread and loneliness play into the way you perceive this game. Experiences may vary depending on your threshold for this type of thing, and whether you play it with all the lights off or not.
7. Don’t Starve
Don’t Starve falls under those games that aren’t necessarily meant to make you poop your pants, but it does a good job at making you feel uneasy. Imagine being dropped on an island with nothing but the environment around you. You are told to use whatever you can get your hands on to survive. Don’t Starve is that in a nutshell, but where it really shines is the dark atmosphere and the fear of being killed at every turn you make, and, of course, the Gothic art style. Trying to survive while making sure your character is well fed and comfortable is not the easiest thing to do. Mixed with all of that is a great soundtrack and the chance of terror around every turn. Make sure you don’t step foot into the darkness because creatures of the night are much more terrifying when you’re trying to survive on your own.
6. Fallout 3
Fallout 3 may not belong on a list that consists mostly of horror games, but I’m going to include it here because it has its moments, and it’s one of my favorite games of all time. First off, you have the sense of being alone, something that could stir a lot of fear into someone, since nine times out of ten, people don’t like the feeling of being left alone. Secondly, there is a survival aspect. A lot of survival horror games work in the same way that Fallout 3 works where you have to do whatever you can to survive whether it’s killing innocent people, or defending them, or joining factions for the sole purpose of persuading them to give you everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve. One of its biggest strengths relies on the environments of Fallout 3 consisting solely of a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C., which in itself is uneasy.
5. Slender: The Eight Pages
This game just barely made the list above, which prompted me to throw it into this list. While Slender: The Eight Pages fails in some ways, it does exceed in others. Personally, I feel that back in the day, this game was the perfect “training wheel” for those that wanted to experience a survival horror game. While not necessarily being the best game ever, it not only gained popularity at an alarming rate, but it also became a phenomenon across multiple platforms, including creepy pastas. Although the game lacks story or inner commentary, it does exceed in the way that most horror games should. It gives you the sense of unease and dread and constantly makes you feel like you’re being followed, even if you turn around and see nothing there. Spoiler alert, you are being followed. Unfortunately, once you figure it out, it does become easy to beat, and less scary.
We’ve talked about military simulators before (the good and the bad), and we’ve also talked about zombie survival games (good and bad), but what if both styles were thrown into one game simultaneously? Well, you’d get DayZ. I don’t feel my critiques are entirely fair due to this game still being in its development stage and my opinions may change in the future. However, as it stands now, when you’re trying to get people to play your early access game, and you promise a horrifying experience like no other, at least make the game stick to that promise. I often times found myself wandering around in a desolate area until I got bored. I understand the point of finding ways to survive, but when there is literally nothing to do or nobody to see, it makes the game feel more like a walking simulator, and less of a military survival simulator.
3. Five Nights at Freddy’s
You don’t even want to get me started on Five Nights at Freddy’s, because me ranting about this game could take up an entire article. Instead, I’ll keep it down to just one segment. While I’m impressed with how the developer took this name and expanded on it, I can’t be impressed with how badly these games are in regards to how they try to scare you, and fail to do so. Much like other games, its got a really good concept. Animatronic animals coming to life is a terrifying thing, but when it’s done so in the way that the Five Nights at Freddy’s games are, it takes away that scare tactic, and turns it into something silly. Sitting in an office by yourself gets boring fast, when the only mechanics available are to shut doors, and turn the lights on and off. I often wish the developer would have stuck to making this game better instead of cashing in on the brand and making mediocre games that have somehow gained popularity throughout the internet.
2. Among The Sleep
Among The Sleep takes a really interesting and unique concept, and destroys it with poor game play mechanics and a boring story. You play as a toddler who is on a mission in his own home to find out what happened to his mom. While the movement is a tad bit awkward since it is in the perspective of the child, the game still tries to scare you throughout the game, but they fall short and is almost laughable. While the game was made to be in the perspective of a child, I can’t help but wonder if the game was meant to also be played by toddlers. If given the right direction, and if a sequel were to come out of this game, they’d have to go by the rules that most other survival horror games go and not try to do something different for the sake of doing something different.
1. Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs
So it may not fair for me to add this to a list of non-scary games when the developers stated that the game wouldn’t be as scary as its predecessor, but I feel it still deserves a spot. While still being a sequel to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, it’s not a direct sequel. Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs follows a new story and layout as opposed to the first game where instead of being stuck in an enclosed home with jump scares everywhere you go, there is more focus on the story and the progression of the main character. While I don’t feel this game delivered in terms of horror, it exceeded in the story telling element, which is very rare when it comes to survival horror. I won’t spoil anything for you, but if you’re into a game that is rich with story, give this one a go.