Top 10 Greatest Horror Games of All Time
As a self-admitted scaredy-cat and grade-A wuss, I honestly can’t tell you why it is that I play scary games. They make me sweat, cry, shake, and even long after I stop playing, they give me nightmares. These games haunt me, just as they haunt every player naïve enough to think they won’t be afraid of a few jump scares or creepy characters; and like me, no one is ever the same after experiencing these interactive horrorscapes.
There’s something addictive and disarmingly beautiful about the way horror games are crafted, making these truly great games both terrifying and breathtaking (in more ways than one). So, here are our picks for the top 10 greatest scary games of all time, chosen not only because they’re all 100% nightmare fuel, but because they all keep us coming back for more.
Slender: The Eight Pages
For being such a small Indie-horror release, Slender: The Eight Pages exploded in a huge way, taking YouTube and an entire generation by storm. A simple premise, it’s set in a mist-filled forest where secluded landmarks may or may not hide a note: a clue about the entity that stalks you. An intoxicating need to find every note combined with a loud, pounding soundtrack keeps us coming back despite death after horrifying, screaming death at the hands of the dreaded, pale, unexplainable Slenderman.
Five Nights at Freddy’s
Anyone who’s ever been to a Chuck E Cheese birthday party has a healthy fear of animatronics, but Five Nights at Freddy’s takes that to a whole new level. The supposed-to-be whimsical characters are in a rotting state of disrepair, making them absolutely terrifying as they slowly creep towards you, looking absently into the security cameras and grinning maniacally as they imagine shoving your screaming body into an animatronic suit. A delicious mix of jump scares and suffocating dread will make it so 6:00 AM will never feel the same.
While Dead Space could technically be called a shooter, there are so many well-done horror elements that it earns a spot on our list. Stranded in a derelict spaceship while investigating a distress call, you must battle your way through disturbing creatures and dark, flickering environments, all while conserving limited ammo and piecing together what happened from the crew’s audio diaries. Horrific enemies and insane cult-worshipers out to get you make Dead Space an eerily satisfying experience wrapped in a gory, disturbing shell.
Campy, immature, sometimes sexy and sometimes stupid, Until Dawn is all of the best and worst parts of horror movies. A group of teenagers trapped in an isolated cabin? Check. Said teenagers playing pranks on each other? Check. A huge secret everyone in the group is hiding? Check. Murdering psychopaths and inexplicable supernatural activity? Hmm…
In fact, it’s the parts that make Until Dawn seem like a stupid teen movie turned video game that are truly brilliant. The sometimes outrageous interactions and crappy dialogue lure you into a false sense of security before dropping your stomach with unpredictable jump scares and monstrous murderers you have to avoid with motion-tracking mechanics. Emotionally charged, polarizing, and at times truly shocking, Until Dawn deserves its spot on our list.
A new and surprisingly good game based on the Alien franchise of movies, Isolation follows Ripley’s daughter as she tries to escape a space station under siege. Stalked by the Xenomorph that wreaked havoc on the now-expired crew, you must hide, stalk, and pray your way through rooms, ducts, and puzzles, all while avoiding a gruesome death. What makes this game exceptional, however, isn’t the premise – it’s the advanced AI and realistic visuals. A huge majority of the Xenomorph’s actions are unscripted, meaning there’s really no predictability to the way it moves. In fact, it has a list of evolving and expanding scripts that make it harder to avoid the longer you play. Its actions are smart and unpredictable, keeping the game consistently stressful.
Preying on several naturals fears at once, SOMA brings claustrophobia to a whole new level beneath the ocean. Not sure why or how you got there and harassed by a variety of pseudo-humanoid creatures of the deep, you never feels safe, even in the peaceful, picturesque moments the game allows. Computer screen-like static and loss of visibility in the sight of an enemy creates a sickening sense of total loss of control, simulating the very real feeling of panic. The dread that floods the underwater facility makes it an excellent horror game, while the existential crisis of a horrific future makes it a worthwhile story. Long after the robots are gone and the creatures are buried, you’ll find yourself thinking about SOMA and what it truly meant.
Love it or hate it, Outlast is one of the greatest survival horrors ever made. An impressive recreation of a classic horror theme, the concept is delightfully terrifying: You are a helpless reporter trapped in a sinister insane asylum, chased by horrifically disfigured lunatics and armed only with a night vision camcorder… that you eventually lose.
A disgustingly gory atmosphere is intensified by the eerie glow of the night vision camera, making each deepening area of the asylum a treasure trove of jump scares. Creepy, bloody, and dilapidated, the sickening effect of the game’s surroundings are undeniable, but the real seller is the sound mixing. High pitched violins and low horns add subtle discomfort to a soundtrack of heavy breathing and screaming. Masterfully mixed, even sitting still in relative safety doesn’t ease your sense of dread as the wailing and muttering of the inmates fill your ears with paralyzing terror.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
The Resident Evil series is home to a number of top-worthy titles, but Resident Evil 7: Biohazard holds its own as having not only some of the best jump scares, but a creepy atmosphere and compelling story to pull it all together. A first-person victim to everything that befalls the protagonist, the player never feels safe or at ease at any point as the game progresses. Every circumstance, encounter, and atmosphere is specifically designed to psychologically terrify, keeping us in a constant state of stressful suspense, even after each horrific confrontation.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
An undeniable classic, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is convoluted, distressing, and, as the title suggests, dark. A masterpiece of survival horror, the feeling of helpless claustrophobia the game inspires makes it a truly gut-wrenching example of the genre. Armed with only a lantern (which you often have to put out) and your sanity (which you slowly lose), you are trapped in a labyrinth of a castle and forced to run and hide from the inhuman creatures that inhabit it. Preying on our fear of what we can’t see, the gloomy, dim atmosphere fills our senses with panicked dread as we slosh through tunnels and try not to breathe in tight, tiny spaces.
Hideo Kojima’s playable teaser is the perfect example of a “here and vanished” title that dropped without warning, and disappeared with the same. While P.T. was only a short demo of what fans assumed would be a full game release housed in the Silent Hill series, no release (or explanation) ever followed. However, even without a game release and despite being made totally unavailable not long after its initial drop, P.T. sparked several copycats and influenced a huge number of new horror games, making it by far the most influential horror demo ever released.
To horror fans, the game is the perfect mix of murky and claustrophobic, with one of the greatest ghostly antagonists every conceived – Lisa. Why are you here? Who is Lisa? What does she want? You don’t know. And that is what makes the ever-convulsing, ever-mutilated, ever-waiting Lisa the single most terrifying part of any horror game, ever.