At the beginning of this century, horror games were much more simple. Revolving around jump scares and hordes of zombies, malicious aliens or beats, they were mostly week-long kill-fests. However, technology has evolved and so have the best horror games and franchises.
It turns out that jump scares are still the epicenter of every horror game experience, but there is so much more. Atmosphere is one of the main things developers focus now. A good horror game for PC or for a console isn’t just to scare for a moment. Instead, they want to make you feel dread during the entire experience.
Horror games have changed to include a more philosophical and existential theme in recent years. By undergoing this change, players can experience them in a completely different way. Through improved graphics and stunning mechanics, horror games have become brimful of so many different features.
This sudden and amazing evolution has brought them to many different platforms. Far from a PC-only activity, horror games for PS and XBOX 360 saw their popularity rise. But, what are the best horror games you can play? Which ones will leave you awake at night, suffering from existential dread? In this piece, we will cover the 7 best horror games out there.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard – back to the basics
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is perhaps the most ideal choice for both young and old horror games fans. When the game was announced in late 2016, nobody expected that Capcom would release the full version only 6 months later. A good move from their side was to make the game available for both PC and different consoles.
While RE5 and 6 were considered disappointing by both fans and critics alike, Biohazard is a true redemption project by Capcom. The focus on the design here is simply impeccable. As you go through the first hour of gameplay, you can easily notice that the monsters are looking better than ever. The visual aspect of the game is much more than. Outdoor environments are oddly realistic and engaging.
Players of all affinities should play this game because of its unique approach to the horror genre. Even though the graphics are new, the game takes you right back to the roots of old school horror games. Survival is the only option, as you have hordes of monstrosities chasing you. For those of you who have played the previous installments, you will love the fact that puzzles are back. Previous ammo problems have been solved and everything goes smooth.
No matter your experience level, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard will surely keep you on the edge of your seat and test your gaming abilities. Both challenging and stunning – everything horror games should be. If you’re more of a fan of storytelling over action, then this next game might suit you.
The features that you will love the most are:
- Clear objectives
- Unique and complex puzzles
- A wide variety of monsters
- Beautiful architecure
The Evil Within – a story like no other
As we follow Detective Sebastian Castellanos as he wakes up and sees all his comrades mauled to death, all hell breaks loose. The first thing that we see is the stunning setting in the cathedral, which has Shinji Mikami’s prints all over. Spearheading the team at Tango Gameworks, Shinji enjoyed his first foray into the horror game genre after the masterpiece that is Resident Evil 4. The overall atmosphere of the game relies on its great design, but that’s not the only realistic thing about the game.
The moment we tried the demo of The Life Within, we were surprised by the realistic gameplay. No gimmicks or super-weapons, just your everyday arsenal (plus the occasional crossbow). You should definitely try The Evil Within out because of its realistic approach to the horror genre. The lack of gimmicks goes well with the intricate and enticing storyline. Somehow, the tension only keeps rising as you go through level after level.
Some features you will love include:
- Survival runs in spectacular fashion
- Very well hidden traps that are hard to spot due to the twisted creatures attacking you
- The design of structures makes it impossible to see a monster coming
Rumors say that there is a sequel in the works, so there is just enough time for you to try out this epic collaboration between Bethesda and Tango Gameworks. A well-refurbished back to the roots bonanza. Another game that exemplifies a mixture of realistic action and great storytelling shook the gaming world recently.
Call of Cthulhu – horrors as old as time
H.P. Lovecraft is widely considered to be the greatest horror author ever. So, any time a studio decides to adapt his mythos into a horror game, all eyes are on that project. Call of Cthulhu definitely didn’t disappoint, and we have to say that it’s the best Lovecraft-themed horror game ever.
For the most part, designing games that are set in the past is challenging. The design had every opportunity to flop, but the atmosphere and the graphics take you on a realistic trip to 1924. As PI Pierce sets off to see what happened to the Hawkins family, he is lured into the darkness that resides on Darkwater Island. Soon after he arrives, he is sucked into a strange storyline of conspiracies and cosmic horrors as old as times itself.
When we review horror games, the most important aspect is whether the game is challenging or not. In the case of Call of Cthulhu, we love the different set of modes and the way they all fit into the story. Every single mission is a challenge for which there is no preparation. You will love the lasting effect this game.
Throughout this game you will also encounter:
- Interesting puzzles
- Situations and scenes that will have you rethink your entire life
- Excellent adaptations of Lovecraft’s many literary works
- An interesting storyline crossed with old-school action
While great storytelling is always welcome, lots of gamers prefer a focus on action. This leads us to a game that brought us realistic action, but with a never before seen twist.
Dead by Daylight – a new format
Out of all the games on our list, this one has probably the most unique approach. Along the years, we’ve gotten used to single-player and co-op modes, all somehow connected to the storyline. Behavior Digital Inc. did something unheard of, and people took notice immediately. Unlike traditional games, Dead by Daylight is played only in multiplayer mode.
Five players play the game, while one of them plays the Savage Killer who is on a mission to hunt down the Survivors, played by the other four players. Different scenes and settings are available in the game so you definitely won’t get bored playing the same objective. Frankly, the concept that Dead by Daylight introduced is a novelty in the horror game industry. The execution is flawless, and you’ll be drawn right in.
What you will love about the game is the way it’s thought out. When you’re playing the Killer, you always play in first-person, to focus on the prey. The Survivors, however, always play in third-person for better situational awareness. In-game, you can torture, mutilate and finally kill the Survivors at the tempo you personally like.
Some of the most exciting features are:
- Random spawn points to prevent any type of strategic planning
- When you’re a killer, you can play as anyone from Freddy Kruger to a paranormal entity
- There are lots of Easter eggs scattered throughout the game, paying homage to legendary works of horror
Innovations are always important in the world of horror games. Therefore, our next game is a very ambitious idea brought to life in excellent form.
Dying Light – killer acrobatics
In horror games, we’re used to the usual epic setting of a hero or warrior fighting for a noble cause. To break the usual routine, Techland Publishing decided to come up with something we’ve been missing – a good old zombie smash bonanza. In recent years, zombies haven’t been so prominent in horror games. However, the developers at Techland decided to remind everyone of their favorite monstrosities. In Dying Light, they are displayed in their most horrific form.
As a parkour runner, you have hours upon hours to explore all the moves and combos you have at your disposal. What we love about the game is the uniqueness of the format, where you aren’t bent on using weapons to prevail. Instead, using your mind and skills, you have to combine all the right moves and decisions to come out victorious. The design is seamlessly pleasant, as Dying Light transports you to many different settings.
Here are some of our favorite features in the game:
- Highly intelligent monsters
- Realistic driving system
- The volatility and movement of your enemies
- Beautifully designed zombies
Innovations are always best paired with realism, which leads us to the penultimate entry on our list of 7 best horror games.
Dead Island – when a tropic vacation goes bloody
Even though the last few years weren’t filled with quality zombie horror games, Dead Island stands out as a masterpiece. When testing, we love to see a game that’s both challenging and well-crafted. The design is something that immediately gets noticed, due to almost surreal lighting and realistic shadows. These two elements are usually the biggest downsides of horror games, but the developers at Techland really outdid themselves.
If you love realistic actions and very graphic violence, this is the game for you. Out of all the games on this list, we would say that Dead Island definitely has the best fight graphics. Another thing that will keep you playing for weeks is the Island itself. This isn’t just one or two areas with fancy graphics – the island is humongous and every area has its distinct perks. Since the action is so violent, yet so realistic, you won’t feel that the game is neither too easy nor too hard.
Also, we can’t omit the excellent idea. Zombies attacking while you’re on a tropical island? Zombies biting people’s neck in the middle of a club party? You have to appreciate the uniqueness and execution by Techland.
These features will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat:
- Different modes, including a timed on
- Very well done multiplayer modes, ideal for both action and story mode
- Zombies constantly jumping out of dimly lit bushes
Introducing new features requires a lot of effort, but adapting another work of art into a game is the pinnacle of difficulty. This leads us to the final game on our list.
OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead – high expectations and high quality
If Friday afternoon traffic in DC wasn’t bad enough, you now have a myriad of zombies to face. Everyone knows about the success of the Walking Dead comics, as well as the TV shows, so expectations were high for OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead. It’s safe to say that OVERKILL took their job seriously and transported us into the TWD universe the best way possible.
Instead of the traditional approach, the team at OVERKILL opted for a multiplayer only, 4-player co-op mode. To emphasize the importance of action, the developers cleverly used the multiplayer mode as an excuse to increase the number of enemies. We loved this and to say that this game is challenging would be an understatement.
The design here is very diligently done, as you can see some striking similarities with real-life DC, albeit in a post-apocalyptic version.
If you get bored of killing zombies (trust us, you won’t), then some other features in OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead will interest you:
- Looting options around different neighborhoods
- The zombies are sensitive to noise, so you’re going to sneak a lot
- Rescuing survivors can turn into an all-around bloodbath
- There are some fun combos to be discovered while attacking all at once
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Frictional Games really outdid themselves with this game. Even though the game is more than 8 years old, its relevance is still as prominent as it was in 2010. One reason for this prolonged popularity is the fact that PlayStation 4 and Xbox One only saw the game being released in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Since there are no limitations in relation to consoles, you can try the game out.
Unlike most horror games, Amnesia doesn’t involve you battling monsters per se. Instead, you take on the role of Daniel, whose task is to escape the monsters. That’s right – there are no weapons and no means to survive if a monster spots you. What the game lacks in weaponry, it makes up for in unique puzzles, challenges, and scintillating graphics.
One reason why Amnesia: The Dark Descent has a stunning design is the subterranean style of play. You will most likely never see the sun, so the developers had enough time to work on the dark tones.
Instead of knowing what to do and receiving objectives, your task is to discover how your character interacts with foreign objects. Tinderboxes and small candles are your only source of light, which you will desperately need.
True terror is something that makes this game one of a kind. You will feel so powerless because you won’t be able to fight off the monsters. This unique approach is what makes Amnesia: The Dark Descent one of the best horror games you can play. Here are some of the features we loved about it:
- Complex algorithms, making it possible to predict the whereabouts of the monsters
- Chilling music
- Five amazing stories
Right after Amnesia, we have another game that’s often compared to it, but with a different twist. Let’s take a look.
Ever since Overture got released in 2007, Penumbra has solidified itself as one of the best horror games you must play. Alongside the Amnesia series, Penumbra has redefined the horror genre by introducing the so-called passive approach. Instead of actively participating in and influencing the situation, you are more of a passive observer. The objective? Solve the problems and survive.
Frictional Games and Paradox Interactive joined forces to release three installments – Overture, Black Plague and Requiem. Each of the games includes interactive gameplay, where the player relies on interacting with different objects.
Your goal is to get through each story, but time is not unlimited. Monsters roam every area, waiting to maul you if you’re not quick to solve the puzzles.
If you like to use your mind during games, Penumbra is definitely the right choice for you. Fans of old-school horror games should also try Penumbra because of its psychologically terrifying effects and features. Instead of relying on gore and bloodshed, Penumbra is more reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
There are no cheap thrills included in Penumbra, just relying on the game’s laws of physics and memorizing the monsters’ patterns. Although infuriating at first, Penumbra is a fair challenge to any gamer that’s a fan of the horror genre. Here just some aspects of the game we loved:
- Every time, the experience is different
- The interaction system gives you multiple solutions to every puzzle
- Secrets that require extra work to be revealed
- Unpredictable monster interactions
If you’ve grown to love the survival horror genre, then this next game might interest you. Keep in mind that it has a sci-fi twist to it…
Frictional Games have proven to be the masters in redefining the world of horror games. After the success of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, they went on to create a myriad of unsettling games.
One of their best works is SOMA, similar to their other work, but indubitably unique. It has all the characteristics of a survival horror game, but it appeals more to fans of futuristic horror. Zombies and monstrosities make way for self-aware artificial intelligence and corrupted humans.
The gameplay features a bit more interactive approach than other Frictional Games works. In the beginning, you will assume the role of a scientist working at the PATHOS-II underwater facility.
Nobody really knows what kind of research is done down there and it’s never made clear. What is clear is that something is wrong. With a malfunctioning radio and scares food, you have to look for clues if you’re to survive.
Different levels will see the game’s objective change. Running out monsters and solving problems proves to be the best formula that can please any horror game fan. Just when you think things are calming down, twisted robots will be on your tail.
The design is a major part of the game’s success, making every level and encounter as realistic as possible. Here are some of our favorite things about the game:
- A compelling story that isn’t clarified until the end
- Combining AI and deep ocean mysteries is an ambitious take on the horror genre
- Every monstrosity has different mechanics, urging you to learn them fast
- Challenging objectives
If you want to be a more active participant in a horror game, then our next entry will surely fascinate you.
The Peterson Case
For those of you who love conspiracy theories, The Peterson Case is the ideal horror game. The 1947 Roswell UFO conspiracy gave birth to many works of fiction, but the Peterson Case is perhaps the best one.
It’s incredibly hard to incorporate such a story and turn it into a playable game, but Quarter Circle Games manage to outdo themselves. It’s definitely one of the best horror games you must play, featuring so many novelties.
The moment you start the game; you will love the specific design. Everything looks exactly like post-WWII America, so the atmosphere functions as a time machine. The Peterson family disappears once a strange object lands in the town of Roswell, and it’s your job to get to the bottom of the mystery.
A strange beginning of this first-person shooter/horror bonanza has you exploring paperwork. When you analyze the clues, it’s time to pick up the gun and get to the bottom of the whole situation.
What makes this game is the unique approach to gameplay it has. You won’t just battle monsters, but you’ll witness horrific war flashback and find yourself in the middle of an extraterrestrial conspiracy.
Psychological and interactive elements join forces to make this game exciting and innovative with every new level. For both old school and new school horror fans, this is a must play. These features are just some of the reasons why:
- An intricate story that is an expansion of an old conspiracy
- An ideal mix of action and strategy
- Beautiful graphics and realistic action
For this next game, you will experience cosmic horror like never before, based on a legendary writer’s work.
Moons of Madness
Rock Pocket games have undertaken one of the most ambitious projects to date. Moons of Madness is driven by a unique idea, or a combination of idea, if you will. The game takes place on Mars and a combination of futuristic horror and Lovecraftian nihilism.
You play as Shane Newhart, a scientist that was tasked to prepare the foundation for colonizers to come to the Red Planet. Everything goes well until strange things start happening.
What we loved about this game is the gradual way in which the horror elements are introduced. You can always feel something is coming, but you can never tell exactly when. Strange cosmic forces have taken offense to human attempts to colonize Mars.
The gameplay consists of exploration and adapting to the changes in terrain and architecture. Beautiful tones of orange and gray make the game a memorable cosmic experience. After some time, black and green tones enter the scene, notifying us that ancient horrors are upon us.
It’s not easy to combine futuristic elements with Lovecraft’s ideas, but the result is more than satisfying. You should definitely give this game a chance, as it’s a completely new take on the cosmic horror genre.
The open-world feel allows you to explore for hours and embark on exciting side quests. Every single stage is jam-packed with features, so these are just some of our favorite ones:
- An interesting take on an age-old philosophical question (Are we alone?)
- Excellent combination of different elements and inspiration drawn from different sources
- Vivid imagery of enemies, objectives, and surroundings
Our next game features a completely opposite take on the horror genre, in comparison to other entries on this list. The release that provides this unique action is…
Over the last couple of years, the horror game market became oversaturated with games where you play a passive role. It’s an expected result of people becoming bored with the early 2000s trend of “hunter” horror games.
The developer team at Knife Entertainment decided to release a game that is a first-person survival one but with the character playing a more active role. This change in gameplay resulted in REBORN become one of the best horror games you must play.
The design of this game draws inspiration from occultism and 1960s and 70s obscure cults. Of course, the story goes deeper and features some supernatural monstrosities you have to hunt down.
However, this isn’t a classic “smash and dash” horror game. Instead, all the monsters are excellently scripted and battling them isn’t easy. To help your cause, every level will provide you with a wide array of weapons. Whether it is an RPG or a knife, they will surely be useful.
Most horror game fans are aware that games that feature lots of weapons tend to be less challenging. However, REBORN is not the case. Every piece in your arsenal works better against some enemies, urging you to switch gear and plan ahead. This is definitely a game you should give a chance to, as it redefines the concept of fighting in horror games.
Expect to die an awful lot of times before you figure out a way to survive. These features just some of the reasons why we loved REBORN:
- Excellently scripted opponents and challenging fights
- An atmosphere truly fit for an occult-themed horror game
- Very challenging
Our next game puts a great emphasis on atmosphere, and it’s precisely what makes it so intricate and unique.
One negative aspect of horror games in recent times is their attachment to reality. Usually, our character starts off in the real world, with several instances of him drifting away into surreal planes.
Developers are somewhat afraid of going all out and designing a surreal world. Ebb Software decided they had enough with horror games not being horror enough. Thus, Scorn was born, and it’s bound to send chills down the spine, right at the opening credits start.
The atmosphere of this game is simply amazing and can make you feel like you’re running out of the air. Gray and brown tones dominate the nightmarish universe you’re strolling in. We’re surprised that nightmare worlds have been underutilized in horror games, so Scorn comes as a breath of fresh air. The design resembles the work of artist Alex Gray, with everything seeming like one creepy living organism.
What we loved the most is the unique approach to the gameplay. Filled with puzzles and hidden secrets, you will be immediately drawn into the surreal story. One warning – the game is very challenging.
You won’t have an abundance of ammunition and weapons, so you’re going to have to choose when to fight. Extra attention has been paid to the interaction with objects. Every moment, like picking up weapons and looting enemies is done realistically. Scorn is by far the most immersive game on the list.
As strange as it sounds, the areas are characters themselves, coming to life if needed. With the second part being in development, it’s the ideal time to pick Scorn up and witness the wonders of atmospheric horror. Here’s why should you give it a chance:
- Many Easter eggs and references to philosophy, art, and other cultural forms
- A never-before-seen range of weapons that is alive and can turn on you
- Machines are mixed with organic elements, creating a strange Matrix Trinity-like feel
Our next game features some interesting atmospheric elements as well, but with a historical twist…
Nosferatu – The Wrath of Malachi
History and horror have always been ideal partners when assembling a successful video game. This is the case with Nosferatu – The Wrath of Malachi, a classic from 2003. Not many games age this well, but here were are, 15 years later, marveling at this landmark release in the horror genre.
The basis of the game lies in the ever-entertaining legend of Count Dracula. He himself is not pictured, but we all know where the inspiration for a Romanian count comes from.
The story revolves around the Patterson family who is desperate to become reputable aristocrats once again. Out of money, the strike a deal with the Romanian count Malachi and have their daughter marry his son.
The moment they arrive; they can feel something is about the happen. With a beautifully designed castle, you will be both in awe and in shock while playing this survival horror game.
This game is special because of its random architecture generator. Even though you’re playing in a massive gothic castle, the rooms are never positioned the same way. Thus, planning ahead is not an option. Concerning the battles themselves, they can be a bit overwhelming. Enemies will be coming from all sides, providing them with a clear advantage over you.
For fans that dislike traditional gameplay, this is an ideal game. You can explore the castle any way you want and still be able to reach the main objective. The time to save the bride from Count Malachi’s evil vampires is running out, so be quick. Despite its 15th birthday coming soon, Nosferatu’s features are still enticing as ever:
- The weapons are unorthodox, featuring holy water, crucifixes and different types of silver bullets
- Different vampires are immune to different weapons, so you’re going to need good reflexes
- Sound effects go along with one of the best horror game soundtracks of all time
- Our last game is a landmark adaptation of one of the most chilling movies of all time…
The Alien franchise is perhaps the first series of movies that have successfully combined sci-fi and horror elements. A love for the future and a fear of the vast unknown expanse gave birth to one of the key points in 80s culture.
When we think about it, battling monstrosities on a dark spaceship is about as “horror” as a game could become. In the sequel to the original Alien game, we follow Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley.
Most people expected this sequel to flop because of limited story development opportunities. Upon release, it was clear that Alien: Isolation is one of the best horror games you must play. Creative Assembly and Feral Interactive have joined forces to create a unique take on cosmic horror.
With a beautiful design and clever mechanics, this game is both a challenge and enjoyment at the same time. One reason for the challenging nature of this game is the beautiful design of the spaceship. Tight passages and corners make it impossible to hide from the Alien.
Unlike most horror games, you deal with a single antagonist. What your enemies lack in numbers, they make up for in intelligence and excellent scripted movements and decision.
It’s almost if it’s the game is multiplayer – that’s how unpredictable and skilled the Alien is. For both sci-fi and horror fans, this game is a must play and a worthy homage to one of the best movie franchises of all time. Here’s why you should play it:
- A challenging weapon and resources system that requires you to think and plan
- Many shortcuts and secret passages that you have to discover by interacting with the ship
- A well-thought-of storyline that pays homage to the original movie
- Challenging gameplay
Now, we would like to hear your opinion about the best horror game. Do you agree with our list?
What would you change? Let us know in the comments below.