The 10 Best Horror Games of All Time

Play any or all of these games, and you're bound to have a great time.

by J.R. Waugh

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Horror ranks among the most successful, exciting genres in video gaming today. There are incredible, terrifying, and thrilling experiences to be had every year, with multiple Game of the Year contenders released, constantly. While there are some obvious contenders for public attention like Capcom’s powerhouse, Resident Evil, or the incredibly influential modern scares of P.T., there are only a select few to be considered the best in horror. Read on for our list of The 10 Best Horror Games of All Time

The 10 Best Horror Games of All Time

The contents of this list of the 10 best horror games are not ranked in any particular order but earn their spot on the merits of their contributions to the genre, and how genuinely memorable or scary they can be. If you play any or all of these titles, you’ll have countless hours of enriched gameplay experience, and will surely have lots of recommendations for your friends, if they haven’t already played these. Horror games, by their nature, are driven as much by their mechanics, as by their experiential potential, where you might feel unease or terror, but still, find the gameplay addicting, or want to see the story through to the end. The list goes as follows:

The Last of Us

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Where would we be without this incredible survival horror title from Naughty Dog? The game first came out in 2013 but quickly became yet another visual showcase for the PlayStation developer, with a post-apocalyptic landscape as dangerous as it was beautiful. This game features a poignant, heartwrenching tale of loss, fate, companionship, and reasons to live. It also features moments where nature reclaims the land and puts forth a notion that despite the desperate constant struggle for survival, there is beauty to be found in every corner, but also mortal danger.

This game was a once-in-a-generation title but has since become a once-every-generation game thanks to its remakes for each recent PlayStation platform, such as the recent release of The Last of Us Part 1. But it comes with some justification, as it’s a game worth playing for any individual seeking a strong story, and some terrifyingly memorable clicker enemies. Its story is buoyed by a fatally flawed protagonist in Joel, and his fatherly dedication to protecting his companion, Ellie, to a perilous extent.

Doki Doki Literature Club!

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Doki Doki Literature Club does nothing but deceives you and defies your expectations. It’s far, far more twisted than the visual novel trappings would have you believe. No matter who you choose as your waifu to then romance, just know, the game will mess with you directly, breaking the fourth wall, and being the only truly postmodern horror game to grace this list. You’ll find the twists and turns to be increasingly dark and even upsetting, to the point where the game generates a palpable dread and fear for the unexpected consequences of your actions. The characters feel alive, and it feels as though no matter what you do, things briefly get better before becoming way worse.

Silent Hill 2

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The earliest title in this list, Silent Hill 2 is the greatest Silent Hill game ever made. Not only does it produce iconic characters such as Pyramid Head, but was is also the strongest example of narrative finesse and execution out of any horror games released up until that point. It’s sufficient to say this game revolutionized narratives, using environments to render the personal struggles and trauma of the key characters while remaining distinctly eerie and terrifying all the same. The game deals with challenging topics of the era, including sexual assault, incest, and lingering guilt, creating a strong enough atmospheric, experiential storytelling experience to be remembered among the gaming greats.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

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So many games owe their existence to this beloved indie title, where survival horror meant not even having weapons to fend off terrifying threats. Instead, you had to evade any prowling monsters and hide from them, only capable of sustaining a few blows before dying, and of course, there’s the matter of sanity. The sanity in this game is brilliantly, organically implemented, where Daniel, the protagonist, feels his grip on reality begins to slip with any absence of light, looking directly at monsters, or witnessing unsettling events. This creates a far greater tension in the game, which, thanks to its physics puzzles and clever implementation of the mouse controls in environmental interaction, feels like a clever extension of the spookiest possible point-and-click adventure.

Resident Evil VII: Biohazard

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This game revived the Resident Evil franchise, but not in a zombified way like the victims of a T-Virus outbreak. Instead, it evolved the series, gave it a graphical upgrade, and a new engine, and blew our expectations out of the water. While some detractors disagree with the new first-person perspective, Capcom has been wise in providing us with third-person, ground-up remakes of previous greatest RE hits to remind us they haven’t left those ways behind. What we’re left with in this game is a faceless protagonist, Ethan Winters, as an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the ultimate survival horror franchise like never before.

The terror of the Baker estate, one of the most rustic, decrepit locations available in the franchise, turns into a constant nightmare when you’re pursued either by Jack or Marguerite Baker. The combat feels slow and full of risk, but in a way that makes sense, as Ethan is far less prepared than any other Resident Evil protagonist before him. The atmosphere is great as well, with a creaking Louisiana ranch, where enemies could be around any corner, especially if you play on different difficulties. This also approaches some of the most convincing instances where your player character encounters harm, or even dismemberment, with the pain and gore being frighteningly authentic. RE VII takes some of the best aspects of the P.T. teaser, and adds some fantastic Resident Evil twists, saving the franchise in the process.

F.E.A.R.

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This game had it all. Jump scares unbelievable action, surprisingly fun characters, and a great story heavily influenced by a combination of Japanese horror and The Matrix. This extended beyond the creepy presence of Alma, the female psychic with the usual J-horror trappings, imbuing a sense of dread and an almost persistent feeling of your mission area being haunted as if Alma might appear at any time. On top of this, the first-person shooter gameplay is incredible, with some of the most fantastic use of bullet-time or “reflex time” to let you roleplay as an action hero, taking down hordes of soldiers with ease in a gory fashion.

Developer Monolith Productions made this, then went on to make Condemned: Criminal Origins to close out 2005. This proved to be a banner year for the company that would go on to make sequels to both games, as well as the acclaimed Middle-earth open world LOTR games, Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War.

Alien: Isolation

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This is one of the most incredible, genuinely terrifying horror experiences ever made, despite decidedly less gore than some other entries in this list. This game is a technical marvel among contemporary horror games, thanks to its exceptional claustrophobic corridors of the vessel, Sevastopol, which you navigate, and the brilliant sound design. The latter aspect is in a league of its own in this game, thanks to little details like embodying the retro-futuristic computer beeps of a lofty sci-fi spaceship from the 1970s, but nothing beats the sound of when the alien, the xenomorph itself, rears its ugly head.

The alien creature is tough to avoid, among the fastest, scariest of predatorial stalkers, a natural evolution of the monsters present in Amnesia or Outlast. The shrieking, thundering footsteps as it rapidly rounds corners are utterly terrifying, and their complete invincibility, aside from being scared off by the flamethrower, made for it to be a volatile and aggressive pursuer. That, along with the creepy, featureless faces of the Working Joe androids who were terrifyingly resilient and slow, methodical pursuers, made for a combination of 2 different types of tension when being hunted in the game. But nothing matches that sound of the alien dropping out of a vent. Always be careful when walking under vents, folks.

Visage

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This game feels like possibly the closest anyone has come to replicating the anxiety and terror of the P.T. teaser, turning it into a living nightmare. It certainly deals with difficult themes like Silent Hill, one of its inspirations, has, but dials up the intensity significantly. The game deals with different chapters and locations in what seems to be a living environment, constantly changing and enabling you to explore in surprising ways.

Visage feels less about survival per se, and more about the genuine psychological tension and how it can break you as the player. It deals with some pretty shocking themes, however, including suicide, murder, self-harm, and addiction, to gruesome levels of detail. The game walks you through several chapters where you witness sad, and incredibly dark stories of different characters, often pulling no punches in delivering some shocking gut punches. You won’t always want to look, but you can’t take your eyes away, either.

Resident Evil 2 (Remake)

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This game was a faithful, superior remake of the 1998 classic, depicting an apocalyptic, infested, ruined Raccoon City like never before. The RE Engine, thanks to Resident Evil VII, was gloriously put on display here, with exceptional enemy design, terrifying recreations of iconic foes like zombies with their labored breathing, shrieking lickers, and more. Perhaps the most intriguing are the 2 major monsters in the game, the T-00, also known as Mr. X, and William Birkin, whose continuously gruesome transformation would make David Cronenberg blush.

This, along with Alien: Isolation, are great examples of how sound design can be so helpful in enhancing the terror of a horror game. It’s not enough to have blood and gore or to have fast-moving enemies hunting you, you need the tension of a world around you that’s full of imminent danger. One of the greatest implementations of this is the sound of Mr. X, slowly stomping through various rooms, only for the ambient music to reach greater intensity when he bursts into the room. You can hear him above or around you when he’s near, but when he’s in the room, prepare to run. But this doesn’t just make for a memorable horror experience, as it’s arguably the best Resident Evil game ever made.

The Best Horror Games can be a technical showcase, but also an experiential one at that, providing thrills and chills as you fight to get to the next point of the game. There are some which don’t appear on this list but have made a name for themselves in recent years, like Phasmophobia, or ones that might earn a spot in the future, such as the upcoming Scorn title, but there’s certainly been an upward trend lately for high-quality, experimental, innovative horror. The worst horror games rest on their technical laurels of just rendering gore and restless shock tactics; the best horror games of all time create tension, a living and terrifying world, memorable encounters, and can transform gaming into an art form.

- This article was updated on September 28th, 2022

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