With the release of a countless array of titles from the likes of Outlast, Amnesia, and Capcom’s more recent Biohazard 7 title, the horror genre seems to be making a triumphant comeback in a very big way. Horror games are the types of games that you’d want to play with the lights off, because it only provides a more immersive experience and truly challenges your psyche. It can be something as simple as being trapped in a dark and dilapidated house filled with strange creatures around every corner, or the more psychologically demanding aspects pertaining to illusions and hallucination. The western horror game genre takes inspiration from various classic films such as Silence of the Lambs, zombie flicks, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and most notably the Aliens series along with many others including some aspects from Japan. With all that being said, let's jump right in to see which horror game provides the best experience the genre has to offer.
- System/Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows
- Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
- Developer: Monolith Productions
- Release Date: October 7, 2005
F.E.A.R. is a first person shooter that takes on horror aspects to give the game a much more robust feel while playing. It takes inspiration from various other titles and also movies such as the grudge, and throws that all into one exciting thrill ride as you blast away enemies, while trying to save the daughter of a scientist. It deserves praise on our list because F.E.A.R. does live up to its name and does place fear in the those who play it for long periods of time. The psychological aspects such as random images popping up out of the blue, or enemies disappearing will certainly come as a surprise to some.
Each chapter of the story gets more thrilling as you get to uncover the truth behind this mysterious girl, and what her motives are. Toss in a lot of other variables that you’ll have to encounter over time and you have a wonderful action packed experience that will surely entertain just about anyone. Horror games will always have their own distinctive way of making the player scared in some manner, and F.E.A.R. follows that premise quite well. While not as incredibly terrifying as others on our list, it sure packs a punch when enemies start flying out of nowhere and your ammo starts to run low, which will drive you mad.
9. Dead Space 3
- System/Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Developer: Visceral Games
- Release Date: February 5, 2013
Dead Space begins as you’re trapped in space and now need to get the heck out of this creature infested ship as soon as possible, but none of that is easy because these monsters are swift and creep up on you without alerting you at times. Fast forward to Dead Space 3 where it took what made the original and Dead Space 2 so great, and added in a ton of new elements such as co op play to provide a new experience. Despite the game having that co-op feature, that didn’t take away from the random jump scares you’d encounter throughout the game.
It’s not scary in the sense that you don’t know what’s approaching you, that surely is a part of the mix, but what really tickles your brain is that you’re trapped in a facility that’s swarming with deadly creatures and you don’t have many options to take all of them out efficiently. So a lot of the time you’ll find yourself running away in panic just so that you can take on one or two of the monsters, then once they’re dead you can finish off the rest. It’s that fear of dying carelessly that makes Dead Space 2 so much of a thrill because you don’t want to take risks, but sometimes the game forces you to and so everything you do counts.
8. Silent Hill 2
- System/Platform: Multi Platform
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: Team Silent
- Release Date: September 24, 2001
Silent Hill is Konami’s take on the horror franchise, and for a very long time it has been widely considered to be one of the best out there. Unlike Resident Evil that’s all about scaring the living crap out of you with braindead zombies and limited ammo, Silent Hill toys with your brain in the most random ways and makes you often question your sanity at times. Silent Hill is more of a psychological thriller than anything, because you follow the story of a man who’s trying to escape this world of madness but doesn’t actually know he’s the one who created it.
Without going into spoiler territory, the game often tricks you with its visuals and gameplay mechanics, along with a gripping story that’s emotionally riveting. While you dive deeper into the story, you find yourself building this bond with the main character and those he encounters. Your heart becomes so invested in everything that happens that you simply don’t want to screw things up as you battle these creepy looking creatures, and collect clues to solve the mystery. What’s truly shocking about Silent Hill 2 is the plot twist and that in itself is where the true horror takes place, but we’ll save that for you to find out.
7. Until Dawn
- System/Platform: PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Supermassive Games
- Release Date: August 25, 2015
Until Dawn forces you to make challenging decisions as the story progresses. That’s the fun part about playing through the game, because each decision can drastically impact the outcome of what happens to everyone around you. What gets creepy however is when you discover that you’re not alone at this cabin, and that there are other visitors who are waiting to crash the party. This is when the game starts to get a little creepy because now not only do you need to deal with your party, these merciless creatures from the dark abyss are out to devour anything that moves and they don’t care who goes first.
Your decision making starts to become more emotionally invested because it’s either you really hate to see this person die, or you’re clapping with excitement as you toss that one character into the hands of these creatures and watch them die. Until Dawn triggers that psychological part again, similar to Silent Hill where your decisions mean everything, and if you screw up once it can spell the end for not just one character but several. That domino effect is what brings the freak factor up a little more because now you know your decisions carry weight, and to survive this entire ordeal you’ll need to stop toying around before you become another victim.
6. Slender: The Arrival
- System/Platform: Multi Platform
- Publisher: Blue Isle Studios
- Developer: Blue Isle Studios
- Release Date: March 26, 2013
The game puts you up against this creepy looking individual known as Slender Man, and not too much information is shared about him. All you know is that if you make too much noise as you wander around trying to salvage for items, he’ll chase you down until you’re caught. It’s challenging because you truly never know where he is because everything is so dark, but you can tell once he starts to get closer when your heart starts to pulsate faster than it should and all you can think of is running like Usain Bolt.
When you don’t really immerse yourself into the whole world of Slender Man, it truly just feels like a game of cat and mouse in all respects. You simply are just running from this crazy lunatic trying to murder you, but Slender Man truly becomes amazing when you truly let yourself go into the game and believe that this world is the only one that exists. At the point it’s not just cat and mouse anymore, it’s you trying to not to die and having to turn off your flashlight very often to avoid being sighted.
5. Layers of Fear
- System/Platform: PlayStation 4, Windows, Mac, Xbox One
- Publisher: Aspyr Media
- Developer: Bloober Team
- Release Date: February 16, 2016
Psychological Horror games seem to be the big thrill in the west, as is the case with Layers of Fear. Arriving on steam just last year, Layers of Fear focuses its gameplay on a disturbed painter who’s trying to complete his magnum opus, while navigating through a victorian-esque mansion and coming to terms with dark secrets over time. Much of the game is driven by a very strong narrative and places a lot of emphasis around solving challenging puzzles, but often throws those random jump scares at you to scramble your brain.
Much of the environment the player is surrounded in at first looks quite normal and doesn’t seem to reflect the main character in anyway, but the more you dive deeper into the story changes in the environment start to happen which often bring about new puzzles. There are a total of six chapters to run through, all of which come with very unique aspects and you’ll need to collect specific items to complete the masterpiece. Through completing all of these tasks while trying to maintain your sanity, Layers of Fear will reward will you a gripping story of a troubled painter while coming to understand the origins of his masterpiece.
- System/Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac
- Publisher: Red Barrels Studio
- Developer: Red Barrels Studio
- Release Date: September 4, 2013
Miles must now outrun and outlast a large array of wild creatures who want to devour anything in their path, along with psychopathic individuals who have this sick thrill of mutilating corpses. This is one hospital you probably don’t want to check into because every hallway is filled with death and uncertainty, while your heart paces furiously as every event that’s encountered is more frightening than the last. The only way for you to see around the facility is to make use of the camcorder which is equipped with night vision, and the more the night vision is used more of the battery is consumed. This forces the player to scurry around and look for additional batteries while often times running into hideous enemies.
The jump scares are totally real in Outlast because they’re always unexpected and because every corridor is filled with scattered items and corpses lying around, it just fills your heart with terror because you could be next at any given moment. The game does a stellar job of using audio cues to assist you as to when enemies are drawing near, but even that can’t stop your heart from racing because there’s never a time to truly sit down and rest. Always on the move trying to collect clues and take notes will consume a lot of time, but the worthwhile backstory is enough to invest in.
- System/Platform: Windows, Mac, PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Frictional Games
- Developer: Frictional Games
- Release Date: September 22, 2015
While you control Simon in this really freakish environment, a lot of stealth action must be incorporated in order to truly get the best experience out of the game. There are constant threats lying around every corner, and will pop out at you at the most random moments even when you think you’re prepared. Your brain is constantly being challenged throughout SOMA as you’re not only trying to avoid enemies that stand in your way, but there are an array of puzzles you’ll need to solve in order to progress.
The story is very compelling and really drags you in more and more, which is quite enthralling and often takes you away from all the threats that are around you. Perhaps that’s the eerie part because you’re so invested in how things will turn out in the story that everything else becomes a blur, and then you suddenly die from not paying attention. We truly love and embrace the more psychological horror types because they chase after your brain and test you in various ways. It’s not that jump scare games are bad by any means, for they have their own perks, but if the more mentally challenging titles are your thing then try SOMA out for sure.
2. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
- System/Platform: PlayStation 4, Windows, Mac
- Publisher: Frictional Games
- Developer: Frictional Games
- Release Date: September 8, 2010
Amnesia is one psychologically demanding game that throws a lot of curveballs at you, and with very little warning. Every corridor is filled with something unknown yet terrifying, with sounds coming from all different directions to throw you off. One minute you think you’re on the right track, but the game starts to mess with your brain even more, suddenly throwing in a surprise to have you reel back in your seat. This really captures the real essence of horror in every sense because it truly hits every one of your senses.
Of course if you’re not taking the game seriously you certainly won’t feel the real thrill behind the game, but for those who take it very seriously it can blow your mind. You definitely are taking a very dark descent into the unknown, and there’s nowhere you can run once you’ve committed to it. There’s not much lighting in the game to begin with, so relying on your flashlight and whatever tools you have at your disposal is imperative to surviving. The minute that you think the coast is clear and can come up for air in this world called reality, Amnesia quickly grabs you by the legs and pulls you downward aggressively sucking you right back into all the craziness.
1. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
- System/Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: January 24, 2017
VR is perhaps the one device that could truly help revive the horror genre because, it truly puts the player in the world of the game and there’s no escaping it. When we tuned into Twitch during the official release of Resident Evil 7, we were certainly prepared for a lot of jump scares but we weren’t expecting people to literally turn off the game because it was just too much for them to handle. VR puts you in control of the main character and like any other RE title, your weapon ammo is limited and you need to manage your resources with extreme caution.
As you walk around the very gloomy and disgusting house of the Baker Family, you come across some startling discoveries that only make the experience much more frightening. The further you journey into this dark abyss, the creepier and more terrifying it gets because the sounds start to trip you out, and the sheer realism of just being there in the moment triggers alerts in your brain.One part of you is thinking “This is just a game, none of this is ACTUALLY happening right now and is all just a part of the experience.”, while your brain is telling you “RUN! RUN! Don’t stand there! We’re about to die, find a gun and kill it!” It’s this crazy experience that truly places Resident Evil 7 at the top of our list because, it’s the only western horror game thus far that actually feels and plays like what a horror game should be.
With the entry of VR into the now thriving game industry, it would be interesting to see just companies will do to push the limits of the horror genre, just to scare the pants off the fans who fancy the genre. For those who haven’t tried dabbled with the horror genre perhaps this isn’t for you, but we suggest giving at least one of these games a shot to get a feel of the design and atmosphere within these types of games. Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below, and follow us on social media for more!
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