There are a lot of articles that provide lists of the scariest video games on systems like PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, Virtual Reality, PC, MAC, tablets, and phones, so what makes this list any different? Well, I play a lot of games, and I love survival horror, general horror, and games with elements of horror, so I'm pretty well-versed in the types of horror included in games. In this article, I will explain the content of the games, what type of horror they include, why they are scary, and why they might scare you. I will include games from older systems, so if you have an older system, you definitely won't be excluded.
The games I've included in the list will include different types of horror, so what may scare one person, may not scare another, and vice versa. I've included all types of horror so you can truly find a good game for you.
Just so you have a reference of what horror games I've played, and how I compiled this list based on what I've played, here are all the horror games (some may just have elements of horror) I've played: Alan Wake, Alan Wake's American Nightmare, Alice: Madness Returns, Alone in the Dark, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Among the Sleep, Bioshock (1, 2, 3), Condemned: Criminal Origins, Dead Island, Dead Island: Riptide, Dead Secret, Dying Light, Dead Space (1, 2, 3), Deadly Premonition, The Evil Within (1, 2), Doom 3, Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4, F.E.A.R. (1, 2, 3), Five Nights at Freddy's (1, 2), The Forest, Heavy Rain, Hidden Agenda, Kona, Life is Strange, The Last of Us, Layers of Fear, Left 4 Dead 2, Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light, Miasmata, Nightmare Creatures (1, 2), A Nightmare on Elm Street, Observer, Outlast, Prey, Resident Evil (1, 2, 3, Code Veronica X, 5, Revelations), Resident Evil (remake), Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Resistance: Fall of Man, The Room (1, 2, 3), Silent Hill (1, 2, 3, 4, Homecoming, Downpour), Silent Hills: PT, Slender: The Arrival, Siren, Until Dawn, The Walking Dead (Telltale Games- Seasons 1, 2, 3, and Michonne), White Night, Wilson's Heart, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, The Wolf Among Us, and Wolfenstein: The New Order.
So without further ado, and in no particular order, here is the list:
1. Dead Space 2. Dead Space 2 is available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows (Steam). The game was released in January 2011 by Electronic Arts.
Dead Space 2 is the sequel to Dead Space, which followed a crew on a spaceship who are called to investigate a distress signal sent out by a mining spaceship. One of the crew members, an engineer named Isaac Clarke, has a girlfriend named Nicole, who was working on the mining spaceship, and he is understandably worried about her. You play as Isaac, exploring the mining spaceship, trying to understand what happened there. In the sequel, you again play as Isaac Clarke, finding out that you have been imprisoned on another spaceship after the events of the first game.
What makes this game so scary? In the first game, we learn that the mining ship had become infested with a sort of alien virus or parasite. The mining spaceship was in the process of illegally cracking a planet (opening a planet, mining, and taking the mineral resources because Earth had become depleted of natural resources) when it discovered a relic called the Red Marker. The Red Marker carried with it an alien virus, which made everyone on the ship go crazy and begin killing each other. After people died, the virus or parasite changed them into creatures called necromorphs, which looked like the people, but with monstrous changes to their bodies.
When you are playing the game, necromorphs are extremely sneaky. You may not hear them behind you at all times because the ship is full of mechanical sounds, so you may turn around and immediately get attacked. There are very few "safe" spots, so you become constantly worried that a necromorph is stalking you without your knowledge. They sometimes even attack you without you turning around, so the constant worry of being stalked and attacked can provoke strong feelings of anxiety and paranoia. There is also a type of necromorph that can't be killed right away, so you encounter this necromorph over and over in the games, and have to develop a strategy to get away from it before it can kill you. Some of the necromorphs start running towards you very quickly, which can make you panic if you are not prepared. The necromorphs attack from every direction, so when you enter a room, you are never quite sure where they will attack from. It could be from the ceiling, from the side, behind you, from vents (they love to drop out of or climb out of those), or when you turn a corner. Some will attack you from far away, up close, or from behind, so you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times. There is also a supernatural element concerning Isaac's girlfriend Nicole. You don't find out until the end of the first game what happened to her, but she becomes a constant element of horror in the second game. You tend to see her in mostly cut-scenes, so there is not a lot of physical interaction with her (thankfully).
Is this your game? If you like games that have dark lighting, jump scares, that create anxiety and paranoia, are science-fiction/horror, are set in space, have supernatural elements, puzzles, and have creepy-looking monsters that you can fight, you might like this game. This game is story-centric and linear, but there is a small degree of exploration in each level. The game is single-player only, but it is fun to watch if you are too scared to play or you can take turns with someone if it's too much for you. This game has a prequel (Dead Space), and a sequel (Dead Space 3), if you are interested in the series.
If you love this game, you might also love: Dead Space, F.E.A.R. 2, and Condemned: Criminal Origins.
2. Condemned: Criminal Origins. This game is available on Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. It was developed by Monolith Productions, the same people who developed the first two F.E.A.R. games. It was released in 2005, so it is a bit old, but it is a very creepy game.
Condemned: Criminal Origins follows an FBI agent named Ethan Thomas, who is investigating a serial killer called the Match Maker. Early in the game, Ethan is framed for the murders of two police officers by the killer, and goes rogue, continuing to investigate places where the killer has been using forensic investigation tools, aided by his friend at the FBI named Rosa. Ethan not only has to contend with the killer, he also has to fend off attacks from homeless people who have seemingly begun to go crazy for no reason.
In the game, you use forensic tools to gather evidence such as fingerprints, DNA, and evidence from objects. This part of the game is really fun if you've always wanted to pretend to be a forensic investigator or a detective.
I will say this, the story has been criticized because it is a bit confusing. I agree, because I've played it a few times and found that the story wasn't the strongest part of the game. The strongest parts for me were the imagery, atmosphere, and being able to pretend I was a forensic investigator for a few hours. This really has a reputation for being scary, and I think it is well-earned.
What makes this game so scary? There are a lot of elements that make this game scary. In the beginning of the game, there are a lot of homeless people who have become extremely violent for unknown reasons. They hide in abandoned buildings and train stations, so as you are walking through, you may hear a noise in the distance, and see someone dark out from a dark corner or room and either lose them immediately and have to search for them, or try to kill them with whatever means necessary when they jump out and start running towards you quickly. You do have a gun, but since it is survival horror, you rarely have a lot of bullets to work with. You can use pipes you tear off a wall, boards, fire axes (in certain locations in the game), and sledgehammers (also only in certain parts of the game). A lot of the time, there are several violent homeless people running around in one part of a building or train station, so you have to be very watchful. There are a lot of jump scares at this point in the game. (Minor spoilers ahead).
Once you get past the levels with the homeless people, you start to encounter other non-human entities in the game. The game gives you several hints via cut-scenes that Ethan may be losing his mind, so you are never quite sure if what you are seeing is real or not. Ethan begins to see human-esque figures like mannequins, people that crawl on the ground quickly, and people with monstrous faces. I found that it got worse and worse as the game went on, as the scenes with these "monsters" became creepier and creepier. There were some areas where it was so dark I'd be terrified to even walk forward because I knew something would jump out at me. There are several times where you have to walk in the subway tunnels underneath the subway, and there are all kinds of jump scares down there. It's very unsettling because you can't see very far and you never really know what will jump out at you; not only is a jump scare frightening, the creatures are surprisingly scary for a game that came out in 2005.
One part that sticks out to me is the level where you are in a mall. There are lots of mannequins there, and I will tell you, it was unsettling being in there. I won't ruin the surprise, but just know it was one of the most unsettling parts of the game for me.
Is this your game? If you like games that are unsettling, have dark lighting, jump scares, create anxiety, have human-esque creatures that crawl fast, walk oddly, and are creepy to look at, allow you to investigate, allow you to use weapons to fight, and are story-centric, you might enjoy this game. This game is single-player, but is fun to play with a friend or just watch a friend play if you are too scared. This game has a sequel called Condemned 2: Bloodshot, if you are interested in continuing the story.
If you love this game, you might also love: Heavy Rain, L. A. Noire, Dead Space, Dead Space 2, and Layers of Fear, Until Dawn, Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
3. The Walking Dead (Telltale Games) Season One. This game is available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire HDX, Microsoft Windows, and MAC OS X. It was released between April and November 2012 in five episodes, with each episode providing a few hours of game play (depending on how you play).
The game follows a man named Lee who, in the beginning of the game, is being driven to prison by a police officer. You learn that Lee was a former professor who has been convicted of murder. As the police officer drives down the highway, you, as Lee, are given options to engage in conversation with the police officer. After some light conversation, the police officer hits a pedestrian walking across the highway, and the vehicle crashes. Lee wakes up some time later to discover he is still in the back of the crashed car, and the police officer is face down, outside of the car. Lee leaves the car only to discover there are several people who appear dead, yet are up and walking around, trying to attack him. The rest of the game follows Lee as he navigates this new world and meets various friends and foes along the way, with a focus on his relationship with a little girl named Clementine.
What makes this game so scary? I didn't find the zombies to be scary, but if you are familiar with The Walking Dead comics and television show, the zombies aren't the scary part of the show; it's how people act and treat each other after the dead come back to life. What makes this game scary is never knowing if you are safe, never quite feeling safe, and not being able to fully trust most people. This game makes making decisions the core part of the game, and you never really know what the repercussions of a decision might be until later in the game. Maybe you choose one person over another during a fight, only to have that person refuse to save your life in a later part of the game. At some points, you have to save one person over another. Your decisions actually matter, and the game feels very heavy after a while. Choosing who lives or dies presents feelings of anxiety and sadness, and in many parts of the game, I felt guilt over my decisions.
This may not be scary in terms of jump scares, atmosphere, or music, but it is scary in terms of feeling a real connection to people in the game who may not live until the end of the game. For me, losing some characters felt very real, and I felt dread at the thought of losing them at some point in the game. I felt all the emotions I have felt in other horror games, such as dread, sadness, fear, and anxiety, so I never felt that this wasn't a horror game; I just think it's a different type of horror. If you are more afraid of the monsters people can become than fictional monsters, then this will probably be your type of horror game.
Is this your game? You might like this game if you like games that are character-driven, have zombies, allow you to make game-altering decisions, allow you to have a deep connection with characters, and make you feel sadness, dread, fear, and anxiety. This game is single-player, but you can definitely play with other people and make decisions as a pair or group. This game is very emotionally heavy, but it is one of the best story-centric games that I've played. This game currently has two other seasons as well as a small three episode game called Michonne, if you want to continue the story.
If you love this game, you might also love: The Wolf Among Us, Until Dawn, Fallout 4, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Life is Strange.
4. Fallout 4. Fallout 4 is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows. Fallout was developed by Bethesda Game Studios and released on November 10, 2015. Okay, so Fallout isn't technically a horror game per se, but I've found that it has quite a few scary moments, and there are actually a lot of disturbing elements to the story.
What makes this game so scary? There is something absolutely terrifying about the Earth becoming a wasteland due to radiation poisoning and nuclear bombs destroying everything. The thought of not having safe food and water, not being able to go outside without a suit, the constant risk of severe radiation poisoning, as well as having to deal with animals and insects who have mutated to become the size of cars is actually scary. Also, it's not just animals and insects you must worry about; the people have turned into monsters as well. Some people turn to cannibalism, some turn into mutants that hunt down and eat humans, and some become so irradiated that their skin falls off and they turn into a type of zombie. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong in this new world that was created by hate and greed, and as the player, you must navigate this new world filled with danger at every turn.
There are several parts of the game that genuinely creeped me out.
1. There are several encampments of Raiders (they rob, murder, and eat people) that feature decapitated heads on sticks, bodies hung without heads, and notes sometimes left behind that explain terrible crimes that were committed. It was unsettling to visit some of these camps and look around; after a while, I got desensitized to it, but it was never a part in the game that I was comfortable with.
2. Another part of the game that was creepy was a part where you go into a sort of art museum/house where a serial killer is at work. He uses the blood of Raiders who wander near or come into his home, and makes disgusting, horrific sculptures of their body parts. It was one of the more disturbing, genuinely horrific parts of the game, and being in the house was creepy.
3. Another part of the game that was creepy to me was going near this forest where there was a witchcraft museum nearby. There were figures hung in the trees like the ones featured in The Blair Witch Project, which was creepy to see as I wasn't expecting to see it and wasn't prepared. It made me want to get out of the area as soon as possible, and I was creeped out every time I was near the area at night.
4. I think the creepiest parts of the whole game are when the stories of what happened during the nuclear holocaust are shown by where bodies are placed and what location they are found. There are several parts of the game where you find skeletons holding something, like money, a note, another skeleton's hand, etc., that they tell a story without ever saying a word. Every time I went to a new location, I'd look around carefully, and realize that there is so much more than what is shown at face value. You can get a lot more from the game if you pay attention to those kind of details.
5. Lastly, the mannequins were creepy in so many parts of the game. They can be found everywhere in the game, and some of the most disturbing parts of the game are when the mannequins are positioned in weird locations and are doing weird and/or disturbing things.
Is this your game? You might like this game if you like games that are open-world, have elements of horror that are intertwined with action and role-playing (RPG), feature an array of weapons, enemies you can fight with melee weapons, an upgrade system for your character, allow you to have the type of story you want, have high replayability, and allow you to make decisions in conversation with others and big decisions about the story. Although it's not technically defined as a horror game, there are enough elements of horror that I think this could be your scariest game ever. This game is single-player, and is quite a long game, so if you're looking for a game to be able to invest some time in, this is a good one.
If you love this game, you might also love: Fable 2, Fable 3, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Dishonored, Dishonored 2, Bioshock, Bioshock 2, Metro: Last Light, and Dying Light.
5. Outlast. Outlast is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, and soon to be available on Nintendo Switch. Outlast was developed by Red Barrels and released on September 4, 2013.
In Outlast, you play a journalist named Miles Upshur, who is investigating claims of experiments on inpatients at an insane asylum. Miles goes to the hospital, only to find that the hospital is in a disarray and several members of the staff dead and mutilated. He discovers a member of the SWAT team still alive, and the police officer pleads with Miles to leave before it's too late. Before dying, the police officer tells Miles that the he and the staff were attacked by the inpatients, alarming Miles. The rest of the game follows Miles as he investigates the hospital and tries to find out what happened there.
In the game, you cannot fight the inpatients in the hospital; you must instead run from any danger and hide in lockers, under beds, in rooms, or anywhere you can without being discovered. If you are discovered, you will be dragged out and killed. You are only armed with a camera that has night vision, giving you the advantage of being able to see the inpatients without them being able to see you. Throughout the game, you must find batteries for your camera, which seem to be few and far between.
While I found that I didn't like the story that much, I found this to be a very scary game to play. It is one of the most intense, frightening games I've ever played, and is very different than almost every horror game out there.
What makes this game so scary? There is something terrifying about not being able to fight back in a game and feeling absolutely helpless. The game does a great job at making you feel unsafe, terrified, anxious, and helpless. The atmosphere is very dark most of the time, so being able to see people who are going to kill you if they find you only using night vision is terrifying in itself. It made me want to shut my eyes like a little kid every time I saw one of them walking around, searching for me.
When you have to move from a location that is seemingly safe to another location, it becomes a terrifying experience. I found that I had a hard time moving once I found a place where I was relatively safe, and not having a map or knowing where to go made it all the more frightening. You really just have to make yourself get out of your hiding place and go for it, but getting to that point was really difficult for me.
I find it telling that a lot of people found this game terrifying; there is something very scary to a lot of people about the unknown (the dark), feeling helpless, and being chased by someone who is going to kill you if they catch you. I think after a while, some people might become desensitized to the game, and hiding and running might not be as scary, but for those that are afraid of the dark, not feeling safe, and feeling helpless, this game might be your scariest game ever.
Is this your game? You might like this game if you like games that are story-centric, have a lot of dark lighting, have a mental asylum setting, you like being chased, you like being able to hide from enemies instead of fighting (stealth), you like a lot of graphic violence, and like the feeling of being helpless. This game has a prequel (Outlast: Whistleblower), and a sequel (Outlast 2), if you want to continue the story. This game is single-player, so if it's too intense for you, it could be fun to watch someone else play or play as a team or group and take turns.
If you love this game, you might also love: The Evil Within, Alan Wake, Five Nights at Freddy's, and Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
6. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. This game is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows. It was developed by Capcom and released on January 24, 2017.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard follows a man named Ethan Winters, who has recently received a message from his long-lost wife Mia, who asks him to come and get her. Ethan calls a friend while driving to get Mia, and reminds the friend that Mia has been missing for three years. Ethan tells him that she recently contacted him and told him to come and get her at a house in Dulvey, Louisiana, to which the friend replies that it seems strange that she would contact him after all these years. Ethan agrees, but states that she is his wife, and must go see her.
Ethan arrives at the location in Dulvey, Louisiana, parks his car, and follows a path to the front gate of a house, which is locked. As Ethan, you follow a trail to the house, and once in the house, you begin to explore it in an effort to find Mia.
What makes this game so scary? The story is set in Louisiana, and the imagery is beautiful as Ethan is driving to the location where Mia is. However, as you get to the locked gate at the front of the house, you quickly see that something is amiss. There is an abandoned van near the gate, which has several notes written on papers near the van. The notes are vague and unsettling, and you aren't sure what to make of them. After a certain point on the path to the house, you see a man who seemingly disappears when you try to follow him, which makes you question if he is real or not. After the man disappears, you see very disturbing man-made "sculptures" of animal body parts. You have to pass through one of the "sculptures" to get to the other part of the path, which is something I was very hesitant about.
After you enter the house, you begin to explore, you realize that things are not as they seem, and this house may be a trap from which you cannot escape.
I thought this game was scary for several reasons. One reason was because there are several moments where you are being chased by a few of the villains, and you cannot fight back. To face the enemy at those moments meant sure death, and I was terrified and panicked at the thought of not getting to a safe place in time. Another reason was the amount of jump scares I was not prepared for in the game. There were three villains who showed up in moments I was not prepared for, and I actually jumped in fear because the game makers did such a great job at putting those characters in places that were unexpected. My last reason it was scary was because I could never quite bring myself to trust any of the "good" characters in the game. I always felt every character had an ulterior motive, and while some were easy to figure out, some had me guessing until the end. I was always worried one of the characters that I was hoping would help me leave Louisiana safely would betray me at some point, which left me feeling anxious, frustrated, and fearful.
Is this your game? This might be your game if you like games where you are being chased by an enemy you cannot immediately defeat, you like solving complicated puzzles, you like a long, drawn-out story (a mystery to solve), you like science-fiction and horror mixed, you like zombies or zombie-esque creatures, you like insects, you like fighting difficult bosses, you like games with supernatural elements, you like using melee weapons to defeat enemies, and if you like collecting loot. This game is single-player.
If you love this game, you may also love: Silent Hill 2, Silent Hill 3, Silent Hill Downpour, Resident Evil HD, and The Evil Within 2.
I hope that this has helped you. If you have any questions about content or about any other games, please feel free to ask.
*This is not an exhaustive list. I will add to it over the years to include new games, so continue to check here if you'd like some ideas about what games to try next.