There’s no greater feeling than being tucked up on your couch with your eyes glued to a screen as you wade through oceans of tension. Sort of like experiencing that cold shiver up your spine; horror video games provide that exact sensation — and it truly is an incredible feeling. Of course, many games have stepped up to the plate and tried to capture that emotion, but many have also failed to follow the first rule of horror club: making it genuinely scary.
When it comes to horror there are a whole bunch of subcategories that many of us tend to forget. Not only us gamers — but the ones behind the projects, too. It’s times like these when a good concept can become fractured with too many categories cramming into the same pocket. Take, for example, a bloodthirsty slasher filled with gore. Now that’s a genre in itself. However, when overly-ambitious developers get greedy and start to combine various other ingredients — it can become sloppy.
It’s rare that you’ll find a quality horror masterpiece in video game format, as not many developers know the secret to success. But, these ten in specific are as close to perfection as you can get. Of course, there has been an entire library of worthy hits since the evolution of gaming, but these entries tend to crack the code and provide everlasting shivers. And, you know — we’re totally for that.
10. Resident Evil 7 VR
The seventh major instalment to the Resident Evil series took a turn for the better, wouldn’t you say? There were much less spacious streets and wide-open cityscapes, and a whole lot more confined and narrow hallways where anything could lurk between the shadows. Unlike previous instalments, where the action was the key ingredient, BioHazard managed to infuse a boatload of suspense that we just didn’t find in any other chapter. Sure, we might’ve seen a lot of it since the franchise debut — but nothing captured it as well as the seventh — especially on VR.
Wallowing in the depths of a manor that never seems to play fair, achieving even the simplest goal can often feel like a nightmare in itself. From the spontaneous character appearances to the eerily-placed objects that make us think twice about the origins; Resident Evil 7 delivers on all fronts when it comes to horror gaming. And don’t even get us started on the DLC.
Outlast managed to bring something fresh to the table with its 2013 launch. It wasn’t entirely the concept of being locked away in an asylum, but more or less the amount of suspense from the second you hit start. Whether you’re simply stepping through a hallway or climbing up a ladder; Outlast always gives us that burning feeling in our necks that makes us paranoid from start to finish. And it’s because of that perfectly captured feeling — that we never feel safe, and will often consider hiding rather than progressing.
Thanks to the incredibly low battery life of a camera, players are left to scurry through the dark and use only sound for navigation. But when you’re in an asylum with endless wandering psychopaths, those navigational instincts can often lead to all the wrong places. So, to stay alive, you must harvest as many batteries as possible as you plough through the institute and search for an escape. But, of course — that’s easier said than done.
Soma was one of the few titles that managed to combine several ingredients and succeed with flying colors. With a heavy flow of psychological elements, well-written narrative and fast-paced action, Soma was able to tick several huge boxes and still provide a masterpiece experience.
For a game that relies mainly on underwater exploration, there is never a moment where you don’t feel watched or hunted. As you wade through a fractured research facility in search of survivors and a method of escape, your mind begins to wander, and your fears descent into reality. And that’s the beauty of Soma; there is always something playing at the forefront of your mind as you brave through five solid hours of well-scripted gameplay. It’ll make you want to risk the waters all over again — just to feel that same sensation that becomes almost addictive from the first time.
7. Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs
A powerful entry to the list is Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs. Unlike its widely-popular previous instalment, A Machine For Pigs captures a much bleaker essence and improves on some of the core elements from the first game. Of course, both titles are masterpieces in themselves — but it’s the second major title that seems to spark terror like never before when tiptoeing through the crooked streets of London. There is a musical score that feels downright dreary and cutthroat, and a timeline of events that hook us from the beginning as we first discover the iconic lantern.
Amnesia has always worked wonders when it comes to crafting a terrifying atmosphere. The looping landscapes always manage to fuse with our most sinister nightmares, and every square inch of every level is just as monstrous as the last. It almost makes the player feel ant-sized in comparison to the many creatures that idle in the dark. But — that’s why we adore it.
6. Five Nights at Freddy’s
Becoming successful after the rise in Steam sales, Five Nights at Freddy’s went on to produce multiple chapters — and even ventured over to various other platforms, too. Even with its somewhat basic concept that gives the player minimal control; Freddy’s establishes a terrifying domain that always gives out shivers without even trying. Sure, the enemy is essentially a small army of wandering plush toys with wonky animatronics — but at night, that can never be more disturbing.
Surviving a single night at Freddy’s means having to strategically use doors, cameras and lights to keep the foes at bay. Although rather simple in thought, the spontaneous arrivals of the many friends can leave you scurrying around in desperation for nine minutes that feel like an eternity. And that’s usually only the first night. Surviving five nights, on the other hand, is a nightmare in itself.
5. Blair Witch
Stemming from the movies, Blair Witch follows an identical path of creating a psychological drama that leaves you feeling almost nauseous. In a good way, we think. That’s pretty much because Blair Witch doesn’t rely on eight-legged creatures or an epic soundtrack to sway you on your journey. Instead, this adventure nails down on fear from the very core, and uses well-placed features that often make you question your own judgements.
Whether you’re strolling through the woods or ascending an endless hill; Blair Witch gives you the twitch in your neck to remind you that you’re doing something wrong. Even if you’re going in the right direction, chances are you’ll loop back around and be back where you started. Again, with its clever usage of psychological elements, we’re able to scratch our heads as we delve deep into madness in search of an antidote to the lashings of fear resting over our shoulders.
4. Slender: The Arrival
Following on from the global trend, Slender: The Eight Pages on PC, The Arrival trickled in and capitalized the word “fear” with an updated experience that left gamers petrified. With a longer game that builds a more in-depth narrative to the terrifying humanoid; Slender: The Arrival brings not only the same nailbiting tension to the plate — but also an understanding to the origins of the character.
Although a rather short experience, The Arrival still manages to capture the essence of the renowned franchise and give players some meaty scares. Even without the bulky chapters and dozens of scripted hours, playing through the game is still enough to make you feel satisfied and wanting to crawl back for another round.
3. Siren Blood Curse
Plummeting into a distorted world where everything is twisted, Siren Blood Curse comes forth and enhances the disturbing factor by a mile. Thanks to its devotion to crooked characters and nightmarish design, this horror classic can easily be remembered when scouring back through the games that defined the PlayStation 3 era.
Siren Blood Curse alternates between various characters throughout its run; some slightly capable of surviving — and some with absolutely no experience whatsoever. And, it’s those specific characters that make you quiver at the sight of even your own shadow. It’s the defenceless approach you have to take to every obstacle in the hope you’ll survive through to the next chapter. And, when hiding is your own strategy — it makes one night of terror feel like an everlasting trial.
2. Dead Space
Rather than making the protagonist a complete badass with inifinte rounds of ammo and enough weapons to cater for an army, Dead Space puts you in the shoes of an everyday systems engineer with little to no experience in survival. With a limited supply of ammunition and a whole ship full of lurking creatures, we’re meant to feel outnumbered and with zero chances of survival. And that’s where the horror aspect feels almost perfect. We’re terrified to open the next door in the fear of seeing what waits behind it. We’re counting down our bullets and praying that we can reach the next checkpoint without being trapped.
Dead Space has produced some outstanding games since the 2008 release. But the game that we have to pick for the list has to be the very first instalment. It was like something fresh out the mind of a derranged developer, and provided a breath of fresh air to the horror universe. It’s gripping, and it’s bold — and that’s why we love it.
1. The Evil Within
When we look at The Evil Within, we don’t really see a single basket with one mound of eggs. We see a range of baskets — and a whole heap of eggs. Again, that’s mainly down to the fact that The Evil Within locates several subcategories of horror, and spreads them equally. Of course, it hasn’t always worked with some aspiring horror flicks. But, for this one, it worked like a charm.
Taking a psychological concept and clashing it with raging bullet furies, grotesque monsters and mind-provoking puzzles — we are able to witness the shell of a beautiful creation. The Evil Within manages to keep players on their feet as they tiptoe through a shifting world that never follows the same pattern. From start to finish, the whole world moves just as quickly as it descends into a deeper level of insanity. Throw in some mapped out jump scares and a few boss battles — and you’ve got yourself a polished horror masterpiece.