Japanese horror strikes a little differently compared to most run-of-the-mill slapstick nightmares that we see on the market. Perhaps it's to do with the deep folklore that each title employs. Maybe it's the original settings that their developers clearly favor over generic templates. Whatever it is that makes Japanese horror the magnum opus of terror is unclear, but the fact is, very rarely will another country be able to one-up its legendary prowess.
So, of all these horror games that Japan has unloaded on the world, which of them have been the most memorable? Well, here's how we see it. Here are, in our opinion, the five best Japanese horror games of all time, ranked.
5. Siren: Blood Curse
Siren: Blood Curse is a reimagining of the PlayStation 2 classic Forbidden Siren, in which players are invited to a distorted reality that bleeds atmosphere, cel-shaded environments, and twisted folklore. Its gameplay, which revolves around stealth and just a pinch of action, is mostly made up of hiding from deranged murderers and foul beings, most of whom can force you to cower in lockers for twenty minutes without lifting so much as a finger. And it's the waiting, and the not knowing what looms behind the other side, that will get your heart pounding for what will feel like an eternity in a bottomless hellhole.
Siren: Blood Curse may be a little shorter than most survival horror games, but its twelve-piece episodic journey is absolutely rife with horrifying moments and nail-biting encounters. And for that, we have to give the reimagined version of the beloved cult classic a spot on this list. It's bread and butter horror, and a bastion of pride for the Japanese market, for sure.
4. The Evil Within
Apart from Blair Witch, no other horror game in the world has made us question our own frame of mind as much as The Evil Within. Thanks to the game being laced with endless twists, turns, shape-shifting levels, and vivid hallucinations, the whole journey is made up to be one huge psychedelic trip. And not a good one, either. But that's partly the reason why we found ourselves rolling back to it: the high that longed to be reborn.
The Evil Within certainly does a tremendous job at tapping into your psyche, mainly by presenting you with a labyrinth for a game and an ever-elusive goal that refuses to play ball. And while it may be a third-person shooter at its core, it is still perhaps one of the best mind-boggling survival horrors on the board. And so, if you fancy losing your train of thought while slumping through a bloody nightmare, then be sure to pick up The Evil Within. It'll trick you, and it'll scare the absolute daylights out of you, to put it lightly.
3. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Fatal Frame is a Japanese horror series that has seen its fair share of best-selling hits over the years, mainly due to its rich and intensive folklore and unique combat system, with which players are invited to use a spirit camera with powers of exorcism to eradicate looming entities and anomolies. Its second chapter, Crimson Butterfly, though, made use of these two things in the best way imaginable. And it's because of this, that Metacritic later billed it as one of the scariest video games ever made.
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly centers its story around Mio and Mayu, two sisters who get lost in the myst of an abandoned village. With passing spirits looking to possess Mayu for an ancient ritual, Mio must locate the tools to drive back the paranormal and reclaim her sibling's shattered soul before the hourglass spills its final grain. Equipped with nothing but a camera and a pinch of courage, the sister must step into the shadows, knowing full well that light, even in the smallest amounts, may no longer be a luxury.
2. Resident Evil
Thanks to the countless video games, spin-offs and movie adaptations, Resident Evil has blossomed into one of the most prolific and successful media franchises on the planet. And not only is it one of the most successful franchises on the modern market, but also one of the most immersive horror domains, too. But if you're wanting to talk about the entries that defined the genre way back when, then you're going to want to take a bite out of the earliest chapters. Or better yet, the remakes of the earliest chapters.
Capcom's universally acclaimed saga not only boasts a long line of compelling couch co-op games, but a thread of rich and immersive single-player campaigns, many of which have layed the foundations for most modern horror titles. Level designs have always been unsettlingly on point, as has the ambience of the post-apocalyptic setting that the series so clearly favors. Nearly everything about it — especially Resident Evil 2 Remake — is textbook, and to put it anywhere outside of second place would be a complete insult to Capcom's fine eye for horror.
1. Silent Hill
In reality, neither you nor I have ever stepped foot in Silent Hill. And yet, whenever a thin plume of smoke covers our own hometowns in real life, we automatically associate it with Capcom's disturbingly opaque world. And honestly, no other series in the world has been able to make such a lasting impression, except maybe the Final Destination saga, which is another story altogether.
Silent Hill brings to the table what no other firm could dare replicate. Not only is it rich in lore, but absolutely swimming in horrifying creatures and unsettling scenarios. And lest we forget the soundtrack, which is, without a doubt, one of the most well constructed nightmare fuels in gaming, period. Frankly, it doesn't matter which Silent Hill chapter you swing for, because at the end of the day, they'll each have you running for the hills. Literally.
So, what's your take? Do you agree with our top five? Let us know over on our socials here or down in the comments below.