It is that time of the year, the spooky time! With Halloween around the corner, it’s time to look back at a few horror masterpieces. Narrowing it down to just 15 is no easy task, so please, hit us up on social media and tell us what games give you the frightens!
As a quick note, to keep this fair, there is only one title per series.
15. SOMA (2015)
Frictional Games came out of the gate swinging with their Penumbra series but gained attention for the excellent Amnesia series. While I have a lot of love for the first Amnesia game, SOMA has a special place in my heart. Taking place in an underwater base is creepy enough but the focus on machines and their need for consciousness amplifies the horror. At times it is harrowing but it’s always creepy. There is little scarier than a machine that believes itself to be alive.
14. Outlast (2013)
Most of us know Outlast as that jump scare game all the streamers played and while it has many of those, there is more to Outlast than just that. The creepy night vision camera lends a great visual atmosphere, but the Mount Massive psychiatric hospital holds many horrors of twisted experiments gone wrong.
13. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002)
Before their historic downfall, developer Silicon Knights were an emerging talent. Eternal Darkness stands as their magnum opus. Taking place over centuries and having a dozen playable characters is a drop in the ocean when there are multiple story paths and a robust combat system with tricky puzzles. It is tense and engaging with some effective scares.
12. Rule of Rose (2006)
Before it was released, Rule of Rose was subject to massive controversy and protests due to explicit content, that was not even in the game. It was banned in several territories and quickly became a collector’s item. It is a shame because, despite clunky gameplay, Rule of Rose delivers a disturbing atmosphere and some damn creepy kids.
11. Haunting Ground (2005)
Capcom released Haunting Ground during the height of survival horror popularity and unfortunately fell to the wayside, destined to become a cult classic. Playing as an almost defenceless teenager is scary, especially when the game has undertones of potential sexual threat. It is horrifying but Capcom didn’t leave heroine Fiona alone, her giant White Shepard Hewie defends her from threats. Do not skip this one.
10. Alan Wake (2010)
Industry icons Remedy had Alan Wake cooking for years. A horror game that takes place in an episodic format, keeping to the noir style seemed like a perfect mix……and it was. Leaning heavily on the works of Stephen King, Alan Wake delivered on the scares but had a nice blend of black comedy and absurdism. The in-universe TV show lent a sense of realism and the combat focused on using light as a weapon, Alan Wake may throw a lot of eggs in a basket but I’m glad it does.
9. Until Dawn (2015)
Supermassive’s first major title, Until Dawn, is a visually impressive, choice-based horror game. Borrowing heavily from slasher films, you play as several stereotypical teenagers as you save them from death or steer them towards it. It is self-aware, jump-scare heavy and not afraid to be goofy. It works perfectly.
8. Bioshock (2007)
A spiritual successor to the phenomenal System Shock series, Bioshock has everything going for it. A deep and twisted narrative set in the underwater city of Rapture. The city is in ruins and its citizens are deformed. Effective scares and harrowing audio diaries are punctuated with some tough choices to make in-game.
7. Bloodborne (2015)
The Souls series may have many scares, but they are mostly born out of potential frustration. Bloodborne takes a hard turn into Gothic horror and emulates a world both Dracula and Cthulhu would inhabit. The nightmarish creatures you are tasked to defeat have left the population terrified to leave their houses and the fabulous art design just oozes that oppression and the blood-curdling screams of the creatures are unforgettable.
6. Alien: Isolation (2014)
While there have been many games based off the legendary film, there was not really any that captured the spirit of the horror well. Total War devs, Creative Assembly decided to change that. A canon story and incredibly faithful art design looked the part but the terrific Xenomorph AI brought some nasty scares and tension. Sadly, the later portions of the game hurt the overall experience.
5. Forbidden Siren (2003)
Developed by former Silent Hill alumni, Siren had a pedigree of talent behind it. Siren had an impressive feature behind it, the ability to see through the viewpoint of your enemies. This made stealth absolutely heart-pounding, with each heavy footstep and breath signalling doom. With a bunch of characters to play, including a child, Siren is certainly a game to revisit.
4. Dead Space 2 (2011)
The ill-fated Visceral games delivered a horror masterpiece with the first Dead Space title, a mix between Ridley Scott’s Alien and David Cronenberg’s body horror films. The second game continued that trend with a larger game world and a tighter emphasis on story. Enemies are revolting to look at and gorily dispatched. There is no ray of sunshine here, just pure horror.
3. Resident Evil 2 (Remake) (2019)
While the original version of Resident Evil 2 is excellent, the remake takes things even further. With tough to dispel zombies and incredible visuals, it managed to ramp up the scares. Knowing when to make areas claustrophobic and give too much freedom is perfect for delivering scares but the persistent threat of Mr.X, an unstoppable enemy, leaves nothing but dread.
2. Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly (2003)
Most horror games manage to be creepy or disturbing, but few are scary. Fatal Frame 2 is simply scary. Things change each time you play, erasing bravery from previous knowledge. Exploring the ghost town has all the creepiness of a Silent Hill title but when ghosts appear, the Camera Obscura is your only defence. Trying to find the right camera set up under pressure is daunting and Fatal Frame does not always rely on jump scares. Few games come close to this horror masterpiece.
1. Silent Hill 2 (2001)
What I consider to be the greatest videogame of all time is naturally the best horror game of all time. The creatures of Silent Hill are creepy, but the dread of visiting each location is what makes them scary. Silent Hill 2 is smarter than that though, every character you meet, including yourself, is shrouded in mystery and the town itself reflects the inner turmoil of the protagonist. Multiple endings rely on player input and raise disturbing questions, all while avoiding dumb tropes. Going to places many games do not dare, every gamer needs to play this.