10. Layers of Fear
Starting this list off rather modest but not necessarily without its fair share of creepiness, Layers of Fear is an exploration title à la Gone Home that has you uncovering the morbid secrets hidden within an eerie, old mansion.
You play as a painter who is slowly descending into madness, with the world around you constantly shifting and messing with your mind. Paintings change, objects appear to move on their own, and the corridors will become smudged with brightly colored splashes of paint.
While it doesn’t rely on sheer gore or adrenaline like some other entries in this list, Layers of Fear does manage to get under your skin, providing you with a well-design exploration game that implements the infrequent jump scare to remind you that the horror in this one isn’t merely psychological.
9. The Evil Within
In The Evil Within, you play as Sebastian Castellanos, an everyday tough guy detective who gets messed up in some twisted business. With scarce resources and downright dangerous enemy monstrosities inhabiting its world, The Evil Within proves to be a solid and enjoyable throwback to the classic era of tougher horror games, brought to you by the same minds that created Resident Evil 4.
The Evil Within is one of the few horror games wherein avoiding a conflict is usually the safest possible option. Enemies charge at you and hit with tremendous force, and both bullets and healing supplies are far too rare to waste thoughtlessly. There’s always the option of running, but with the ghastly town being riddled with deadly traps, it’s highly likely you won’t make it that far.
It’s definitely not a horror game for everyone, mind you. Its surprising difficulty and careful resource management may prove a tad too much for those who are just here for the scares, but it’s likely the excessive amount of gore that may make you consider another title altogether. One second you’re feverishly sneaking past a butcher wielding a chainsaw, bumping into skinned corpses hanging from meat hooks, and the next, you’re waist-deep in a bloodbath with drained bodies floating atop of the thick, gooey substance.
8. Until Dawn
Until Dawn is a PlayStation 4 exclusive reminiscent in general gameplay to Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, despite not sharing the same developer. Telling the traditional horror tale of a bunch of friends gathering for a vacation in some spooky cabin in the woods, Until Dawn has you playing as eight different characters as unsettling secrets about the group begin to unravel.
Featuring excellent performances from the likes of Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) among others, Until Dawn very much plays out like a superb horror tv series wherein you’re in control on the outcome. The decisions you make can have significant meaning, sometimes showing the results immediately after the fact or taking some time to properly manifest.
Since you grow to care quite deeply for this merry band of teenagers, seeing some of them getting brutally murdered can be a jaw-dropping spectacle, which is why Until Dawn is one of the more unique entries on this list. While there’s plenty of gore and discomforting scares to go around, Until Dawn strongly relies on a more psychological aspect, placing you in a situation where dialogue and interactions you partake in will shape the outcome of this horror story.
SOMA isn’t the first horror game to take to the depths of the ocean, but it is definitely one of the better titles to do so.
Primarily robotic creatures inhabit this underwater nightmare, fading the line between the human mind and artificial intelligence. The tortured screams of hunks of scrap metal echo through the suffocating hallways and will send chills down your spine, whereas the heavy thumping and ominous searchlights of bloodthirsty robots will make you hold your breath in fear.
What SOMA does incredibly well is seamlessly blending environmental story telling and clever puzzle solving together to make for an unforgettable psychological experience. Danger lurks behind every corner, but in order to outrun it, you must proceed against all odds, lending SOMA a sense of tension and pressure far too few titles successfully achieve.
6. Resident Evil HD
The Resident Evil series has become a household horror series over the years, with the 1996 original kicking off the horror craze as well as the zombie genre as we know it.
With its pre-rendered backgrounds and fixed camera angles, Resident Evil HD brings the inventive horror experience to more modern audiences. Managing resources is key, since you only have a limited amount of slots available in your inventory, frequently forcing you to leave a certain precious item behind just to come back for it later when you desperately need it.
Resident Evil doesn’t exactly hold your hand, either. If you find yourself facing an undead armed with nothing but a combat knife, don’t expect the game to show compassion because you deemed it necessary to stock up on green herbs instead of keeping a spare magazine at the ready.
Everything in Resident Evil is limited, from the amount of saves you have and the ammunition you can find, to the control you have over the environment. Memorizing the maze-like mansion is key to your survival, making Resident Evil one of the most challenging yet rewarding horror experiences currently out there.
5. Alan Wake
Rightfully dubbing itself a psychological horror thriller, Alan Wake tells the story of the titular writer who finds himself crashed in the woods, with his primary goal to find his lost wife. In typical thriller fashion, things quickly spiral out of control, setting you on a journey filled with clever mechanics and memorable characters.
While Alan Wake doesn’t hand out jump scares and gore fests at every possible moment, it rather relies on fantastic storytelling that will blow your mind and drop your jaw on multiple occasions.
The game’s numerous Taken enemies are defeated by penetrating their shadowy husk with your flashlight beam, allowing you to pump some lead into their bodies to finish the job. Even inanimate objects can become infected with this substance, which will often leave you facing a massive truck or even a tornado using nothing but a flashlight as your primary weapon.
The world in Alan Wake is beautifully brought to life, presenting you with a one-of-a-kind atmosphere that’ll grab you by the collar and drag you through the pine covered woods. A definite must for those who crave a more story-driven horror experience rather than one solely relying on the scares it manages to bring to the table.
4. Alien: Isolation
Creative Assembly concocted a truly astonishing horror experience with Alien: Isolation. As Amanda Ripley, you must navigate the abandoned Sevastopol space station with but a single Xenomorph scuttling through its corridors, hissing as it stalks you in the dark.
What makes Alien: Isolation so great is the strong sense of vulnerability despite rarely facing overwhelming odds. Bullets and maintenance jack swings may harm the infrequent hostile survivor or the dysfunctional Android, but few things scare off the relentless Xenomorph.
Hiding underneath desks, tossing crafted items to distract the titular alien or resorting to a flamethrower are some of the few viable ways to ensure your survival. One misstep could mean game over, man, with the Xenomorph’s pointy tail digging its way through your chest cavity as the creature gouges your face off.
Oh, and it almost made us forget about Aliens: Colonial Marines, which is an accomplishment in and of itself.
3. Dead by Daylight
Dead by Daylight takes every campy 80’s horror flick concept and turns it into a tense survival game, pitting four survivors against one vicious killer in this online multiplayer thriller.
As a survivor, your main goal is to repair a handful of randomly spawned generators, powering the gate that will ultimately lead to your escape. The killer, on the other hand, must hunt down the frightened teenagers, hanging them on meat hooks in some twisted, sacrificial ritual.
Knowing you’re playing with or against other players brings forth a sense of tension that perfectly complements the premise at hand. Some survivors will cleverly stick together to increase their odds of survival, whereas an experienced killer can easily make short work of an entire group.
It’s this constant dynamic that will periodically keep you coming back to Dead by Daylight, which is bound to leave you with sweaty hands and a bad case of heavy panting.
2. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
The indie title that both reinvigorated the horror genre and launched many YouTubers into stardom, Amnesia: The Dark Descent strongly maintains an eerie vibe that will continue to withstand the test of time for a foreseeable future.
Using its general gameplay and mechanics to create an unparalleled sense of immersion and vulnerability, Amnesia: The Dark Descent leaves combat out of the equation. Hiding from enemy sight and keeping a close eye on your mental well-being are necessities if you wish to survive this chilling horror experience, having you solve an array of clever puzzles along the way.
Whether you’re a horror veteran or a complete newcomer to the genre, there’s a whole lot to love about Amnesia: The Dark Descent, making it a must for anyone who’s even remotely interested in giving themselves a good scare.
Outlast has you playing as a journalist investigating a recently re-opened mental asylum that reeks of mystery. Navigating the blood-stained corridors and the chaotically arranged hospital rooms, you will come across a fair share of unstable lunatics who want nothing more than to shred every fiber from your mutilated corpse.
What makes Outlast so intense is the great use of its setting. The psychiatric hospital has a chilling feel to it, with its dimly lit hallways forcing you to rely on the night vision mode of your camera in order to avoid bumping into one of its terrifying patients.
Despite some cheap yet effective jump scares, Outlast largely gets its panicking moments from chase sequences. Sliding across a desk blocking a doorway and hiding underneath a hospital bed as the skeletal knees of the insane wander around the room searching for you will get your adrenaline pumping and your heart beating out of your chest, no matter how many times you’ve experienced it.
When you catch a glimpse of a pair of eyes flickering in the dark just as your camera’s battery is dying out, it’s easy to rapidly turn off your platform of choice to avoid the inevitable chase that would occur. Luckily, its surprisingly intriguing story and grim atmosphere will make you want to see this one through to the very end.