While horror is something of a niche genre, it’s nothing if not tenacious, persevering through years and always looking back at its roots. And in the last several years, we’ve actually seen a boom of new horror games coming out, which both warms my heart, and chills me to the bones!
While traditionally a single player affair, horror games have evolved a lot and some manage to reach the mainstream through the use of multiplayer or by becoming very streamable (there’s something of a cottage industry of YouTubers playing jump scare games and screaming into the cameras).
Spooks and scares will come to you if you continue reading, and with that, lets get frightened to the core together! Ahahahahaha!
Best horror PC games
So you think you’re brave like Master Chief? Take a look at our list of the games which will make your skin crawl and your confidence dwindle into nothing. And then keep reading, if you dare, because we’ll point out exactly what makes them spooky enough to appear on this list.
Be warned, and mind the shadows. They are always listening.
Friday the 13th: The Game
The Friday the 13th film franchise is one of the all-time classics not only of the slasher subgenre, but the horror as a whole. This game, developed by Illfonic and Black Tower Studios oozes with love for the source material, from the perfect murder-fodder in the form of camp counselors to Jason’s numerous costumes and kill animations. And it’s at its best when played in multiplayer.
The core experience is an asymmetric competitive multiplayer mode, pitting one player controlling Jason against several player (or AI) controlled counsellors. While the game isn’t much of a horror when you’re playing Jason, when you have to run from a competent Jason player, it can quickly become a hectic, nerve-wracking struggle, but not without hope of survival.
|Release year:||2019 (Early Access)|
GTFO runs on a relatively simple story premise: crater caused by the Dinosaur-killing meteor hides some unsavoury inhabitants, unleashed by scientists who drilled to deep. You play as prisoners pressed into exploring the derelict complex and look for whatever they task you with finding. Tight cooperation with your team, including good communication, is going to be absolutely crucial.
GTFO places you in dimly lit corridors from which a horde of vaguely humanoid toothy monsters can erupt and overwhelm you in a moment unless your team has your back. The enemy designs are sufficiently humanoid to feel wrong, and them swarming at you after you triggered an alarm will certainly raise your pulse. Not a psychological horror, but quite scary nonetheless.
|Genre:||First-person shooter, survival horror|
At first glance Hunt: Showdown looks like a first-person shooter set in the gloomy rendition of the Old West. But then horrifying worms emerge from the puddle nearby, reanimated dead start shambling in your direction, and you’ve just picked up a trail of an unholy monstrosity you came here to banish. To make matters worse: other hunter teams are after the same bounty.
There are presently three extremely dangerous boss monsters: one arachnid, a human-shaped mass of worms, and a bizarre tortured body with animalistic head. The tension of chasing these monsters, the fear of being to slow to get out of the sights of enemy hunters, and the monsters that populate the maps can really create an oppressive, nightmarish atmosphere.
If a side-scrolling platformer game can be a horror, then Inside certainly qualifies. From the beginning to the end (any of several possible), this minimalist platformer makes sure you won’t feel too comfortable at any point. The scenes you move through are mostly on the black-and-white spectrum, with barely any hints of colour, and the world is populated by odd, hostile creatures.
It might not have the infamous spider, but it swings from an oppressive dystopian setting with mind control, to nightmarish monsters from horror and myths. Death comes cheap, too, the little boy you control can die in many different ways, and they tend to be quite brutal and discouraging from further failures. The best-known ending is probably the most graphic thing in the game, too.
Layers of Fear (1, 2)
|Release year:||2016 (LoF1), 2019 (LoF2)|
The first Layers of Fear is a trip through a large mansion in the body and mind of a hallucinating painter artist roaming the corridors and rooms of his mansion as he’s trying to piece together his life after a series of tragic events. The surroundings change and twist in unexpected ways, obscuring the truth of your past. Can you handle the visions put in front of you by your haunted mind?
Layers of Fear 2 also pursues the immersion in a troubled mind of an artist, but this time it’s an actor, not a painter. The story follows The Actor during an extended film shoot taking place on an ocean cruise ship. Unfortunately, the Actor is haunted by visions of a mysterious Rat Queen, the childhood broken by an abusive father and a lot of other, more…disturbing imagery.
After the original Outlast making good use of a non-combatant protagonist and interesting expansion came Outlast 2, taking the terror to a secluded corner of Arizona. You play as Blake Langermann, a journalist investigating a mysterious murder with his wife, also a reporter. He finds crazed, violent doomsday cults, confronts his past, and uncovers a link to the first game.
Blake will needs to save his wife, missing after a helicopter crash, and he pretty much has only his camera to aid him along the way and show enemies looking for him in the darkness. Outlast 2 doesn’t feature any obvious monsters, but the crazy cultists replace them easily, with the added terror of not knowing what made them this way. Just watch the one with a pickaxe.
Resident Evil 2 (Remake)
2019’s Resident Evil 2 is a remake of a classic Capcom survival horror under the same title, it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, and keeps the mortifying spirit of the original even as it makes sure the presentation matches modern standards. As a rookie police officer Leon and a college student Claire you’ll face deadly zombies and other results of the Umbrella Corporation’s research.
You’ll deal with low ammo, try to unlock doors, and do your best to stay ahead of Mr. X, a lumbering behemoth keen to find you and crush your skull with it’s Umbrella Corp.-sculpted hands. Despite the change of camera perspective, RE2 remake doesn’t lose its touch, and the enhanced graphics make the zombies and other monstrosities appear much scarier.
Soma takes place in an underwater research facility in the early 22nd century, the last place on Earth where humans have survived after a massive extinction event. You awaken after a brain scan procedure to the research station seemingly abandoned, except for an occasional transmission and the whirring of machinery. The last hope for humanity is the ARK holding brain scans of the crew.
As you will walk the corridors of PATHOS-II in order to launch the ARK you’ll encounter robots with conflicted identity, as well as some openly hostile to you, but you’ll also answer the questions of what constitutes identity and consciousness. The underwater setting, the secrets uncovered along the way, and great pacing make Soma a thrilling and unsettling experience.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan
|Genre:||Interactive drama, survival horror|
From the developers of 2015’s Until Dawn came Man of Medan, the first of horror stories collected in The Dark Pictures Anthology. In many ways, Man of Medan is similar in concept to Until Dawn. As you play through it, at certain moments you will have to make a choice between two (three, if we include no choice) options, which will influence the story in a big way.
The story involves a group or young adults going on a diving trip to a sunken World War II plane, but get captured by pirates and taken to a ghost ship, Ourang Medan, where weird apparitions and creatures start to haunt them. You play it in a few different ways: alone, in a 2-player online co-op, or with friends over as a Movie Night, which has you pass the controller to other people.
The Forest spends a lot of time acting like a regular survival game, asking the player to manage various meters describing the main character’s (called Eric LeBlanc) well-being. It doesn’t take too long before you end up fighting mutated cannibals, and discover some disturbing information about the peninsula you found yourself on. Eventually the game goes full steam ahead into horror.
There are many mysteries to discover throughout the game, including the source of the monstrous humanoids, the reason your plane crashed, and why your son was kidnapped. The answers are weird, and the choices you’ll be faced with aren’t going to be easy. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s a really good game in addition to being a cool horror story.
|Genre:||RPG, Survival Horror|
Overconfidence is a slow and insidious killer
While not a horror game in a traditional sense, since it doesn’t scare the player directly, it definitely manages to convey that sense of dread, which comes with utter powerlessness.
In Darkest Dungeon, you assemble a team of professional adventurers (people like grave robbers and lepers. You know, professionals), and venture deep underground to fight monsters and acquire wealth.
The game is teeth-grindingly hard, at least at your first attempt. It’s downright obscure in relaying information to the player, which is one of the challenges that you have to overcome. In many ways you have to understand how to cheat the game to really beat it, but even if you think you know what’s what, it tends to take the rug from under your feet, sending you into that deep, sinking feeling of desperation.
|Genre:||Psychological Horror, Interactive Story|
He’s watching your every move
Certainly an interesting title, if very niche, it deserves a spot on the list because it combines that unmistakable Polish take on the cyberpunk with a deep atmosphere of horror.
This is something of a name-drop, but if you’re curious what Cyberpunk 2077 might be like, this could give you an idea.
The gameplay consists mostly of you exploring the world as Daniel Lazarski, a special investigator who can connect to a chip inside the brain of a person and interrogate their mind to find clues. This time, though, it’s personal as the case involves Daniel’s son. There’s a lot of fantastic imagery and some lofty concepts in this one, and it’s a pretty short experience, so if you have a few hours to spare during that Halloween night and want something that will deeply unsettle you, go for it.
A secret window into the soul
Alan Wake is, at its core, about fiction, and how a mind submerged in fiction can lose touch with reality.
The titular Alan Wake is a writer who suffers from a writer’s block and, in an attempt to find a solution, gets involved with mysterious and dark forces that seemingly have something to do with his book.
The enemies in Alan Wake, the so-called “Taken”, are surrounded by darkness, which has to be pierced by light, giving new functionality to the good old staple of horror games, the flashlight. More than anything, the game is praised for excellent pacing, giving the players heart-pounding action, but also moments of levity and exciting cliffhangers when necessary.
Most horrifyingly capable AI you’ve witnessed
The Alien franchise has had a difficult relationship with video games.
The first Alien movie was unmistakably a horror, with the titular Alien being an intimidating presence that always lurked in the dark, but games were seemingly more interested in turning that ideal into a shooter. That’s where chasing trends gets ya.
After Alien: Colonial Marines, a bad taste was left in our mouths. A bad taste completely wiped clean by Isolation. The premise is simple: there’s a dangerous xenomorph on the ship and you have to escape. It’s so simple, in fact, you have to wonder why it has never been done before, at least not like this. But what really makes it work, is the erratic and bizarre behavior of the Alien.
See, it won’t just follow or attack you, no. At times it will crawl towards you, then suddenly change its path, only to assault you from behind. And the sheer lack of comprehension of how to defend against this creature is certainly where the terror lies.
Silent Hill: Homecoming
In my restless dreams, I see that town…
Ah, yes, how could I not include the Silent Hill series on this list? I very well couldn’t! Still, keeping the list reserved to Steam Games forced me to get… Creative.
Homecoming is certainly rather derivative of previous entries in the series, but perhaps that’s why it might be a good game for someone not intimately familiar with it. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.
Silent Hill as a series is less about specific characters and more about the setting, the titular Silent Hill, a town that in a supernatural way serves as a crucible to people’s horrors, awakening everything that they might be ashamed, regretful or terrified of. Through visceral visuals and cryptic clues, the games tell fragmented stories with very heavy undertones. Certainly a series worth checking out, especially on the day of spooks.
…. and here it is! TOP 10
Dead by Daylight
|Genre:||Multiplayer Survival Horror|
In the morning I’ll be gone
Dead by Daylight is something of a love-letter to horror movies from the 80s. Quite literally, in fact, as it features several homages to popular characters from those movies, such as Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger or the Leatherface.
And even more interestingly, you can actually take on the role of these deranged villains and terrorize real, actual players.
That’s right, Dead by Daylight (a fantastically morbid title by the way, props for that) is an online, asymmetrical multiplayer game, where one of the players will become the vicious killer, while others will have to accomplish map objectives and attempt to find a way out. Not everyone will survive. The maps and objectives are varied, the monstrous villains numerous to choose from and unique in how they work and the atmosphere is absolutely on point.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
|Release year:||Seasons 1 through 5: 2012-2013; full anthology: 2013-2014|
The real monsters were the friends we made along the way
The game that pretty much created the notoriety of the studio behind it, The Walking Dead, is an episodic, interactive story, which means it’s less interested in player input and more in just telling itself to the player.
And quite a story it is. Licensed from the famous The Walking Dead TV series (itself based on a graphic novel), it takes place in a post-apocalyptic America where our protagonist, Lee, an escaped convict, rescues a little girl and attempts to reunite her with her parents, having to go through hordes of flesh-eating zombies to do that.
It is a somber tale, utilizing the mythical creature that is the zombie to a great effect. In The Walking Dead, the zombies are dangerous and scary, but as you’ll find for yourself, in a failed society it’s the humans that you have to be wary of. It’s an emotional journey, one predicated upon a branching story, where your decisions can change the outcome and determine what kind of a person Clementine will grow up to be, in this dead world.
The Evil Within 2
Crawling under my skin
The Evil Within is a delightful, psychological horror, taking some serious inspiration from one of the most well known horror game series of all time—Silent Hill.
It is a pure survival horror through and through, with no multiplayer or other gimmicks, and yet is both critically acclaimed and popular (given the niche appeal anyway).
It’s something of a mystery thriller with all things that would make it so: a cryptic investigation by a detective (the protagonist), a shadowy organization conducting strange experiments and a full on journey into the mind of a killer, in the vein of psychological horror.
The core gameplay revolves around finding the balance between fighting, running away, and exploration, giving the player the special awareness necessary to beat the challenges. It’s immersive, it’s difficult and it’s absolutely terrifying.
Killing Floor 2
|Genre:||Multiplayer FPS, Survival Horror|
Zombies are proud creatures. They prefer to hunt in packs.
While not exactly a horror game in a traditional sense, Killing Floor nonetheless features the staples of all great zombie games.
It mostly functions as a repeatable horde mode, where players can join (either locally or online) together to fight waves of increasing difficulty, culminating in a randomized boss-fight.
There’s a lot of variety in every aspect of this game, from different customizable perks suited for different encounters, through different enemy types (especially bosses), and down to intricate ways in which difficulty options can be tweaked. While more empowering than frightful, it’s pretty good for a Halloween party. If you up the difficulty settings enough, you might just get that pang of desperation a proper zombie apocalypse should evoke.
|Genre:||Puzzle-Platformer, Survival Horror|
Cute has never been this scary and twisted
The most distinguishing things about Little Nightmares are its keen sense of aesthetics and morbid style, reminiscent of Studio Ghibli movies, like Spirited Away.
The player assumes the role of Six, a small girl in a cute, yellow raincoat, attempting to escape a floating prison known as the Maw. Six has no means of defending herself from ghastly opponents she will encounter, and her only tool is a lighter, only marginally dispersing the darkness, so she must use her wit to find a way out.
Little Nightmares is a beautiful, cryptic and very immersive game with amazing style, showing distorted humanoids and skewed proportions, as a mind of a child would perceive them. It tackles heavy subjects including child abuse, cannibalism and exploitation, so it’s not for the faint of heart.
It also masterfully throws a curve ball at the player at the end, but I won’t spoil it for you. The testament to how much of an instant hit this indie game was, should be that a TV series based on the game is in the making already.
Dead Space 3
In space no one can hear you scream
The name of Dead Space, and the name of Visceral, the studio behind the studios, should be known to gamers everywhere.
It contributed to bringing back horror into the mainstream, proving to publishers that the market is still certainly there, a proof that Capcom has certainly took to heart, as you’ll see in a moment.
Dead Space takes an interesting approach to combat, forcing the player into un-learning everything they know about fighting opponents in video games and does great work with the atmosphere, creating this mix of uneasiness and dread. The last game in the series, the one I personally recommend, also features a two player, cooperative multiplayer, so you can try to brave this one with a friend. Don’t worry, companionship will not make it any less scary.
|Genre:||FPS, Survival Horror|
The name says it all
Another staple of video game horror, the Fear series is a fast-paced shooter with the trappings of a supernatural horror.
It uses all the best tricks in the book, between the creepy imagery of a little Ring-esque girl, through so called jump-scares, down to steep difficulty curve.
The most recent entry in the series, Fear 3, developed in 2011, takes on a slightly different approach, having two playable characters (with the possibility of coop), with one of them being able to use ghostly powers. You’d think that prevalence of guns would be empowering, but Fear nails the atmosphere throughout the series, such that you never feel like you actually have the upper hand.
Resident Evil 7
Scaring people into environmentalism since 1996
Few videogame series have achieved the levels of fame belonging to Resident Evil.
Stemming from the deep-rooted fear the Japanese have for nuclear fallout and the resulting biohazard (which is the original, Japanese title of the series), it presents a world where nature has been twisted by human greed and malice and where darkness can take root and persist, lurking and waiting.
The series is somewhat spotty. Notably, Resident Evil 6 , Operation Raccoon City and Revelations are skippable, but you should absolutely take note of the following games: remaster of the original Resident Evil game, Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 7.
These games offer all the best things the series has given us and are the reason it remains a true monument to horror in the gaming world. Look out for the remake of Resident Evil 2 that is now in the making. Not this Halloween, but next one… Be ready to face the biohazard.
Blow my whistle, baby
Evoking the best parts of the Blaire Witch Project or Cloverfield, Outlast manages to realize that “investigative journalism goes horribly wrong” fantasy to the utmost degree.
Filled with overtly Christian imagery and with an underlying, almost sci-fi mystery, with lots and lots of creepy imagery, Outlast certainly captivates the mind, body and soul.
Outlast is not a game where you can take the gruesome enemies on, and managing the dwindling reserves of energy on your camera, the only source of vision in this dark place, is key to survival (a feature which many games tried to ape, but few succeeded). It is an intense experience, so on that Halloween night, treat yourself. Shut down the lights, boot up your screen. And get scared. Outlast lived to see a sequel, but the reception of that game has certainly been… Mixed. So I encourage you to stick with the original.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
The game largely responsible for PewDiePie’s fame
Amnesiais often credited with starting the ball rolling on the trend itself and has the prestigious status of being that one game that brought back the genre from the brink of extinction.
It has also started a trend of people playing scary games and screaming into their cameras AND a whole generation of horror games on Steam (most of which are of… Dubious quality). A trailblazer in more way than one.
Amnesia, more so than any other game on the list, understands what it means to be Lovecraftian. Your sanity meter will be affected whenever you stay in the darkness or look directly upon the grim visages of the monsters, forcing you to look away and run.
It achieves this fantastic atmosphere with masterful sound design. As you pick up your headphones and enjoy the full stereo of this ambience, listen closely to the creeks and howls. Amnesia can certainly keep one on the edge.