Fear has many faces and facets. So does horror video games genre.

One of its lesser-known incarnations, based on the originator of scary-monsters-and-super-creeps stories in culture – gothic horror – has spawned marvelous and versatile brood of video games. With Halloween just around the corner, here is a list of gothic horror games worth giving a shot.

GameReleaseGenreDeveloper
Amnesia The Dark Descent 2010-09-08 Adventure Frictional Games
Clive Barkers Undying 2001-02-21 Horror DreamWorks Interactive
Vampyr 2018-06-05 RPG DON'T NOD
Castlevania Lords Of Shadow 2 2014-02-25 Adventure MercurySteam
Castlevania Lords Of Shadow Ultimate Edition 2013-08-27 Adventure MercurySteam
2017-06-19 RPG Red Hook Studios
Resident Evil 8 Village 2021-05-07 Horror Capcom Development Division 1
Fran Bow 2015-08-27 Adventure Killmonday Games HB
Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines 2004-11-16 Adventure Troika Games
Call Of Cthulhu 2018-10-30 Adventure Cyanide Studio
Layers Of Fear 2023-06-15 Adventure Anshar Studios
The Sinking City 2019-06-27 Adventure Frogwares
Resident Evil 4 2014-02-27 Adventure Capcom Production Studio 4
Blasphemous 2019-09-10 Adventure The Game Kitchen
Blasphemous 2 2024-08-24 Action The Game Kitchen
Layers Of Fear (2016) 2016-02-15 Adventure Bloober Team
Dark Souls II Scholar Of The First Sin 2015-04-01 RPG FromSoftware
Dark Souls III 2016-04-11 Adventure FromSoftware
Dark Souls Remastered 2018-05-24 Action QLOC
Resident Evil 2 Biohazard Re2 2019-01-25 Action Capcom Development Division 1
Darkest Dungeon II 2023-05-08 RPG Red Hook Studios
Layers Of Fear 2 2019-05-28 Adventure Bloober Team

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Release date:1997-03-20
Genre:Platform
Developer:Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo

A console frightener par excellence, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of the most renown 90’s installments of a popular platform-adventure turned action-RPG series.

It’s another confrontation between the vampire-slaying Belmont clan and the ever-present forces of evil governed by Count Dracula himself.

C:SotN runs smoothly, the gameplay is even smoother. Lots of items, lots of action, and lots of abominations to slain. The latter varies greatly. From clumsy skeletons, to beheaded knights, to invisible vixens wielding pointy rapiers, to flocks of winged beasts of all nasty sorts. What’s more, OST is fine like a wine being imbibed from a golden chalice – a combination of fusion with ominous organ sounds.

Key features
  • Console only
  • Action-packed gameplay
  • Impressive bestiary to kill
  • Fitting music

Bloodborne

Release date:2015-03-24
Genre:Adventure
Developer:FromSoftware

A monstrously fine TPP title form Masters of Modern Action RPGs themselves – FromSoftware.

Bloodborne tells a story of a hunter who explores the city of Yharnam to get a cure for some ailment only to find out that the city itself has been tormented by the endemic disease which turned most of its citizens into horrifying monsters.

Released to critical acclaim, Bloodborne was praised for almost everything, from locations design to weapon customization and nicely staged boss fights. Combat mode is demanding – a trademark of the Japanese studio – though highly satisfying. But what really makes the game is the atmosphere. An alt-dark fantasy tropes mix smoothly with Lovecraftian touches, giving off ambiance which can be described with one adjective only – eldritch.

Key features
  • An acclaimed production
  • Splendid locations design
  • Eldritch vibes
  • Outstanding combat mode

Resident Evil (Spencer Mansion)

Release date:2019-01-25
Genre:Action
Developer:Capcom Development Division 1

With its long prehensile tentacles breaking and entering into almost every possible horror subgenre, Resident Evil series has them also dipped in the inkwell of gothic frights.

The first installment is a prominent figure here, as a great deal of its action goes on in Spencer Mansion.

A distinctive gameplay of moving around locations with 3D objects against pre-rendered backdrops and fixed camera angles was a staple of the franchise in the 90’s. The evil machinations of UMBRELLA corp, and the ensuing plot, is also a cornerstone of the survival horror genre now.

Key features
  • First installment of the legendary franchise
  • Characteristic gameplay
  • A staple story of murder cases and evil corporation behind them

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Release date:2010-09-08
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Frictional Games

Another moldering castle to explore, with nooks and crannies inhabited by wandering shadows and strange noises. Or is it only your imagination?

The protagonist’s name is Daniel and he has to find out why he landed in such a “friendly” place, without losing the rest of his already cracked mind.

A:TDD possess quite a few memorable features, including physical object and environment interaction resembling that of natural moves, which was also applied in Frictional Games’ flagship franchise – Penumbra. Also, a certain freight-o-meter mechanics has been implemented to highlight the idea of fear and its long-term repercussions, from visual and auditory hallucinations to real-deal insanity. Thanks to this crafty feature, immersion goes through the roof incredibly, forcing you to look behind you all the time.

Key features
  • “Get your memory back” trope
  • Realistic environment interaction
  • Freight-o-meter mechanics
  • Absolutely ridiculous immersion

Darkest Dungeon

Release date:2016-01-19
Genre:Indie
Developer:Red Hook Studios

Graphics-wise intriguing and exceptionally wordy as regards the narrative, Darkest Dungeon is an indie production from Red Hook Studios.

The protagonist’s ancestor, once a prominent nobleman, became intrigued in the history of his manor, the catacombs of which allegedly led into the portal to hell. As he finds it and opens it, a slew of tenebrous monstrosities begins wreaking havoc. And its your turn to clean up the mess.

DD has a turn-based combat, side-scrolling mechanics, comic graphics, and a perfect amount of lightweight immersion. The game also utilizes a system of negative afflictions based on stress. This indicator may go up due to several different factors e.g. hunger, blights, witnessing your party member getting mauled, etc. Wait no further, the hell portal won’t close itself! And the pride of your family name won’t restore itself either.

Key features
  • Marvelously penned
  • Comic graphics
  • Stress-o-meter affliction system

Vampyr

Release date:2018-06-05
Genre:RPG
Developer:DON'T NOD

A rather curious take on a Vampire trope, Vampyr is an action RPG from Dontnod Entertainment.

It tells the story of a young doctor Johnathan Reid who has been recently transformed into the titular creature, and needs to deal with his bloodlust as well as the moral dilemmas which ensue from his new biting nature.

Location-wise, DE studio has done its homework exceptionally well. The game has also been praised for dialog options, decisions affecting the story, voiceovers and character development.

Key features
  • Fresh vampire’s moral dilemmas
  • Sensational setting
  • Nicely entangled dialog trees
  • Superb voiceovers

Dark Souls

Release date:2018-05-24
Genre:Action
Developer:QLOC

Another title by FromSoftware on the list, and the initiator of company’s breakthrough and gargantuan commercial success.

When a game creates a subgenre of its own, it simply has to be special. This is how the story went with Dark Souls.

Although not classifiable as a ‘pure blood’ gothic horror, one may say the gameplay difficulty is simply frightening. As well as monsters’ overall HP and design. Also, the murky labyrinthine locations serve as a convenient scenery for our quests and adventures. The rest, like character development, story, buffs and debuffs, etc. is simply epic.

Key features
  • Legendary game, a progenitor of its own subgenre
  • Overall gloomy atmosphere
  • Ominous locations
  • Frighteningly difficult combat mode
  • The rest is epic, so play it already!

Layers of Fear

Release date:2023-06-15
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Anshar Studios

If you cherish fine arts, good fright, and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, then Layers of Fear is more than a must.

A story of a talented painter, whose life has been stricken with loss, rejection, and tarnishing of his artistic esteem, is one which truly stays with you even years after end credits left you in silence.

The tangibility of an atmosphere of utter dread is exceeded only by the hallucinatory turmoils we are being subjected to by our own gradually decaying psyche. Sound design is simply impeccable, highlighting what needs to be pronounced, and covering what needs to remain in the area of sheer uneasy subconscious speculations. As we explore our studio, the bits and pieces of truth are being ‘collaged’ together, and we look at the bigger picture of what does is mean to layer the fear…

Key features
  • Fine arts horror=fabulous premise
  • Environment exploration as a key element
  • Story which stays within you forever
  • Brilliant sound design

Eternal Darkness: Sanitys Requiem

Release date:2002-06-23
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Silicon Knights

A sole Gamecube title on our list, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem gives off the heavy resident-evil-ish vibe, although is fueled not by malevolent corporations but the supernatural.

The branching storyline spans several centuries and takes us into four different locations. An interesting feature is crafting menu which allows to experiment and create our own spells. Another distinct trait is Sanity Meter, the dropping levels of which may induce minor hallucinations as well as straight-up insanity issues.

Key features
  • Elaborate story of supernatural forces
  • Crafting menu=new spells
  • Sanity-meter to indicate when you’re off your rocker

From conscientious vampires trepidated with pangs of conscience, to painters at the end of their tethers lodging in dark-lit studios, gothic horror games offer plenty of memorable stories full of nail-biting and hair-raising qualities. Gothic horror elements may be traced even in co-op console titles or PC classics. And you’ll never know when or where to find them…and have a heart-stopping fright!