The border between worlds is crumbling, the afterlife starts infecting the lands of the living, and the dead, resting for years, haunt their own dwellings, mortifying mortals. Children are born with psychic powers, causing misery and panic in anybody who dares defy them. Old powers from the forgotten beyond encroach on reality, manipulating the sleeping into doing their dark bidding.

The paranormal horror in some ways can be more disturbing than other types, simply because it changes so little from the world we know, and introduces elements that characters can’t be sure aren’t just tricks of the imagination. To celebrate this subgenre, we’ve gather a few games which put you in the shoes of people who need to deal with all kinds of paranormal activity. There won’t be slavering monsters and violent maniacs, but you still are in grave danger.

Paranormal Video Games

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Phasmophobia

Release:2020-09-18
Genre:Horror
Developer:Kinetic Games

Phasmophobia’s premise is extremely simple: ghosts are real, active, and aggressive. You and your friends are a team of semi-professionals who have the tools necessary to confirm a haunting and identify the specter. An important thing to note is that you do NOT have the tools needed to dispose of a ghost, so when the apparitions get aggressive you better book it through the front door.

Phasmophobia

Phasmophobia is a game about investigating a haunted location (several options, including a regular house and abandoned school), looking for proof of ghostly presence. There are over a dozen ghost types, each with different behavior patterns and a randomly generated identity. Phasmophobia is also very playable in VR, if you absolutely have to feel super-immersed in a violently haunted house.

Key features
  • A speech recognition system allows you to speak to ghost
  • Ghost summoning rituals might not be wise, but they’re effective
  • Many interesting and useful ghost-hunting gadgets
  • Very scary even before you don your VR set
        

Fatal Frame (series)

Release:2021-10-28
Genre:Survival horror
Developer:Koei Tecmo

The Fatal Frame series (also known as Zero and Project Zero) is a fascinating idea with a great implementation. The series is filled with ghosts, often quite dangerous and unfriendly, and your only way to damage and contain them is by using a special camera. The more focused the picture, the more damaged and weakened the ghost becomes. It’s not as whimsical as it sounds, though.

Fatal Frame (series)

The series features five main instalments, with the most recent one being Maiden of Black Water, which follows three protagonists, including a daughter of the series frequent protagonist. If you enjoy the tropes and style of Japanese paranormal horror movies, Fatal Frame should right up your alley, as it not only is produced by Japanese developers, but also takes place in Japan.

Key features
  • Despite a whimsical gameplay idea, it’s much, much closer to the Ring than Pokemon Snap
  • Engaging stories, relatable protagonists, and interesting ghostly backstories
  • Your Camera Obscura can be upgraded to better protect you from the specters
  • Several instalments, with the most recent from 2014
        

F.E.A.R.

Release:2009-02-12
Genre:Horror
Developer:Monolith

F.E.A.R. is a rare paranormal first-person shooter. The series features both exciting gunfights powered by the really fun bullet time mechanic, and a tense paranormal story powered by an angry girl with terrifying psychic powers. It’s an odd mix, certainly, but works very well, especially once the story gets going and you have enough time to get immersed in both the story and the gameplay.

F.E.A.R.

There are three main instalments of the series, developing the story of the Point Man and his weird connection to freaky events happening on the screen. Although their age starts to show, the trilogy is still absolutely worth playing, if a paranormal shooter is something that sounds interesting to you. There used to be a PvP multiplayer entry too, but unfortunately it shut down in 2015 and is inaccessible.

Key features
  • A great mix of FPS and paranormal horror
  • The story unfolds over three games
  • Great bullet time
  • Dual protagonist in the third game
        

Control

Release:2019-08-27
Genre:Action
Developer:Remedy Entertainment

Control is less scary than other games on the list, but that’s only because your playable character, Jesse Faden, has a cool gun and superpowers. Turns out, being able to defend herself against the otherworldly force ripping through the Federal Bureau of Control does wonders for one’s sense of security. Sadly, the Bureau is filled with paranormal creepiness your powers do nothing against.

Control

Control is an action game, and the creators, Remedy Entertainment were clearly inspired by the long-running collaborative fiction project, the SCP Foundation. You’ll spend much of your time fighting against the mysterious Hiss possessing other employees, but you’ll also have plenty of time to become familiar with the weird, and often dangerous objects contained by the Bureau.

Key features
  • Excellent action game inspired by the SCP Foundation
  • You can play around with superpowers and an awesome gun
  • Two great expansions, including one connected to Alan Wake
  • Despite all the action it still can be quite creepy
        

Alan Wake

Release:2012-02-16
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Remedy Entertainment

Before Remedy made Control, before they released Quantum Break, they made Alan Wake. Although the game skirts the border between the paranormal and a straight-up horror, it does so with aplomb. The game follows the eponymous writer, who arrives in a sleepy village with his wife in an attempt to get over a writer’s block. One can tell that Stephen King was an inspiration, right?

Alan Wake

One of the cool gimmicks of the game is the light system. Since the creature plaguing Alan’s life can only thrive in darkness, your best defense is a flashlight. A focused beam weakens them enough for you to run away or destroy them. The story of Alan Wake is dark, weird, and deals with layers of reality, leaving room for interpretations. It’s a great game, and it recently received a remaster.

Key features
  • Excellent story about a writer struggling against a reality-warping force
  • Well-implemented light system, very useful for staying alive
  • Inspired by the works of Stephen King, and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks
  • Shares its universe with Control

Why is the light flickering? Hello?

This concludes our brief glimpse into games which make you tangle with the unseen and unknown. Hopefully you escape unscathed, even if more attached to the idea of having a reliable source of light at hand. From Asian horror to lead-heavy psychic shooters, if you’re looking for a spooky game to play, we’ve got you covered.