The gaming world has many horrors putting players in the role of a victim or someone who’s always on the back foot against whatever nightmares roam the world. Which is fine, this what the genre is best at. But sometimes everybody wished they could turn the tables and be the monster instead.

This is where the reverse horror genre comes into play, putting us in the metaphorical shoes of the monster around the corner, the one who wields a bloody knife and stalks innocents through the mist.

They come in various shapes, too. You’ll find some where you play as a villain, but there are also some where you’re the wronged party seeking vengeance or at least justice. One way or another, you have the motivation, opportunity, and means to be the kind of monster you’d be terrified in any other game.

Carrion

Release date:2020-07-23
Genre:Horror
Developer:Phobia Game Studio

Imagine working in a research facility, doing your job, and getting grabbed by an unseen attacker when you pass under a random air vent. In Carrion, you are the attacker: an amorphous blob of mutated worms trying to reclaim your missing parts and escape from the facility.

The creature you control is stuff of nightmares, and as you grow larger, you’ll be able to barge into rooms and wreak havoc on soldiers and civilians. Each chamber is a bit of a puzzle, and learning how to use your malleable form creatively is going to be the key to success.

Key features
  • Become the incomprehensible terror crawling through the vents
  • Pixel graphics give the game a pleasantly retro appearance

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Release date:2023-08-18
Genre:Multiplayer
Developer:Sumo Digital

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an all-time gore horror classic, and in 2023 it received a video game adaptation. It’s an asymmetrical PvP multiplayer game pitting a group of victims against members of the flesh-hungry family trying to prevent their “guests” from escaping.

The game is quite faithful to the source material, including casting two actors from the movies to reprise their roles of Leatherface and the Hitchhiker. If you’d love a good way to play a horror villain without dabbling in Dead by Daylight’s supernatural stuff, try this game.

Key features
  • Become a member of the cannibal family…or one of their unlucky guests
  • Asymmetrical PvP multiplayer

Dead by Daylight

Release date:2016-06-14
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Behaviour Digital Inc.

Speaking of Dead by Daylight… unlike The Texas Massacre… which focuses on a single franchise, DbD features both original monsters and guests from other licenses such as Alien, Hellraiser, or Friday the 13th, all given terrifying powers by the hungry entity ruling the dark pocket dimension.

As another asymmetrical PvP game, a Dead by Daylight match also features a group of survivors, who not only try to avoid being sacrificed to the entity, but also to unlock the way to escape the arena. But let’s be honest, the Killers are the real stars of the game.

Key features
  • Plenty of Killers and Survivors, both original and licensed
  • 4v1 asymmetrical PvP

Prototype

Release date:2009-06-10
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Radical Entertainment

Prototype isn’t necessarily a horror, but it’s mostly because you’re playing the monster. Specifically, a man called Alex Mercer who wakes up in a morgue and discovers he’s not only incredibly strong and resilient, but also can turn his body into blades, claws, and tendrils.

He can also consume humans to heal or steal their appearance and memories. All of which will be useful, because Manhattan is facing an outbreak of a mutagenic virus as well as an intervention from a shady military agency. At time it feels like playing Marvel’s Venom at his most unscrupulous.

Key features
  • Become a monster that’s somehow the lesser evil
  • Many impressive shapeshifting powers, including the powerful Devastators

Lucius

Release date:2012-10-26
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Shiver Games

Are you familiar with The Omen, a movie about a young child who is also the Antichrist? Lucius is a video game variation on that premise, with an original story and plenty of mysterious murder to orchestrate using innate deviousness and a few handy psychic powers.

As a part stealth game and part survival horror, Lucius is more methodical and cold-blooded than other titles on the list. The plot takes many dramatically satisfying turns and figuring out a way to cause all the required death is dark, but rather satisfying.

Key features
  • Two sequels continuing Lucius’ story
  • Embrace your satanic origins and be the bane of your human family

The Darkness II

Release date:2012-02-09
Genre:Action & Shooter
Developer:Digital Extremes

Alex Mercer was a flesh-sculpting monster out in the open, Jackie Estacado is a terrifying supernatural monster stalking the shadows. In The Darkness II you get to ruin people’s days not only with gun but also through the ominous abilities given to you by the eponymous entity.

You get two snarky and violent snake-like Tentacles capable of ripping enemies to pieces, a clever familiar capable of reaching places you cannot, and a host of disturbing magic powers… all of which work as long as you avoid direct light. Become the reason your foes are afraid of the dark.

Key features
  • Interesting 4-player co-op multiplayer with its own story and powers
  • A story about mafia, supernatural legacy, dark powers, and family

Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse

Release date:2005-11-15
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Aspyr

Let’s end on a somewhat upbeat note, shall we? Stubbs the Zombie is a dark comedy-reverse horror mix starring a somewhat vengeful zombie in the leading role. The game is set in a retrofuturistic version of 1959 USA, which lends the rather silly game a lot of additional charm.

Your abilities go beyond just shambling and munching on brains. Parts of your body can be detached and used in various ways, such as your hand which can mind control living humans. You can also turn dead people into zombies, becoming the center of your very own zombie apocalypse.

Key features
  • A reverse horror with a lot of humor
  • A rare game where you can create your own zombie horde

Lurking and merking

This concludes our short look at a few horror-themed games where you play as a villain. It doesn’t cover all the examples, but should be a great starting point for your own explorations.