While the world outside is still neck-deep in the pandemic-induced chaos, we thought it would be nice to return to the better days when the horror of imminent death remained confined to our screens.
That’s why in this list we’re going to talk about the best scariest games of all time. Here you’ll find titles from all across the genre spectrum, which made us quiver in fear with cleverly crafted gameplay, sudden jumpscares, or eerie visuals and atmosphere.
|Dead Space||2008-10-20||Adventure||EA Redwood Shores||56%||See more|
|The Lost Crown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure||2008-07-18||Adventure||Darkling Room||83%||See more|
|Penumbra Collectors Pack||2007-03-30||Adventure||Frictional Games||See more|
|Visage||2018-10-02||Adventure||SadSquare Studio||30%||See more|
|Soma||2015-09-21||Adventure||Frictional Games||72%||See more|
|Little Nightmares||2017-04-27||Adventure||Tarsier Studios||80%||See more|
|Outlast 2||2017-04-25||Adventure||Red Barrels||89%||See more|
|Condemned: Criminal Origins||2006-04-11||Action & Shooter||Monolith||38%||See more|
|Silent Hill Homecoming||2009-03-02||Adventure||Double Helix Games||89%||See more|
|The Room||2016-07-15||Adventure||hOSHI||See more|
|Layers of Fear: Masterpiece Edition||2016-02-15||Adventure||Bloober Team SA||61%||See more|
|Amnesia: The Dark Descent||2010-09-08||Adventure||Frictional Games||83%||See more|
|F.E.A.R.||2005-10-17||Horror||Monolith Productions, Inc.||97%||See more|
|RESIDENT EVIL 7 biohazard||2017-01-23||Horror||CAPCOM CO., LTD.||77%||See more|
|Alien: Isolation||2014-10-06||Action & Shooter||Creative Assembly||83%||See more|
|Developer:||EA Redwood Shores, Electronic Arts|
|Genre:||First-person shooter survival horror|
Written by the master of the genre, Warren Ellis, Dead Space draws what best from its outer space horror setting. Let’s be honest – most of the F.P.S. games set in space are pretty similar. We play as a brave marine, or another kind of a super warrior slaying aliens left and right without breaking a sweat.
But Dead Space introduced a new type of hero, Isaac Clark. He’s an engineer, not a soldier. And he definitely isn’t prepared for the threat that awaits him on board of U.S.G. Ishimura. A seemingly abandoned spaceship has been taken over by a life form that mutated crew members into monstrous Necromorphs. Armed with a plasma cutter, Isaac will have to find a way off the ship before it’s too late.
Dead Space broke new ground for survival horror video games not only through the introduction of the protagonist who wasn’t a trained fighter, but also thanks to the genuinely terrifying enemies. Necromorphs were a force to be reckoned with: seemingly unstoppable and deadly; they surprise the player with sudden attacks. The key to defeating them was dismembering them with the plasma cutter, but even then, the player had to be careful. Otherwise, the last thing they would see would be a razor-sharp claw bursting from their chest, as the alien they thought they had killed suddenly rises. Dead Space received solid reviews from the critics, who praised the claustrophobic atmosphere, terrifying Necromorph designs and demanding combat.
The Lost Crown: A Ghost-Hunting Adventure
|Developer:||Darkling Room, Got Game Entertainment|
The Lost Crown blends the ephemeral presentation and horror atmosphere, making for unique gameplay experience.
Nigel Danvers, a young paranormal investigator, flees London when he finds out his employer is dabbling in the occult. In a seaside town of Saxton, he meets Lucy Reubans, a psychology student, and together they begin investigating the mysterious occurrences happening around the town. The leads guide them towards the legend of a lost crown and the mystical powers it possesses.
The gameplay of The Lost Crown features point-and-click mechanics usual for the genre: the player interacts with objects and N.P.C.s to find clues and push the plot forward. There are also puzzles to be solved along the way towards explaining the town’s mystery. The game can be played in both first and third person, and its visuals remind of ephemeral, dream-like state of blacks and whites interrupted with dashes of color. The game received positive reviews from the critics and fans who praised its visual side and storytelling. The Lost Crown won several awards from Diehard GameFAN magazine, including Best Game, Best Story and Adventure Game of the Year 2008.
|Developer:||Frictional Games, Lexicon Entertainment|
Penumbra is a perfect example of the modern trend in the survival horror genre, where the frights come from the atmosphere and limited gameplay mechanics. In Overture, the first part of the episodic Penumbra series, the player controls a physicist named Phillip, who is guided by a mysterious letter from his supposedly deceased father to a remote location in Greenland.
After the snowstorm forces him to seek shelter in an abandoned mine, Phillip finds himself trapped within the maze of corridors, inhabited by all sorts of mutated creatures. By piecing together fragments of a journal found within the mine, Phillip must find the way out of the labyrinth before the monsters get to him first.
The gameplay of Penumbra: Overture is reminiscent of the classic adventure games. The plater can interact with various objects, find clues to solve puzzles, etc. The puzzles are based on physics, and interactive objects behave as they would in real life. The game emphasizes stealth: in encounters with most of the enemies, Philip is entirely powerless. The game offers a variety of ways to evade or hold off the monsters, by hiding behind objects or locking doors to hold off the pursuing threat. Penumbra: Overture received mostly positive reviews from the critics.
Visage invites the player to look into the past for clues to solve the mysteries of the present. Visage is set in classic horror genre scenery – a haunted house.
Over the years, many families had lived in it; only some of them managed to leave it alive. Others were murdered, brutally, and in mysterious circumstances. As Dwayne Anderson, the player must explore the house’s past, reliving the cruel fates of the families who lost their lives to the demons of the building.
The gameplay of SadSquare Studio’s survival horror follows the trend set by other game’s in the genre. The player explores the building looking for clues to solve the mystery of the deaths from the past. A vital feature of the game is maintaining sanity, which prevents the player from falling victim to the ghosts haunting the house. Visage has received critical acclaim from the fans, who praised the game’s terrifying atmosphere.
Soma takes the player to face their worst fears in an underwater facility. Anyone else getting Sphere vibes? The developers at Frictional Games have mastered the art of survival horror, and they prove it once again in Soma.
As Simon Jarret, the player explores the abandoned halls of the underwater research station PATHOS-II. There he discovers that he is one of the few humans left alive on the planet after an extinction-level event decimates the Earth’s population.
Unlike many other games in the genre, which relied on creating the feeling of being hunted by an undefeatable foe, Soma emphasizes psychological horror to create the frights. As the player collects more clues as to what had occurred on Earth, their view of reality becomes warped due to isolation and stress. Of course, the core elements of the genre, like evading monsters and solving puzzles, are still present; they are less prominent, though, as the game focuses on the narrative. Soma received positive reviews from the critics.
|Developer:||Tarsier Studios, Bandai Namco Entertainment|
|Genre:||Survival horror, puzzle-platformer|
Little Nightmares proves that there is nothing scarier than a child’s imagination.
Little Nightmares invite the player to feel like a child once again and fear the monsters hiding in the various places within the house. As Six, a little girl trapped within a place called the Maw, the player will have to explore the world of the game, searching for clues and solving puzzles.
The visuals of the game bring to mind the twisted alternate world of Coraline mixed with the dark reality created by Guillermo Del Toro in Pan’s Labyrinth. Little Nightmares received positive reviews from the critics who praised the suspenseful atmosphere of the game. The title won the Indie Award at 2015s Gamescom.
The nightmarish horrors of Outlast 2 will test your faith in God…and in your bladder. In Outlast 2, the player controls Blake Langermann, an investigative photojournalist whose helicopter crashes near Arizonian town of Temple Gate.
As he wakes up, he finds out that his pregnant wife, Lynn, who was with him on board, is missing. Traveling to Temple Gate, Blake finds out that the town is home to two groups of religious zealots, who believe that Lynn is pregnant with the Anti-Christ. As each group fights for the possession of the unborn baby to use it for their won purposes, Blake must find a way to save his wife and himself.
Outlast 2 is the sequel to 2013 Outlast, featuring a new setting and new main character, but retaining most of the gameplay mechanics: interacting with items, solving puzzles, and evading detection by hiding. The protagonist is equipped with a camera that can be used to see in the dark thanks to night vision and detect coming enemies with an extra sensitive microphone. Outlast 2 received generally positive critical reception.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
|Developer:||Monolith Productions, Sega|
Trace the serial killer who framed you into murder in a game where nothing is what it seems at first glance. Ethan Thomas, an SCU investigator, is in trouble.
After a botched attempt t find the culprit of a murder, Ethan is framed into killing two cops. On the run from the law and on the hunt for the serial killer who framed him, Thomas will have to face the darkest demons hiding within the human psyche.
Condemned: CO is one of those few games on our list that don’t leave the player utterly defenseless against the enemies to scare the living bejeezus out of them. The game’s main two mechanics involve combat, mainly melee, with a few chances to fire a gun, and crime scene investigation. The latter is especially interesting: using a variety of tools, the player can find evidence to solve the crimes. It is completely possible, however, to fail the investigation by missing clues or making wrong conclusions, which results in missing certain information and clues. Condemned: Criminal Origins received solid reviews from the critics, who noted the combat and solving crimes as the highlights of the game.
Silent Hill 4: The Room
|Developer:||Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo, Konami|
Staying indoors might be a good idea, especially right now, but not when your apartment is haunted by ghosts.
Silent Hill 4: The Room’s protagonist, Henry Townshend, finds himself locked in his apartment for several days before a mysterious hole in the wall of his bathroom appears. The hole leads to alternate dimensions, in which Henry will face terrors he had never seen before.
The Room’s gameplay is similar to the one from previous silent Hill installments: The player explores the locations in search items to unlock further areas. The game’s combat is based on melee encounters against different monstrosities, as well as facing the ghosts haunting the protagonist increasingly possessed apartment. Silent Hill 4: The Room was praised by critics for its innovations in comparison to the previous games in the series, though some complained about deviations from the classic gameplay.
The game about solving the box puzzle will have you thinking way outside the box!
The premise of The Room is simple – the player is tasked with solving puzzle boxes to find messages hidden within. Sounds easy enough, right?
The player can interact with the box by aligning symbols, putting elements of the puzzle in the correct place, and more. While solving the boxes, the player can use special lenses that allow seeing hidden patterns and clues. Lenses can be used in different combinations, and the player is encouraged to try as many of them as they can think of to find the correct solution. The Room was initially released for iOS devices and received very positive reviews. The game was also a financial success.
Layers of Fear
|Developer:||Bloober Team, Aspyr|
The artist’s finest work might also be his last one I this psychological horror game.
Layers of Fear blends various gameplay elements: exploration, clue-collecting, and narrative. The story of LoF puts the player in the shoes of an artist, trying to complete his masterpiece.
The game’s core mechanic involves exploration of the painter’s studio, solving puzzles to unlock inspiration for the painting. As the game progresses, the reality around the player starts to bend, signaling the deteriorating state of the artist’s mind. Layers of Fear was met with universal critical acclaim. Many outlets praised the atmosphere and narrative of the title, some even going as far as naming it one of the best horror games in history.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Stay in the light or the darkness will drive you mad. Daniel, a young man from London, wakes up in a castle, with no recollection of who he is and how did he get there.
An anonymous letter informs him that he had deliberately erased his memory and that an entity called “Shadow” is pursuing him. The letter writer urges Daniel to descend into the catacombs and kill Alexander, the castle’s baron. Thus begins the young man’s journey into the depths of his fears…
In terms of gameplay mechanics, Amnesia: The Dark Descent borrows heavily from Frictional Games’ previous title, Penumbra. The player controls the main character from a first-person perspective, guiding him through the environment in search of clues and solving physics-based puzzles. Significant emphasis is placed on the protagonist’s sanity, which deteriorates quickly when the player remains in the darkness, leaving them vulnerable to monsters’ attacks. This mechanics forces the player to stay in the light at all times. Amnesia: The Dark Descent received highly positive reviews from the critics.
|Developer:||Monolith Productions, Vivendi Universal Games|
|Genre:||first-person shooter, survival horror|
F.E.A.R borrows the best elements from the Japanese horror movie genre, blending it with excellent first-person shooter mechanics for a unique combination. In, F.E.A.R., the player controls the character of Point Man, a member of a special tactical squad sent to the city of Fairport.
Their mission is to retake headquarters of Armacham Technology Corporation controlled by Paxton Fettel, a rogue agent and commander of A.T.C.’s Replica units – telepathically-controlled clone soldiers. Inside, Point Man finds out that Fettel’s attack is a part of a bigger picture, one that involves a little girl named Alma.
F.E.A.R blends the FPS mechanics and survival horror elements, creating a frightening atmosphere. The game is known for its jumpscare moments, with paranormal beings like Fettel and Alma appearing and physically altering the environment. The FPS gameplay includes a bullet time mechanic, which allows the player to slow down the action and take down the approaching enemies. F.E.A.R. was met with universal critical acclaim. Critics praised the gameplay mechanics as well as the sound design and voice acting, which elevate the horror atmosphere of the game.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
|Genre:||first-person shooter survival horror|
Stepping from the well-trodden path of several previous installments, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard shows that the zombie series still has something to scare us with.
In Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, the player takes control of Ethan Winters, who arrives at a dilapidated plantation on Louisiana, searching for his missing wife, Mia. He finds her captured by the Baker family, a who seem to possess supernatural powers. When Mia turns on Ethan, he is forced to kill her, which draws the Baker’s ire. Locked within the family’s compound, Ethan has to fight the monsters and find the way to escape.
RE7: B introduces so many changes to the series that it’s easier to say what didn’t change – the game is horrifying. Seriously, every time you walk through a corridor or peek outside, one of the Bakers is waiting for you to punish you for your curiosity. The game is played from the first-person perspective, so this time the player cannot hide behind the back of a well-armed government agent. What’s more, similarly to the first few installments of the series, ammo is very scarce, forcing the player to employ “duck-and-run” tactics when confronted by the Baker family. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was met with nearly universal acclaim, with many critics considering the game as the series return to form and one of the best survival horror games in recent years.
|Developer:||Creative Assembly, Sega|
Survive against the perfect predator in an excellent game based on the alien franchise, that squeezes everything from its source material.
Fifteen years after contact with Nostromo was lost, the freighter is picked up by a salvage ship. Eager to find out what happened to her mother, Amanda Ripley joins the rescue expedition. She doesn’t know that her pursuit of truth and closure will lead her into the arms of the Alien her mother fought so hard to destroy.
Alien: Isolation surely lives up to its title. The developers did everything to make the player feel alone and abandoned, at the mercy of the bloodthirsty Alien. Like her mother in the first movie, Amanda is defenseless against the agility and strength of the monster, relying on stealth and evasion for survival. Alien isn’t the only enemy Ripley will have to face on board of the Sevastopol space station – rogue androids and hostile humans will also try to end her life.
To defend herself, the protagonist will have a variety of tools, including firearms. However, none of them will be enough to stop the Alien. Alien: Isolation received universal acclaim for its gameplay mechanics ad atmosphere. Particular praise went to sound design – the sounds of an abandoned space station, the Alien’s fast movement through the vents and the creature’s terrifying noises will haunt the players’ dreams for many nights to come.
There is no clear definition of what makes a game scary. Some will say it’s the atmosphere, others that the jumpscares, other even that it’s all in the narrative. The truth is that everyone is different, and everyone is afraid of different things. We tried to cover a variety of scary games on our list – from adventure and puzzle games to first-person shooters – in the hope that you’d find something to keep you awake at night. After all, needs sleep when there’s a shadowy monster waiting to jump us as soon as we turn the corner.