Top 10 Horror Video Games
VOICE OVER: Dave Thibault
WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
When the fate of our fears are in our own hands. The tension it creates, may be the greatest cause of game overs. For this list, we'll be looking at what are generally considered to be the greatest and most influential horror video games of all time and ranking them based on their legacy. For the sake of variety, we'll only be including one game per franchise. But if you like what you see, be sure to head on over to MojoPlays, where Jess and Rebecca are playing each of these titles.
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When the fate of our fears are in our own hands. The tension it creates, may be the greatest cause of game overs. Happy Halloween and welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten horror video games.
For this list, we’ll be looking at what are generally considered to be the greatest and most influential horror video games of all time and ranking them based on their legacy. For the sake of variety, we’ll only be including one game per franchise. But if you like what you see, be sure to head on over to MojoPlays, where Jess and Rebecca are playing each of these titles.
#10: “Dead Space” (2008)
In the cold confines of an abandoned space station, the dead have become something far more terrifying. You played as Isaac Clarke as he struggles against the Necromorphs, a grotesque and nightmarish form of reanimated corpses. The most original aspect of the game was its strategic dismemberment, which involved severing specific limbs in order to kill the monsters. It also featured an immersive atmosphere and more than its share of jump scares, successfully touching on all the major aspects of horror. You’ve got disgusting monsters, jump scares, atmosphere, and enough blood and gore to make the edgiest of people squeamish. Have fun!
#9: “Fatal Frame” (2001) a.k.a “Project Zero”
Who knew a game focused on pointing a camera could be so damn terrifying? This game sees you controlling Miku Hinasaki as she searches an abandoned, haunted mansion for her lost brother. The game plays like classic “Resident Evil,” titles as you navigate an intricate mansion through fixed camera perspectives, solve puzzles, and find cassettes and documents that help expand and develop the story. Along the way you have to capture malicious ghosts on your camera, and it is here where a majority of the scares originate. The game also builds an unbearable amount of tension, and the dark mansion serves as a fantastic setting. Maybe you don’t believe in ghosts, but they’ll scare the pants off you all the same.
#8: “Until Dawn” (2015)
The interactive narrative genre has become a popular mainstay in video games this last decade, so it was only a matter of time before someone gave the genre, the horror treatment. The story concerns a small group of young adults who must survive against a masked killer and deadly wendigos on an isolated mountain. Along the way you are forced to make split-second decisions, all of which have unforeseen and permanent consequences. Don’t let the fact that it’s based off cheesy 80s slashers and monster movies fool you; The game has ways of pushing your nerves to its limits. And if you thought making choices in a video game wouldn’t be scary, you’d be dead wrong. And dead.
#7: “Alien: Isolation” (2014)
Based on what is easily one of the greatest Sci-fi Horror films of all time. Creative Assembly assembled what is easily the scariest and most faithful “Alien” video game adaptation around. As Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda, you navigate the massive Sevastopol station and hides from the persistent xenomorph. But this thing isn’t some measly video game cannon fodder, you are forced to run from it, to hide from it, and to outwit it, unless you want a slimy spear tail sticking out of your chest. Hiding in lockers doesn’t exactly sound like a lot of fun, but when the alien is right outside and breathing through the slits, your heart will be beating like it’s never beat before.
#6: “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” (2010)
A landmark title in horror video games. This one popularized the “run and hide” gameplay mechanic that would inspire many other titles on this list. It also proved that you don’t need a big budget to create a tense horror game, and it ushered in the era of the indie horror. The darkness may be an ideal hiding place from the terrors that lurk within the castle, but do not linger there too long, less you prefer to lose your mind. The brilliant blend of the psychological with the visceral, creates a unique story and atmosphere that has yet to be matched in gaming. Never before has such a small game done so much in terms of scares and influence on the horror gaming industry.
#5: “Outlast” (2013)
One of the games that owes part of it’s success to our previous entry. “Outlast” forces you to run from the various depraved psychos prowling the dark halls of Mount Massive Asylum. It also borrows from movies like “REC” and “The Blair Witch Project,” as you must use your camera to both uncover notes and see in the pitch-black darkness. “Outlast” employs various different elements of horror to unsettle the player, including psychotic characters, gore, jump scares, the thrill of the chase, the tension of hiding, and our instinctual fear of the dark. If this game somehow doesn’t leave an impression on you, the screams of the other inmates will linger on in your mind.
#4: “System Shock 2” (1999)
Space and isolation go hand in hand when it comes to horror games. “System Shock 2” was well ahead of its time, and touted many spiritual successors such as “Bioshock” & “Prey. On paper the game may not look like your typical horror title, thanks to its focus on First Person Action with RPG elements. But looks can be deceiving. The unsettling murmurs brought on by the hybrid humans who once roamed this station are one thing, but the horrifying presence and warped voice of the maniacal A.I. Shodan, will stay in the back of your mind, long after you’ve walked away from the computer.
#3: “Resident Evil 2” Remake (2019)
The PS1 “Resident Evil” titles may by a landmark in the survival horror genre, “Resident Evil 4” may have redefined 3rd person shooters, & “Resident Evil 7” set a benchmark for how to do horror games in the 8th console generation. But the 2019 remake of “Resident Evil 2” brings the best of all those titles and then some. Fear comes in all forms here, and not just from the zombies that lurk the overrun police station. Ammo is limited, and missing a shot can prove to be a fatal mistake, hallways are dark and can hide gruesome monstrosities, and the towering Mr. X will keep you on edge, as his thunderous footsteps reverberate the hallways. If you played the original and think you are prepared for this. Think Again!
#2: “Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem” (2002)
Unabashedly citing it’s philosophy on horror from the great Edger Allen Poe, and frequently reminding you that “The Darkness Is Coming”; “Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem,” reminds you that theoretically; fear doesn’t just manifest from the monster that lingers outside your bedroom window, but from the unease of self-doubt in what you just saw. This theory is realised in the game’s Sanity Effects, where if the players’ sanity meter runs too low, various psychological effects would begin to plague your game. These may include footsteps manifesting from nowhere or unexpected sudden deaths. But most memorable were 4th wall breaking moments like random muting, fake deleted save files, and simulated technical malfunctions. It tormented the player’s psyche, never knowing what was real, and what wasn’t.
#1: You Left The Back Door Unlocked. Surprise!
(This isn’t really happening)
Do you see what I mean? Well, while you get settled back down, let's take a look at some honourable mentions.
“Condemned: Criminal Origins” (2005)
“Alan Wake” (2010)
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” (2014)
“Little Nightmares” (2017)
#1: “Silent Hill 2” (2001)
Even after nearly two decades, “Silent Hill 2” remains the king of horror games. It’s just perfect. Unlike a lot of other “Silent Hill” titles, “2” takes a relatively straightforward approach to its story, as you are tasked with finding your presumed-dead wife. Of course, it’s not as easy as that, and the game takes you down a rabbit hole of nightmares. Filled with harsh emotion, symbolism, and some of the most disturbing monsters in gaming history. It’s also a very psychological game, as it preys on our instinctual fears of death, despair, and complete physical and mental isolation. It’s the darkest and scariest video game ever made, and it may never be topped.