The 10 Best Horror Games on PC – Our favorites
While we all enjoy a nice, happy adventure of action and discovery, sometimes what we really crave is to have our nerves tested; to experience fear and unease, enough to put us on the edge of our seat. While horror movies have been a staple of the medium almost as long as its existence, truly scary horror games have only fallen into the mainstream comparatively recently, bringing us plenty of unforgettable classics, and spine-chilling modern masterpieces. For when simply watching horror isn’t enough for you, this is the ultimate genre to sink your teeth into.
For the sake of both simplicity and completion, this list will only contain one game from each franchise used and will attempt to cover as many styles as possible, to make sure that, whatever gets your pulse racing, there’s sure to be something for everyone.
The Best Horror Games on PC
Of course, the list had to start with something like this. Being one of the biggest names in the horror genre, filled with countless games and even a fairly successful film series, the question wasn’t if you’d see Resident Evil, but rather which Resident Evil game you’d see; and that was certainly no easy decision.
While the seventh main series game doesn’t have quite the cult following of the original and its remakes, nor the overwhelming critical success of Resident Evil 4, I decided that this was the game that best represented the horror genre in its purest form, with its heavy atmosphere and genuine scares.
While Resident Evil 4 is a fantastic game, and many gamers have fond memories of it, the game also took the franchise in a very different, very action-oriented direction, which served to make it “more fun” yet far less horrific. Likewise, the classic original has aged greatly in such a way that, while charming, often makes it too awkward to be taken seriously (Jill Sandwich, anyone?); and outdated gameplay mechanisms, that while fantastic at their time, simply pull too much control away from the player, making the hardest parts of the game more frustrating than frightening. This entry, however, utilizes the direct control reminiscent of an action game, while maintaining a sense of helplessness and fear which is only complemented by the fantastic visuals and dramatic effects that simply weren’t possible in earlier games.
If you found yourself disappointed by the lack of Resident Evil 4, then this game is probably right up your alley. While Dead Space takes that same approach to focusing on combat and action, it’s the intense atmosphere and gorgeously unsettling monster design that makes it stand out amongst other “horror” shooters.
While the game certainly does make you feel powerful, it also does a fantastic job of keeping you grounded, and maintaining your enemy’s overwhelming presence. Rarely do the enemies of Dead Space feel like the typical bullet fodder, or mindless drones of most horror games. Instead, they seem much more “alive” with their drive to destroy you, and the unique ways in which you can fight them.
As you fight monsters, targeting weak points and hacking off limbs, they meaningfully change in both appearance and tactics, as torsos will drag themselves toward you with a single arm. While not your typical vision of a horror game, Dead Space, and its sequels remain a joy to play, and a breath of fresh air for the sub-genre, while finding time for plenty of legitimate scares with its amazing monsters, and wonderfully creepy imagery.
Now, on the complete other end of the spectrum, we have Sanitarium. A true classic, this beloved horror game has found its way onto countless gamers’ shelves due to its uniquely disturbing style.
Being a point and click adventure game, Sanitarium has you exploring several strange, ominous locations, as you piece together where you are, as well as who you are, as you journey into the depths of your consciousness, confronting the demons of your past, and your mind. A truly surreal experience, Sanitarium explores the concept of sanity, through fascinating and macabre settings, and a fantastically creepy plot.
It’s honestly hard to do this game justice without ruining any of the amazing twists, so I’ll simply say that I didn’t play this game until very recently, as point and click games are by far my least favorite genre. However, with this specific game, I simply couldn’t put it down until it was over. And now that it’s on Steam, this is a game that deserves to be in every horror fan’s library.
Returning to the more typical horror games, Outlast consistently does a fantastic job of making you feel powerless, but still in control. A survival horror in its simplest sense, Outlast is a game of running, hiding, and avoiding. You won’t find a crowbar or a pistol to defend yourself; just batteries for your camera, allowing you to see where you’re going as you slowly crawl to what you can only hope is safety.
In the depths of a truly ghoulish asylum, you’ll experience genuine fear as you hide from intimidating monsters with very few means with which to protect yourself. Though you might just find that you don’t need those tools as you begin to understand your surroundings; memorizing maps and skillfully ducking encounters, proving that when faced with real danger, your wits are your most valuable tool.
While most may be used to the more action focused style of most modern horror games, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by this horrific, adrenaline-filled adventure.
While not necessarily the most frightening game, SOMA (from Frictional Games, the same team behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent) gets just about everything else right, with its sense of drama and legitimacy.
Taking place in a run-down research facility at the bottom of the ocean, there are times when SOMA feels something akin to a creepier version of Bioshock, which is absolutely a good thing. In addition to the dark and unsettling atmosphere, the game also proposes several uniquely questionable choices of morality, and what it truly means to be human, as you encounter robotic beings who contain the memories and personalities of living creatures. Are they alive, or just emulations; and what makes them different from you?
Despite a fairly by-the-numbers approach to stealth and puzzle solving, without too much originality in those fields, SOMA’s smart use of existing ideas helps it to stand out just enough to be memorable, especially with regards to its comparatively great story, and unique setting.
A fantastic callback to the beloved series, this is potentially the first time that a video game set within the Alien universe… actually felt like it belonged in the Alien universe.
Matching the style and atmosphere of its source material almost perfectly, Alien: Isolation often makes you feel true, unnerving dread for this unstoppable beast of death and destruction. With perfect sound design, visual effects, and fantastic graphics and voice acting, this game almost feels like a true part of the Alien cinematic franchise.
While the game does lose a bit of steam toward the end, with its somewhat repetitive gameplay, and a plot that maybe goes on a bit longer than it needed to, none of these mild complaints should even slightly scare off any fan of the franchise. If you ever wanted to truly experience the tension and suspense of the Alien movies, Alien: Isolation is, without a doubt, the game for you.
While the mix of anime and classic RPG visuals may be quite off-putting to some, those who either enjoy the style or learn to look past it, might enjoy this classic Japanese horror game.
In Corpse Party, you rotate between the stories of several students as they cautiously explore the ruins of a dilapidated old school, and slowly come to realize that they weren’t the only ones to be trapped there. As you wander about the building, trying to stay alive and find your way out, you uncover secret after secret, learning the stories of each group that came before you.
Each decision you make, whether to simply enter a room or to face down the spirit chasing after you, has consequences that brutally unfold, with each chapter having several unique endings based on your actions. Will the students survive and make their way back to their world, or will they die in gruesomely tragic ways, possibly even after losing their sanity in this eternal prison? That’s all up to you, your wit, and your persistence, in this game that, despite being rereleased on pretty much every platform they can get their hands on, you still probably haven’t played.
“Based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft”. That phrase should honestly be enough to stand on its own; at least for anyone who knows about the classic mythos of Cthulhu, one of the most revered creations in the history of horror.
Despite being a commercial failure, this game was received fairly well by critics and has garnered something of a cult following; ironic, given the themes of Lovecraft’s work.
Dark Corners of the Earth was mostly criticized for its difficulty, being an extremely challenging and somewhat obtuse game at times, though these are traits that many fans have come to adore, especially in the context of the Cthulhu mythos, which guarantees a difficult and confusing experience. Though it’s the ineffably disturbing world you explore, and the memorably dark moments, created not only by fantastical creatures, but by your fellow humans, corrupted by evil, that allow this game to live up to the beloved stories from which it’s based.
Short for First Encounter Assault Recon, this first person shooter certainly makes you feel more powerful than almost any other “horror” game I’ve played, with its abundance of fun and exciting guns, ammo for those guns, and your own character’s supernatural reflexes, allowing you to slow down time to skillfully pick off enemies in cinematic action sequences, somewhat reminiscent of The Matrix. Add that to fantastic enemy AI, with opponents who communicate with each other, and tactically split up to attack you from different directions, and you have everything needed for an amazing shooter. But where exactly does it stand as a horror game?
Aside from the extremely fun shooting elements, most of F.E.A.R.’s horror lies in what you can’t shoot, as your character is constantly plagued by visions of a small girl, constantly disappearing behind walls, and eerie shadows out of the corner of your eye. These minor disturbances create, at the very least, a sense of intense mystery, as you seek to uncover the true answers to your questions, and slowly get thrown down the rabbit hole.
Eventually, F.E.A.R. boils down to an outstanding shooter, with fairly decent horror and drama elements. The game certainly won’t have you screaming, but you’ll still be on the edge of your seat, and maybe that’s exactly what some people are looking for, after they’ve gone through so many other dark, horrific games.
Wrapping up this list is yet another franchise that towers above the rest, with its beloved classics, interesting spinoffs, and gameplay that inspired countless entries in the genre to follow in its footsteps. Yet while which Resident Evil game to represent was a difficult, time consuming choice, this one was fairly simple. Yes, with its critical success and fan appreciation blowing any other game in the franchise out of the water, and without many major, successful departures from its classic formula, there really wasn’t any other game it could be.
Often considered one of the smartest, and most terrifying horror games of all time, Silent Hill 2 has quite the legacy, and deserves every bit of it. The game deals with intensely mature subjects, and handles them fantastically, with both grace and gore, as you crawl through your own character’s repressed thoughts and emotions. As you run from countless monsters, such as the unforgettable Pyramid Head, you slowly begin to realize what each of your fears represent, as you come closer and closer to unlocking the mysteries of your own mind, in a true horror experience that might just keep your attention for years after completion.
You can find it on PC, but it’s difficult, so good luck.
These were ten of my personal favorite, most memorable horror games to either scare or excite you, but for questions like these, there are no right answers. If you want more spooky stuff, check out our horror archive.
What are your top picks and recommendations of this often neglected genre? Let us know in the comments below!
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