Halloween is right around the corner, and many gamers are looking for something spooky to play. However, some may have already played through the scariest PS4 and Xbox One games available and are struggling to find something that fits the bill. Since current consoles don’t have the deepest library of horror games, those gamers may want to look to gaming’s past for some quality horror gaming experiences.
For those looking to play some old-school horror games, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best retro horror games available. For the purposes of this list, “retro” refers to anything that came out during the fifth generation of gaming and prior. And in the case of franchises with multiple entries that fit the criteria, we decided to go with the earliest game in the series to better fit the retro theme.
Without further ado, here are the 10 best retro horror games in gaming history.
1. Alone in the Dark (1992)
While Capcom’s Resident Evil coined the term “survival-horror” in 1996, the first 3D survival-horror game was actually 1992’s Alone in the Dark. Set in a haunted mansion infested with deadly creatures and vengeful spirits, Alone in the Dark has many gameplay features associated with survival-horror games, including puzzle-solving and inventory management. The game earned critical acclaim at the time of its release, and its influence can still be felt in the horror genre to this day.
Unfortunately, the Alone in the Dark franchise hasn’t been able to reach the same level of prominence as it did with the original release. In 2008, Eden Games and Atari attempted to reboot the franchise with a divisive game that received negative reviews, yet earned decent sales. The most recent entry in the series, Alone in the Dark: Illumination, has been universally panned by critics, and could very well spell the death of Alone in the Dark. However, we would love to see Alone in the Dark come back from the dead, as there’s still a lot of potential for a new-gen version of the game to be a hit.
2. Castlevania (1986)
While not explicitly scary in nature, Castlevania is thematically a horror game. In the original Castlevania on the NES, players take on the role of Simon Belmont as he uses a special whip called the Vampire Killer to slaughter a horde of monsters in Count Dracula’s castle. Besides taking on Dracula himself, players also contend with a number of other popular pop culture monsters, including Frankenstein’s monster and the Grim Reaper.
Like Alone in the Dark, recent years have not been kind to the Castlevania franchise. However, fans of old-school Castlevania games, more specifically those produced by Koji Igarashi, have a promising spiritual successor to look forward to in the form of the Kickstarter-backed Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if Konami itself decides to return to its once-popular franchise at some point in the future.
3. I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream (1995)
I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream is the chilling tale of AM, a malevolent supercomputer that has wiped out all of humanity, with the exception of five survivors. For decades, AM has kept these survivors alive just so it can psychologically and physically torture them in gruesome ways. Based on the short story by celebrated science-fiction author Harlan Ellison, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is one of the scariest point-and-click adventure games out there, and also stands as one of the best cyberpunk games in gaming history.
4. Resident Evil (1996)
Coining the term survival-horror and spawning an endless number of copycats, the original Resident Evil is undoubtedly a landmark release. In the game, players control either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine as they attempt to survive in a twisted mansion filled with zombies and other monstrosities. Notable for its effective use of jump scares and ability to create a suffocating, eerie atmosphere, Resident Evil is a must-play retro horror game for any fans of the genre.
Those that don’t want to dig their original PlayStation consoles out of the closet have a number of options when it comes to reliving the original Resident Evil adventure. For example, the game is available to download on the PlayStation 3 as a PlayStation Classic, and there was also an enhanced port released for the Nintendo DS that comes with a number of improvements and new gameplay features. For those that can’t get past the game’s dated graphics and tank controls, there’s also Resident Evil HD Remaster, which gives the GameCube remake of the first Resident Evil a shiny new coat of paint.
5. Silent Hill (1999)
Konami’s Silent Hill takes clear inspiration from Resident Evil but places a larger emphasis on psychological horror. In Silent Hill, players take on the role of Harry Mason as he explores the twisted town of Silent Hill in search of his missing daughter. The result is one of the scariest games of the 90s, and one that went on to spawn a successful franchise in its own right. Sadly, Konami has more or less abandoned the Silent Hill franchise, unceremoniously canceling Silent Hills and so far failing to announce a new entry in the series.
6. Sanitarium (1998)
In the disturbing point-and-click adventure game Sanitarium, protagonist Max gets in a car accident, only to wake up in an insane asylum with a heavy case of amnesia. Players help Max unravel the mystery of his past by solving puzzles and navigating a number of bizarre, outright creepy locations. While its gameplay has been criticized as being too simplistic, Sanitarium is worth checking out for its atmosphere, and thanks to a mobile re-release a couple of years back, the game is not hard to track down.
7. Splatterhouse (1988)
Originally released in Japanese arcades in 1988, Splatterhouse is a 2D beat ’em up that sees college student Rick Taylor use the mysterious power of the Jason Voorhees-inspired Terror Mask to kill an onslaught of supernatural creatures. The game’s violence was controversial at the time, resulting in it being censored when released in regions outside of Japan. A reboot was attempted in 2010 but ultimately failed to capture the success and popularity of the 80s arcade release.
8. Sweet Home (1989)
Years before Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil hit the market, Japanese gamers were introduced to what is arguably the first true example of a survival-horror game, Sweet Home. Based on a popular Japanese horror film of the same name, Sweet Home is the unnerving tale of a documentary crew exploring a haunted mansion. With traditional RPG combat combined with survival-horror elements like puzzle-solving and inventory management, Sweet Home is a unique beast that still delivers the scares to this day.
9. The 7th Guest (1993)
The 7th Guest was revolutionary when it launched in 1993, thanks to its cutting-edge graphics and use of live-action video. Like a few other games on this list, The 7th Guest sees players explore a creepy mansion, solving puzzles and unraveling a mystery along the way. Credited as being a killer app for CD-ROM drives, The 7th Guest‘s importance in the gaming industry can’t be understated. Those that would like to see what all the fuss is about can download the mobile version, and those that are ready for a new game in this style should note that a fan-made followup, The 13th Doll, is currently in development after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
10. Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993)
When horrific creatures invade Zeke and Julie’s neighborhood, the duo has to work together to fight them off and save their helpless neighbors. A family-friendly shooter, Zombies Ate My Neighbors offers addicting co-op gameplay, a number of iconic monsters including zombies and aliens, as well as a suite of quirky weapons to take them down with.
As is clearly illustrated by this list, horror games have always been a part of the industry, and in some cases, have been hugely influential and important releases. While some gamers may be content with modern horror hits, it’s always good to go back and check out the classics, especially the high-quality retro horror games listed here.
Which classic horror game is your favorite? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.