Horror video games have been a part of the industry nearly since its birth, with really old-school games like Haunted House and 3D Monster Maze standing as some of the absolute earliest examples of the genre. Horror games have come a long way since their humble beginnings, with some horror titles considered by many to be some of the best video games ever made. But with decades of high quality horror games to sift through, those who want to get into the horror game genre may not know where to start.
For anyone looking for a good horror game to play this October, we have compiled a list of what we believe to be the top 31 horror games of all time. This list includes everything from creepy virtual reality experiences to groundbreaking industry trendsetters, and we'll be revealing a new entry on the list each day leading up to Halloween. For this list, we considered scare factor, impact on the industry, general quality, and reception of the game at the time of its release.
Here are the top 31 horror video games of all time.
31. The Exorcist: Legion VR
The Exorcist is considered one of the scariest horror movies ever made, to the point that ambulances were literally on-call for some of its showings back when it first premiered in theaters in 1973. The Exorcist: Legion VR may not be quite that scary, but it's still a rather unnerving experience, and one of the best examples of how much virtual reality can enhance a horror game. The game also gets points for not relying entirely on jump scares, but instead cultivating a genuinely creepy atmosphere. Not only is The Exorcist: Legion VR an effectively terrifying horror game, but it is also one of the better-received virtual reality games in general, and a must-have for any VR owners looking for a scare.
The Exorcist: Legion VR is available now for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR.
30. Five Nights at Freddy's
There may not be a whole lot to Five Nights at Freddy's in terms of gameplay, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the scariest horror games made to date. The concept behind Five Nights at Freddy's is creepy in and of itself, with players taking on the role of a security guard working at the Chuck E. Cheese-esque Freddy Fazbear's Pizza restaurant. Players have to manage their energy supply while clicking through security cameras, which show that the restaurant's animatronic animals have seemingly come to life.
Five Nights at Freddy's has branched out into other mediums and has become a pop culture phenomenon in its own right. A Five Nights at Freddy's feature film is in development, and the game has had a number of spinoffs and sequels. One of the scariest spinoffs is Five Nights at Freddy's VR: Help Wanted, which recreates the first three games in the series and adds additional content. While the original Five Nights at Freddy's is plenty scary by itself, there's nothing quite like seeing these animatronics chasing after you in virtual reality.
Five Nights at Freddy's is available now for PC, iOS, and Android.
29. Haunting Ground
Haunting Ground earned mixed reviews at the time of its release, but the game is a remarkable horror game nevertheless. A spiritual success to the Clock Tower games, Haunting Ground stars Fiona Belli, who has to explore a castle while avoiding its horrors, along with her canine companion Hewie. Haunting Ground has two very interesting elements to it that help it stand apart from other horror games - Fiona's relationship with Hewie, and Fiona's relationship with the player. Fiona has to build her relationship with Hewie over the course of the game so that he listens to commands better, and players straight up lose control of Fiona at some points. If she becomes too afraid, she will start running away, and this nerve-wracking feature makes players feel completely helpless. Haunting Ground is also heavy on sexual themes and these themes to make the experience even more disturbing, which is fascinating as sexual themes are rarely explored by horror video games.
Haunting Ground is available for PS2.
28. The Suffering
The Suffering is an example of action-horror done right. In the game, players take on the role of Torque, who is on death row for allegedly murdering his ex-wife and children. The prison he's staying at is suddenly overrun with monsters, all representative of different execution methods. Torque has an arsenal of weapons that he can use to fight back against these horrific creatures, and Torque himself can transform into a monster at times to even the playing field. Taking inspiration from The Shining, Torque has a number of hallucinations throughout the game that will make players question if what they're seeing is really happening or not. It may not be terribly scary, but The Suffering has no shortage of shocking imagery and terrifying monsters that are all tied together by a particularly disturbing storyline that will stick with the player long after the credits roll.
The Suffering is available for PC, PS2, and Xbox.
Japanese horror has had a huge impact on the film industry with movies like The Ring and The Grudge, and a similar style of horror can also be found in video games. One of the most notable examples of Japanese-style horror in games is Siren, a horror game where players are able to "sightjack" undead creatures and humans to help themselves complete objectives and avoid danger. The game's undead creatures, called Shibito, can't actually be killed, which makes each encounter with them especially tense. Siren's stealth mechanics can make it frustrating to play for some, but there's no denying the game's ability to instill fear in the player. Anyone who wants to try the game out on modern platforms should know that Siren is one of the PS2 games on PS4, updated with slightly enhanced graphics and trophy support.
Siren is available for PS2.
26. Clock Tower
Another notable example of Japanese horror is the Clock Tower series, which may not always deliver super-compelling gameplay, but does always deliver scares. The first Clock Tower to release in North America, Clock Tower on PS1 is a point-and-click adventure game where players are constantly being terrorized by the freaky entity known as Scissorman. The game attempted to outdo Resident Evil's graphics, and while its debatable whether or not it accomplished that goal, Clock Tower's scare factor is impossible to deny.
Clock Tower is available for PS1.
Rockstar Games may be best known for its Grand Theft Auto franchise, but it's also responsible for one of the freakiest games on the PS2. In Manhunt, players take on the role of James Earl Cash, a death row inmate who is forced to participate in extremely violent snuff films in order to survive. It's considered by many to be one of the darkest, most disturbing video games ever made, and it was even linked to a real-life murder. Manhunt is designed to make players feel uncomfortable, and it meets that goal and then some. The sequel, Manhunt 2, introduced brutal motion control executions, and there have been rumors of Manhunt 3, though nothing has materialized.
Manhunt is out now for PC, PS2, and Xbox, and is playable on PS4 through the PS2 games on PS4 program.
Any of the Outlast games are good picks for Halloween, but the original Outlast is arguably the freakiest. Set in an insane asylum, players have to avoid violent patients and mutilated creatures, armed with nothing but a camcorder. Emulating the found footage style of horror movie, Outlast is heavy on scares, and has found itself the subject of many YouTube jump scare reaction videos. When it comes to sheer terror, Outlast is a hard game to beat, and is easily one of the scariest horror games of the last decade.
Outlast is out now for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
FEAR (First Encounter Assault Recon) may have more action than horror, but that doesn't mean it's light on scares. Players do battle with telepathically-controlled soldiers while also encountering other supernatural threats, most notably the little girl Alma. Alma's ghostly appearance sends chills down players' spines, and she forces the player to experience all kinds of terrifying hallucinations. FEAR popularized many first-person horror game tropes that have been done to death since then, but few have been able to capture the magic of FEAR's scare factor and engrossing narrative. FEAR's sequels were solid as well, with FEAR 3 introducing co-op, though they aren't nearly as scary as the original game.
FEAR is out now for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
Frictional Games revitalized the horror game genre with Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and so horror fans were excited for the studio's next project. Entitled SOMA, the game moves away from Amnesia's Gothic horror setting in favor of a sci-fi horror vibe. Playing like an evolution of the Amnesia formula, SOMA has players exploring an underwater research facility where they encounter all kinds of creepy entities and are subjected to traumatizing psychological horror. The game earned high marks from critics back in 2015 for its strong narrative, which should keep even non-horror fans hooked from start to finish.
SOMA is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
21. Alan Wake
Some may argue that Alan Wake isn't all that scary, and that's true, but the game still has deep horror roots. Inspired by Stephen King novels and Twin Peaks, Alan Wake stars a writer who has to fend off evil creatures using the power of his flashlight. Throughout the course of the story, Wake's own sanity is called into question, and the game ends on a dark, somber note. Alan Wake leaves horror game fans with more questions than answers, but luckily it seems that DLC for Control, the latest game from Alan Wake studio Remedy Entertainment, will finally answer some of those questions.
Alan Wake is out now for PC and Xbox 360.
20. Dino Crisis
Resident Evil may be Capcom's most well-known survival-horror franchise, but there are many horror enthusiasts who hold Dino Crisis in just as high regard. The original Dino Crisis game plays like Resident Evil with dinosaurs, or a gore-filled, ultra-violent take on Jurassic Park. Dino Crisis is home to one of the best jump scares in video game history, when the T-Rex smashes its skull through a window in an attempt to kill protagonist Regina. There have been rumors of a new Dino Crisis game over the years, though nothing has materialized. Hopefully when Capcom is done remaking all the Resident Evil games, it will spend some time giving Dino Crisis the new coat of paint it deserves.
Dino Crisis is available for Dreamcast, PC, and PS1.
19. Condemned: Criminal Origins
A launch title for the Xbox 360, Condemned: Criminal Origins is one of the most visually-impressive games in the early 360 library. It leverages its visuals to deliver one of the most haunting video game horror stories in recent memory. Condemned's brutal melee combat blends well with its detective gameplay and creepy storyline, as players hunt down a twisted serial killer known as the Match Maker. Condemned uses visual tricks to keep players on the edge of their seats, and it uses mannequins to great effect with a scare that has been endlessly copied by horror games since.
Condemned: Criminal Origins is available for PC and Xbox 360.
18. The 7th Guest
Mixing live-action footage with computer-generated graphics, The 7th Guest is a classic horror game that has players solving puzzles in a creepy old mansion. Players experience haunting visions as they explore the mansion, which go a long way in creating a tense and eerie atmosphere. But while The 7th Guest is an effective horror game experience, it's perhaps even more notable for the technological advancements it made for the games industry. In fact, The 7th Guest is credited with being a killer app for CD-ROM drives, and convinced many people to purchase one for their home computers. The 7th Guest may seem a bit primitive by today's standards, but in 1993 it was a landmark release, and it stands as one of the best retro horror games.
The 7th Guest is available for PC and iOS devices.
17. Alien: Isolation
Creative Assembly may be best known for its Total War games, but it has also proven to be an extremely effective horror game developer. Alien: Isolation is often championed as one of the scariest video games ever made, with Amanda Ripley forced to explore a space station overrun with deadly androids and an even deadlier Xenomorph. Unlike most video games, the Xenomorph isn't stuck on a dedicated path that it has to follow, which ensures that the scares stay fresh for subsequent playthroughs. No Alien game has successfully captured the horror vibe of the original film quite like Alien: Isolation, and it's no wonder fans have been asking for Alien: Isolation 2.
Alien: Isolation is out now for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One, with a Switch version due out by the end of 2019.
16. System Shock 2
Before BioShock, there was System Shock - two sci-fi horror games that laid the groundwork for the critically-acclaimed series to come. System Shock 2 is generally considered to be the superior game of the two, with its SHODAN AI computer leaving a lasting impact on players. System Shock 2 successfully blends the more action-oriented first-person shooter genre with horror, and luckily for those who have yet to experience the game, an enhanced version of System Shock 2 is in the works. System Shock 3 is also in active development, and so it looks like this sci-fi horror series is set to make a serious comeback.
System Shock 2 is out now for PC.
15. Until Dawn
Until Dawn had a trouble development. It was originally introduced as a PlayStation Move-exclusive game for the PS3 before eventually turning its focus to the PS4. Its PlayStation Move requirement was dropped, and the game went dark for some time. But when Until Dawn finally launched, it blew away expectations, delivering a big budget, highly polished take on the successful Telltale Games formula. Until Dawn's use of Hollywood actors mixed with meaningful choices that genuinely changed the flow of the story earned it high praise at the time of its release, and its success helped it spawn an entire franchise. Supermassive Games is working on a new anthology horror series in the same vein as Until Dawn, so horror game fans should have no shortage of high quality scary stories to experience in the years to come.
Until Dawn is out now on PS4.
14. Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly
When one thinks of the scariest Japanese horror games, the Fatal Frame franchise always comes to mind. Whereas many horror games have players running away from the evil supernatural threats they encounter, Fatal Frame forces players to face them head-on, snapping pictures of ghosts in a variety of creepy settings. The series has no shortage of disturbing imagery and jump scares to keep players on the edge of their seats, with Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly arguably the best of the bunch. A new Fatal Frame game has been discussed, and it will be interesting to see how the series can ramp up the scares even further.
Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly is out now for PS2 and Xbox.
13. Sweet Home
One of the very first horror games ever made was Sweet Home from Capcom. Released only in Japan in 1989, Sweet Home laid the groundwork for the survival horror subgenre and mixed elements of that with standard RPG gameplay. Sweet Home's influence on Resident Evil and the survival-horror genre in general can't be understated, and it's quite possible that without this creepy NES ghost game, we wouldn't have some of the biggest horror franchise today.
Sweet Home is available on the NES.
PT isn't technically a full-fledged video game, otherwise it would likely rank even higher on this list. PT stands for "Playable Teaser," and it is effectively the demo for the canceled Silent Hills game from Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima. However, the mystery behind PT was an Internet phenomenon back when it was released on the PlayStation Store, and its unique brand of first-person horror has since been copied endlessly. PT may just be a "playable teaser," and it may not even be available on the PlayStation Store any longer, but it has had a significant impact on the horror genre. Just imagine what Silent Hills could have done for horror games had it actually finished development.
PT was once available for PS4.
11. Resident Evil 4
In terms of gameplay, Resident Evil 4 is arguably the best game on this entire list. However, its shift to a more action-oriented focus over pure horror has to be taken into consideration. Even though Resident Evil 4 isn't as scary as other Resident Evil games, that doesn't mean its without scares. The first time players enter the village the beginning of the game and hear a chainsaw revving or have to deal with the near-invincible Iron Maidens is enough to put even the most hardened horror game fans on edge. Resident Evil 4 also gets points for its huge influence over the third-person shooter genre in the years to come, with games like Gears of War taking direction inspiration from its over-the-shoulder camera. Capcom seems hellbent on releasing Resident Evil 4 on every platform imaginable, so the game should never be hard for players to find.
Resident Evil 4 is available for GameCube, PS2, PC, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, iOS, Android, PS4, Switch, and Xbo xOne.
10. Resident Evil 7
After the action-oriented approach of Resident Evil 4 proved to be quite popular, Capcom moved the series away from its horror roots. But then Resident Evil 6 was met with a lukewarm reception from critics and fans alike, earning the distinction of being the lowest-rated main series Resident Evil game to date. For Resident Evil 7, Capcom decided to take Resident Evil back to its roots, delivering a pure horror experience that is absolutely terrifying. Resident Evil 7's first-person perspective was controversial at first, but the game still played like a classic Resident Evil, and managed to be even scarier thanks to the first-person view. Capcom now seems confident in keeping Resident Evil horror-focused, and it will be exciting to see a new game in the series made in a similar style as RE7.
Resident Evil 7 is out now for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
9. Alone in the Dark
While Resident Evil is often considered the creator of 3D survival-horror, Alone in the Dark actually launched years earlier. Featuring a haunted mansion, deadly enemies, puzzles, inventory management, and more, Alone in the Dark created the blueprint that survival-horror games still follow to this day. While it may seem crude by today's standards, Alone in the Dark was also a technical marvel at the time of its release, boasting award-winning graphics. Without Alone in the Dark, we wouldn't have games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill, so hopefully THQ Nordic restores Alone in the Dark to its former glory now that it's obtained the rights to the IP.
Alone in the Dark is available on PC and iOS.
8. Resident Evil 2
The original Resident Evil 2 is a masterpiece, but so is the 2019 Resident Evil 2 remake. Blowing expectations completely away, the Resident Evil 2 remake updates the Resident Evil 2 story for modern audiences, combining RE4-style combat with a more classic survival-horror experience. The Mr. X tyrant in Resident Evil 2 really steals the show in the Resident Evil 2 remake, as his relentless pursuit of players throughout the game will keep even hardcore horror fanatics on the edge of their seat.
Resident Evil 2 is out now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
7. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
One doesn't usually associate Nintendo consoles with horror games, but as it so happens, one of the best horror games ever made is a GameCube exclusive. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem features an insanity meter (back when it was an original idea), and has some genius tricks up its sleeve to genuinely make players question whether or not what they're seeing is real. It would do things like make players think their GameCube save data was corrupted, which likely resulted in some very legitimate scares for GameCube owners. A new Eternal Darkness game has been rumored throughout the years, though nothing has materialized.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is available exclusively for the GameCube.
6. Left 4 Dead
When it comes to cooperative horror games, nothing beats Left 4 Dead. The concept of the game is simple: four players work together to try to survive the zombie apocalypse. They are hounded by fast-moving zombies, special zombie types, and other hazards as they try to make it out alive. Left 4 Dead was critically-acclaimed at the time of its release, and it was followed up by a well-received sequel that had some strong ideas of its own. Left 4 Dead 3 has been rumored for some time, so hopefully we see the great co-op horror series continue.
Left 4 Dead is out now for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
5. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Thanks to the popularity of first-person shooter games like Call of Duty, many horror game franchises moved away from their horror roots, including the genre's biggest franchises like Resident Evil. For awhile there, it seemed as though horror gaming was more or less dead, but then Amnesia: The Dark Descent launched. Amnesia doubled down on the scare factor, popularizing a style of first-person horror where the player character is absolutely helpless against any terrors they might run into. Amnesia was a hugely influential game that spawned a number of copycats, and it can also be credited with bringing horror games back to the limelight.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is out now for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
4. Dead Space
Resident Evil 4's success saw a number of copycats try to follow suit. However, none of those games were able to match up to RE4, with the exception of one. Dead Space took the Resident Evil 4 style of gameplay, brought back more intense horror elements, and set the whole thing on a terrifying space station. Dead Space's unique enemy design challenged players to sever limbs instead of go for headshots, and its jump scares were well-earned and well-placed. We may never see a new Dead Space game thanks to the closure of studio Visceral Games, but at least we'll always have the original horror game classic.
Dead Space is out now for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
3. The Last of Us
Prior to The Last of Us, Naughty Dog stuck to family-friendly games and Indiana Jones-style adventures. Some may have doubted the studio's ability to pull it off, but when it released The Last of Us, the game was quickly hailed as one of the best of all time. In terms of story, The Last of Us has no peer on this list, with an emotional, character-driven story as Joel and Ellie attempt to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. The Last of Us 2 will continue the story when it launches in 2020, but the bar has been set incredibly high by the original game.
The Last of Us is out now for PS3 and PS4.
2. Silent Hill 2
The first Silent Hill is a horror classic in its own right, but Silent Hill 2 is in a league of its own. Playing on themes of loss and death, Silent Hill forces players to explore a hellish alternate dimension and contend with all sorts of terrors. The psychological horror in Silent Hill is effective and unnerving, and the game also saw the debut of one of horror gaming's most terrifying characters - Pyramid Head.
Silent Hill 2 is out now for PC, PS2, and Xbox.
1. Resident Evil
The original Resident Evil is a landmark video game, launching Capcom's biggest franchise and popularizing the survival-horror genre. Capcom then made an even better version of the original Resident Evil with the GameCube remake, which greatly improved the graphics and made the game even scarier. In the Resident Evil remake, players had to burn the corpses of zombies or else they would come back from the dead yet again, even more vicious than they were before. They also had to deal with the terrifying Lisa Trevor, who was near-invincible and stalked them throughout certain areas of the Spencer Estate. But whether players pick up the original game or the remake, they know they are in for a classic survival-horror treat, and arguably the best horror game experience there is.
Resident Evil is available for PC, PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo DS. The remake is out for GameCube, Wii, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.