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.
Check back tomorrow for the next game on Game Rant's list of the Top 31 Horror Games of All Time!