Every time the calendar gives way to October, it can be said that it’s the official start of the spooky season. And what better way to celebrate Halloween time than to bring the horror genre front and center? In this list, we’ll be sharing some of the best horror games that have made a lasting impact thanks to their fear factor.
10. Dead Space (Remake)
Dead Space had to make the list of best horror games. Of course, we want to give special mention to this year’s Dead Space remake. In fact, just over a month prior to the release of Dead Space, in January 2023, The Callisto Protocol, a spiritual successor to the Dead Space series, received mixed reception. It was a decent offering in the space horror genre but leave it to the game that inspired it to show you how it’s really done.
The Dead Space remake was more than a one-to-one port of the original 2008 game. However, unlike the original game, Isaac Clarke is no longer a silent protagonist. Players share his dread as they navigate the dilapidated hallways of the USG Ishimura, slicing and dicing the grotesque necromorphs that jump-scare you from the adjacent hallways, air vents, or the corpses merely playing dead. Praise needs to be given to this remake’s visuals and sound design. In tandem, these features play up the horror aspect big time. Steam hisses and obscures your vision, hushed guttural screams in the distance herald a necromorph bringing its prey to a grisly demise, and monstrous shadows dance along the floor from a source behind the player, making one gasp and proclaim, “What the heck is behind me?”
Prey is a reimagining of the series that began in 2006. The difference with the 2017 release is an interesting concept. If you’re a fan of alternate timelines, then you would be intrigued to know that the Prey reboot is the result of the Space Race advancing to such a pace that humankind got to developing orbital space stations sooner than they should have. Players assume the role of a scientific researcher studying an alien species called Typhon.
Therein is the element that makes the antagonists of Prey a living nightmare. The Typhon is capable of great psychic power, but what makes them truly terrifying is their ability to shapeshift into the exact replica of an inanimate object. Never mind being a clone of your best friend who now harbors malicious intent against you. Just think of it: an alien species that seeks to kill you and they can easily disguise themselves as simple an object as your tape dispenser? My skin is crawling just looking at the common items sitting on my desk.
Until Dawn is an interactive drama game such as the likes of Heavy Rain, Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead, or the Life is Strange series. The game’s premise is that of the infamous slasher movies of the 80s and 90s such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and, you guessed it, Halloween. A group of eight young adults vacation to a mountain lodge to party before they fall into disaster. Need we say more? What makes Until Dawn an entertaining escapade is that you don’t necessarily need an in-depth understanding of a traditional video game control scheme.
These interactive dramas are centered on making pivotal choices in times of tranquility and duress alike, sometimes unknowingly influencing the fate of the characters within. This is where the replay value of Until Dawn shines through and through. What can you choose differently on the next play-through and the next? Who could survive because of a different choice or a well-timed button press? The Butterfly Effect that Until Dawn exudes is strikingly fascinating. With an unforgiving auto-save system, you can’t backtrack and undo a mistake as easily as you would believe. It’s why we keep coming back to see Until Dawn’s hundreds of possible endings years after its initial release.
Carrion is not what you would expect. This is an excellent, albeit short, Metroidvania in which players assume the role of an amorphous entity simply known as “the Monster.” That’s correct, this is a horror game somewhat in reverse. It’s the player that wreaks havoc as a tentacled behemoth, breaking free from the confines of a research facility and destroying all in your path with the goal of escaping into the outside world of our own planet Earth.
The closest we can describe to a horror movie equivalent is The Blob. As you kill the scientists and soldiers who dare to keep you confined, the amorphous entity is capable of growing larger and larger. Because it’s classified as a Metroidvania, players can anticipate obtaining new abilities that will allow them to access parts of the research facility that would otherwise be inaccessible and thus encourage backtracking to evolve yourself into a creature that is virtually indestructible.
After the disastrous reception of Aliens: Colonial Marines back in 2013, leave it to developer, Creative Assembly to restore faith in the Alien gaming franchise with the release of Alien: Isolation. This is arguably one of the best if not the best, entries in the series and an excellent horror game all around. Players assume the role of Amanda Ripley, daughter of the film’s protagonist, Ellen Ripley, and takes place after the original 1979 film. Amanda is investigating the disappearance of her mother aboard the Sevastopol space station when it too comes under siege by a Xenomorph infestation like the Nostromo before it. Likewise, the player is tasked to survive by way of stealth and calculated movement.
How it took so long to implement survival horror to this franchise at this scale we don’t know, but Isolation succeeded in spades. Survival is key. When players mess up in the game, the Xenomorph will come straight to you with the intent to eviscerate you. The motion tracker is a helpful tool, but the noise it generates will attract the attention of the Xenomorph. If players want extra immersion we suggest plugging in a pair of headphones and enabling sound detection. When you scream in real life, the microphone will give you away and the Xenomorph will hear you and will race towards you with gnashing teeth.
5. Little Nightmares
Puzzle-solving and horror complement each other rather well. This is evident in Little Nightmares, which is as if a Tim Burton fever dream were adapted to a video game. Players assume the role of Six, a little girl outfitted in a yellow raincoat who must navigate the ghastly entrails of an underwater vessel called the Maw. Within are eerie characters that seek to impede the player’s progress.
The allure of Little Nightmares stems from the fact that the player is presented with seemingly insurmountable odds. It’s this feeling of helplessness that inspires the player to press ever on through the Maw. Combat is not the name of the game. Stealth and carefully considered action will allow Six to survive the odds stacked against her. With a silent protagonist, much of the charm of Little Nightmares comes from the player’s ability to weave the emotions of dread, fear, surprise, and relief into a tapestry of fantastical wonderment.
Has it truly been 11 years since the terror of Slender Man graced our screens? While Slender: The Arrival was a more streamlined experience of the game that came before it, we’re taking it back to Slender: The Eight Pages and the stunningly simple premise of this game. Players are thrust into the middle of a dark forest and tasked with obtaining eight pages hidden throughout this small sandbox. The player is armed only with a flashlight containing a limited battery, and the ability to run at the cost of draining stamina. All the while the player must avoid the coming of the Slender Man.
The Slender Man’s presence is communicated to the player by way of audio cues, sometimes appearing out of nowhere and causing the screen to scramble like film static. The hairs on your neck truly stand on end when entering enclosed spaces. To compound on this shuddersome nightmare, each time the player collects a page the fog in the forest grows thicker, the horrid pounding of a distant drum heralding the coming of the Slender Man grows more and more ominous, and the sightings of the spectral figure amplify as if from a faint whisper to a blood-curdling scream, until escape is pitilessly no longer an option.
3. Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!
Perhaps you consider yourself a visual novelist connoisseur. Then Doki Doki Literature Club is up your alley. What’s more disturbing than seeing a horror story unfold before your eyes? That would be not anticipating a horror story unfolding before your eyes. You could wander the aisles of your nearest retailer and simply mistake Doki Doki Literature Club for any other dating simulator but you would be shockingly wrong. Sayori, a childhood friend of the player-controlled character, invites you to join the high school’s literature club and enter into the delight of composing poems alongside the club’s other members.
It’s within these poems that a malevolent undertone begins to rear its ugly head. Part of the allure of Doki Doki Literature Club is that the game breaks its conventional expectations and goes out of its way to break the fourth wall. Suddenly, what you perceive as character choices made through the game’s controlled character now carries more weight than your very choices. Without spoiling the shock and dismay that players will stumble upon, Doki Doki Literature Club possesses a sweet-looking premise on the exterior that will make you regret closing the curtains and turning out the light.
There was a time when Konami could do no wrong, far removed from the enchantment of pachinko machines. Silent Hill 2 was released at a time regarded as the golden age of survival horror. What makes Silent Hill 2 still memorable now 22 years after its initial release is its masterful delivery of psychological horror. The game, through its protagonist, James Sunderland, draws from the themes of guilt, despair, and suffering. Yet how these themes can entangle themselves with notions of love, longing, and insanity takes the game to another level entirely. Players must ask themselves upon traversing the foggy landscape of Silent Hill, is this a hellscape I have stumbled upon, or is this a hideous reverie of my own making?
Silent Hill is often compared and contrasted with its near-sister counterpart in Resident Evil, but what sets it apart from the Capcom-developed franchise is its disregard for killing enemy hindrances and instead presenting the player with riddles and puzzles to solve. The surreal facet of Silent Hill is that the town itself draws upon the subconscious of the player-controlled character. How disturbing to imagine that some unseen force can pierce the very psyche of our shared melancholy with James Sunderland. We can only hope the upcoming remake of Silent Hill 2 will be just as distressing.
1. Resident Evil 2 (Remake)
Far be it from us to select just one entry from the entirety of the Resident Evil series in this list of horror games. Yet, we felt inclined to go with the recent remake of Resident Evil 2. The remake of the original Resident Evil, first released as far back as the Nintendo GameCube, was a close contender. However, gone are the tank controls and choppy voice acting in favor of a modernized and streamlined experience. The remake takes what was best about the horror element of the original 1998 game and blends it seamlessly with the control scheme that Resident Evil 4 introduced to the series. The zombie infestation and downfall of Raccoon City have long been synonymous with the survival horror genre for decades.
Resident Evil 2 introduces the series’ mainstays, Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, each of whom the player may opt to encounter their respective stories that make up the overarching plot to survive a most disastrous night. It is because of this critically acclaimed remake that we now have reimaginings of Resident Evil 3 and Resident Evil 4, respectively. To be candid, one can’t go wrong with the most recent entries in the series, be it Resident Evil 7: Biohazard or Resident Evil 8: Village. The series seems to be in a much-appreciated renaissance. Yet, we can’t undervalue what the remake of Resident Evil 2 gave us, and that would be a much-beloved sense of dread that still delivers to this day.
Of course, this list of best horror games could go on and on. What scary games will you be playing this Halloween season? Let us know in the comments below!