Coined by Resident Evil so many decades ago, survival horror is a term that has haunted us gamers since childhood. Whether it’s possessed humans or freakish zombies chasing you, the experience is terrifying when you’re low on ammo and the path forward is unclear. Over the years the genre has become quite crowded, so today we’re counting down the best survival horror games you should play before you join the undead.
Best Survival Horror Games, Ranked
It’s true that beauty – or rather fear in this case – is in the eye of the beholder, and here it’s no different. This list of the best survival horror games of all time aims to rank those titles higher that have the perfect blend of terror and always put you in a position where you have to survive onslaught after onslaught.
That said, this list is based on first-hand panic and a little bit of community influence. You might like one entry more than the other, or maybe this list didn’t mention your favorite game. In any case, feel free to express which games you’d rank higher in the comments!
7. Alan Wake
Alan Wake was among the earliest games to introduce a high-octane approach to the survival horror genre. Players are given shotguns and pistols to fend off foes yet the unsettling narrative and enemies popping up out of literally nowhere is enough to send shivers down your spine.
There are tons of uncomfortable moments spread throughout Alan Wake, and the game has a habit of never letting players feel safe in any area whatsoever. It’s a must-play if an intriguing story and spooky settings are your thing.
Outlast is the ultimate vlogger trapped in a monster hospital sim. With simply a camera in hand, Miles Upshur records various sinister events, though it’s the player’s job to stuff him in lockers and ensure that he lives.
While completely devoid of action, Outlast is simply one of the top survival horror games ever made. It constantly puts the player in bizarre scenarios and you never know what’s waiting on the opposite side of the door, and that’s why it’s such a frightening adventure. Well, any game where you can’t fight back is bound to be terrifying.
5. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Another cult classic survival horror game is Frictional’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Stay in the dark too long and your character goes insane, but turn on your lantern, and the devils inside the castle will easily spot you. Amnesia has an unbelievably scary sound design and a reputationfor building up tension. Pair those with the chilling atmosphere, and you’re in for a slow-burn that will leave you traumatized.
4. The Evil Within
The Evil Within follows detective Sebastian Castellanos as he navigates a deranged world in the aftermath of an outbreak. The setting might not be any different than other entries, but The Evil Within is pure psychological horror. The vibe, the subtle nuances, and the main story beat all get under your skin quickly.
You’re always running empty on shells and are supposed to brainstorm ways to move past zombies undetected. One misstep sends hoards of them chasing after you. It’s survival horror at its absolute best. Then again, you’d expect nothing less from the work of Resident Evil’s creator Shinji Mikami.
3. Dead Space 2
The prologue for Dead Space 2 is as brutal as it gets. You open your eyes in a haunting environment with barely anything to defend yourself with. There’s an insane abundance of jump scares with enemies spawning at the most unexpected of times. The scarcity of ammunition doesn’t help either.
On top of that, there aren’t many NPC interactions in Dead Space 2 – humane ones anyway. The world does a spectacular job at making you feel like a prey trapped inside a never-ending corridor of horrors. Dead Space 2 is sadism incarnate and that’s why it’s a brilliant survival horror video game.
This wouldn’t be a best survival horror games list without having at least one Resident Evil title claiming a spot – and no surprise that it’s the second installment. Resident Evil 2 pretty much laid the bricks for other games in the genre, so it’s no surprise that it ranks this high in the top survival horror games.
Atmosphere, pacing, characters, you name it, Resident Evil 2 was ahead of its time in every category when it came out. While the 2019 remake captures the original’s unnerving spirit remarkably well, it’s just another level of dread when you play a scary game with PS1 graphics.
James Sunderland rushes off to the town of Silent Hill when he receives a letter from his wife, the punchline being she died three years ago. As anticipated, the town of Silent Hill starts playing tricks on James, and his sanity, morals, and body are put to the test against one horror after the other.
The awkward dialog, eerie level design, and disturbing themes never let players feel warm underneath. Silent Hill 2 masterfully instills the fear of God in you with its intensity. It’s horror without age and for many, it’s the pinnacle of the best survival horror games.