There are a lot of video games out there and in this era of mobile and home-based gaming, the choices have never been greater. So how do you cut through the noise and find the “Best of” for any chosen topic? Well, we’re here to help celebrate and shine a spotlight on some of the latest, greatest and unforgettable games through the years.
For our ongoing series of articles depicting the best video games, our attention this time turns to games with a focus on fear. From horrific puzzle platformers to spooky interactive media adventures, there’s a good choice to whet your appetite.
Of course, if we’ve missed any of your favorites, feel free to comment below and we’ll get them added on!
Little Nightmares 1 & 2
Despite Bandai Namco being well-known for contributing excellent fighting games, the company has branched out to other genres of the gaming industry. When it comes to the puzzles in Little Nightmares (and its sequel), it instills fear and a sense of bewilderment beyond just platforming.
The first game follows Six, a girl who winds up on a giant metal boat called the Maw and must find a means of escape. The second game is a prequel to the first game and revolves around Mono and Six. Their goals are to survive their journey through Pale City and uncover its dark secrets.
Even though it’s a puzzle and platform game in design, the franchise’s appeal stems from the frightening, mysterious atmosphere one feels while playing it. The character designs for the enemies are grotesque, allowing the developers to capture the horrific side of the setting of both games.
Designing the characters to appear smaller than their enemies will make players feel angst and vulnerable. Although you receive weapons occasionally, your movement speed with your weapon is sluggish, meaning you must time your attacks correctly or suffer defeat at the hands of your enemy. Furthermore, the slight tension build-up in chase sequences will make courageous gamers panic and mess up simple puzzles.
From its horrific sound design to its intriguing gameplay mechanics, Little Nightmares promises to spook and horrify you in many ways.
Outlast 1 & 2
The found-footage horror subgenre spread its wings with the well-acclaimed film The Blair Witch Project. In addition to terrorizing audiences in the cinema, the film fooled some viewers into believing the events were legit. Since then, many have tried to copy that similar charm through short movies and video games.
Enter Outlast and its sequel. Both games adopt found-footage techniques by embracing the design of first-person video games. These games also contain creepy sounds, invisible health bars, and dark lighting to engross its player into the world.
Both Outlast stories revolve around reporters who desire to investigate select areas because of their spooky and mysterious history. The protagonists end up involved in a matter they’d least expect. Thus with their camcorders at hand, they film the events taking place while also trying to escape from the dangers around them.
Stealth and managing your battery supply for your camcorder and night vision functionality is key to this game. Like Fight Nights At Freddy’s, the camcorder’s battery power is depleted a lot in these games, resulting in the player being in darkness.
When in the dark, the subtle noises of footsteps, banging noises, and screams will start rushing in, elevating that feeling of fear and anxiety. Although some of these horrific enemies people encounter in Outlast appear human, the game features a plethora of Eldritch-inspired beings that’ll have players stressing and worrying.
If you’re looking for a more found-footage-styled experience, the first two Outlast games are worth playing.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
With many horror games out today, smaller titles may find it difficult to attract large audiences. Sometimes, they need to hope that a celebrity in the gaming space will share their excitement for the title to build a fandom around it.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a first-person survival adventure game that follows the protagonist Daniel exploring a creepy, ominous castle with no memory of his past. To recover his memories, avoid a beast named Shadow, and murder its baron, Alexander, Daniel won’t let anyone get in his way.
Amnesia’s gameplay involves physical interaction such as fixing broken machinery, opening doors, and pulling levers to solve puzzles. To add a realistic layer of fear to the game, the developers task the player to keep Daniel’s sanity under control as it’s their replacement for a health bar.
Instances like staying in the dark for long periods or making eye contact with monsters will cause Daniel to experience hallucinations alongside blurry vision. This sanity mechanic allows the developers to instill fear into its players, sometimes causing them to panic in the process.
If you’re looking to branch into smaller titles that can generate as much as fear triple AAA games, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is worth playing.
Arguably one of the best games of the survival horror genre, Dead Space promises to deliver a space-like experience wrapped around mystery and fear. It’s a game that contains extraordinary twists, a rich story, and a chilling atmosphere.
The story takes place in the future, where you take control of engineer Isaac Clarke. He’s also aboard an abandoned flagship called the USG Ishimura. During a ship repair mission, he discovers that the ship’s former crew has been murdered and infected. To escape, Isaac must solve various puzzles, repair his ship and face carnivorous aliens called Necromorphs.
Even though Isaac has weapons that’ll aid him on his expedition, the game introduces many well-crafted puzzles, powerful and frightening monsters, and unique mechanics. The zero-gravity aspect of the game is one of its best mechanics.
Furthermore, it allows Isaac to leap long distances and attach himself to iron walls. However, enemies benefit from zero gravity with a speed boost. Yet, blasting them into space and seeing them hover around afterward feels both rewarding and humorous. The developers also implement incredible puzzles for you to solve in the zero-gravity portions.
Overall, Dead Space is an iconic survival horror game with fun-filled mechanics and everyone that needs some fear in their life should experience it.
Silent Hill 2
The sequel to Silent Hill came out when horror games were well-acclaimed. While some adored Resident Evil, others found the Silent Hill franchise just as great. Many horror fans loved Silent Hill 2 for its depressing storyline, erratic characters, and bleak aesthetics.
In brief, the second game follows a widower named James Sunderland, who arrives at Silent Hill because he receives a strange letter from his wife Mary, who died three years ago. Unbeknownst to James, Silent Hill is not a welcoming town.
Silent Hill 2 doesn’t shy away from topics such as defeat, suicide, and despair. It throws these themes right at the forefront of the story as it slowly depicts James losing himself. On the other hand, the sound design’s worth praising alongside the misty visual effects. Noises of enemy footsteps and wildlife add to the eerie attitude of specific sequences.
As for visuals, even words on a wall or the way characters appear on the screen will send chills down one’s spine, as it all emulates senses of dread and caution. The small fact that the game manages to test your goodwill through decision-making could also play a role in why people dread playing through it.
While there are many games in the Resident Evil franchise, the first game kick-started it all with its iconic puzzles, tank controls, and horrifying zombie-like creatures. Despite being released in 1996, this game has seen an HD remaster that improves the game’s control scheme and visuals.
The story follows Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker, and Barry Burton, who find refuge in an abandoned mansion. Minutes later, the player’s chosen character discovers that he is missing his teammates after they decide to split up. It’s now up to the player to find their comrades and uncover the secrets of the zombie outbreak.
The game evokes fear in its players by providing them with a small inventory system, janky control scheme, and cinematic zombie cutscenes. Players will always find themselves heading back to different “base rooms” to switch out gear. It not only captures the realism of having too many items; it boosts one’s understanding of resource management.
Furthermore, players will feel angst and caution even when gunning down zombies. One bullet won’t always be enough to take down enemies, and the game punishes players for acting carelessly during encounters. On that note, the game’s tank movement scheme made it so zombies attack you at faster speeds. It was also meant to evoke a feeling of claustrophobia for the player.
Phasmophobia is one of many horror games that benefitted from famous content creators like Markiplier and others sharing their excitement for the game with their fans. With its VR compatibility, online multiplayer, intriguing puzzles, and numerous jump scares, it’s a game that’s all about making its players scream.
Phasmophobia is a first-person horror survival and mystery game set at a spooky site. Whether solo or with friends, they must identify the type of ghost that’s haunting the establishment to complete a contract. Yet, players must complete contracts swiftly; otherwise, these ghosts will make sure you dread crossing their land.
Phasmophobia is best played in VR to gain an immersive experience regarding each site’s surroundings and atmosphere. The game also utilizes voice chat features uniquely. Moreover, players aren’t only encouraged to speak with their teammates, but communicating with the ghosts is also needed.
As for the game’s sites, there are multiple areas to explore. This allows players to experience paranormal activity from different locations to spice up their experience and time with the game. The sound design is also excellent in this title as any small hint of movement will lead to players jumping out of their seats.
Although the game’s still in early access, the developers have promised to add more content regarding new ghosts, equipment, etc. for players to experience. If interested, you can get in on the fun over on Steam.
Until Dawn surprised many fans with its cinematic and horrific atmosphere. Furthermore, the game doesn’t just play like a horror film, but the story spans multiple scenarios, each dependent on the players’ choices.
Until Dawn follows eight friends trapped on a mountain retreat at night. As such, they wait to be rescued by military personnel. Not only does paranoia come into play, but these adults must tangle with the mythical beasts lurking in the forests.
What draws in players’ fears is the quick and moral decisions they must make in Until Dawn. The game features these questions at the most unexpected times. Sometimes players will walk away regretting specific decisions they make as the story progresses.
The game’s visuals are dark and crisp and capture that feeling of dread. The game’s scope feels vast and captures the feeling that you’re not alone. This feeling often escalates when traversing through the forest to complete a short quest.
However, it’s important to expect some unoriginal cliches regarding intercourse scenes and stereotypical characters. If you can look past those issues, Until Dawn should give you a horrifying experience.
Five Night’s At Freddy’s
Five Nights at Freddy’s took the world by storm with its Chuck E’ Cheese-inspired animatronics, anxiety-driven gameplay, and chilling atmosphere. The franchise has spawned multiple entries, adding more lore and danger to the already spooky game.
The basic premise of Five Nights at Freddy’s features the player taking control of a character who gets offered a night guard position at the well-established yet abandoned Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza restaurant for five nights. However, what appears to be a simple task, ends up being a night filled with horror, suspense, and killer animatronics.
Five Nights at Freddy’s takes an intriguing approach regarding the point-and-click adventure genre. Players must pay close attention to the camera’s battery life while also keeping a watchful eye on the animatronics. Not only does this elevate the player’s caution while monitoring the different cameras, but it also builds up tension in the player.
Furthermore, animatronics also operate differently. Some will try casual methods of reaching the room your characters resides in while others will think of strategic ways of getting to you. This allows the night shifts to feel distinct from one another and helps keep the players on high alert at all times.
Five Nights at Freddy’s is a nerve-wracking, anxiety-driven game that wishes to torment you. If you’re up to the challenge, definitely try out the Five Nights at Freddy’s games.
While many film-based games appear as cash grabs, some end up offering experiences that surpass expectations. With its captivating gameplay, stunning visuals, and excellent sound design, Alien Isolation captures the films’ horrific, suspenseful, and chilling atmosphere.
Set 15 years after the events of the first Alien film, Alien Isolation follows Amanda Ripley, whose goal is to discover her mother’s fate while aboard a space station. However, like her mother, Amanda encounters an issue that stands in her way. There is also a deadly xenomorph aboard, waiting for its next victim. While unprepared and vulnerable, Amanda must scavenge resources, flee, and hide, or else it’s game over.
Alien Isolation respectfully homages the source material it’s based on by including a similar visual style in the vein of the Alien films. The clumpy keyboards and contorted CRT monitors make everything look dated, and the world seems more credible as a scientific universe.
The chase sequences between Amanda and the xenomorph are also worth highlighting. Players will feel tense and cautious as they go through these sequences. The weapons aren’t foolproof, which also heightens the sense of dread and fear players should exhibit in the Alien universe.
Therefore, Alien Isolation is a great game that instills fear into its players. This game is also a precedent for what future film-based video games should inspire to be.
So, there we have it, our pick for the scariest video games through the years!
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!