October is right around the corner, and you know what that means! It’s time to break out the pumpkins, candy bars, and scary movies.
Along with these favorite spooky season pastimes, playing some of the most spine-chilling video games the industry has to offer is another great way to keep up with the season’s theme.
This week, I’ll be turning the dial up to “10” as I cover the top 10 scariest horror video games to help you prepare for All Hallows Eve.
Keep reading below to see which titles were picked!
1. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Despite being more than a decade old, Frictional Game’s 2010 “Amnesia” title has been hailed by players and critics alike since its release for almost single-handedly reviving the Survival Horror genre of video games. Amnesia follows the story of Daniel, the game’s lone protagonist who is forced to navigate the shadowy halls of the fictional Brennanburg Castle in mid-19th-century Prussia after willingly ingesting an amnesia-inducing potion to forget the horrors contained in the castle, and the role Daniel himself played in awakening them. The game’s striking narrative coupled with an environment as terrifying as it is immersive is bound to leave players with more than a few goosebumps.
2. Resident Evil (2002 remake)
Originally released for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2002, Capcom’s remake of its 1996 hit Resident Evil has left a lasting foundation for the Survival Horror video game genre to build upon. In the remake, players are able to take control of either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine—two members of Racoon City’s elite S.T.A.R.S. team (akin to real-world SWAT teams)—as they explore and uncover the violent secrets of the city’s infamous Spencer Estate mansion. If you think this game is little more than running away from enemies, shooting zombies, and solving a handful of puzzles, just wait until you encounter your first Crimson Head!
3. Silent Hill 2
For nearly 20 years, Konami’s Silent Hill 2 has remained a staple of not just the Survival Horror genre of games, but the video game industry as a whole. The game’s plot follows the story of James Sunderland after he receives a letter from his long-dead wife, Mary, instructing him to travel to the foggy mountain town. Players are forced to navigate the town and all of its horrifying contents and denizens alike with limited supplies and admittedly clunky controls, further adding to the game’s “horror” element. Like other titles in the Silent Hill franchise, the ending players receive upon beating the game is also dependent on the actions and choices the player makes as James as they attempt to discover the secrets held by James, his late wife, and the town itself.
I should start this entry with a disclaimer that Outlast isn’t just “another scary game” — it’s an absolutely blood-curdling experiment in the lengths humans will go to in order to survive. Outlast follows a purely first-person perspective from the eyes of investigative journalist Miles Upshur as he both explores and attempts to escape from a derelict mental hospital, the denizens of which have lost all but the most primal semblance of their humanity. To add to the game’s horror, there are no weapons at all. Players are armed only with a night-vision battery-powered camera as they attempt to hide or run from crazed patients, meaning that they’ll need to conserve battery power as well as their own sanity.
5. Dead Space
Dead Space is, at its core, a pure survival horror game. Players take on the role of Isaac Clarke as he explores what remains of a lost spaceship whose communications went dark after uncovering an alien artifact on a mining mission. Upon reaching the ship, players immediately become aware that the ship and its crew fell victim to a horrific scourge that turned the ship’s denizens into twisted members of a carnivorous hivemind referred to as “necromorphs.” The twist is that these enemies can’t simply be gunned down as in other games. Rather, each type of necromorph encountered must be killed in a unique and meticulous way, forcing players to remain alert and vigilant to their resources and surroundings in the face of ever-present danger.
6. Blair Witch
Both inspired by and following the lore of the hit 1999 found-footage film of the same name, this 2019 title is a perfect example of psychological survival horror in video games. In Blair Witch, players take on the role of Ellis, a washed-up Maryland police officer obsessed with finding a missing boy in the Black Hills forest: a case not dissimilar to a past one responsible for much of Ellis’s own internal trauma. Along with Ellis’s canine companion, Bullet, players are only able to rely on the limited use of a cell phone and walkie-talkie, as well as their own instincts, to navigate the semi-open world of the forest and uncover the secrets of the missing boy’s case and Ellis’s own subconscious. If you’re a fan of the Blair Witch movie franchise, this is one horror game you definitely shouldn’t overlook!
7. Until Dawn
Unlike other titles in this list, Until Dawn is an interactive horror-drama game many horror movie fans will notice is strikingly similar in plot to the plethora of slasher films released throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In Until Dawn, players regularly switch between any of the game’s eight primary characters who are forced to survive threats both existential and frighteningly tangible during one terrible night on Blackwood Mountain. Each choice made affects not only the game’s ending and overall outcome but also the health and safety of each eight protagonists in a “Butterfly Effect” element of gamplay. To add to this, all of the game’s content is impossible to uncover in just one playthrough, so players looking to uncover all of the Mountain’s secrets will need to face their fears time and again in subsequent playthroughs of Until Dawn.
8. Dead By Daylight
Similar to the previous entry on this list, 2016’s Dead By Daylight pays homage to the slasher-horror movie genre popularized in late 20th-century film. The game is structured around a 1v4 multiplayer concept, in which one player takes control of the “slasher” villain in an attempt to hunt down and kill the other 4 players in ways as brutal as they are creative. As if the game’s inherent homage to slasher-horror films weren’t enough, numerous DLC packs and content have been released since the game’s launch that allows the “killer” player to don the helms of some of the most famous faces in horror, including Crystal Lake killer Jason Vorhees, the maniacal chainsaw-wielding Leatherface, and even our favorite Hellraiser, Pinhead.
While this game deserves a post all on its own, it would be a disservice not to include at least a mention of it in this week’s list. What begins as a Victorian-themed action-adventure adrenaline rush of hunting hordes of malformed beasts in Bloodborne trickles into a slow burn of Lovecraftian cosmic horror in the game’s second half. Players are met with new and terrifying enemies at virtually every turn, forcing them to rely on quick reflexes and resource management to overcome the dangers of each of the game’s areas in order to keep going. I could talk about Bloodborne’s phenomenal use of horror for days, but for the sake of time, let me simply say this: if you’re a horror fan in any regard and have a Playstation 4 console accessible, do yourself a favor and please pick this title up. I promise you will not be disappointed. Frustrated, maybe, but not disappointed.
10. Alien: Isolation
Concluding this week’s list is Creative Assembly’s 2014 hit title, Alien: Isolation. Based on the Alien franchise of horror films, this title picks up 15 years after the events of the original 1979 film with players taking the reigns of Amanda Ripley (daughter of the film franchise’s protagonist Ellen Ripley) as she attempts to find the truth behind her mother’s disappearance the loss of her spaceship, the Nostromo, and the rest of its crew. Ripley’s search inevitably leads her to the space station Sevastopol where she encounters a horrifying alien xenomorph that has all but massacred the inhabitants of the station. Much like the films, Ripley (and the players who control her) are forced to use stealth and hide in vents, lockers, or under furniture rather than confront the xenomorph head-on, as doing so will spell certain doom more often than not. If you’re looking for a video game that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this is one title you won’t want to miss playing this Halloween season!