The 10 best horror games of all time

Some people like to feel afraid, and even seek out fear through different forms of entertainment. For those who seek out the thrill of being scared out of their seats, video games are a pretty effective way of experiencing fear. There’s no shortage of interactive entertainment designed to terrify, and things have only gotten more frightening as graphics have evolved.

With Halloween looming, and games like The Evil Within 2 setting a creepy mood, we’ve been thinking about the scariest games we’ve ever played. From iconic franchises to chilling indie terrors, let’s take a look at the very best horror games you can play right now.

Resident Evil 7

A return to the series’ roots, Resident Evil 7 casts aside the fast-paced action gameplay of the franchise’s latter years for a plodding, methodical approach. The result is something truly terrifying.

Ethan Winters receives a message that his wife ,Mia, presumed dead for years, may still be alive. Upon arriving in rural Louisiana, Ethan winds up trapped by the maniacal and incredibly persistent Baker family. From Jack Baker, the patriarch who bears an uncanny resemblance to Walter White from Breaking Bad, to Marguerite, and their son Lucas, each Baker family member is not quite right, and that spells trouble for Ethan.

Like the early Resident Evil games, bullets are few and far between, but there are jump scares everywhere. The game’s slow pace and dark atmosphere makes for a nerve-racking experience from start to finish. The game fits tidily into the mind control and experimentation tropes seen throughout the series, but Resident Evil 7 is also a return to its early, iconic form.

If you really want to be scared, try playing the game on Playstation VR. That really ratchets up the fear factor.

Get it now from:

Amazon

Layers of Fear

A surprise 2016 indie hit from developer Bloober Team, Layers of Fear puts players in the role of an ambitious painter at work on his magnum opus. The game takes place in a lavish Victorian mansion, and sees the painter adding a new layer to the painting following the completion of each chapter. Finishing the painting quickly seems to be secondary to the man’s psychological state.

Throughout the first-person experience, players are exposed to the man’s hallucinations about his disturbing past. Mirroring the style of P.T., Layers of Fear‘s main source of fear comes from the constantly changing environments. Turn back to a wall that was previously empty, and a creaking door with light emitting from its bottom crack may be there. While it could be categorized as a walking simulator, as there is no direct combat, players do interact with objects in order to solve puzzles to get the rooms to shift. From melting walls to ever-changing portraits, to eerie hauntings, Layers of Fear surprises throughout its brief but masterful journey.

Get it now from:

Amazon

Outlast 2

Outclassing its predecessor, Outlast 2 is perhaps hardest game to stomach on this list. The grotesque and vile manifestations you encounter throughout the game are bound to turn some players off — even those who really enjoy the genre.

At the outset, Journalist Blake Langermann and his wife head off to a remote location in Arizona where a pregnant woman’s body was mysteriously found on the side of the road. The cause of death was unknown and it doesn’t make sense that she died there. What begins as an investigation quickly turns into a fight for survival.

Blake and Lynn garner the attention of a sex-crazed local cult and a vicious backwoods group. Just like Outlast, you can’t defend yourself. Besides sparse quick-time events, you must simply run and hide. And you have to do both of these well unless you want Blake to suffer a brutal, torturous death. Without going into the details, let’s just say that Outlast 2 isn’t for squeamish players.

Outlast 2 does both survival horror and psychological horror incredibly well, tells a gripping narrative, and will keep your heart beating a mile a minute as you navigate through its extremely terrifying setting populated with even more terrifying people.

Get it now from:

Steam

Dead Space

Dead Space was and is special because it managed the rare feat of simultaneously being an action-packed and deeply unsettling game. Released to near universal acclaim in 2008, Dead Space remains one of the shining jewels of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era.

You play as Isaac Clarke, a systems engineer tasked with working his way through a mining ship that has become overrun by aliens. The humans that previously occupied the ship have turned into devastatingly frightening and powerful creatures dubbed Necromorphs. The game’s satisfying action comes from dismembering these creatures limb by limb with high-tech weapons and gadgets. But you never know when they are going to crawl out of exposed corridors or slither from the ceiling. The broken-down starship is filled with atmospheric tension, and Isaac’s solitude amplifies the sense of dread.

Dead Space 2 and Dead Space 3 gradually shifted toward more action and less horror, but the original’s terrific blend of action and quiet intrigue make it stand out as the scariest game in the franchise.

Get it now from:

Amazon

Condemned: Criminal Origins

An Xbox 360 launch title, Condemned: Criminal Origins received a lukewarm reception, but as the years have passed, the innovativeness of Condemned‘s combat system and how it directly correlates with its mechanisms for producing fear has become clear.

The game is set in a fictional city called Metro — which really could just be any big city on the East Coast. Players step into the shoes of Ethan Thomas, an FBI forensics specialists with a penchant for tracking down serial killers. Ethan has a problem — his latest quarry, an unknown terror called Serial Killer X, manages to frame him for a murder, forcing him to catch the killer to clear his name.

Ethan’s journey takes him through abandoned buildings, warehouses, and through streets filled with citizens who are anything but friendly. In fact, the people who Ethan encounters can only be described as psychotic and perhaps not even under their control. Ethan’s means for fighting them off almost solely consists of melee weapons — pipes, wrenches, bats, etc. Combine the visceral approach with the possessed, ravenous enemies, and their ability to jump out of nowhere and pounce, and you’ve got yourself a horror game that doesn’t give you room to catch your breath very often.

Get it now from:

Amazon

1 of 2