The best horror games of all time, from Resident Evil to Until Dawn

You'll want to keep the lights on while playing these epic horror games

The best horror games all have something in common: the ability to deliver a feeling of unease that someone or something is going to deliver you to your untimely end. Games have only become more frightening as technology has evolved and with Halloween looming, it’s time to put a spotlight on the scariest games we’ve ever played. Luckily, there’s no shortage of titles designed to send you into a heart-racing and adrenaline-pumping frenzy, and we’ve highlighted a few of our favorites below.

Resident Evil 2

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A remake of one of the most beloved horror games of all time, the deck was stacked against 2019’s Resident Evil 2 being able to truly impress longtime fans. Despite the legacy of the original, however, that is exactly what it did. Featuring blood-curdling audio and going to an over-the-shoulder perspective similar to Resident Evil 4, Capcom made the action scarier and feel more modern. With plenty of great weapons to discover and use against zombies to Mr. X himself. No longer did actually playing Resident Evil 2 get in the way of experiencing its chilling story.

And what a story it remains in 2019. Shifting from the mansion of the first game to the infested streets and buildings of Raccoon City, Resident Evil 2 raises the stakes considerably with a conspiracy-filled journey that throws Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield into the middle of a terrifying disaster. The humans they encounter are often just as dangerous as the infected, and it gives newer players an idea of what to expect from so-called allies in the remainder of the series. No one can be trusted.

Read our Resident Evil 2 review

Metro Exodus

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Equal parts “survival” and “horror,” the Metro series is one of the most chilling depictions of post-apocalyptic life ever seen in video games or any other medium. Following a nuclear war that left most of humanity dead, protagonist Artyom and his comrades search for a new home away from violence and sorrow – and are immediately greeted by both. The third game, Metro Exodus, is particularly terrifying with its depiction of mutants, cannibals, and irradiated areas that can kill men in mere seconds.

Much of Metro Exodus’ scares come from the fear of running out of ammo when dealing with monsters. Ammunition is scarce, as are the filters you need for your gas mask, and the enemies you encounter go far beyond the subway system itself. Metro Exodus remains a hopeful game despite the horrors you encounter, and it’s one backed by impeccable storytelling. Characters don’t feel like cardboard cutouts, so when one of them makes a threat or attacks, it feels real.

Read our full Metro Exodus review

Bloodborne

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It’s an action-role-playing game, too, but there is no denying that From Software’s Bloodborne is firmly rooted in horror. Inspired by gothic and Victorian architecture and featuring Lovecraftian enemies to battle, the world of Yharnam is nothing short of terrifying. Blood gushes out of enemies with every slash, and the bosses range from enormous spiders to electrified behemoths with skulls faces. The game’s cryptic story is even framed as a nightmare from which you cannot wake.

From Software kept its knack for clever enemy placement intact for Bloodborne, which only makes it scarier. You’ll rarely go more than an hour without having an enemy leap out unannounced, delivering a small cardiac episode as you slash and dodge your way out of danger. Oftentimes, however, you won’t be able to do so, and the horror of having to find your lost Blood Echoes and eliminate hordes of enemies again becomes as scary as the world itself.

Read our full Bloodborne review

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 his lavish Victorian mansion and he adds 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.

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Outlast 2

Outclassing its predecessor, Outlast 2 is perhaps the 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.

Read our Outlast 2 review

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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.

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Amnesia: The Dark Descent

From Frictional Games, the team behind the Penumbra series, 2010 indie darling Amnesia: The Dark Descent expanded on the company’s unique brand of first-person horror adventures and created something of a phenomenon among horror game developers and indie game fans.

Set in 1839, a young Londoner named Daniel awakens in Prussia’s Brennenburg Castle. He’s confused, not knowing anything but his name and that he is desperately on the run from something that is hunting him. His lack of memories, according to a note he wrote himself, was self-imposed for his own good. So begins the winding adventure that twists and turns with every room Daniel visits in the sprawling castle.

Along the way, Daniel runs into utterly menacing creatures called gatherers, who, like many horror game oddities, were previously human. Daniel can only run or hide from these nefarious beings. There’s danger lurking everywhere, but Amnesia tends to save its most startling scares for when you think you’re safe. Unraveling the mystery of Daniel’s past and the castle itself is a journey that will keep you up late at night — and perhaps even after you’ve exited the game.

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SOMA

Frictional Games has gotten so good at drawing screams out of players that it holds two slots on our list. In 2015 sci-fi chiller SOMA, you control a man named Simon Jarrett, who has suffered a traumatic brain injury from a car crash. As a result, he agrees to be a part of Mr. Munshi’s experimental research in reversing brain damage.

However, during his brain scan, Simon seemingly loses consciousness and awakens in a desolate research center located deep in the Atlantic Ocean. To make matters even more confusing, the year is 2104, nearly 80 years since his brain scan. And even worse, all human life was eradicated by a comet the year prior. The PATHOS-II — where he wakes up — was the last place where human life was deemed safe. But he appears to be alone. What happened?

SOMA follows Frictional Games’ tradition of using an unknowing narrator to tease a grand and frightening mystery. More than Amnesia, SOMA emphasizes psychological horror, with each shadowy creature representing some form of emotional trauma.

The game heavily relies on its atmosphere, which is further intensified by voice recordings, written notes, and its murky underwater environment. A bit more scenic in terms of its terrors, it succeeds in bringing you into its world and making you feel as if you are living Simon’s deep internal struggle. It achieves a different type of horror experience, one that latches onto your mind and doesn’t let go.

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Silent Hill 2

The Silent Hill franchise sits alongside Resident Evil as a pioneer of the genre. While the first three Silent Hill games could all be considered horror classics, Silent Hill 2 edges out the others for a spot on our list. Though it isn’t a direct successor to the original, Silent Hill 2 returns to the eponymous dreary town.

James Sunderland’s wife died three years ago — at least, that’s what he thought. After receiving a letter asking him to come meet her in their special spot (Silent Hill), he embarks on a journey that takes many unsettling turns. (Notice how the setup mirrors that of Resident Evil 7).

As James navigates through the town, Silent Hill quickly becomes a maddening dreamscape filled with monsters and eerie disturbances. What makes the Silent Hill games stand out, and particularly Silent Hill 2, are the psychological elements designed to mess with the player’s mind.

Quite often, what James sees is merely a manifestation of his crumbling subconscious. And while all of the games on this list are worthy of being played more than once, Silent Hill 2 has a bevy of underlying themes, references to literature and film, and enough subtext to make your second playthrough even better than the first.

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Alien: Isolation

A lot of players have a very intense love/hate relationship with the final game on our list. Alien: Isolation is a methodical, slow-moving sci-fi horror game that takes its premise of focusing on a single alien creature throughout its lengthy adventure to an extreme that, for us, raises the art of making the player feel incredibly vulnerable and isolated at all times to new heights.

Set 15 years after the original 1979 film, Amanda Ripley (Ellen Ripley’s daughter) is told that the flight recorder from the famed Nostromo is on a remote space station. Amanda decides to seek out the recorder in hopes of hearing her mother’s last words before she died. Over the course of the nearly 20-hour adventure, Amanda will kill enemy humans and robots, but here’s the thing — Alien: Isolation really revolves around one alien who you cannot kill no matter how badly you want to.

That alien is terrifying. Sure, you can run and hide from the alien, but rest assured, it will find you. No matter how many times you get devoured by the alien, you never really get used to having its jaws descending on you. Add to that a foreboding setting that would make Ridley Scott proud, and Alien: Isolation is an excellent addition to franchise lore.

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The Evil Within 2

The Evil Within 2 is one of the best open world horror games we’ve ever played. Far superior to the original in every respect, it was one of the surprise hits of 2017. Once again you step into the shoes of Sebastian Castellanos, a detective who has seemingly lost everything. When he learns that his daughter may still be alive, he heads back into STEM, the portal to a lifelike dream world filled with surprises and terrors.

This time around, The Evil Within 2 dives deep into Sebastian’s psyche, and the result is one of the most unsettling psychological thrillers around. In STEM, there are also external threats, from grotesque beings to twisted bosses such as a maniacal photographer who wants to show you all of his grisly creations.

Without spoiling anything, The Evil Within 2 has one of the most surprising reveals in recent memory, one that is both terrifying and depressing. Make no mistake, The Evil Within 2 isn’t a happy game, but it is compelling. Rounded out by great gunplay, an emphasis on survival, and a dreary open world filled with secrets and frights, The Evil Within 2 is well worth playing even if you haven’t spent time with the original.

Read our The Evil Within 2 review

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Until Dawn

Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn is probably the least scary game on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great horror movie. Designed as an homage to slasher films starring hapless teenagers, Until Dawn charmingly plays like an interactive movie. Set on Blackwood Mountain, eight teenagers head up the snowy slopes for a vacation.

One year ago, two sisters of one of the friends disappeared on that very mountain. Naturally, things go sideways quickly, and the group finds themselves in a desperate situation with a crazed, bloodthirsty man hunting them down.

Until Dawn switches perspectives throughout each of its chapters. Much of the gameplay is just walking, but the player has to make critical choices that alter the course of the story. This rippling effect, dubbed in the game as the “butterfly effect,” has consequences both small and large. Filled with jump scares, cheesy dialogue, and great performances, Until Dawn is the sort of horror experience that demands to be played alongside a group of friends.

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Little Nightmares

Little Nightmares makes a very simple gameplay loop utterly captivating. It’s essentially a terrifying game of hide-and-seek starring Six, a young girl who finds herself in the nightmarish world of Maw. Throughout a five hour adventure, you guide Six across a series of rooms in the Maw filled with dastardly individuals that will murder the little girl if given the chance.

Six simply wants something to eat, but this leads to many problems with the Maw dwellers. Much of the terror induced by Little Nightmares comes from the fear of being discovered. You must remain unseen, but even when you think you are safe, there’s always the debilitating dread of getting caught looming overhead.

Little Nightmares has a series of excellent puzzles, all of which contribute to the ever-evolving story of this hellscape. It’s astonishing that Little Nightmares remains so frightening even when you almost always know where the danger lurks. This is accomplished through great visual and sound design, and a series of well-placed clues of what will happen to Six if she gets caught.

While Little Nightmares doesn’t have the scale of some of the other games on this list, it does pack an emotional punch at the end.

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