It's the season to get your fright on, and as usual, the video game industry has no shortage of spine-chilling and nerve-wracking games that'll make you wish that you'd left the lights on. A combination of tricks and treats make some horror games stand out from the rest of the pack though, and we've collected 20 of the best that you can play this weekend in case you don't plan to go out.
From the pure unsettling atmosphere of Bloodborne to shock value in Resident Evil Village, these thrill-loaded titles will make certain that you never fall asleep ever again. Which horror games will you be playing this fall? Shout out your favorites in the comments below.
One of the most recent releases on this list, Alan Wake Remastered is a stellar mystery game starring a writer who could have been pulled out of a Stephen King novel (Alan likes to quote King, too.) Remedy Entertainment's excellent action-adventure game has aged quite well, giving players a riveting and winding story of nightmares that comes to life thanks to great performances, a chilling atmosphere, and top-notch pacing. It's also just nice to return to a well-made linear action game in the age of massive open-world games. -- Steven Petite
See our Alan Wake Remastered review.
2014's Alien: Isolation was a bit of tough sell as a horror game. After spending many years as disposable cannon fodder in other Alien games, most notably in Aliens VS Predator and Aliens: Colonial Marines, the Xenomorph was elevated to boss status in Creative Assembly's survival horror FPS. Serving as a sequel to the original film, it moved away from the shooting galleries and action-horror from previous games, and honed its focus on dread, anxiety, and fearing the lone alien creature that stalks the halls of Sevastopol Station.
As a deep admirer of the original Alien, more so than the sequel Aliens, I longed for the day where we could get a game more influenced by the first film--with its quiet moments of dread and low-fi sci-fi aesthetic in full swing. What I appreciated most about Alien: Isolation was that it not only respected the original film, but it also fully understood what it made it so scary. As you're desperately scavenging for supplies throughout the corridors, those brief moments of calm would almost inevitably lead to situations where you'll come face to face with the Alien, who is all-powerful and cunning in its approach to slay any human that comes across its path. -- Alessandro Fillari
See our Alien: Isolation review.
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Amnesia: The Dark Descent, its expansion, Justine, and the sequel, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, comprise what is still one of the best horror franchises of all time. You can grab all three of them in the Amnesia Collection, available on the PlayStation and Xbox stores. Amnesia is undoubtedly the series that ignited my love of the horror game genre, and like many, I first experienced the game through Let's Plays by a then-little-known YouTuber called PewDiePie. It's terrifying enough to watch someone else to play, but getting behind the screen yourself is another experience altogether.
Released in 2010, Amnesia: The Dark Descent follows a man named Daniel, who wakes up in a dark castle with no memory of who he is, aside from his name. In exploring the castle, Daniel must fight to maintain his sanity while putting together pieces of his past and avoiding the dreadful monsters that lurk in the shadows. The first-person survival horror game was followed by a 2013 sequel, A Machine for Pigs, that begins with a wealthy industrialist waking up in his London mansion with (once again) no memory of the past few months, only the feeling that something is terribly wrong. If Amnesia has somehow flown under the radar for you over the past decade, then wait for a dark night, grab some headphones, and dive in. -- Jenae Sitzes
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The unforgettable world of Yharnam conjured up by From Software fits well with Halloween. Though it's not technically a horror game, the dark gothic setting filled with all sorts of fiendish foes can certainly provide frights. Of course, Bloodborne is also a challenging experience, retaining the Souls-like combat of From's best known IP. Bloodborne succeeds thanks to its world and character building as well as its uncompromising combat that is a joy to master. As one of the best games on PS4, it's never a bad time to revisit Yharnam or take a trip there for the first time. This weekend seems like as good a time as any, though. -- Steven Petite
See our Bloodborne review.
Since 1984's The Thing, there have been plenty of games directly inspired by John Carpenter's classic film, putting you in the role of a scientist or soldier who must fight against an alien threat. However, it's rare to see a game that puts you in the monster's shoes--and that's exactly what Carrion does. You control an amorphous monster whose only goal is to devour everyone in its path, grow larger, and spread its biomass throughout the world. You crawl through each area with your fleshy tendrils, pulling every human into your toothy maw. The movement feels fast and satisfying as you slip into pipes and small crawl spaces to reach new locations. Of course, the humans won't go down without a fight, so you'll need to figure out ways to outmaneuver and outsmart them as their arsenals expand from pistols to flamethrowers. If you've ever wanted to play the monster, then Carrion is a way to do just that. -- Mat Paget
See our Carrion review.
Don't judge a visual novel by its cover. Doki Doki Literature Club looks like a simple anime-inspired visual novel packed with tropes; you have a love triangle (or quadrilateral?), the tsundere, the shy one, and the childhood friend as a potential love interest all thrown into a high school club. While the free-to-play game is front-loaded with your typical story progression, it's expected that you make it past a certain point where things really pick up.
Take note of the content warning presented upfront, as Doki Doki Literature Club uses sensitive subjects and graphic visuals throughout its narrative. It'll subvert expectations in clever and terrifying ways that can be either subtle and in-your-face. Since this is a PC game, it has the unique ability to be meta; breaking the fourth wall is used to great effect and a few secrets get tucked away within the game's text files. There are a few moments that allow the player to impact progression, such as dialogue options or choosing which of the club members to interact with at certain moments. But that's all in service of building you up for when the game reveals its true nature. Even the wonderfully catchy soundtrack gets twisted to create an unsettling atmosphere.
It's hard to communicate exactly why Doki Doki Literature Club is one of the most horrifying games because it relies heavily on specific story beats and meta-narrative events, and we wouldn't want to spoil the things that make it so special. You'll just have to experience it for yourself. -- Michael Higham
The Evil Within 2 greatly improves on its so-so predecessor. Developed by Tango Gameworks, The Evil Within 2 once again revolves around detective Sebastian Castellanos. When he learns that his daughter might actually be alive inside the alternate world of Union, Sebastian uses the STEM device to tether himself to the frightening and gruesome world in search of his daughter. The Evil Within 2 has many callbacks to old horror movies and games, which gives it a certain charm. Where it excels most, however, is in its story, which is incredibly well-written and full of twists and turns. Solid action gameplay, cool stealth sequences, great set pieces, and a series of well-designed boss fights make The Evil Within 2 a well-rounded and underrated experience. -- Steven Petite
See our The Evil Within 2 review.
Layers of Fear uses the cliche premise of the tortured artist to great effect. You play as a tormented painter roaming the halls of his house in an effort to conjure up the motivation to finish your magnum opus. It uses the PT-brand of environmental horror, as rooms change as you move about them, creating a sense of dread and fear despite the fact that there are no real frights to speak of--besides the demons inside your own mind, of course. Layers of Fear is a brisk and well-told horror game that you can play in an afternoon. Its more ambitious sequel, Layers of Fear 2, is also worth checking out. -- Steven Petite
See our Layers of Fear review.
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Little Nightmares 2 is one of the best horror games of 2021. Expanding on the foundation of its wonderful predecessor, Little Nightmares 2 adds more gameplay mechanics to its 2.5D world, including the ability to actually fight back this time (in certain scenarios). It's still primarily a stealth game with environmental puzzles, but there's more depth to the gameplay here. Once again, the unsettling atmosphere takes center stage in Little Nightmares 2, and developer Tariser Studios managed to deliver a sequel that lived up to the quality of the original. We'd definitely recommend playing the original first, but thankfully you can complete that one in just a few hours. -- Steven Petite
See our Little Nightmares 2 review.
Bloober Team, the developer behind Layers of Fear, took its talents to cyberpunk with Observer, a unique psychological horror game that stars a detective working for the Observers police unit. Observer has an appropriately tech-focused gameplay loop, which sees you hack into peoples' minds to interrogate them. You can also find clues to solve investigations thanks to your augmented vision that lets you scan objects and other points of interest. While Observer plays out like a procedural in many ways, the journey that you go on across this chilling world is frightening enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. -- Steven Petite
Red Barrels' Outlast has always stood out to me for how the game presents its world. Mount Massive Asylum is blanketed in absolute darkness, so the only way to see where you're going most of the time is by using the night vision function on protagonist Miles Upshur's video camera.
Because I'm terrified of the dark, I use the camera all the time, and this transforms everything I see into a murky green where faraway environmental details aren't clear and enemies' eyes shine with a ghoulish glow. Also, this mechanic forces me to explore--batteries need to be found to keep the night vision function on the camera working--and Outlast's chilling soundtrack makes those unscripted moments of searching very tense.
Looking for batteries isn't even the scariest part of Outlast, though. It's the inhuman Variants that create most of the game's scares. Desperately running through an insane asylum while cannibalistic twins, a scissor-wielding mad scientist, and a seemingly unkillable monster chase after Upshur is terrifying. The worst of these Variants, Eddie Gluskin, appears in Outlast's Whistleblower expansion. Gluskin, aka The Groom, is a deranged serial killer who mutilates his male victims' genitalia in order to create the "perfect wife." Watching what he does--in first-person I might add--to the DLC's protagonist, Waylon Park, haunted me for days, and is still nauseating to even think about. -
If you buy Outlast, you might as well pick up the Outlast Trinity bundle, which includes Outlast, its Whistleblower DLC, and Outlast 2 (which is also very good). - Jordan Ramee
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Developed by Night School Studio, Oxenfree is one of the most inventive horror games in recent memory. You play as a teenage girl on a trip to a local island with some friends. Things quickly go awry, and you're quickly searching for clues to solve the mysteries by the supernatural forces that pop up across the island. Oxenfree focuses more on its atmosphere and writing than gameplay, as almost the entirety of the experience revolves around choice-based dialogue. It's one of the best visual novels around. A sequel is in the works, so now's a great time to play the original. -- Steven Petite
See our Oxenfree review.
Arkane Studios' Prey reboot may be an uneven experience with some lackluster writing, but it's still a fascinating first-person shooter that induces a sense of contant dread thanks to the ghoulish creatures that go bump in the night (in the dark hallways of the space station). Prey's claustrophobic and winding setting makes it feel like a 3D metroidvania, and just like that genre, you gradually become more powerful, unlocking more tricks to use against your daunting foes. Prey is one of those games that you'll probably either love or hate, but it's certainly worth checking out to see for yourself. -- Steven Petite
The remake of a horror classic, Resident Evil 2 released last year and was one of our top picks for Game of the Year. The remake doesn't change the story of the original, for the most part: You still get the choice to play as either Leon Kennedy or Claire Redfield as they make their way through zombie-infested Raccoon City. The storylines and settings for each character are similar, but there are unique side characters and other differences that make playing each character's path worth it. Plus, it's not that long--only about 3-5 hours for each campaign.
Resident Evil 2 is a brilliant remake that improves and expands upon the original. The creepy atmosphere left me constantly on edge, holding my breath as I turned every corner, but it balances that fear with a huge sense of satisfaction at solving challenging puzzles and taking down enemies without exhausting all my ammo. While I didn't find Resident Evil 2 quite as frightening as Resident Evil 7, it's still one of the best horror games out there, and I was enthralled by its story until the very end. -- Jenae Sitzes
See on digital stores: Xbox Store | PlayStation Store | Steam
Resident Evil 4, one of the best games in the storied franchise's history, has been ported to practically every platform you can think of, but its most recent recent release brings the frights much closer to you. Resident Evil 4 VR, an Oculus Quest 2 exclusive, is a wonderful take on Capcom's beloved survival action game. While Resident Evil 4 certainly started the (now gone) trend of more action-oriented RE games, it provided a great balance of horror and thrilling action. If you don't have an Oculus Quest 2, you can pick it up on PlayStation, Xbox, PC, and Switch. -- Steven Petite
See our Resident Evil 4 VR review.
To play Resident Evil 7 is to willingly put yourself in an inhospitable environment. The decrepit mansion where the game begins is filthy, with peeling, yellowed wallpaper, broken drywall, and garbage littering the scarred wooden floor. Wind blows through the cracks in drafts, emitting a low, constant howl. The kitchen, scattered with moldy food and unidentifiable skeletal remains, is unspeakable. You can almost smell the rot.
This is not a place you want to be--and that's before you meet the family that lives there. There's the dad, who stalks after you even after you've killed him numerous times. Mom doesn't bat an eye when he severs junior's hand at the dinner table. Somehow even worse is grandma, a catatonic woman in a wheelchair who can appear and vanish any time and anywhere when you're not looking.
The horror game improves on the best aspects of the series, while throwing out everything that had grown stale in recent installments. Playing Resident Evil 7 is a thrilling, crazy, scary-as-hell experience. And if you think it's terrifying on a TV screen, you gotta try it in VR. -- Chris Reed
See our Resident Evil 7 review.
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Resident Evil 7 was an excellent return to the horror underpinnings of the franchise, but cunningly altered with new ideas and a new perspective. Similarly, Village is an intelligent reintroduction of the best action elements of Resident Evil. Though it captures some of the same things that made RE7 such a breath of fresh air (or maybe rancid, stale, mold-filled air, but in a good way), Village evolves to become its own unique creature. It makes you wonder what beautifully twisted fiend Resident Evil might mutate into in the future. -- Phil Hornshaw
See our Resident Evil Village review.
Housemarque's move from arcade-style top-down shooters to a massive action game was a rousing success. Returnal, one of the best PS5 games of 2021 so far, is one of the rare AAA games that uses the roguelike formula. You play as Selene, a space pilot who gets stranded on an alien planet. Even worse? Each time she dies a terrible death, she wakes up again at her ship to do it all over again--and she remembers everything that happened. This fast-paced third-person shooter has brutal combat that requires quick reflexes and forethought. You learn more the further you make it through the loop, and some of your progression carries over, which makes each run a new learning experience while also giving you the satisfaction of progression. Returnal definitely isn't for everyone thanks to its roguelike structure and challenging combat, but it tells a gripping story and has a captivating, grim atmosphere. -- Steven Petite
See our Returnal review.
Set in an underwater research facility roughly 100 years int he future, SOMA takes place after a mass extinction event, which leaves the people of the research facility as the last survivors of Earth. You play as Simon Jarrett, a man who suffered severe brain trauma and winds up at the facility. There, things get weird, as you have to avoid being killed by ghoulish monsters that are roaming the facility. SOMA combines stealth, puzzle-solving, and atmospheric storytelling to deliver a gripping experience. -- Steven Petite
See our SOMA review.
Until Dawn has become a classic among story-driven games. The survival-horror adventure follows a group of friends on a winter getaway to a snowy mountain lodge, where, one year prior, two of their friends disappeared and were never found. It's the stereotypical setup for a slasher film, complete with flirty teens and a masked stalker on the loose, but the story takes some unexpected and unforgettable turns along the way. Most notably, Until Dawn is driven by player choice, and the consequences of your choices are deeply felt throughout the entire game. On your first playthrough, there are no redos if your action gets someone killed--only in subsequent playthroughs can you go back to specific chapters to make a different decision.
Because the story branches off in so many directions and has multiple endings, there's a ton of replayability to Until Dawn. While technically a single-player game, Until Dawn is equally fun to play with a group of people. While a bit long for a single session--it'll take you eight or nine hours to complete--you could easily break Until Dawn into two or three sessions and play through it with friends, with each person choosing a character to control and passing the controller back and forth. Having played it both alone and with friends, I can attest that it's fun to experience over and over, and there are still characters I haven't figured out how to keep alive (I refuse to look it up). It's not on the same level as something like Outcast or P.T. in terms of scariness, but there are some truly terrifying moments in Until Dawn I'll never forget. -- Jenae Sitzes
See our Until Dawn review.
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Editor's note: This article is the updated version of a story first published on October 30, 2018.
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