13 Scariest Horror Games To Play For Halloween
By Matt Espineli on
Terrors of the Season
Halloween fast approaches, which means you're likely in the mood to play some spooky games. Luckily for you, there are a wealth of horror games to play that are well worth your time. The genre had humble beginnings in the late '80s, with a wave of fantastic games coming out in the three subsequent decades. And thanks to the rise of indie games, there are more horror games out now than ever before.
To help you discover some of the most terrifying horror experiences available, we've compiled 13 games that we find to be the most frightening. Genre classics like Silent Hill 2, Resident Evil Remake, and Dead Space are represented here, but you'll also find more surprising choices interspersed throughout. Regardless of their notoriety, the games we highlight are all ones we that left us with lasting memories.
There's a lot of horror-related media out right now that isn't just games. The latest entry of the cult favorite horror film franchise Halloween just released, and it's quite good, so be sure to read our review. There are also some pretty cool Easter eggs in the film that are likely to please hardcore fans. In other news, the second season of Castlevania premiered recently on Netflix, and we've got a Season 2 review.
Which horror games do you think are the scariest? Shout out your favorites in the comments below.
Silent Hill 2
A lot has been said about Silent Hill 2, so I'll spare you any overt critical analysis I have on this much beloved survival-horror sequel and instead share with you why this game still rocks. The premise alone should be enough to captivate you. As the widowed James Sutherland, you travel to the foggy town of Silent Hill in search of your dead wife, who has somehow managed to send you a letter. As a middle schooler (yes, I played this game in 8th grade), Silent Hill 2's story was like nothing else I had encountered. There were no action heroes, explosions, or convoluted government conspiracies. Just a crippling sense of dread, an eerie atmosphere, and intriguing characters that kept my hands glued to my PS2 controller.
Silent Hill 2 expertly handles its myriad horrors, pulling you in with disturbing creatures, clever puzzles, and haunting sound design. I can't help but be in awe of how well it stands up whenever I revisit the game every few years. Its Historical Society area remains one of its crowning achievements and one of horror gaming's most expertly designed environments, brilliantly handling tense foreboding with unexpected pathways and puzzles. There are some slow moments interspersed between its most terrifying ones, but they're never enough to detract from the chilling horror and thought-provoking storytelling on display.
If you haven't played Silent Hill 2, you're in for quite a spooky adventure. It's one of the genre greats for a reason, and it only continues to stand the test of time. -- Matt Espineli
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 make 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. -- Jordan Ramee
Three years after Resident Evil 4 squeezed new scares from one of gaming's best horror series, Visceral Games might have perfected the third-person survival horror formula with Dead Space. Players control engineer Isaac Clarke as he and a rescue team land on a city-sized spaceship to find out why it's not responding to communications. They quickly discover the reason is that the ship has been overrun by monsters that used to be its crew, which are nearly impossible to kill unless players use various sci-fi mining tools to hack off the creatures' limbs.
Dead Space is a perfect confluence of modern sensibility and old-school survival horror, pairing fantastic graphics and gameplay, specifically its limb-cutting mechanics, with slightly uncooperative controls and the desperate hunt for items to keep Isaac healthy. The game uses everything at its disposal to scare you. Its industrial setting pairs with sound design that makes you constantly feel like you're not alone, and every surface is covered in air vents perfect for delivering popcorn-tossing moments as lethal mutated creatures come squirming out, straight at your face. Visceral tops it off with a spooky story that combines Alien, Children of the Corn, and Evil Dead. -- Phil Hornshaw
Devil Daggers may not be a traditional horror game by any means, but that makes it no less scary every time I play it. It throws you into a dark arena and tasks you with eliminating waves of flying skulls, disgusting, multi-legged beasts, and other demonic monstrosities.
There is no winning in Devil Daggers; death is inevitable, whether that comes after 10 seconds or 100 (if you're good). It's minimal in terms of visuals and sound; there's no music to accompany the onslaught of enemies. Instead, enemies produce terrifying but distinct noises. This serves to assist you by letting you know where enemies are, but it also creates an inescapable sense of dread as these horrifying monsters box you in. I find it hard not to jump out of my seat when I turn and see that I'm face to face with a flying horned monster.
It's unusual that a game designed around high score runs is scary, and the threat of failure is undoubtedly part of what makes Devil Daggers so tense. But it's the combination of this tension with the haunting imagery and sounds that create a legitimately terrifying experience. -- Chris Pereira
Slender: The Arrival
I'll admit to being the perfect mark for Slender: The Eight Pages when it was released for free in 2012. The tiny, minimalist Unity experiment by developer Mark Hadley capitalized on peak Slender Man interest, expounding on the Internet-born folklore creature that was already doing a phenomenal job of absolutely creeping me out. Hadley's little game was a tightly made little nightmare: you're exploring a small, darkened park from a first-person perspective, and you're being hunted by a supernatural creature that you can't even look at without dying. Players try to gather eight pages from around a park, which detail some other poor victim's descent into madness, while the thing keeps appearing in front of you, ever closer. It was a perfect storm of jump scares, ambient dread, and a spooky creation of the zeitgeist at the height of its power.
Slender: The Arrival expanded the game with multiple levels, a full story and prettier graphics to fully realize Hadley's original concept. It didn't change the core principle of being hunted, with nothing to help you except fleeing in desperate terror, and hoping that looking away from what stalks you might be enough to save you a few moments more. -- Phil Hornshaw
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
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 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
Condemned: Criminal Origins
The Xbox 360 had a generally strong launch lineup, despite lacking a killer app like Halo. There was a Majora's Mask-lite in Kameo: Elements of Power; sports games like Amped 3 and Madden, and for those who passed on the heavily flawed, but creative Perfect Dark Zero, Call of Duty 2 was there to satisfy action fans when WWII shooters were in their prime. With other titles with mass appeal like Tony Hawk's American Wasteland or Gun, who had time for a psychological horror game?
That juxtaposition between Condemned: Criminal Origins and the rest of the launch lineup was perfectly clear in the music of the title screen. Half Se7en, half Shutter Island, you played as detective Ethan Thomas, who has to track down a serial killer to prove his innocence after his partner is murdered. Along the way, you're attacked by rattled-up drug addicts and hallucinations of demons who strategically flee, hide behind corners, and fight back in the game's surprisingly effective first-person melee combat.
What made Condemned such a memorable horror experience was the feeling of being alone in the grittiest, most desolate parts of town, with intimate combat against people who hated you. You could hear them seething around corners, flanking you in the darkness, and that was all before the game throws demonic hallucinations at you. Sprinkle in a memorable final boss, a couple of solid jump-scares, one of the best uses of Xbox achievements in requiring you to forgo using guns, and a level set in a mall with walking mannequins that culminated in one of my favorite video game moments, and you've got a horror classic. Not bad for a launch-title. -- Nick Sherman
Doki Doki Literature Club
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 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 up front 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
First revealed during Gamescom 2014, we struggled to make sense of the peculiar game known as P.T.. Presented as an indie horror game coming from an obscure developer, it stealth-launched onto the Playstation Store with little fanfare. But in the hours after its release, fans began to piece together what this horror title truly was. Coming from Hideo Kojima and a dream team of horror talent including the likes of Guillermo del Toro and Junji Ito, P.T. was actually a teaser for Silent Hills, the next planned entry in Konami's revered horror series. The short demo made a lasting impression on those who dared to experience its simple, yet incredibly effective scares--myself included.
While the concept is simple--only asking you to make it to the end of the hallway and through a door--the execution was anything but, often presenting players some mind-bending puzzles and terrifying obstacles to overcome. Like many, I grossly underestimated just how overwhelmingly tense and off-putting P.T. can be. What it offered was a hellish descent into madness and dread, featuring fourth wall breaking scares, gore, and the relentless stalking from a ghostly figure known as Lisa. After its completion, I felt that I had a greater appreciation for what horror games are capable of, and P.T. showed immense potential. Unfortunately, we would never see it fully realized in a game. Silent Hills would eventually be cancelled after Kojima's very public departure from Konami, and all we're left with is a demo for game that will never exist, which adds a posthumous allure to P.T. While the game's failure to launch is tragic, the sheer craft that P.T. showed in its short sampling is something that's still powerful to this day.
But as it stands, the playable teaser is an eerie reminder of what could have been, which is ironically summed up with the demo's ending. As the main character--played by Norman Reedus--finally makes his way out of the strange house into the streets of a deserted town, he then wanders off into the fog, disappearing from sight soon after. -- Alessandro Fillari
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.
For more of my thoughts on Alien Isolation, check out my retrospective feature discussing why the game is still an unmatched horror experience. -- Alessandro Fillari
Resident Evil Remake
When Resident Evil first hit the Playstation back in 1996, it revolutionized video game horror, and created a new sub-genre in the process--survival horror. Its GameCube remake in2002, and subsequent remaster for the PS4, XBox One, and PC, utilized improved graphics and lighting to greatly enhance the haunting atmosphere of the first game.
You have the option to play as one of two STARS members (elite police officers), who have come to a mansion investigating a number of strange murders. Unbeknownst to them, this mansion is home to a number of illegal experiments operated by the Umbrella Corporation, leading to zombified humans and creatures attacking the STARS.
The entire game takes place from fixed camera angles, and you never know what's on the other side of the door, or around each corner, meaning you're just moments away from walking into a scare. You're given limited ammo and even a limited number of opportunities to save your progress, and this formula works perfectly in tandem with the foreboding atmosphere.
In one particular moment, I hadn't saved in hours and was running through a room I'd revisited multiple times in the past with 0 health left--when suddenly zombie dogs decided to jump through the windows scaring the crap out of me. A room I thought was safe had betrayed me at the worst time.
This moment alone is easily one of the most impactful scares I've ever had playing a game, and cements Resident Evil as a mastercraft in horror video games. -- Dave Klein
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
Eternal Darkness took the concept of Survival Horror--already well-established by games like Resident Evil, Clock Tower, and Silent Hill--and added a brand new element designed exclusively to screw with the player: the sanity meter.
Alexandra Roivas returns to her family's estate after discovering her grandfather has been murdered. The police have found nothing, so she decides to look for herself, and finds a secret room with a book… the “Tome of Eternal Darkness.” The game then takes place in multiple timelines and locations, with players choosing who they want to follow as characters battle with, or are corrupted by, ancient artifacts and the Eternal Darkness.
This allows the game to utilize a vast array of settings for its horrors, as well having every character affected by a sanity meter, which slowly drains if players are spotted by enemies. Sanity effects range from statue heads following you, to weird noises and strange camera angles. In one particular instance, I went to save my game, only to find the game telling me it was deleting my save. I jumped off of my couch, ran over to my GameCube to turn off the game, only to realize the game was screwing with me, and my save wasn't being deleted. You win that round, Eternal Darkness… you win that round. -- Dave Klein
Five Nights At Freddy's
In the years since the release of the first game, the Five Nights At Freddy's series has gone from popular YouTube let's play game to massive phenomenon. As gaming's Friday The 13th, the horror series manages to get another sequel, even when people are just experiencing the previous game. While the franchise has spiraled out in a big way, the original game still manages to turn a mundane job into nerve wracking nightmare scenario. As the late-night security guard for Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria, your job is to make sure no one breaks into the place, and to ensure that the walking animatronic puppets don't murder anyone--namely you. That second part is important.
With no means of self-defense, your only hope is to survive until early morning by blocking doors and obstructing the paths of the roaming animatronics puppets, who desperately seek any humans after hours. My expectations for the game were low, mostly due to how played-out it seemed in the months after its release. However, once I got to play it for myself, I was surprised at how quickly it ramped up in intensity, despite its ridiculous premise.
Even though it manages to revel in jump-scares, almost comically so, the tension and moments leading up to those genuinely chilling encounters make for some rather memorable frights. Just when you think you're safe and only minutes away from sunrise, Freddy Fazbear waltzes into your safe room and gets the jump on you. I'll never forget the moment that this game, which I grossly underestimated, got the best of me. -- Alessandro Fillari