The best horror games aren’t for everyone. Some gamers don’t enjoy jumpscares, or the feeling of dread as you contemplate what could be around the next corner, or the constant seeping weight of a well-crafted scary atmosphere. However, there are plenty of us that do love that, and we’re well catered for by the many video games that excel in horror and its various subgenres.
So we asked you, our community of video game experts, what the best horror games of all time are. Three excellent horror games were submitted by yourselves, each in a different series, and all for different reasons. We’ll continue to expand upon this list with more bounties in future, but for now, this is the Just About Video Games list of the best horror games of all time.
Alien Isolation is often lauded as one of the greatest modern horror games for many excellent reasons. There’s the inherently terrifying premise: hiding from Xenomorphs aboard a space station. It leans heavily on stealth gameplay, but the Xenomorphs aren’t the only threat; there are also hostile androids and humans, all in the way of your one goal, which is to retrieve the flight recorder of the Nostromo.
@LetitiaTHELemon, in a feat of humility and self-knowledge, admits she’s too much of a scaredy-cat to actually play Alien Isolation. However, having watched someone else do so, she appreciates just how effective it is at making the player feel so… isolated.
“The Xenomorph is such an iconic creature that terrifies people by its mere presence alone, but the way it interacts with the environment, how it tracks the player, and how relentless it is, truly keeps you on edge the entire time playing. Whether you hear its footsteps in the distance, see it drag its tail through a doorway, or spot the dribbling spit from a ceiling vent… you never know where you might encounter this deadly predator, because it can be anywhere at any moment.”
One of Alien Isolation’s greatest innovations was using the microphone to pick up on any noise the player makes in real life, alerting the Xenomorph to your location if you’re too loud, which Letitia also appreciates, explaining it “encourages players to keep calm and use stealth”.
@Nerdazoid also nominated Alien Isolation, showing just how important the game has been to the genre over the last decade. However, while most people would find Xenomorphs utterly frightening, Seán “learned to live with it”, and even managed to use it to his advantage against other enemies.
“In that moment I realised I wasn’t afraid of the Xenomorph anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still get jumpscared because face huggers are the worst thing known to man, but the fear of the Xenomorph was gone. For the first time in a horror game, I didn’t just get to the end - I achieved that while feeling unafraid. I conquered my fear, and no game has done that to me before.”
He ends his thoughts by saying Alien Isolation is the closest thing to a perfect horror game he’s ever played.
The Evil Within 2
While the first game in the series was mostly linear, The Evil Within 2 introduces larger maps for each level, to the point where it’s been described as a semi-open-world game. This can often be more terrifying than having strictly scripted scares, as, when there are multiple routes to an objective, most of the terrors that occur along the way are a result of your own choices.
@DaSamCheck thinks it’s the greatest horror game he’s ever played, describing it as “the gruesome enemies of Silent Hill combined with the atmosphere of Resident Evil”, and that it “should be the benchmark for horror games”. He also reckons it combines two horror subgenres to create this masterpiece:
“What sets The Evil Within 2 apart is how it combines psychological horror and intense action, which brings out the best of both genres. You will be constantly unsettled thanks to the fantastic graphics, grotesque abominations, and gruesome scenes for a truly terrifying experience.”
This is made even more terrifying thanks to the spatial audio, which Samuel describes as fantastic, so playing in a dark room with headphones on and the volume cranked up isn’t recommended… or maybe it is, if you want to be truly immersed.
Finally, we have @macgybo with Silent Hill. One of the true grandfathers of terrifying video games, Silent Hill launched in 1999 and, like so many games of its era, turned a technical limitation into a design strength: due to the lack of processing power on the original PlayStation, you can only see a few feet in front of Harry Mason, the protagonist. This is disguised as a thick fog in-game, instantly layering an otherworldly, intensely creepy atmosphere over Harry’s search for his missing daughter in a town full of monsters. It’s this atmosphere that, according to MacGybo, makes it so great:
“There was nothing like it when it came out. The ash/snow falling from the sky. The emotional wrench of the missing daughter. The fog and mist. The mysterious town. Then the horror of the dark, the awkward, broken-bodied monsters, the other-worldly night-time. The menace and the not knowing what was around the next corner led to a level of terror beyond the capabilities of many horror movie makers. So atmospheric. I still get chills when I see screenshots.”
What do you think is the best horror game of all time? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to submit your answer again when we run this bounty next time.