Summer is still hanging on by a thread, but winter is coming. While we might not wake up to snow any time in the immediate future, fall is just around the corner. With it comes the promise of everyone’s favorite fall holiday. Halloween is a little over a month away, and the time is right to start planning your Halloween. If a spooky night in is what you are looking for, you are bound to find something on our list of the best horror video games of all time.
Are you ready to learn more about some of the industry greats just in time for Halloween?
Darkwood (early access in 2014, officially released in 2017)
Darkwood is an incredibly effective indie horror game that does not receive nearly as much attention as it deserves. The title’s unique top-down design only allows players to see what their flashlight touches, a surprisingly effective mechanic that really boosts a sense of anticipation and suspicion. The game’s story is equally intriguing as it slowly reveals details about a truly horrifying apocalypse scenario that led to mutations that overran the world.
If you appreciate disturbing art and twisted plot developments, as well as a surprisingly in-depth crafting system, Darkwood is a great choice.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010)
Released by indie developers Frictional Games in 2010, Amnesia: The Dark Descent follows protagonist Daniel as he explores a dangerous castle while attempting to overcome amnesia and recover his memory. The game emphasizes hiding and running to survive rather than fighting enemies, and players spend much of their time breathlessly staying as far away from the monsters – and yes, there are plenty of them – also roaming the derelict halls.
If you like story-rich games with great atmosphere and interesting puzzles, Amnesia: The Dark Descent might be a great fit.
Outlast is a masterclass in environmental horror. Rather than showing players terrifying sights and dangers, the game focuses on sound design and wields shadows as weapons as it obscures threats that can take the title from zero to 100. The survival horror game relies on darkness to set the tone as Miles Upshur, our protagonist, explores an old asylum filled with unscrupulous characters and questionable activities. Miles relies on his night vision camera to cut through the dark and has a penchant for whimpering when enemies draw too close, adding to the nerve-wracking combination sounds.
An effective horror game that turns vision into a weapon, Outlast will have you debating whether turning on the night vision camera and locating the enemy is really worth it as they lurk over your shoulder.
Resident Evil 7 (2017)
Long-time fans of the horror genre will doubtless be familiar with the world of Resident Evil. The game focuses on the horror of biological weapons and the mutations they bring. It also emphasizes the mental changes that take place as a result rather than solely exploring physical evolutions.
Resident Evil 7 was released in 2017, slightly more than 20 years after the release of the first game in the series in 1996. The story centers on the protagonist’s search for his missing wife in the swamps of Louisiana. I will not go too deep into the plot to avoid spoiling the story, but the game excels at creeping dread with big scares as the player explores a derelict home while hiding from the monstrous family within it. There is gore, but it is used surprisingly sparingly and does not become the main source of ‘scares’.
If you enjoy stealth combined with puzzles and chilling characters, Resident Evil 7 might be a great choice.
Silent Hill 2 (2001)
Silent Hill 2 is the oldest entry on this list. It is also the scariest, in the author’s humble opinion, and will almost certainly give you plenty of shivers even as you scoff at the somewhat dated graphics. But what makes the game such an enduring horror icon?
Silent Hill as a franchise is all about psychological horror. The true terror lies in slowly uncovering the depths of your own poor decision-making and past depravity that led to the creation of the world from which you are currently trying to escape. There are no inexplicably strong protagonists here, either, with Silent Hill 2 in particular showcasing the power disparity between you and the monsters. Add to this the unwieldy camera angles and the terrifyingly huge and brutal Pyramid Head, and you have a uniquely disturbing gameplay experience that keeps players guessing the whole way. The story is also fascinating and dark, drawing in players and driving them to search for every last clue they can find.
Players with a preference for psychological horror will find Silent Hill 2 to be something of a gem. The first four games in the series, in fact, are all excellent and worth the play.
Special mention: Silent Hills P.T. (2014)
Even casual fans of horror games will recognize this title. It almost made its way into the official list, but it is a short experience as a playable teaser for Silent Hills rather than a proper game. Still, P.T. is one of the most striking horror releases of the past decade. It took video game fans by storm and led to the proliferation of similarly styled horror games featuring loops and hallways of terror, a trend that dominated the industry for years.
What exactly is P.T. about? The game follows an unnamed protagonist as he attempts to uncover the secrets of the never-ending hallway that prevent him from escaping the deeply inhospitable house surrounding it. From terrifying ghosts to dark and all-too-realistic themes, the game was poised to become an instant classic. Unfortunately, it was canceled before it came to fruition, leaving fans with just the trailer and thoughts of what might have been to occupy their time.
While some people will likely prefer to spend their holiday watching movies and relaxing with light-hearted online games, the frights offered in our list above will satisfy anyone hoping for a bit more excitement.