Developer: Supermassive Games Publisher: SIE Platform(s) PS4 Single-player/multiplayer: Single-player
A horror game so successful that Sony commissioned Supermassive to take on more projects than they could feasibly handle, Until Dawn takes the tried and tested formula of old slashers and gives it a shot of 21st century cynicism right in the arm. If you loved Scream, there’s a good chance you’ll also appreciate Until Dawn.
One of the most “hands-off” entries on this list, Until Dawn focuses on crafting a customisable narrative and making tough decisions more than it does gameplay. There’s still real tension to be had, though, even if you aren’t directly in control of everything.
If one of the game’s many obnoxious characters dies, that’s it: they’re gone for good. With stakes like those as well as some gorgeous visuals, it’s no wonder that Until Dawn is one of the PS4’s best exclusives.
Developer: Acid Wizard Studio Publisher: Acid Wizard Studio Platform(s) PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch Single-player/multiplayer: Single-player
It takes something really special to make a top-down game feel terrifying, especially when you can’t see all the little details of the things that go bump in the night. Thanks to a hauntingly muted aesthetic and some truly twisted design, Darkwood manages to create more scares than other games with many more times the budget.
A survival game with an open approach to how you play, Darkwood features a suitably dark and mysterious storyline that twists depending on how you approach other survivors. At day, you must scavenge all you can before the night comes, which, well, is not for the faint of heart.
Thanks to some deeply unnerving audio and a mostly “show don’t tell” ethos, Darkwood is a lo-fi horror that’s high on giving you a heart attack.
A little girl in a yellow jacket aboard a ship full of warped passengers. That’s the long and short of it with Little Nightmares, and while the experience itself is a short one, it’s a journey that you won’t be able to shake for far longer.
Mechanically a puzzle platformer, Little Nightmares pits you as Six as she seeks to evade the clutches of barely human creatures, whose designs are memorable enough to keep pushing you on to see what’s next.
Aardman meets Tim Burton as aberrations chase you down, you feeling utterly helpless to defend yourself before the true nature of the ship is revealed in grotesque fashion.
“It’s utterly distinctive, gripping, and darker than it lets on, but it’s over much too soon, whether that’s a fault of the pacing or myself just becoming too immersed in the squalor. Even if it is going to grab you by the throat for just a few hours, Little Nightmares is one game you won’t want to shake free from.”
Developer: Red Candle Games Publisher: Red Candle Games Platform(s) PC, PS4, Switch, Android Single-player/multiplayer: Single-player
Taking places in Taiwan during the reign of an oppressive government, Detention isn’t really like the other horror games on this list.
Not only does it double act as a thoroughly unsettling horror experience as well as a heartbreaking parable of the region at that time, it’s also considerably lo-fi compared to its peers. You don’t need a detailed 3D monster to jump through a window at you to feel ill at ease.
With a typhoon approaching her school, a young girl must venture her way around its creepy halls to save her friends while fending off the monsters that lurk. Hiding is the obvious ploy, but some of the monsters just want an offering to leave you alone.
While it’s probably not the scariest game here, its varied puzzles and fascinating subject matter make Detention one of the most unique.
You may baulk at Resident Evil 4 being so low (or even this high, depending on how you feel about its change in direction) on our list..
With it favouring action over the survival elements of the first three games, it’s more of a tense affair than the straightforward bed-wetting we’ve been accustomed to from the Resident Evil franchise, though they can put the Regeneradors back wherever they came from, thanks.
You play as Leon, who is sent on a mission to a village in Spain to recover the president’s daughter. It’s clearly not going to be easy as picking her up in a Ford Focus and driving off into the sunset — that becomes pretty clear when the first villager sprouts tentacles out of the neckhole you just created with your shotgun.
The very first Silent Hill game is habitually overlooked for its flashier and more technically impressive cousins with its sequel in particular getting a lot of the limelight. While it may look increasingly ropy with every passing year, the original Silent Hill is still worth seeking out for its execution of an incredibly twisted and brilliant vision.
Created after Konami failed to get the rights to an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist, Silent Hill was unlike anything else out there when it released in 1999. Take control of Harry Mason on the search for his missing daughter as he slowly loses control in the eponymous town with all manner of wretched creatures lurking around every corner.
If you’re talking about the most influential horror games of all time, Silent Hill ought to be near the top of the list.
While the weakest of the original trilogy, the third game still has plenty of frights to offer, mainly due to one ugly giant in a trenchcoat with a one-track mind.
In what wasn’t even intended to be a new mainline game in the series, you play as Jill Valentine as she is stalked through the streets of Raccoon City by Nemesis — an almost invincible Umbrella creation with some loose ends to tie up — as the plot moves parallel to the second game.
Featuring some innovative player choice, smoother movement, and randomised puzzling, Resi 3 didn’t quite have the same impact as its predecessors, and they kind of missed the chance to make it even better with its remake. Still, ol’ Nemmy will always hurt your feelings.
23. The Forest
Developer: Endnight Games Publisher: Endnight Games Platform(s) PC, PS4 Single-player/multiplayer: Both
While you may try (and fail) to argue that The Forest isn’t a horror game as its more closely tied to a survival experience than anything, you try descending into the darkness for the first time and then try to stick to your story. Tottering around in The Forest’s underground caverns with barely any light made us never want to go spelunking.
Things aren’t much better on the surface, either. Cannibalistic natives stalk you at seemingly every turn: you may think you’re safe, but they’re probably watching you more than you know. Worse still, trying to defend yourself just brings on even bigger and more hideous abominations, so the best option may in fact just be to run away like a coward.
“If you’re yet to try the game on PC, its PS4 version is a surprisingly sleek and arguably just as rewarding time-sinker that won’t even make you feel bad for being a terrible parent. Sorry, Timmy, I am one with the trees now.”
Speaking of defenceless children, Playdead have certainly carved out a niche for themselves with INSIDE and the earlier LIMBO.
While Limbo itself is a tense and challenging affair, INSIDE’s fuller world and more robust visuals bring its horrors to life. It’s not a jumpscare factory, rather that the game has a pervasive sense of dread that never really dissipates.
Much like Little Nightmares, itself arguably inspired by Playdead’s output, INSIDE tasks you with completing some less-than-obvious puzzles to escape capture and to unfurl its slow but steady world building.
However, INSIDE differentiates itself by allowing the player to take control of the “drones” who are victims of inhuman experiments. It’s a seriously grim game, evidenced by the first time you watch a young boy being forcefully drowned.
“Inside is definitely a worthy successor to Limbo, and a mesmerising experience throughout. It takes the platformer genre, and propels it far beyond anything you’ve tried before.”
Developer: Monolith Productions Publisher: WB Games/Vivendi Platform(s) PC, PS3, Xbox 360 Single-player/multiplayer: Both
One of the most frenetic horror games on this list, Monolith’s F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon if you’re feeling particular) is not so much about the hiding and cowering as it is the exploding and murdering. An FPS game with a horror flavour, F.E.A.R.’s brand is one that feels unique and, importantly, scary.
While it may lean on jumpscares too much sometimes, it’s hard to deny the efficiency of a creepy little girl at making pants turn a decidedly darker colour. Alma is always waiting to bring the terror, most infamously right at the top of a ladder.
The latter two games in the F.E.A.R. trilogy are also good, but for keeping things (relatively) simple, the original game provides the biggest scares.
20. Dead Rising
Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom Platform(s) PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 Single-player/multiplayer: Single-player
Legend says that no list of the best horror games is complete without an entry that allows you to plop a Servbot helmet on top of a zombie. Dead Rising may not offer conventional scares in the sense that the undead aren’t all that threatening, but what it does provide is a constant state of unease with the clock ticking away.
Losing time to do what you need to do around the Willamette Parkview Mall is the real horror of Dead Rising, meaning that you have to constantly be watching the clock. Thanks to a save system that we’ve all now retrospectively agreed is terrible, death in Dead Rising can be a real killer, adding to the stakes. The second game in the franchise, Off the Record in particular, offers similar fun.
Developer: Monolith Productions Publisher: SEGA Platform(s) PC, Xbox 360 Single-player/multiplayer: Single-player
Monolith were certainly on a tear with their horror output last generation with Condemned bringing some more traditional scares compared to F.E.A.R. and its constant action. Something of a cult classic, Condemned is a franchise that’s always in demand for another entry by those who know what everyone else is missing out on.
Banned in Germany as a result of its brutality, Condemned is a first-person couch-clencher that doesn’t shy away from showing the depravities of humanity. Playing as Ethan Thomas, you must track down a serial killer while fending off the twisted minds of Metro City. It’s tense, unflinching, and like all good survival horror games, never makes survival feel like an easy feat.
18. The Evil Within 2
Developer: Tango Gameworks Publisher: Bethesda Platform(s) PC, PS4, Xbox One Single-player/multiplayer: Single-player
One of 2017’s most severely underrated games, The Evil Within 2 takes some of the unnecessary baggage and strange mechanics from the original game and streamlines the experience to great effect. While it could be argued that the first game is scarier, there’s nothing like stalking around a demented town as zombie-like creatures stalk their way across its streets.
Aesthetically, The Evil Within 2 is a complete screenshot factory: it nails what would lie in the darkest recesses of a mind and throws up more than a few memorable monsters in the process. While it may be hammy at some points, it’s a far leaner affair than the one that polarised so many in the original game and a more consistent and terrifying descent into darkness as a result.
You can even play in first-person, just in case the terror isn’t quite terrifying enough already.
“It may have made some design concessions that could dissuade fans of the original, but The Evil Within 2 is a far more engrossing nightmare that you won’t want to wake up from.”
17. Layers of Fear
Developer: Bloober Team Publisher: Aspyr Platform(s) PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch Single-player/multiplayer: Single-player
Speaking of descents, Layers of Fear shows the disintegration of the psyche perfectly with you playing a painter who is deep in denial. While its gameplay may be somewhat on the basic side, where Layers of Fear really shines is in its constantly shifting world and head-spinning twists. You can enter one room one second and be transported to something far more nefarious the next.
The environments reflect the way the protagonist is spiralling: as the game continues and the mystery unspools, so too does his grasp on reality. An innocuous painting on an easel morphs into something completely hideous over time, which is reflected in the mansion as things continue to not appear as they seem.
Not one to play if you’re riding high on drugs, that’s for damn sure.
Developer: Red Barrels Publisher: Red Barrels Platform(s) PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch Single-player/multiplayer: Single-player
Outlast was a shot in the arm for the indie horror scene when it released back in 2013, mainly because it was something original and not another diluted Slender Man clone. Instead, it threw you into an insane asylum as a journalist armed with only a camera and an affinity for lockers.
To say that Outlast goes for the jugular would be an understatement. The jumpscares are effective, but wholly earned with the mystery behind the asylum itself driving things forward.
Featuring some of the most memorable setpieces in horror game history (finger food, anyone?) and one or two genitals, Outlast is an undeniable horror classic that kickstarted a new wave for the genre.
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