10 Best PS1 Horror Games of All Time

Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2

It could be said that the horror genre really came into its own with the fifth console generation and the PlayStation 1 in particular. Two huge names are obvious contenders for the top spot when it comes to the best horror games on the OG PlayStation, but what about the rest?

 

10. Koudelka

Developer: Sacnoth
Publisher: Infogames

There aren’t very many PS1 horror games with tactical RPG components, so that alone makes the underrated 1999 release Koudelka all the more interesting. It’s not a blend you might be expecting, with the story centering around a young woman named Koudelka and her investigation of a super spooky monastery, but it’s one that developer Sacnoth really succeeded in bringing together that both horror and RPG fans are likely to be pleased with.

Joined by two other investigators, players will control Koudelka across a highly complex supernatural mystery, with a story that adds layers to not only its narrative, but its fascinating cast of characters. The item management and other RPG elements might be initially frustrating to those who don’t play these turn-based games, but this aspect is accessible enough that you’ll be spending most of your time completely absorbed in this dark, brutal plot.

Koudelka has a pretty straightforward system, but finds numerous small ways to keep the gameplay from getting too tedious. The weapons system here is particularly cool. Weapons can be improved after repeated use, but will eventually break if you rely on them too much, which keeps the game running on a fever pitch of unshakable tension and a serious atmosphere of pure existential dread. With horrific, brilliantly designed monsters moving through such a world, it’s easy to see why Koudelka is one of the best PS1 horror games.

 

9. Nightmare Creatures

Developer: Kalisto
Publisher: Activision

Nightmare Creatures has everything you could want from a good horror game on the original PlayStation. You’ve got some of the best monsters ever designed for a PS1 horror release, a genuinely frightening story centered around an occult expert investigating a contagion that transforms the citizens of 19th century London into horrific, demonic beings, and some of the best-realized horror atmosphere the PlayStation had seen up to this point. It checks every genre box nicely, and it’s not a huge surprise that the game was successful enough to get a sequel in 2003.

But what about the gameplay itself? With a focus on melee combat in a hack-and-slash environment, Nightmare Creatures offers a very different sort of challenge from many other survival horror games. Armed with an adrenaline bar, players must seek out fights, otherwise this bar will go down and eventually deplete your actual health. This game keeps you at a constant, relentless pace, and that adds to the experience nicely.

Nightmare Creatures does not mess around. Thankfully, the game controls just fine, because this is also one of the hardest PS1 horror games ever made.

 

8. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was a worthwhile last hurrah for the franchise on the system that made it famous. That being said, it just didn’t live up to the extraordinarily high bar established by its predecessors. There’s really no shame in not being quite as good as one of the best survival horror games ever made, especially when you’re as good as Nemesis still is.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is a relatively different playing experience from the previous installment. Released in 1999, just one year after the success of Resident Evil 2, Nemesis opted for a more action-oriented approach. There’s still the sort of puzzle solving you had before, but the emphasis here comes down to more zombies, more monsters, and the constant threat of the hellish Nemesis creature itself. Stronger and faster than our protagonist Jill Valentine, trapped in the ever-whimsical Raccoon City during the events of the second game, Nemesis is a consistently potent threat.

The overall tension to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis gives it a unique atmosphere for this series, and at the end of the day it’s a welcome deviation from the formula that also doesn’t stray too far.

 

7. Dino Crisis 2

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

It’s hard to talk about the Dino Crisis series without getting a touch depressed. It’s been 21 years since Dino Crisis 3, which wasn’t especially great to begin with, and while Dino Crisis 2 for the PSX isn’t the best of the two games in this series that don’t suck, it’s still a fantastic, somewhat somber reminder of one of the most neglected survival horror franchises of all time.

The only thing that really keeps Dino Crisis 2 from a higher ranking is the fact that it’s so overwhelmingly packed with dinosaurs to fight and kill, the actual horror side of things can feel a little non-existent at times. Still, with limited ammo and a plethora of intelligent creatures who want to kill the shit out of you, no one can deny that Dino Crisis 2, which brings back hero Regina from the first game, while adding a new guy named Dylan, knows how to keep you in a state of feverish tension.

Besides being fun to play, Dino Crisis 2 also has some excellent puzzles, if you’re particularly fond of that component in these Capcom horror games. This is a thoroughly difficult game to play, and it’s a worthy sequel that deserves a good follow-up in its own right.

 

6. Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within

Developer: Human Entertainment
Publisher: Human Entertainment

Despite being a direct sequel to the first game, Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within is, to date, the only game in this franchise to get a western port, which certainly makes for one of the more confusing horror experiences on the PS1. Probably the only PlayStation survival horror game to be directly inspired by a Dario Argento movie, Clock Tower: The First Fear was a PS1 remake of a 1995 SNES game. Its success paved the way for a sequel, which was released in North America in 1999.

Players control a young girl named Jennifer Simpson, very clearly modeled on Jennifer Connelly in Phenomena (no, really, go watch that movie immediately). After surviving the fiendish Scissorman in the first game, Jennifer once again finds herself threatened by supernatural forces and a mystery that will pull her and her new adoptive mother Helen deeper into an unknown and terrifying world.

Clock Tower blends serious and deep mystery with the amped up tension of knowing something is chasing you every step of the way. The point and click mechanics are more engaging and exciting than you might think. Clock Tower offers a rich gothic atmosphere to get lost in, with memorable, likable characters to anchor the whole thing.

 

5. Parasite Eve

Developer: Square
Publisher: Square

Itself a sequel to a very rare 1995 Japanese novel, the 1998 Square action RPG Parasite Eve is a good indicator of just how wild Square’s publishing slate was getting when they moved shop over to Sony and the PS1. Parasite Eve follows a NYC police officer named Aya over a period of six days, with the fate of the world now in the hands of a mutated woman being controlled by mitochondria who seem hellbent on obliterating humanity to create their own world and order.

Well, maybe. It’s a little confusing, although reading the novel won’t make a big difference to that end.  Parasite Eve has a complex narrative, but it’s not inaccessible by any means. This extends to straightforward action-RPG combat. Imagine the turn-based mechanics of a Final Fantasy with the more strategic action of an early Resident Evil, and you have an idea of how Parasite Eve is easy to pick up and understand. Special tools allow you to upgrade your weapons and armor, and Aya will level up as she moves through the unique, visceral story.

To be sure, you’ll soon appreciate the fact that Parasite Eve has an absolutely bonkers body horror narrative, with some of the most visually disturbing graphics you’ll find in a horror game from this era. The opening scene alone, in which the attendees of an opera suddenly begin exploding and bursting into flames, is an intense and unforgettable set piece. You have no choice but to investigate, but soon find yourself with deeper stakes in what’s going on than you ever realized.

 

4. Dino Crisis

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

1999’s Dino Crisis from Capcom, who seemingly know a thing or two about horror on the PlayStation 1, finds its terror in more of a movie monster format, with a lot more focus on killing every dinosaur that’s stopping you from escaping a mad scientist’s private research island. This feels more like Jurassic Park with small horror embellishments than Resident Evil, but the same formula for creating tension through a mix of claustrophobia and vicious enemies can be found.

As in the sequel, players assume the role of a special forces op named Regina, and there’s a much more unforgiving emphasis on item management here than in Resident Evil. Regina must find special plugs that can be used to unlock containers of emergency items found all over the island. The problem, and this is just one way the game brilliantly stacks the deck against you, is that there are a very limited number of plugs to go around. Don’t expect Dino Crisis to slow down just because you’re running low on essentials either.

There’s a sense of barely surviving that comes with the threats and puzzles of Dino Crisis that even today can leave you feeling as though you just survived a war.

 

3. Resident Evil

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Not every horror game owes a debt to Resident Evil, which isn’t even the first horror game for the PlayStation 1, but Resident Evil quite simply changed everything for this genre. A massive franchise was born, and developers and publishers alike found themselves coming with their own ideas, creating yet another reason why the PS1 dominated its generation.

Resident Evil will be celebrating its 30th anniversary soon enough, and it’s incredible how much of the game at its core is still a blast to play. While the 2002 HD remake is the best way to play the first RE, if you find yourself with the PS1 original, you’ll be struck by how good this game still is where it really counts.

We know the story, with a special team called S.T.A.R.S. forced to take up shelter in a bizarre mansion after being attacked by vicious dogs during an investigation. We certainly know the mansion and its many horrors, monsters, and puzzles. Taken as a whole, our introduction to Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield as our two playable characters can still show you why it was an industry-changer.

 

2. Silent Hill

Developer: Team Silent
Publisher: Konami

At first glance a possible Resident Evil clone, Silent Hill immediately proves itself to be something much different and arguably far darker.

Players must guide a poor bastard named Harry Mason as he explores a monster-packed town called Silent Hill in search of his missing daughter. The game starts you off with basically nothing. All you can do is move forward through this foggy and eerily still ghost town, investigating objects, avoiding monsters, and talking to people when they do happen to show up. The mystery that unfolds is pretty electrifying from a narrative standpoint, and Silent Hill also benefits from an excellent cast of interesting, often sympathetic characters.

There’s a deeper call with Silent Hill and its emotionally complex message that goes beyond simply playing a horror game with the emphasis on survival. The themes and ideas explored in the game are just as important as the incredible graphics, iconic monsters, and sense of overwhelming supernatural dread that permeates your desperate bid to stay alive under the direst possible circumstances. Silent Hill is one of the best PS1 games ever, to say nothing of its importance to the history of the survival horror genre.

 

1. Resident Evil 2

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

For some, Resident Evil as a franchise has never been quite as good in its blend of puzzle solving, action, and survival horror as it was with its second entry. A massive seller for the PS1, Resident Evil 2 firmly established not only the series, but the genre it had helped to popularize. Everything people loved about the first game can be found here, but with distinctive improvements in every facet of the gameplay, the graphics and sound, and even the story itself. Resident Evil 2 brought us to Raccoon City for the first time, establishing the game’s larger universe, and thrusting us into a hellscape of zombies and mutants devouring the world whole.

With two large, intertwined campaigns and better controls, it’s easy to get sucked into Resident Evil 2. It has what many believe is the perfect balance of mystery, action, puzzle-solving, and even a certain degree of exploration. Although a linear game, Resident Evil 2 does immediately give you the feeling that you’ve just been dumped into the middle of a city experiencing the zombie apocalypse. You’ve got some cool weapons on your side, but the odds are still practically nil that you’re getting out of Racoon City alive, to say nothing of stopping the threat itself.

The remake of Resident Evil 2 may be the best version of the game, but the PS1 original holds up better than you might think. There’s also an element of nostalgia to playing this masterpiece in its original form that can’t be denied.

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