Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- #22 Observer
- #21 Martha is Dead
- #20 Ghostwire: Tokyo
- #19 Detention
- #18 LIMBO
- #17 Fran Bow
- #16 Devotion
- #15 Layers of Fear
- #14 Doki Doki Literature Club
- #13 Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
- #12 Visage
- #11 The Medium
- #10 Resident Evil 2
- #9 Resident Evil 7
- #8 Dead Space
- #7 Outlast
- #6 Amnesia
- #5 Until Dawn
- #4 Soma
- #3 F.E.A.R.
- #2 Siren
- #1 Silent Hill
Survival horror titles continue to be popular with audiences desperate to feel a sense of helplessness while engaging in some addictive gameplay. Instead of gunning down the monsters or zombies flooding your screen, developers instead put players at a greater disadvantage. These are the games that put players on the edge of their seat as they count their bullets and sneak around tight corridors while praying that the enemy is not nearby.
We’ve put together a list of some of the most truly terrifying horror games that we’ve played over the years. As with our other lists, we’ll continue to monitor this piece and update it with new titles worth grabbing. Please note: this list is not ranked in any particular order.
A creepy psychological horror from the team who brought us Layers of Fear and Blair Witch, Observer is an interesting yet frightening look at the after-effects of a digital plague. Players will step into the shoes of Daniel Lazarski, a police detective known as an Observer, as they explore the game’s story with the ability to scan and hack into other people’s minds. This is done primarily as a means of interrogation but players can use this hacking technology to analyse evidence and interact with a variety of objects throughout the game. Observer takes a disturbing look at a potential cyberpunk future, with lots of horror elements thrown in for good measure.
#21 Martha is Dead
Martha is Dead was released earlier this year and follows the strange story of Martha’s twin sister, a woman found drowned at the height of conflict between German and Allied forces. The game follows a first-person narrative that focuses heavily on puzzle-solving to progress to the next area. Voice acting is in Italian by default to accentuate the title’s atmosphere, and the historical accuracy that went into the final product is something that the development team should take a lot of pride in. While this description might not sound particularly frightening, expect a psychological thriller with tons of clever dialogue and graphic scenes that will make the hair on your arms stand on end.
#20 Ghostwire: Tokyo
Ghostwire: Tokyo comes from Tango GameWorks, known for The Evil Within franchise. Players take on the role of a protagonist that can see and vanquish spirits, and with this ability, you must free Tokyo from supernatural entities wreaking havoc. This is done by utilizing special powers that players can wield by a series of different hand gestures. A supernatural game, players must uncover why everyone in the area has suddenly been transformed into demonic ghosts and monsters. A more linear game, in order to unlock areas, players will need to cleanse a number of shrines scattered about.
Detention is set in 1960s Taiwan and is as atmospheric as it is disturbing. The game is a 2D side-scroller that takes place in a high school. Sounds straightforward enough, until it turns out to be beset by a variety of evil beings. Exploring a cursed school is creepy in its own right, but this psychological horror draws on influences from Chinese/Taiwanese religion, culture and mythology to create some genuinely frightening monsters and nightmarish imagery. Those who like their horror narratives to be full of tragedy and mystery will get a kick out of Detention, which definitely has an eerily supernatural vibe to accompany its puzzle-solving and investigative mechanics.
Rather more unsettling than it is outright horrifying, LIMBO is an atmospheric puzzle-platformer that presents a minimalistic yet emotionally challenging experience. Players will explore various hazardous levels as a young boy searching for his missing sister. Plenty of psychological twists and turns await as players must find different ways to navigate these levels, in what’s been described as a “trial and death” style of gameplay. Players will have to experience a range of upsetting deaths for their character in order to discover the right way to solve problems or escape situations throughout LIMBO, which could invoke feelings of frustration and despair for some. LIMBO is a bit of an offbeat psychological horror, but it proves that games don’t always need to be big-budget AAA titles to really hit the mark with frightening mechanics and immersive storytelling.
#17 Fran Bow
Fran Bow tells the story of a young girl struggling with her mental health after trauma. This is a game that explores psychological fears from a disturbing perspective. Players will have to administer their own medication in order to access a nightmarish world that a mentally ill young girl needs to navigate in order to overcome her demons. There’s a lot to digest in these vivid hallucinations, such as otherworldly monsters and unsettling visual effects. Fran Bow features a number of puzzle-based elements for players to work their way through as they attempt to help Fran process her grief and pain. It’s pretty dark stuff, despite the cutely created art style.
Created from the same studio that developed Detention, Devotion is another first-person psychological horror that takes place in Taiwan. This time, the game is set in the 1980s and depicts a family living their daily life according to their religious beliefs. Players will be able to explore the family’s apartment complex as the depths of each family member’s devotion are tested. Devotion is a spooky game that will encourage players to solve a range of twisted puzzles as they venture further through the family home and experience the extraordinary in this game which has been built upon Taiwanese and East Asian folk horror elements.
#15 Layers of Fear
Layers of Fear is an intense psychological horror experience that sees players exploring the insane mind of a disturbed artist. To create his life’s masterpiece, the artist invites a variety of psychedelic and supernatural horrors into the game’s world, which players will need to traverse successfully to unlock the secrets of his past. Gathering items and discovering the tormented artist’s past history are key elements of this anxiety-laden jaunt through an unwell human mind. There are plenty of psychological thrills and chills for players who love this genre to entertain themselves with in Layers of Fear. If you love feeling on edge the entire playthrough then this is definitely a game to sink some time into, no matter how disorientating and disturbing it may become.
#14 Doki Doki Literature Club
Deceptively cute-looking but with some seriously mature themes running underneath it, Doki Doki Literature Club is a psychological horror game that lulls players into a false sense of security thanks to its anime and visual novel style of presentation. Make no mistake though, this game is deeply unsettling and has some scary themes. Players will get to be part of a special Literature Club, where they’ll experience high school horror by writing poems and becoming best friends with the other club members. Until everything changes and the game is nothing like you first imagined. If you’re after a psychological horror that turns the genre on its head, you should definitely play Doki Doki Literature Club.
#13 Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
This is a survival horror game that forms part of the wider Amnesia franchise. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs features a number of interwoven storylines but players will experience the fear factor as the protagonist Oswald Mandus, a rich businessman and butcher who lives in London at the turn of the 19th century. Stealth gameplay and psychological shocks and scares abound in this game, in which Oswald is awoken from a fever with his memories shattered and must navigate the descent below his home in order to reactivate a gruesome and terrifying machine. The game is packed full of terrifying moments and leans heavily into some gorgeously atmospheric Victorian steampunk visuals.
Visage is an extremely creepy first-person psychological horror game which takes place in a house where truly terrible things have occurred. As such, the place is bursting with paranormal activity. Players can explore the house to a fairly open degree, although some of the supernatural inhabitants of the building will manipulate the rooms as players explore them. Losing or retaining sanity is a key gameplay mechanic and something players must manage in order to survive their ordeal. Staying in the dark for too long, for example, will start to drive the player insane, understandably. The game’s atmospheric visuals, effects and audio work brilliantly to create a truly terrifying experience. Finding a way out of the house and unlocking the secrets of the spirits that haunt the building is the only way to escape, but that’ll be no easy feat.
#11 The Medium
In The Medium, players take on the role of a psychic medium who can travel to the realm of the dead as well as encounter spirits in the world of the living. Set in Poland in 1999, the game centres on a mystery that only the player has the full ability to solve. In doing so, they’ll encounter some truly horrifying stories, puzzles and secrets, which add layers of tension to the experience as the player explores the dual worlds of life and death. Evil deeds and vile desires take shape in the spirit realm, which delivers some intensely scary results for players to try and overcome. The Medium is an enjoyable slice of action and adventure alongside the psychological terror that it serves up at the same time.
#10 Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil first started out as a standard video game series, eventually evolving into a series of films. Since the franchise first got its start, we’ve seen the development team over at Capcom bring out remakes and visual upgrades to the original Resident Evil title. Since then, there have been plenty of fans asking Capcom to give players a remake of its sequel, Resident Evil 2. It took Capcom a few years to take on the project, but the Resident Evil 2 remake eventually came to fruition.
Much like how the original Resident Evil title was remade, Resident Evil 2 provides gamers with a visual overhaul along with some slight adjustments to the mechanics. Luckily, the narrative was fully intact, once again putting players into the role of both Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield. The duo ends up in Raccoon City shortly after the T-Virus has turned everyone into mindless zombies. With the city at a loss and no hope for rescue, players will have to carefully watch their surroundings and conserve their ammo while they find out what’s going on. Since this is a remake of an earlier Resident Evil title, those hoping for the over-the-top action combat found in some of the more recent titles will be out of luck. Instead, this is very much an old-school survival horror title where resources are few and far between.
#9 Resident Evil 7
Capcom went back to the original tone of the Resident Evil franchise with less action-oriented moments and a more survival-horror atmosphere with Resident Evil 7. The game takes place four years after the events of Resident Evil 6, in the fictional city of Dulvey, Louisiana. Players take on the role of Ethan, a man searching for his missing wife, when his investigation leads him to a derelict plantation mansion and the home of an odd family.
Ethan is tasked with escaping from the cannibalistic Baker family while also searching for clues about his missing wife. To give players an extra little scare, Capcom added PlayStation VR functionality to the game. Again, the title takes a step back into the franchise origins where players need to count their ammunition and carefully explore their surroundings.
#8 Dead Space
Dead Space takes place in the distant future where players control Isaac Clarke, an engineer that specifically works on spacecrafts. When a ship sends out a distress signal, Clarke and his team head out in hopes to fix the ship for the crew. However, it’s clear that the ship is infected, forcing Isaac to battle against the odds of survival. Players are up against a slew of Necromorphs, vile creatures that reanimate dead corpses. To make gameplay a bit more tense and horrifying, the developers eliminated the heads-up display, rendering most of the vital signs and other necessary info within Isaac’s suit.
This IP went on to receive a total of three main installments. With each installment came another continuation of the story, leaving players to fight off creatures in the loneliness of space. Generally, all three installments received positive reviews from critics, and after the third installment was released in 2013, many have been waiting to see another title release from the IP universe. Unfortunately, since the third installment was released, EA killed off the development studio, Visceral. A spiritual successor, The Callisto Protocol, is set to release later this year.
Outlast is a first-person survival psychological horror title by the development team Red Barrels. The game follows a freelance investigative journalist named Miles Upshur who is searching a remote psychiatric hospital. However, what Miles finds is not only disturbing but dangerous, leaving him to fight for his life. Being more of a survival horror title, players are encouraged to use stealth to their advantage while maneuvering over various obstacles, and a big portion of the game focuses on using a night vision camera. Batteries are required to run the camera, forcing players to seek out replacements as they progress through the narrative campaign.
Outlast 2 uses similar game mechanics. Players this time around will take on the role of Blake Langermann, an investigative journalist alongside his wife as they uncover clues surrounding the murder of a pregnant woman. During their journey, Blake and his wife become separated after their helicopter malfunctions leading to a crash. Much like the last installment, gamers are not suited with the ability to combat the enemies that lurk about. Instead, our protagonist will mostly have to hide and run away from any nearby danger. Both installments in this series feature heavy use of stealth and caution. As you explore, the world becomes more hellish and dark but if that’s your thing, this is one series that will keep you playing on to see how it all ends.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is another title that was a massive success when it was first released in 2010. The game was first released as an independent download by developer Frictional Games. Players awake in a dark castle with no memory other than their name and that something is hunting them down. As players explore the castle on a quest to regain their memory they’ll be subjected to the main gameplay element–puzzle solving. However, within the castle are grotesque enemies that not only will kill the player character but also cause their sanity level to decrease. This sanity level acts as a health indicator. If not managed properly, the player will start to witness unsettling events, eventually leading to their death. The game requires players to flee and take cover as they hide from the enemy rather than fighting back. Heart rates are sure to skyrocket as you attempt to escape from danger and hope the enemy hasn’t discovered where you’re hiding.
#5 Until Dawn
Until Dawn is a PlayStation 4 exclusive and a horror adventure title. Developed by Supermassive Games, Until Dawn follows a group of eight characters who decide to hold a holiday retreat at a cabin within a fictional mountain resort in western Canada. However, their holiday retreat quickly turns sour as they learn a psycho killer is on the loose, forcing our group of eight to attempt to survive until sunrise. If you enjoy choice-based games, this title will be a must-play. Gamers will be able to control the characters at various points in the narrative while making critical choices along the way. Depending on the choices, the narrative will be altered, and certain characters might not make it through the night.
This game definitely gives you a reason to pop the disc back into the PlayStation 4 for a restart just to see how different choices and actions play out. There are even points in the game where despite your efforts, the choice you made will still backfire–but we’ll avoid spoiling anything if you haven’t checked this game out yet. At any rate, Until Dawn is easily a must-have PlayStation 4 title.
Frictional Games are fantastic developers who know how to create terrifying games, previously releasing Penumbra and Amnesia. One of their more recent releases falls right in line with their past IP. Soma is a survival horror title that puts players into an underwater remote research facility. Within the game, players take on the role of Simon Jarrett who must uncover the truth behind the facility that’s gone rogue with machines taking on more human characteristics. If you’re familiar with Amnesia, Soma takes on a similar gameplay style in that players will be keen to take a stealthy approach when dealing with the enemy. It’s best to avoid danger when possible while searching for clues and solving puzzles.
The F.E.A.R. series is an FPS with survival horror elements. The game series follows around the First Encounter Assault Recon as they fight against paranormal entities. In the first title, the group finds themselves fighting against their toughest target yet, Alma Wade. A young psychic girl that was imprisoned and experimented on from childhood, she breaks from her chains, releasing her rage and attempting to tear the fabric of reality.
Each of the three main installments involve players hunting down and stopping Alma, and each of the three main installments saw largely positive reviews. Unfortunately, there isn’t a fourth installment for players to enjoy despite the third installment leaving it open to continue the story. Perhaps this franchise could see a reboot sometime in the future, but for now, it’s worth giving this trilogy a try.
Siren was bound to be a success as a survival horror title, created by Keiichiro Toyama, the director of the Silent Hill series. The game takes place in a Japanese village known as Hanuda which chose to become separate from the outside world. During a cult’s ritual ceremony to bring the area’s god back to life, an earthquake happens, pulling the village into a different world. A total of ten survivors must prevent the cult from resurrecting their God while bringing the town back to its normal state.
This, of course, is easier said than done. Those that didn’t survive the ceremony have turned into new subordinates known only as shibito. These shibito patrol the area looking for the last remaining humans to sacrifice. Originally released for the PlayStation 2 back in 2003, players can still pick up the title through Sony’s PSN. There are a total of three Siren games available with the latest being the 2008 release for the PlayStation 3 called Siren: Blood Curse. It’s worth noting that the third installment is actually a re-imagining of the first game. It’s unclear whether Project Siren will come back for a new title in the future. Instead, they have since converted into Team Gravity which has brought out the Gravity Rush series.
#1 Silent Hill
The Silent Hill franchise is an iconic series for the survival horror genre. A number of Silent Hill games have been released over the years, though many agree that the first four main installments–done by Team Silent–are the best examples of great psychological survival horror. Back in 2012, Konami released an HD collection for the Silent Hill franchise, though oddly it only contained the second and third installments of the series. While Silent Hill 2 can be enjoyed on its own, the third installment does pick up some of the narratives from the first title.
Just as the later installments are not looked upon as fondly, the HD collection was filled with bugs and issues used as proof that Konami was just looking to make a quick buck. Regardless, the series is still discussed fondly for its atmospheric terror and winding narratives.
It’s worth pointing out that the only two installments that connect and would need to be played in order are Silent Hill and Silent Hill 3. However, if you can’t deal with the less-polished graphics of the PlayStation and wish for a slight jump up visually, we suggest looking into Silent Hill 2. A beloved installment and one of the most iconic survival horror titles of all time, the title doesn’t rely on jump scares, but rather brings a more overwhelming sense of dread of the unknown for players to swallow.