Horror and gaming have always worked well together, it’s a time-tested recipe for success. Like burger and chips, Ant and Dec and zombies and brains, it just feels right.
Now that we’re nearing the spookiest day of the year – Halloween, not Katie Hopkins’s birthday – it’s as good a time as any to point a rotting finger towards some of the creepiest video games ever made. We’re talking bleach your eyes and cry yourself to sleep horror, real life changing shit. So strap in and grab a clean pair of underwear, because these are 10 of the most terrifying games to play this Halloween.
P.T. – PS4
You better hope you know somebody who has this stored on their PS4 hard drive, because Konami wiped the playable trailer for the fabled Silent Hills off the face of the earth, with barely more than a piss-stained murmur. Maybe it’s because it was considered too scary for the mainstream, or maybe it’s because they had a massive fallout with the game’s director Hideo Kojima, we might never know. One thing we do know, is that P.T. was scary. Like, really fucking scary. Trapped in an endless corridor, you stumble blindly through a warped reality as a radio DJ replays a message about a brutal murder. Oh and then there’s Lisa. She sounds nice.
Nah, fuck Lisa.
It’s a real shame this one got the chop, because Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro were on to a winner with the white-hot psychological fear P.T. built. But not all hope is lost, as the pair have said they will work together on a project in the future. Silenter Hills? We can hope.
What’s scarier than being trapped alone in space? A fucking shit tonne of monstrous humanoids trying to peel your face apart in dark metallic rooms, covered wall to wall with blood? Yeah that might just top it. Oh, you thought you were getting some ammo to fight these guys? Fraid not. Dead Space brought survival horror kicking and screaming onto the Playstation 3 with it’s claustrophobic take on the genre. Playing as lone engineer Isaac Clark, it was up to you to not get brutalised as you attempt to get yourself rescued from the nightmarish USG Ishimura. The story was praised for blending creepy cults with sci-fi themes, making it one of the most unique horror games of its time.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end – something that EA apparently saw as a challenge when they ran the series into the ground. Still, at least we’ve got the original to remember. And then immediately wish we hadn’t remembered.
Silent Hill 2
Frequently called the greatest horror game of all time, Silent Hill 2 gave an entire generation of gamers the willies. Mixing creepy, atmospheric sound design, warped camera angles and a host of nearly impossible to kill enemies, never had players felt so helpless as they had no choice but to run -the fuck – away.
Replaying Silent Hill 2 today is still a terrifying experience. The blocky graphics, shitty tank controls and grainy sound make it, if anything, even noper than when we played it back in the day. While the series’ performance has waned, Silent Hill is still undoubtedly a fan favourite (see P.T.) and served as the gateway into horror games for people the world over. It even spawned a kinda shitty but also kinda amazing film franchise starring the irrepressible death-machine, Sean Bean.
Resident Evil 2
Now some people may be sat there saying, “Man, fuck Resident Evil 2. Resident Evil was the greatest Resident Evil game that ever Resident Evil-ed.” And that’s a strong argument despite their poorly constructed phrasing, but Resident Evil 2 took the original game’s framework and increased it tenfold. You want all of Raccoon City embroiled in a living vs dead turf war? You got it. You want lickers dropping from the roof fucking your shit up? Better believe it. You want years of Resident Evil games riffing off the set pieces introduced in RE2? Resident Evil: Outbreak bro.
Resident Evil 2 is so beloved in the eyes of horror fans, that Capcom recently realised they were missing out on a huge revenue stream, and decided to re-make the whole game for modern day consoles. As long as the dialogue is still so shitty it’s amazing I’m all in.
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Known as Project Zero II here in the UK, Crimson Butterfly is like a fever-dream cocktail – mixing two parts Ghostbusters, one part Pokemon Snap and just a dash of sleeping with the lights on until you’re thirty.
It’s your job to take your special ghost capturing camera into haunted buildings, and take pictures of ghosts because it’s Japan and of course that’s your job. Snap the little buggers on film and at best you might help a restless spirit out, at worst you’ll be mentally traumatised to the point of insanity. Fantastic.
Siren: Blood Curse
If you like your skin sweaty and your nightmares Japanese, then you’d be hard pressed to find a more fitting game to play than Siren: Blood Curse. The fucked up story intertwines a number of characters trying to survive and escape a village filled with half ghost-half zombie stab-happy citizens, and more mist than you can shake a shit load of mist at.
With a heavy emphasis on stealth over action, you’re left feeling more exposed that a neck at a vampire convention during a blood shortage as you crouch behind chairs or cower in lockers, praying you don’t get caught. There’s also the voyeuristic sightjacking ability, that allows you to watch through an approaching enemy’s eyes as they slowly creep towards your makeshift hiding place. Oh good. I’m super happy that’s happening.
And they said a good horror game set in an abandoned mental asylum couldn’t be done. Everybody expected Outlast to bomb, simply because of its cliché setting, but what people didn’t bank on was the gameplay mechanics being so god damn good.
Playing as journalist Miles Upshur, Outlast mixed elements of found footage style films, classic survival horror and compelling story telling as you uncover what the fuck happened in the asylum, and why the patients suddenly turned all murdery. Being a journalisty type wanting to document the strange goings on, Miles carries with him a camcorder with handy-dandy nightvision – perfect for seeing everything in the dark you wish you could immediately unsee.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Amnesia pretty much opened the floodgates for hand-crafted indie horror games when it unleashed itself on the unsuspecting gaming world back in 2010. Praised for its stripped back approach to psychological horror, Amnesia knows how to do two things: scare the shit out of you, and keep scaring the fucking shit out of you.
Playing as Daniel, your day starts out magically as you wake up in a creepy castle unsure of how you got there. Naturally, shit hits the fan pretty sharpish as abominations begin to stalk you in the dark, stoney halls. Oh and there’s barely a weapon in sight. Better get your running shoes on, because you’re going to be making hot fucking tracks away from danger for most of the game. The Custom Story game mode also let psychotic community members piece together their own ways to give people heart failure. So there’s always that to enjoy..
Remember when all little kids did was play and laugh and stare at the world with wide, wondrous eyes? Yeah, that’s apparently not a thing any more. Nowadays they’re all creepy psycho’s with evil powers and a penchant for mental torture. Personally I blame the parents.
While F.E.A.R. wasn’t strictly an out-and-out horror game – it contained some pretty slick FPS sections and a decent amount of running and gunning – when Alma, the little girl, shows up shit gets funky. Bad funky.
Appearing in the middle of corridors, making walls bleed and forcing you into bouts of hallucination-fuelled insanity, Alma takes the ‘shittiest little girl of the year award’ pretty much every time. Fuck you Alma.
Usually when games are made from movies, the resulting mutant baby is scary for all the wrong reasons, it’s even worse the other way around – anything by Uwe Boll is testament to that. But if there should ever be an example of a game that fucking nailed it, it’s Alien: Isolation.
Playing as Amanda Ripley – the daughter of the film’s protagonist Ellen Ripley – you haphazardly go to investigate a creepy remote space station with a small team of incapable allies, trying to find clues about your dear mum’s disappearance. As we know, this will always end well (see Dead Space.)
To literally no-one’s surprise, the station has been torn apart by the titular Alien who apparently has a bit of a hard-on for murderising everybody. The resulting games of cat and mouse between Ripley and the Alien are arguably some of the most intense in the genre, as you do your best not to get gutted by the creature. Styled around the original Alien films from the ground up, Isolation pays incredible attention to detail making it feel like a living, breathing extension of Ridley Scott’s movies. Oh, and avoid the Average Joes. Those guys are fucking assholes.
Naturally there are many, many terrifying games that didn’t make it onto this list. If you think there’s a game that deserves to be here, let us know.
Mark is the Gaming Editor for UNILAD. Having grown up a gaming addict, he’s been deeply entrenched in culture and spends time away from work playing as much as possible. Mark studied music at University and found a love for journalism through going to local gigs and writing about them for local and national publications.