When it comes to video games, the horror genre has had its ups and downs. There was a period of time where horror games were virtually non-existent, but thanks to popular games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, they became an important part of the industry. The rise of online multiplayer and games like Call of Duty saw developers move away from horror games, but then the success of indie horror games led to a mainstream resurgence that we’re still seeing today.
The past five years have seen the horror genre come out of its slump and deliver some true classics that stand as some of the best horror experiences gaming has to offer. These 10 games in particular are perhaps the best modern horror games, and are all great choices for anyone looking for some thrills this Halloween.
1. Alien: Isolation
Before the Alien franchise was full of action-packed set-pieces and universe-spanning conflict, it was focused on horror. Essentially a slasher movie set on a spaceship, the first Alien goes for a decidedly scarier vibe than its successors, and that same tone is captured perfectly in the video game Alien: Isolation.
Whereas most Alien video games are about fighting waves of xenomorphs or directly controlling the deadly creatures, Alien: Isolation instead makes players virtually defenseless as they attempt to survive against not only a xenomorph, but also an army of violent androids. The alien is still the real star of the show though, and its invincibility and unpredictable nature make it one of the most terrifying monsters in gaming history.
2. Dead by Daylight
Most horror games tend to focus on single-player experiences, but that doesn’t mean a multiplayer horror game isn’t good for some scares as well. Dead by Daylight is an asymmetric multiplayer game where one player takes on the role of a deranged, sometimes supernatural serial killer as they hunt down player-controlled survivors and mount them on meathooks.
Dead by Daylight has built a dedicated fan base thanks to a constant stream of creative new killers, including famous ones like Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, as well as some original creations from the developers. Dead by Daylight succeeds in creating some genuine tension as players attempt to outsmart the killer, but with the killer controlled by a human player instead of AI, that’s a lot easier said than done.
3. Five Nights at Freddy’s
Five Nights at Freddy’s has transcended gaming and become a multimedia phenomenon, spawning an endless stream of merchandise, novel adaptations, and an in-production feature film on top of numerous spinoffs and sequels. The game’s premise is simple but effective, with players taking on the role of a security guard at a creepy Chuck E. Cheese knockoff restaurant called Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.
What should be a relatively uneventful job takes a turn for the demented, as the player is harassed and pursued by animatronic animals that appear to be possessed. It may rely heavily on jump scares, but there’s no denying Five Nights at Freddy‘s ability to genuinely scare its fans, and it’s all backed up by some interesting, expansive, and surprisingly deep lore.
4. Little Nightmares
Noted for its tense atmosphere and disturbing imagery, Little Nightmares is a unique entry in the horror genre thanks to its focus on platforming. Not all critics were in love with its core gameplay, but many agreed that it’s still an experience fans of the horror genre should go out of their way to check out.
5. Outlast 2
The first Outlast successfully translated the found footage horror genre to video game form, and Outlast 2 delivers a similar, yet arguably even scarier, experience. Outlast 2 changes the setting from a mental asylum to rural Arizona, where players are chased down by insane cult members. Its dark religious themes help to make Outlast 2 especially unnerving, and while the first half is a bit slow, the second half is a dizzying rollercoaster of shocking scenes and moments that will be drilled into the minds of anyone brave enough to play through it.
We know now that PT is a “playable teaser” for Hideo Kojima’s Silent Hills, a game that will never actually materialize since it was canceled by Konami. But back when it released, it was a truly mysterious and bizarre experience.
PT sees players moving through an endlessly looping hallway as they attempt to solve its complex, vague puzzles and avoid the disturbing, ghost-like woman that occasionally attacks them. It’s unfortunate that the full game will never be released, but PT is still a landmark horror release that has gone on to inspire countless copycats.
7. Resident Evil 7
After the franchise went with a more action-oriented approach for a few entries, it was clear that the Resident Evil series needed to get back to its roots. Capcom did exactly that with Resident Evil 7, delivering an overwhelming survival-horror experience full of exploration, deadly traps, and horrific monsters for players to contend with. Especially brave players can even play through the entire game with PlayStation VR, transporting them directly into the hellish world of the Baker family plantation and all the terrors that come with it.
Frictional Games made a name for itself with Amnesia: The Dark Descent, a title that is largely responsible for the resurgence the horror genre has enjoyed in recent years. Its followup effort, Soma, may not have generated the same kind of buzz as Amnesia, but it is arguably the better, more polished game. Set in an underwater research facility filled with strange creatures, Soma is less about jump scares and more about building tension and scaring players with pure psychological horror.
9. The Evil Within 2
It may be a little on the cheesy side, but The Evil Within 2 is still a step above the original game in almost every way imaginable. Refining the Resident Evil 4-style of survival-horror, The Evil Within 2 offers some classic horror action combined with open world sections that help it stand apart from other games in the genre. As we noted in our review for The Evil Within 2, the game is easily one of the best survival-horror games in years, and even those disappointed by the first one may want to give the sequel a shot.
10. Until Dawn
The now-defunct Telltale Games built its games around the idea of player choice having an impact on the narrative, but as many players discovered, those promises were mostly just smoke and mirrors. Until Dawn, on the other hand, incorporates player choice in a truly meaningful way, with players able to decide the fate of basically every playable character in the game. Playing like a big budget Telltale-style adventure game, Until Dawn is a fantastic homage to 80s slasher films with an engaging story full of surprises and scares, and it’s one of the most essential horror games of the last few years.
It’s clear from the games listed here that the horror genre has enjoyed a successful resurgence, but the future of the genre is looking bright as well. Until Dawn studio Supermassive Games is currently working on an ambitious new horror anthology series, and Capcom is hard at work on the Resident Evil 2 remake, which looks like it’s sticking close to the franchise’s horror roots. With games like the Resident Evil 2 remake on the horizon, the horror gaming genre that was once in danger of going extinct is now showing no signs of slowing down.