The Top 5: Horror Games

Happy Halloween, fellow Nerdies! Welcome to our biggest Top 5 yet! The Top 5: Horror Games! This is what it’s all been leading to so let’s discuss all games, scary.


5. The Walking Dead

Telltale’s The Walking Dead came out of nowhere and blew a ton of people away with its incredible storytelling and voice acting. While the game itself isn’t particularly scary, the story still works in a way that the best zombie stories do – it tells a very human story of how people react in the worst situation imaginable. With twists and turns based on your decisions in the chapters, characters you come to like can come to a horrible end. And I have never had a more visceral reaction to a character death in any game ever. It came out of nowhere, and had me taking to the internet to see if there was anything I could do to make it not happen. Turns out, I couldn’t. This character was going to die one way or another, and my decision made them stick around longer, just enough to get to like them and have them taken away. Damn you, Telltale. Damn you all to hell. And thank you for a truly memorable experience.

4. Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2 is another sequel that raises the bar and makes great use of the available tech at the time. With a gut wrenching narrative, better graphics, and the introduction of Pyramid Head – arguably the most iconic monster in the genre – Silent Hill 2 is the peak of the series. Hopefully we will see a return to form with the Del Toro/Kojima collaboration, Silent Hills.

3. Resident Evil 2

Improving upon every single thing from the first game, Resident Evil 2 raised the bar for horror games and games in general with it’s innovative “Zapping System.” Silly name aside, the Zapping System allowed players to go through the game four different times, each providing a unique point of view of similar events. I must have played through that game about a dozen times thanks to the insane replay value. And true to a sequel, everything was bigger, better and more intense. A great, great game.

2. P.T.

Yes, P.T., the playable teaser for Silent Hills is really high on my list. While it’s a short experience once you’ve mastered it, that first jaunt through that terrible, horrifying hallway is something that nightmares are made of. Building tension and a sense of dread throughout that is tangible, palpable and very real. Dropped into this nightmare without the first clue of what to do, and how to do it, I braced myself for the worst, and it still wasn’t enough. This is an exercise in endurance I challenge any horror fan to attempt. Turn the lights off, turn up the surround sound, and have a go. See how long you last. Full disclosure. I haven’t returned to it after my first attempt ended abruptly when I came face to face with Lisa. If you played it, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you will.

1. The Last of Us

Don’t let anyone tell you differently. The Last of Us is a horror game through and through and it’s a masterful one. Be it the infected or the humans, this game is full of monsters, gruesome deaths, and and unlike most horror games, excellent writing and acting. Maybe that’s why many people don’t think about how much of a horror game The Last of Us truly is. The genre has been so full of hammy or overly dramatic acting, clunky writing and over the top scenarios that something far more grounded and focused on a very real human relationship, just doesn’t register. However, if you have any doubts of how much of a horror game The Last of Us is, I’ll just mention two locations: the last section of the subway station that’s full of Clickers, and the abandoned restaurant game of cat and mouse with Ellie and David. Truly, unequivocally terrifying. What an amazing game.



5. Outlast

Outlast earns a spot on my list because it does a tremendous job of nailing the aspect of fear. From the moment you walk into the hospital you’re stuck with this overwhelming feeling that something just isn’t right. Once things get really spooky, you discover you can do nothing except run and hide and hope that no one sees you. Armed with nothing but a camcorder, you’re helpless. And the moments that you find yourself viewing everything through the camcorder because of its trusty nightvision mode will cement its place in horror game history. And the game just gets weirder and weirder as you go on.

 4. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Eternal Darkness gave us a sanity meter that many games only wished they utilized as well. While games like Amnesia and even Call of Cthulhu also had a form of a sanity meter (more like don’t see bad things or stay in the dark and you’ll be ok), Eternal Darkness had an actual meter that would deplete depending on if certain things happened or not. And when that meter gets low? Get ready to experience nothing but fear. The game would actually start messing with you and it wasn’t uncommon to start to pick up mumbled whispers and screams that seemingly came out of nowhere. The camera turns at an angle that gets worse as your sanity depletes. Doors slam and footsteps seem to follow you. You enter rooms and suddenly find yourself on the ceiling. And that’s not adding in the “technical difficulties”. The game will make it look like your TV is turning down its volume as the game itself lowers its volume. You’ll get the blue screen of death. The game will appear to freeze. And did I mention that all these things don’t always happen on a playthrough meaning it’s common to encounter new things upon each playthrough? And taking into account the game itself, it has a pretty great story spanning different timeframes and characters that is all based upon Lovecraftian themes and the Cthulhu mythos. Have fun!

 3. Resident Evil 4

It’s hard to pick the best Resident Evil in such a long-running series but to me, Resident Evil 4 will probably always be my favorite. Despite the complaints that the enemies aren’t really zombies, the new enemies managed to be terrifying due to the fact that they had the speed and intelligence of people. They’d climb ladders to get you, and even prop them back up when you kicked them down. They’d throw things at you. They had chainsaws. The moment we all ran into the chainsaw enemy for the very first time will forever be burned into our memories. Resident Evil 4 managed to show us that the genre could be reinvented and be even more scary for all the surprises it brought us. And the weird culty vibe we got didn’t hurt either. Or the absolutely terrifying enemy types.

 2. Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2 was when I fell in love with horror games. The formula itself wasn’t mind-blowing. Basically throw a guy in a scary place with scarce weapons and scarce health and a ton of monsters. Silent Hill 2 was mind-blowing in that it was the first game that kinda smacked us on the head with psychological horror and dared ask us to question ourselves first and foremost. It’s also the first time we get to see our good friend Pyramid Head and his entrance is something we all remember fondly. The thing that makes this game so good though are the small clues and hints we get of the story as our hero desperately searches for his dead wife. And when the game hits us with that finale? Silent Hill merely gained another victim as you sit there and contemplate everything that happened.

1. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly

The Fatal Frame series is one of my favorite series’ of all time and the second game probably sits up there with my favorite games of all time. Why? Because the story was absolutely amazing and watching it play out was one of the most terrifying things possible. Being armed with nothing more than a camera definitely heightens the fear and unlike other games that allow you to run from most enemies, Fatal Frame more or less makes you fight. Sometimes by luring you into zones that are supposed to make you feel safe. Remember that save point you went to a million times? Surprise! You can’t interact with it because they’re triggering a ghost. Don’t want to fight the oddly fast ghost girl? Want to run? Well too bad! She can walk through walls and will follow you around the entire house! Key item inside a small closet? Guess what, that door will slam itself closed and you MUST fight the two ghosts that spawn. Inside the closet. As they pass through walls and materialize from the floor to grab at your ankles. These are all common occurrences that you’re pretty much never prepared to face which makes it all the more terrifying when they happen.The game even throws an undefeatable enemy at you the very first house you get to. And as the story gets more and more involved and terrifying you find yourself desperately wanting to leave. Because this ritual involved twins. And you’re playing as twins. And this village is getting restless.

Fatal Frame 2


5. Sinistar

My first console was a Sega Genesis, and one of the games I remember most on it was an arcade collection with the likes of Robotron, Joust, and Sinistar. Sinistar was my favorite because the giant lion monster thing scared the daylights out of me, always announcing his presence with “I LIVE” before chasing me through a very dense asteroid belt and eating me to death.

4. Doom 2

Perhaps not technically a horror game, Doom 2 also brings me back to my childhood, and as a kid, a demon-infested Mars was scary. I recall seeing the dead strung up by their entrails and demons crucified because demons are hardcore like that. I recall tons of blood and never having enough ammo or health. Doom 2 was damn scary back in the day.

3. Amnesia: The Dark Descent

In terms of scares, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is the most terrifying game I’ve ever played. It’s not my favorite, but it’s one of the few games that’s gotten me to actually scream in surprise. This caused my roommates to laugh at me. Also, damn that unholy water monster thing to an even unholier hell.

2. Dead Space

I kind of feel like this one needs no explanation: It’s friggen Dead Space! Between the creepy religion, the amazing atmosphere of the Ishimura, the widespread insanity, and the Necromorphs…I mean, it’s friggen Dead Space! Fantastic game with fantastic frights.

1. Aliens vs Predator 2

(I’m kind of cheating because Aliens vs Predator 2 is actually one of my favorite games of all time, but…) The motion tracker in Aliens is perhaps one of the best science fiction items ever. It’s so cold and creepy with its beeps. When put to actual use in a game where the Xenomrophs are everywhere, very fast, very hardy, and very lethal, you’ve a recipe for success. Throw some Predators in for fun, pepper in some spooky lighting and well-timed jump scares, and you’ve a scary dish that I ate daily throughout high school.



5. Gone Home

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! If you have not yet played Gone Home, jump directly to number four on this list. You really should play this game, and if you do, you MUST do it without having it spoiled. So again, I will warn that there are MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!! You have been warned……………………..okay I think we are clear. For those of you who have played Gone Home, I know what you are thinking. And you are right–when all is said and done, it is not a horror game. In fact, there is literally nothing in the game to be afraid of. But that is exactly the reason I have given Gone Home a spot on this list. As I explored the house with absolutely zero knowledge of what to expect, I was legitimately scared almost the entire time.  I avoided mirrors, I moved slowly, and I turned on every source of light I could find. With every new discovery, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop–for the trap door to open to the torture chamber, for the corpse to fall from the ceiling, for the ghostly apparition to appear at the end of the next hall, for the creepy alien to walk past the doorway. Of course, none of that ever happens, and in the end we learn that a totally different story was being told. But that speaks to how ingenious Gone Home really is. It plays on our expectations of what video games are, and what we are trained to expect when we walk into a big empty house, trying to piece together “what happened here.” It establishes a gripping, pervasive horror atmosphere without one monster, one zombie, one murder, and literally NOTHING that can harm you. The only source of this fear is our own expectations and imaginations. And it is this expert manipulation of our emotions that earns Gone Home a spot on this list.Truth be told, walking into the pitch black basement for the first time was one of the more memorably tense gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time. I just knew something was about to go down…

4. Resident Evil 4

The fourth number entry in the Resident Evil series was a major departure in a number of big ways. The previous games developed a very distinct and popular brand of survival horror through the use of pre-rendered backgrounds, stationary camera angles, jump scares, and, most importantly, zombies. And while Code Veronica messed with the first two a bit, when gamers got word that Resident Evil 4 would incorporate an over-the-shoulder camera, and seemingly human enemies, we were a bit surprised and, frankly, worried. But any of those concerns immediately vanished up stepping into Leon’s shoes as he searched for the President’s missing daughter. Between the relentless Las Plagas-infected Ganados, the humongous, heart-pumping boss battles (the best of the series, IMO), and the feeling that you never quite know what might be creeping up behind you, Resident Evil 4 succeeded in crafting some of the most anxiety-inducing action sequences in recent memory. It may have been a touch too long, and it introduced the action mechanics that doomed RE5 and 6 to mediocrity, but that doesn’t stop RE4 from being the second best game in the iconic series, and the fourth best horror game on my personal list.

3. Dead Space

In space, nobody can hear you scream. But my neighbors certainly can, and did, when I played Dead Space. I know my past two entries emphasized that monsters or zombies aren’t needed to elicit fear, but Dead Space demonstrates that it sure doesn’t hurt. The series features some of the most grotesque enemy design, and some of the most disturbing death animations, of any horror series to date (check last week’s list for one of the most gag-inducing). The Necromorphs are hauntingly disfigured, but with just enough human features to add an extra dose of creepiness. And they are just as dangerous as they are ugly. Add in the sterile, isolated atmosphere of the USG Ishimura, and you have a terrifically terrifying cocktail that will test to will of even the most stalwart gamer. There are plenty of horror settings I’d pray to never experience–the zombie apocalypse, being pursued by a serial killer, etc. But I’d take any of those options over being trapped on the USG Ishimura with the Necromorphs.

2. The Last of Us

Some people may argue that The Last of Us is not a horror game. I appreciate this perspective–after all, the game is really about the odyssey Joel and Ellie endure as they travel cross-country, and how their relationship changes and develops as they survive a variety of terrible situations. In truth, it is as touching and emotional a story as any of the best dramas seen on the silver screen. But just because Naughty Dog added this extra emotional nuance does not change the fact that it is still a survival horror game at heart–after all, you are facing off against ravenous, disfigured monsters and dangerously deranged humans while scavenging for every last resource. Any number of tense sequences in the game highlight this–the sewers, the school, and the hotel basement come to mind. Death is around every corner in The Last of Us, and the excellent storytelling and characterization of its leads does not change that. In fact, Joel and Ellie’s story would be far less interesting if their shared experience didn’t involve such horrific surroundings. The horror Joel and Ellie face is key to everything The Last of Us does right. It is an essential element of one of the best games ever made. There is no question, then, that Naughty Dog’s masterpiece is deserving of a spot on this list.

1. Resident Evil Remake

While there were many genre titles that came before it, including Alone in the Dark and Clock Tower, it was the original Resident Evil that brought survival horror to the forefront of gaming. And the 2002 Gamecube remake took everything that worked in the original and modernized it, with gorgeous graphics, improved lighting, and a wealth of new content, including the infamous Crimson Head zombies. When the remake was released, I was in as much awe about its technical achievements as I was in fear of its terrifying enemies and tense pacing. I also loved how the game added to the series already-establish lore, fleshing out Wesker’s backstory and introducing Lisa Trevor. Bottom line: the REmake is an amazing upgrade of an amazing game. It is the quintessential survival horror game, and the most enjoyable horror experience I’ve ever had. I am thoroughly excited for the HD upgrade that is coming next year, and am jealous of those of you who will get to play this game for the first time. An easy number 1 for me, the REmake is the best game in the most iconic horror franchise, and my personal favorite horror game of all time.



5. Ju-On: The Grudge

I’m going to be perfectly honest – I’m not really a fan of the “disempowered horror” subgenre. Games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Slender: The Arrival and Outlast, which strip you of your weapons and force you to play by hiding like a little girl are, to me personally, more annoying than scary. Thoughts like “I could totally take these guys if I had a shotgun” are not particularly scary. In my opinion, there’s only one game in this subgenre that really manages to pull it off right, and that’s definitely Ju-On for the Wii. The horrifying things I was seeing didn’t make me want to grab a gun – they convinced me that a gun would’ve been utterly useless. The whole game is designed like a haunted house – a fairly linear experience specifically designed to scare the crap out of you. Maybe it’s not a very good videogame, but it’s definitely a brilliant horror experience.

4. Lone Survivor

The lone indie representative on my list, and, in my opinion, the only indie attempt that really, really worked. Little to no information about what’s going on – check. Multiple ways to deal with your opponents – check. Multiple endings depending on all of your actions throughout the game – check. Creepy and disturbing atmosphere – you bet your ass it’s checked! It’s truly mind-blowing to see just how well Lone Survivor gets videogame horror, in all of its complexity. At the beginning of the game, you’re provided with no explanation about your surroundings or character – that is on purpose, as any information about the game at all would be a spoiler. Just trust me – go try it out. It was part of several Humble Bundles and was also offered for free as part of PS+ for both NTSC and PAL territories, so chances are you already own it one way or another – just take my word for it and try it out!

3. Dead Space

In many ways, this could be considered a perfect horror game, the crown jewel of the horror genre. And yeah, I can definitely see that – what Dead Space does right, it does REALLY right. The atmosphere is so thick for most of the game that you can cut it with a knife, the controls are tight and responsive, the monsters are terrifying, and the mechanics are extremely creative and serve the game really well. So, if Dead Space is so perfect, why isn’t it at the number 1 spot? Frankly, because it barely has any plot at all (“You’re on a ship, which you fix before leaving” pretty much sums it up in its entirety) and goes on for far too long – two things which work against it as a horror game. Nonetheless, Dead Space is still a masterpiece and deserves to be recognized as such, and if you’re one of the few who hasn’t played it – come on, what the hell are you waiting for?

2. Fatal Frame II: The Crimson Butterfly

The second Fatal Frame holds a very special place in my heart, as I just can’t wrap my head around how utterly brilliant it is. Even ignoring the amazing storyline that concludes with one of the most fitting endings in all of gaming, the main mechanic of the game has been specifically crafted in order to ensure that the player will have the scariest experience possible. In order to defeat the ghosts, you need to take a photo of them with your paranormal camera. The catch is, ghosts are only visible through the lenses of the camera, and you need to get reeeeally close and personal in order to capture them. This is a mechanic so utterly fitting a horror game that I’m sure pretty much every single game designer with even a remote interest in horror groaned upon learning of it because he didn’t come up with it first. Seriously though, there’s a reason why Fatal Frame II tops half of all the “scariest games” lists on the Internet. The other half are topped by my number 1 entry.

1. Silent Hill 2

I mean, come on, how could this NOT be number 1? One of the most creative, intelligent and, of course, spooky games of all time, Silent Hill 2 is almost universally regarded as one of the greatest experiences in gaming in general. It takes a long, hard look at its protagonist, manifesting his many, many demons in physical form through the town’s magic. Each monster says something about James, each locale is connected to him, every character he meets mirrors him in some way. The game’s plot – no, the experience in its entirety – is in an entirely different category not just from other games, but from popular fiction in general. It’s also worth noting that this game spawned what is probably the single most well-known monster in gaming – good old Pyramid Head, who would proceed to become the franchise’s mascot and be utterly misrepresented in anything bearing the Silent Hill name. But I digress. Anyway, I know this is a cliched choice, but it’s the only right one – without a doubt, Silent HIll 2 is the greatest horror game of all time. Here’s hoping that Kojima will be able to recapture at least some of its magic in Silent Hills.



5. Zombies Ate My Neighbors (Genesis/Super Nintendo):

Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a top-down shooter that pits two teens against an army of horror movie monsters. The primary weapon the two characters use are water pistols, but luckily features quite a few items to help fight against the cadre of monsters. The game was particularly hard, especially since if you can’t save the humans from monsters you’ll get a game over. Some great boss fights like one against a giant baby rampaging through the suburbs help the game hold a special place in the heart of early 90’s era gamers.

4. Silent Hill 2 (PS2):

Silent Hill 2 was a gem that came out early in the Playstation 2’s lifespan. James, the protagonist finds himself in Silent Hill looking for his dead wife. Maria, a dead ringer for James’ wife, will help out and at times lead him through the dystopic town. The dense fog that always covers Silent Hill helps make the game feel cramped and nearly claustrophobic. The iconic enemy in this game, Pyramid Head, will pop up from time to time, and it’s quite intimidating when you have to actually have to fight him. Despite having the tank-style controls from the old Resident Evil games, Silent Hill 2 is a fantastic horror game that no self respecting fan should go without playing.

3. Alan Wake (Xbox 360):

Writer Alan Wake goes on vacation to the Pacific Northwest. The vacation quickly goes awry when his wife disappears and the Darkness begins to hunt him. Alan finds himself following a story he doesn’t remember writing, trying to stop the Darkness from escaping the Cauldron Lake. Pages of this book are littered across the world and in addition to predicting events to come, they also give Alan some background on the former forms the Darkness has taken Enemies in the game can only be harmed once they’ve had the Darkness removed from them with a flashlight. The Darkness isn’t just confined to controlling people though, as it can also possess inanimate objects. Very few games have done such a good job at making the player feel like he’s never safe, and Alan Wake is a fantastic horror game.

2. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (Gamecube)

In Eternal Darkness, the player will guide Alexandra Rovias through the history of her family which of course involves some eldritch gods. Throughout the ages, the player will find themselves controlling over ten different characters. For one chapter you’ll be in control of Pious Agustus in ancient Persia as he first comes in contact with an old god.  Eternal Darkness features a ton of puzzles and surprisingly solid combat. What really sets the game apart though is the sanity meter. As your sanity degrades, bust statues and paintings will begin to follow your movement, and you’ll hear sounds. When it degrades further the player may find themselves suddenly on the room’s ceiling, or even see a fly buzzing around the inside of their television screen. Excellent Lovecraftian horror helps define what is possibly the most unique horror game I’ve ever played.

1. Resident Evil 4 (Gamecube)

Resident Evil 4 is the best entry in the story franchise, as well as the best horror game ever. Leon Kennedy, a protagonist from the second game, is tasked with rescuing the president’s daughter from an evil cult. RE4 switched from the clunky tank controls of the older games to the a traditional over-the-shoulder camera. The action picked up in pace, and the enemies became more intelligent. Even the basic enemies in Resident Evil 4 can wield weapons, including chainsaws, and will keep you constantly on your toes. While the action has picked up in pace, it still hasn’t lost all tension. Boss battles with Krauser, El Gigante, and others are nearly as intimidating as most other horror game bosses. Resident Evil 4’s amazing gameplay and entertaining story put itself not just at the pinnacle of horror games, but at the pinnacle of third person shooters as well.

So how did we do? I’m sure there are a ton of games that didn’t make our individual lists that made yours, so tell us about them in the comments! Have a safe and happy Halloween!