Halloween is a perfect time to dig into the plethora of great horror games out there. Instead of touting Outlast, Amnesia, and the other usual suspects, we thought it might be fun to look at some classic examples of the genre. Every title on this list is at least 10 years old. These eight games are not only great horror games, they’re just great games, period.
Think we forgot one? Tell us what it is in the comments!
Hailing from the far-off world of 1998, Sanitarium puts players in the shoes of a character known simply as “Max.” He’s an amnesiac who was knocked unconscious in a car accident, and awoke from a coma in a derelict sanitarium. Exploring the building, Max will be teleported to various locations, all of which are unnerving. Deformed children, ghosts from the character’s past, and even ancient gods make an appearance. It nails the atmosphere, even if it is a 2D isometric adventure game.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was only available on the Nintendo GameCube, which can make it difficult to play these days. But if you have the console lying around, it’s worth checking this one out. At least partially inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft, the story Eternal Darkness has you (as main character Alex) reliving the experience of various individuals who have served the old gods over the years. But honestly, the main draw for this one are the sanity effects. Events in the game can lower your sanity meter, which cause all sorts of effects. Some are subtle, like changes to the environment. Some are direct, up to and including simulating console errors, and appearing to delete save files. It’s a classic example of a game trying to get into your head, and largely succeeding.
The 7th Guest
Trilobyte’s adventure puzzle game was one of the first titles to be released only on CD-ROM. As one of seven guests invited to an insane toy-maker’s mansion, you must solve puzzles to advance and determine what happened to the other six guests. The story is told through a series of full-motion videos, which are not as campy as some of the FMV seen in those days. It’s a creepy, challenging game that not only succeeded in unnerving gamers, it also helped speed adoption of the CD-ROM as a peripheral.
Alone in the Dark
Don’t worry, we’re not talking about Uwe Boll movies here. We’re discussing the original Alone in the Dark, which was really the first 3D survival horror game. You’re trapped inside the haunted mansion of Derceto. Starting in the attic, you must find your way out of the mansion, Along the way, you’ll have to avoid or defeat various enemies, from zombies to rats (and these rats are huge and walk on two legs). Straight fights are rare, as the game focuses more on exploration and puzzle-solving than it does combat. It’s got great atmosphere, and the story twists will keep you on your toes. Just don’t watch the movie.
Clive Barker’s Undying
Clive Barker’s Undying not only carries the moniker of the well-known horror author, he also voices one of the characters in the game. Undying is a first-person shooter that also allows the player to use magical spells. As World War I veteran Patrick Galloway, you visit a friend named Jeremiah Covenant who is asking for help dealing with supernatural horrors in his family home. Curses, demons, murder, torture, and more are a part of this well-received title. Unfortunately, a planned console version never materialized, so if you want to try this one out, you’ll need a PC.
Haunting Ground is notable for being a survival-horror game from Capcom that isn’t Resident Evil, even if it has some similarities. The biggest difference is that Haunting Ground is more focused on evasion that combat. While you can kick, use alchemically created weapons, or let your canine companion Hewie bite enemies, the goal is to stay out of sight. You’ll solve puzzles, hide, and fight bosses as you try to escape Belli Castle. It’s a disturbing game, but it’s also one that embraces helplessness as a mechanic and makes it believable.
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 takes the formula that worked so well in the first game, polishes it, and makes it shine. The voice acting is better, and the music, graphics and sound effects combined to create one of the best horror games of all time. Most importantly, it’s just more scary than the original. It’s more than just jump scares – there’s a palpable sense of dread that overhangs the entire game, and it combined with a complex story that offered multiple outcomes depending on which disc you decided to play first.
Silent Hill 2
The Silent Hill series has many standout moments, and many of them come from Silent Hill 2. Returning to the titular town couldn’t be more foreboding than it is when James Sunderland arrives in search of his wife, who he believed to be dead. After arriving in town, he begins to encounter obstacles, both supernatural and not, and by the end of the game, you don’t know who is the most dangerous enemy to James – the monsters, the town, or James himself. It’s a testament to how great Silent Hill 2 is that it managed to surpass the stellar original game.