What are the best horror games on PC? Horror games tend to turn traditional action concepts on their heads and force you to instead run and hide from your enemies. They're scary things that leave you feeling vulnerable rather than empowered, and more than most they're the games that haunt you long after you play.
Keep coming back for everything else you need to know about PC games.
Remember, as Roosevelt once said, "we have nothing to fear but that bit in FEAR where you're going up a ladder and Alma suddenly pops out and you're all like argh". So here are the best horror games available on PC.
If you’ve watched even a little of Black Mirror, you’ll know that Facebook and the false presentation of happiness it engenders can be twisted into darkly comic and frightening fiction. We Happy Few is both of those things: a retrofuturistic vision of Britain where citizens must pop Joy pills or else risk being shunned by society.
Once you’ve gone cold turkey, you can see the city of Wellington Wells for what it is - a place of misery on the brink of collapse. Surviving We Happy Few is a matter of tense stealth and pretense, which leaves you sweating under the grinning gaze of a masked police force who recall A Clockwork Orange.
Little lost boy? Check. Dense woodland? Check. But the early familiarity of Inside is a feint, blinding you to new horrors even Limbo veterans won’t see coming.
Here’s a spot of spooky trivia for you: the sounds recorded for Inside were passed through a real human skull, and the vibrations in its teeth can be heard throughout the finished game. It’s a gimmick, sure, but it’s also indicative of what’s scary about this tale of vulnerability and body horror.
So much of Inside’s shuddering fear comes from its high production values - a combination of animation, scripting and sound direction that leaves you feeling pretty rattled when, say, you’re chased down and drowned in a puddle. Rattled like the molars in a human head. Brr.
This game about being stuck on a space station with a (spoiler) big scary alien is more intensely terrifying than it ever had any right to be. Developed by Creative Assembly, whose usual work consists of designing thousands of little army men marching in formation, Alien: Isolation is a first-person hiding simulator in which you are stalked by an AI-driven alien intelligence that can't be beaten, shot or bashed into submission.
Instead you must use your wits, your knack for crawling under desks and into lockers, and a variety of distractions in order to evade the skulking Gigerian horror, a creature who can appear at any moment, unscripted and without warning.
Unflinchingly violent and heart-grippingly tense during its quieter moments, Condemned confirmed Monolith’s position as accomplished and effortless first-person frighteners.
Here is a homeless person-fighting simulator in which you play the role of nocturnal crime scene investigator and human punching bag Ethan Thomas. Most remarkable for its lack of guns, Condemned is proper flashlight horror, with terrifying, unwashed men leaping out at you from around corners and out of shadows. Coming out of a brawl alive means carefully timing your punches and patiently blocking your opponent’s attacks, and in encounters with multiple enemies your best option is often to run away. Game design could do with a little more Condemned in its bloodstream.
Thief: Deadly Shadows dabbled only briefly in horror, but more than earns its place in this list with one of the creepiest set-piece levels in gaming history.
Shalebridge Cradle is a haunted house, orphanage and insane asylum all rolled up into one ghastly and tragic horror show. By the time you encounter it, it’s a burned out ruin shrouded in mystery and rumour, avoided by all and feared by the superstitious.
The level is a masterpiece in sound and visual design, using minimal triggers to utterly frighten the player without resorting to ghoulish enemies or cheap jump-scares. The most recent Thief tried to recapture this atmosphere in its own spook-inspired level, but utterly failed to come close to the subtle and carefully escalating horror of The Cradle.
System Shock 2 kicked a particular flavour of first-person survival horror RPG into gear. It boasts an open-ended structure, with an endless maze of decks and quarters that promote exploration and discovery. It’s a lot like being stuck in a haunted John Lewis.
The faster-than-light Von Braun is a persistent world that appears to exist and unfold even while your back is turned - building a heightened sense of place aboard the scarcely populated starship.
But it’s corrupted artificial intelligence SHODAN who cements System Shock 2’s position as a pant-filler. Right up there with HAL 9000 in the soothingly voiced yet subtly evil computer stakes, she torments and tricks the player endlessly, transforming an already terrifying survival RPG into an isolationist horror classic.
Nightmares aren’t much like games; they don’t tend to have rules that make sense. But Amnesia: The Dark Descent is genuinely nightmarish. This is a game in which monsters can ‘get’ you, in which sneaking and hiding from these creatures is your only means of self-defence, and in which just looking at the monsters can make them suddenly aware of your presence. You almost literally curl up into a ball and shut your eyes when monsters are in the room, using audio cues to guess when they’ve left.
There’s a sort-of-sequel, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, which can be just as psychologically arresting. But we wouldn’t recommend mainlining them one after the other - just like Amnesia’s main character, you need to manage your sanity.
Employing the ‘found footage’ style of latter day horror cinema, Outlast is a first-person exploration game set inside an abandoned psychiatric hospital. Like all abandoned psychiatric hospitals, this one is populated by a cast of deranged patients and cruel staff, whom you must avoid in order to survive with all of your guts still inside your body.
In order to find your way around the game’s dark corridors you must cautiously peer through your camcorder’s green-tinged infrared mode. This gives Outlast an distinctly eerie visual flavour, while leaving you feeling worryingly vulnerable to baddies creeping up behind you. Your camera’s batteries last only a few minutes, so it’s a small mercy that the hospital you’re exploring is full of batteries that fit the exact make and model of your camera. Phew.
Welcome to Rapture! A big wet wreck at the bottom of the sea populated by small groups of insane gene-spliced survivors.
Not only are the splicers themselves a chest-tightening terror in their own right, with their mad muttering and screaming, frenzied attacks, but the entire ecosystem of Bioshock is a grotesque and unending horror show. Small girls plunge foot-long syringes into torsos to extract a warm soup of stem cells, while deranged, murderous artists entrap you in their psychopathic masterpieces. Each character is a morbid tragedy brought to life, twisted into a terrifying and violent portrait, all entombed within this claustrophobic and darkly beautiful world. It’s darkly enchanting.
While it took some time to become halfway playable on PC, Resident Evil 4 marks the high point of the seminal zombie survival horror series. Capcom’s classic falls into the juicy sweet spot between the earlier games’ slower paced, low-fi zombie shooting and the fully 3D, hyperactive action sequences we’ve had since.
You play Leon Kennedy, a man labouring under an affliction that means he can only turn around very slowly. Leon must shoot the heads off of apparently zombified enemies, dodge chainsaw wielding madmen and hammer buttons in surprisingly frequent QTE sequences. Resident Evil 4 is designer Shinji Mikami at both his best and his strangest.
Like the game of Event Horizon that never was, Dead Space is the story of a fun cabal of ne’er-do-well cultists who bring a deep space mining ship to its flickering, malfunctioning knees. You’re a mechanic armed with a laser cutter capable of strategically dismembering the legions of already malformed alien creatures who now infest your ship, though despite your powerful weaponry, you’re never close to being at ease.
Like Event Horizon, Deep Space’s brand of horror is a disturbingly psychological one that subtly mixes violence and paranoia to create an atmospheric and unrelentingly bleak miasma of despair, all aboard a classic haunted house spaceship with dark corridors and slightly too many corners for spooky things to hide behind.
Doom 3 is almost as old to us now as the original Doom was when Doom 3 came out, but id’s classic FPS is still inarguably scary as balls. As traditional a shooter as they come, the focus here is on a rapidly escalating armoury of weapons with which to slaughter an army of hell demons, upside-down baby-face spiders and weird alien-bears. The id Tech 4 engine was a marvel of its era, bringing an unfathomable level of detail to what had previously been an array of flat brown sprites.
More than a decade on, with its excellent follow-up in the rear-view mirror, the precise timing of Doom 3’s jump-scares and pop-up monsters still feels borderline cruel - and its selection of weapons and enemies perfect horror fodder.
Hello you lovely lady or gentleman. Did you just quickly scan this list for your favourite horror game, saw that it hadn't been included and felt the red mist descending? Think we've missed something out? Are you just personally affronted by the existence of this list? Then please let us and your fellow readers know all about it by leaving a comment below!