The best horror games on PC

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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.

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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.

We Happy Few

Best horror games We Happy Few

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.

Inside

Best horror games Inside

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.

Alien: Isolation

Best Halloween games - Alien Isolation

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.

Condemned

Best Halloween games - Condemned

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

Thief: Deadly Shadows

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

Best horror games System Shock 2

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.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Best horror games Amnesia

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.

Outlast

Outlast

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.

BioShock

Best horror games Bioshock

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.

Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4

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.

Dead Space

Dead Space

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

Doom 3

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! 

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Shriven avatarCaff avatarVit avatarTessian avatarTovias avatarUntoldAv3nGer avatar+8
Shriven Avatar
3368
2 Years ago

Glad Condemed is No1. Reminds me of that Charlie Brooker comment.

'Condemed: If you're playing this for escapism you're probably Scottish.'

5
Caff Avatar
133
2 Years ago

I agree with Condemned. Superb title.

What about the Sims 3 though? I played that when I was unemployed once. Two weeks straight, waking up, eating toast in my pants, setting my pathetic avatars off on their respective career paths. Now that's horror. It all came crashing down though. There were fires.

If I had to say you're missing a game, it would be Stalker: Call of Pripyat. The initial "encounter" in the subway terrified me. And I am offended to see the Magic FM-equivalent of horror Alan Wake in the list.

3
Tovias Avatar
1020
1 Year ago

No Shadow of Chernobyl?

3
Vit Avatar
10
2 Years ago

Oh cmon, half of these aren't even horror. I mean, LIMBO? Bioshock? wut?

At least add Yume Nikki or something

2
ruthers Avatar
16
ruthers(5 hours played)
2 Years ago

Mostly good list, and definitely good to see condemned on there. For me, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series was one of the most intensely atmospheric (read: scary) times of my gaming life... I would also have to include the godfather of survival horror Alone in the Dark (original, obvs) especially as I was like 9 or 10 when I played it... Also the genius story telling and atmosphere of Clive Barker's Undying. And if we're including just levels of non-horror games then Ravenholm from HL2 and that haunted hotel from Vampire TM Bloodlines.

Oh and anyone remember Bad Mojo?? lol

2
Tessian Avatar
2
2 Years ago

This is a pretty good list, why System Shock 2 over 1 though? I think 1 was the better game. Not that I think System Shock 2 wasn't also an amazing game and worthy of being on a top 15 list.

1
Tovias Avatar
1020
2 Years ago

I would like to think that SCP: Containment deserves a place.

1
UntoldAv3nGer Avatar
398
2 Years ago

Outlast number 9??

1
MrAptronym Avatar
357
2 Years ago

This seems like a tricky list to make and probably the most subjective of the lists here, since the horror genre isn't based on gameplay so much as an emotion evoked.

Thief 3 seemed like an odd choice at first, but the cradle is absolutely spectacular and that level alone could warrant a place on the list. However, I do not see any appeal in Slender, a game that I do not think manages to be fun or scary: every part of that game feel uninspired. I am also really not a fan of Day Z and I think the fact that people online are horrible doesn't make it a horror game anymore than EVE Online is. (Or any other game with unrestricted PvP) The pretense of zombies is there but they are a joke. The game's messy development and beta status make it even worse as an option in my mind.

I didn't find Limbo scary, and I am not sure its intended to be. I mean its atmospheric, but doesn't really seem like a horror game. Some of the others on the list feel the same way to me, but seem more subjectively so. I am not sure I consider Metro horror, but it did certainly have some moments.

Honestly though good horror games are hard to make, many of the all time classics have been console exclusives, and its a flooded genre. If this was a Playstation site I wouldn't have a problem making a list, but on PC it seems trickier. Most of my recommendations come with massive caveats. Is S.T.A.L.K.E.R. a horror game? Does Deadly Premonition count? (And is it worth a recommendation?) Most direct horror games seem to be of dubious quality or the scares are quite subjective: Among the Sleep was interesting but not terribly scary, DreadOut was short, incomplete and a little unwieldy, and The Penumbra series can be shaky.

I am just happy Five Nights at Freddy's wasn't here.

1
Clutchy Avatar
151
2 Years ago

Condemned. So good.

1
neo606 Avatar
94
1 Year ago

You forgot my online banking app! It's a real thriller... lots of puzzles, complexity and long gameplay...

1
AnAuldWolf Avatar
863
1 Year ago

I'm a weenie scaredy-baby, so this is a list of things to avoid for me. Well, except for the xenomorph game, since I happen to find them aesthetically pleasing. They're more like abstract art than anything I feel I should actually be terrified of.

Which is probably why I like to play the xenomorph in AvP games, but I'd rather just run off and explore the world from an upside-down perspective than kill people.

I think you could make a fairly interesting area-traversal, parkour, platformy game of that. Maybe someone has and I've just missed it?

1
Durango Avatar
3
1 Year ago

Jeeebus, Thief (3) Deadly Shadows. Shalebridge Cradle. Yes. Yes, yes yes. My younger, 16yo, past self wasn't expecting that at all.

1
Klaydoggy Avatar
1
5 Months ago

Just a heads up, that's a screenshot for Bioshock Infinite, not Bioshock. As a gamer who is a total wuss who can't play scary games... Bioshock was creepy, Infinite not at all.

1
lobopc Avatar
1
1 Year ago

Bioshock didn't scare me at all - it's just got a few silly comic-book characters which quickly become repetitive

Also can't understand Dead Space - it's third person - how can you say "you are" when you're watching someone else? That game is a total fail.

I think a better mention would be the first Stalker Game (SOC) which had some really scary missions and enemies and also the part at the end

Totally agree with FEAR and Thief: DS though - in the latter, the orphanage is really creepy but there's a few other bits too, eg the sailing ship

As for Outlast, just watching the trailer was scary enough for me :-O

0