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Best Scary Games For Halloween 2021

If you're looking for a few chills this Halloween, here's a list of new and classic games to play with the lights off. if you dare.

Steam screenshot of Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul showing pentagram on the floor of dimly lit

 

I will preface this article with the fact that I hated scary horror games. The prospect of playing a game with the main reward of being scared just never did it for me. That was before I played Dead Space. Some games just redefine a genre, and Dead Space is certainly one of them. Over the years there have been a number of games that don’t just seek the jump scare but manage to get into your head too. Psychological horror, it seems, is my kind of game. 

 

Dead Space promo artwork showing creatures attacking main character

Credit: EA Redwood Shores 

Not that Dead Space is for everyone. Being a sci-fi horror survival game, it doesn’t appeal to the traditional horror fan. If you are more into paranormal bumps in the night in an old house or dungeon, maybe Dreadhalls is more your cup of tea. There are so many sub-genres in horror, you will surely find something that scratches your itch. 

This article will delve into the darkest depths of horror games and look at the tame beginnings right up to today’s bum-clenchingly terrifying VR fright-fests. We’ll list some of the best in the genres so you can enjoy a night of terror yourself this Halloween. 

The Very First Horror Game 

The first horror game came in 1982 on the Spectrum ZX81, entitled 3D Monster Maze. Players began by being dropped into a randomly generated maze which contained a Tyrannosaurus rex. The game was created in first-person view, and the player could move around the maze, with the T-Rex hunting them down. Players could see an "anxiety level" status bar giving scary updates on how they were doing… 

“REX LIES IN WAIT” 
“FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING” 
“HE IS HUNTING FOR YOU” 
“REX HAS SEEN YOU” 

Worse still… 

“RUN HE IS BEHIND YOU” 

Granted, by today’s standards, the graphics are extremely tame, but the psychological terror was absolutely there for players who dared play 3D Monster Maze. 

Steam screenshot of Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul showing pentagram on the floor of dimly lit

It is clear to see how developers of games like DOOM, Dreadhalls and other classics got their inspiration, when they were growing up being chased around 3D mazes by monsters. 

Best Modern Horror Games 

Horror games in the last ten years have taken the psychological scare tactics to great lengths, with games like Resident Evil 4 managing to compact all of the series’ most terrifying aspects and anxiety inducing moments into one game. Resident Evil 4 is an example of developers paying close attention to their fanbase and attempting to improve on everything they wanted in the games. 

It’s also clear to see that psychological horror was a perfect recipe for a top selling scary game, because the Silent Hill series managed to terrify players without doing much at all. The fog in Silent Hill 2, for example, was not only a clever way to get around the PS2 draw distance, but it also ensured the player was concocting untold horrors in the shapes that lie in front of them.  

Silent Hill 2 fog example with figure in the distance
 

Playing games like Silent Hill 2, you soon begin to worry about what is coming your way next, rather than the plot or mission. That scratching sound coming from behind a door or the batteries dying in your torch all add to an oppressive atmosphere that keeps players coming back to each installment in a game series. On the subject of sound design, Silent Hill was one of the first games to truly use audio to terrify you, with most fans of the series being able to remember SH2’s whisper in Room 209 of the Blue Creek Apartments, or the mannequin room in SH3. 

 

More recently, the very famous Dreadhalls has terrified everyone on YouTube from JackSepticEye to Markiplier, spawning millions of YouTube creations that involved playing the scariest games and inviting the world to watch. 

Although made for VR, Dreadhalls still garnered a huge following thanks to these popular scary videos on YouTube, and continues to be a top selling title on Steam. A dungeon crawling horror, players must explore and survive an ordeal that often involves the player doing a double-take, asking “did that just move?”. When the inevitable jump scare happens, it’s time to run, and you’ll find yourself smashing face first into walls and doors trying to escape whatever horror is chasing you, desperately trying to remember your way back to a “safe” area. 

An honourable mention must be given to Five Nights at Freddy’s, which managed to curry favour with the younger generation thanks to the proliferation of FNAF videos on YouTube, and the many “scare challenges” that came with them. 

Five Nights At Freddy's screenshot showing scary animatronic creature close-up
 

You play a security guard at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza, where robots have begun to act strangely during the night. Animatronic teddy bears and rabbits begin to roam the establishment, and you must track their movements on a security camera system with limited power. To call this game a jump scare horror would be like saying Aliens is a space movie. 

The developers have painstakingly put together a game that reacts perfectly to the player’s movement, so events are triggered with precision timing, causing maximum distress and alarm.  

Best Horror PC Games By Genre 

For each genre, there is a horror game that stands out. Though this is not an exhaustive list, and you may have already played the more well-known games – we’ve also included hidden gems you might not have heard of. 

Best Survival Horror PC Game 

Dead Space 2 

Dead Space 2 screenshot showing creature crawling and main character aiming weapon
 

Developer Synopsis: Three years after the Necromorph infestation aboard the USS Ishimura, Isaac Clarke awakens from a coma, confused, disoriented, and on a space station called The Sprawl. Explore this world and its zero-g environments to discover the truth about the Unitology and its role in the Necromorph epidemic.  

 

Survival Horror - Hidden Gem 

Cry of Fear 

Cry of Fear screenshot showing dark, torchlit corridor and NPC crouched over a body
 

Developer Synopsis: 

Cry of Fear is a psychological single-player and co-op horror game set in a deserted town filled with horrific creatures and nightmarish delusions. You play as a young man desperately searching for answers in the cold Scandinavian night, finding his way through the city as he slowly descends into madness. 

 

 

Best Action Horror PC Game 

Alien: Isolation 

Alien: Isolation screenshot showing handheld scanner
 

Developer Synopsis: Discover the true meaning of fear in Alien: Isolation, a survival horror set in an atmosphere of constant dread and mortal danger. 

 

Action Horror - Hidden Gem 

Darkwood 

Darkwood screenshot - overhead horror game

 

Developer Synopsis: Darkwood - a new perspective on survival horror. Scavenge and explore a rich, ever-changing free-roam world by day, then hunker down in your hideout and pray for the morning light.

 

Psychological Horror – Hidden Gem

Layers of Fear

a b c
Best Art Award 2017 - Pixel Heaven (Layers of Fear) Best Indie Game award 2016 - PC Guru Magazine (Layers of Fear) Best Horror Game 2016 - Windows Central (Layers of Fear)

 

Gamer's Voice Nominee - SXSW 2016 
Best Gameplay Nominee - Game Access 2016 
Game Village Nominee - GameDev Days Talinn 2016 
Indie Prize Nominee - Casual Connect Tel Aviv 2015 

 

Best Jump Scare Horror PC Game 

Outlast Series 

Outlast screenshot showing eviscerated creature with a cleaver

 

Developer Synopsis: Hell is an experiment you can't survive in Outlast, a first-person survival horror game developed by veterans of some of the biggest game franchises in history. As investigative journalist Miles Upshur, explore Mount Massive Asylum and try to survive long enough to discover its terrible secret. 

Check out Outlast Trinity on Steam.

Jump Scare Horror – Hidden Gem 

Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul 

Steam screenshot of Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul showing pentagram on the floor of dimly lit room

 

Developer Synopsis: This original story, based on the mythology of the massively popular PARANORMAL ACTIVITY film franchise, features our proprietary scare engine allowing a different experience every time you dare to play.