Horror games offer more than a rush of adrenaline, and maybe a few laughs if you’re watching an easily scared friend try to play one. However, many of them contain narrative depth that gets overlooked if you aren’t digging into the details of your surroundings. As such, here are the 10 best horror game stories that show how incredible the genre can be.
The 10 Best Stories in Horror Games
A few entries include a full horror game series instead of a single game. This is due to how connected those games are versus a series having a set of games that don’t build on the stories of each other.
1. Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill was great, but Silent Hill 2 took the formula to the next level. And it added an unreliable narrator dealing with guilt and grief that manifested into the nightmares of the other world of this strange town. It’s difficult to get your hands on the original, you can experience the first Silent Hill games, including the second one, with the HD remastered collection. At least until the remake is released to bring us back into this world and James’ plight.
Without getting into spoilers, James returns to Silent Hill after the death of his wife. At first, he seems like any grieving husband. Then, his grief and guilt about losing his wife manifest around him and torment him in the form of enemies. There’s also the Maria, a mysterious woman who looks just like James’ late wife. Even today, Silent Hill 2 remains a masterpiece of psychological horror.
Outlast blended urban legends, unethical experiments, and the horrors of old asylum practices. You play as an investigative journalist who received a tip about Mount Massive Asylum for the Criminally Insane. In the middle of trying to survive without a way to defend yourself, it’s easy to miss files loaded with information about what’s being done at this location. As it turns out, Murkoff Corporation has ulterior motives for running this asylum. The criminally insane make perfect subjects for their unethical testing. Naturally, you’re a threat to their practice as a journalist, and they very much don’t want you leaving the property.
3. Five Nights at Freddy’s (Series)
Five Nights at Freddy’s is a huge series, with books and a movie on the way. With fairly simple gameplay, the series hides the story in minigames and small details like phone calls or easy to miss dialogue. Also, FNAF has a huge number of YouTubers who make theory videos trying to piece together the cryptic story. The amount of evidence these creators find to support their theories is impressive to say the least. But the mystery and ability to interpret pieces of the story acts as an incentive to get involved in the series. Even as a horror, the mystery elements are well-done and underappreciated.
4. Resident Evil 7
RE7, and its sequel, RE Village, brought new life to the series after RE6 left its future in an uncertain place with all the criticism it received. Part of this is due to the story of Ethan and Mia Winters. Naturally, the Baker Family provides a set of diverse and interesting antagonists. You might find yourself pitying their circumstances as you learn how they went from a mostly normal family to, well… It turns out that finding his wife who went MIA a few years ago won’t be as easy as he hoped.
5. Alien: Isolation
It’s a testament to Alien: Isolation’s storytelling that you can jump into the game without any knowledge of the films and not feel lost. Of course, movie knowledge provides additional context. True to its name, Alien: Isolation isolates you on a ship where something’s gone horribly wrong.
You want information about your missing mother (Ripley), but you end up in the middle of a situation your mom would be all too familiar with: a xenomorph. Like other horror games on this list, taking the time to read and listen to media you find in-game provides a rich narrative experience. And that means missing content is easy when you don’t explore.
What does it mean to be human? Soma looks at the philosophy of humanity, dehumanization, and what it means to have a purpose in life. This makes for a narrative combination that leaves you shaken. Especially when you can’t tell who’s a human and who’s a robot until it’s too late. Add in an underwater setting and sea monsters, and you have a formula for constant tension. Considering you end up doing terrible things for the sake of progressing in the game, Soma lingers in your mind long after beating it.
7. Little Nightmares
Little Nightmares shows how survival can turn you into a villain, even if that wasn’t your intention. That’s putting it simply, of course. It’s not clear how reliable Six is as a narrator, or how much her age affects how she views the world around her. Which in turn affects how we see the world of the game. Instead of through files or audio tapes, Little Nightmares’ story relies heavily on details in visuals. While you start the game rooting for Six, you end wondering if the outcome was inevitable. When you can’t stop thinking about a game’s story and what it means, you know it’s done a great job providing you a narrative experience.
8. Martha is Dead
Although slower paced, Martha is Dead brings you through an experience full of unexpected twists. Every time you think you understand what’s happening, you learn a new detail that makes you rethink it all over again. You play as Giulia, Martha’s twin. These sisters are identical to the point that their own parents can’t tell them apart. However, when Martha dies, Giulia steals her identity because their mother loved Martha more. The problem shows up when you learn that both sisters are unreliable. When you can’t trust information from any source, how do you find the truth?
9. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Amnesia: The Dark Descent could be described as a journey of self-discovery. Literally. You play as Daniel, who gave himself amnesia to stop what he set into motion. Otherwise, he feared that he wouldn’t be able to face his mistakes. But he left himself notes to act as guidance and explain what exactly it was that he needed to stop from happening. A bare bones description to avoid spoiling anybody who may not have played it, but taking drastic action to face and conquer your own mistakes creates a unique narrative experience.
10. System Shock 2
System Shock 2 is generally considered one of the best sci-fi horror games ever. Now, its biggest drawback comes from its age. A voyage to escort an experimental ship goes wrong, and the rescue crew is infected by The Many when they interact with strange eggs. The infection spreads to the ships, and one team member survives. However, he survived with amnesia. System Shock 2 mixes sci-fi, horror, and RPG to create a story that leaves you isolated and unable to figure out who you can trust if you want to survive.
And that wraps up the 10 best horror game stories. With Halloween approaching, it’s the perfect time to dive into a game that takes the horror genre to the next level with a story that stays with you long after the credits roll. For more spooky content, check out our list of the best horror games to play for Halloween 2023.