13 Essential horror games to scare you to death!

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Football, parkas, drinks with words like "autumn," "harvest," and "spice" in them - that's what fall is all about, right? WRONG! Fall is all about horror making a comeback after hiding from the despicable light all summer long!

The horror anthology shows come back, the theaters get filled with new iterations of scary movies, and it becomes time to dust off those terrifying games you've been ignoring all year.

Looking for something new to add to the autumn gaming collection, or wondering what you missed in years past? Here we're rounding up some of the best of the best with essential horror games that should be in your collection.

For those who are going to skim through and start screaming - we're deliberately skipping some of the usual suspects, as surely by now you are already aware you should have played Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Fatal Frame, yes?

Rule Of Rose

A truly disturbing game that came out at the tail end of the PS2 cycle and was missed by many, Rule Of Rose pushed some boundaries on more than one front. 

Suicide, rape, children as the evil antagonists, killing adorable puppies, and even sexual undertones towards very underage orphans all meant the game was never released in some countries, resulting in a certain mystique and aura of danger around the whole thing.

Taking the survival horror tropes of Resident Evil or Silent Hill and pushing them further into a psychological direction as a woman explores an old orphanage, Rule Of Rose is a forgotten gem of the genre that will absolutely get under your skin.

Clive Barker's Undying

The age is really showing on this one, but if you can look past that aspect, Clive Barker's Undying was one of the earliest and best attempts at mashing a first person shooter with horror.

Reading and hearing backstory about each member of the damned family really draws a player into the game world, and having a horror icon write the story definitely helped. The mechanics were on-point as well, with some very disturbing imagery appearing when Patrick Galloway slips into his occult vision mode.

 

Sanitarium

A very odd point-and-click adventure game, Sanitarium hops and skips across any genre and game world you can imagine, from a futuristic comic book setting to an Incan temple and even a seemingly-deserted backwater town.

Easily the most iconic of the settings features the main character exploring a town that's been cleared out by someone called "Mother" in a storyline drawing heavily from the Cthulhu mythos. It's a good bet the movie Slither took some inspiration from Sanitarium's interpretation of the mythos as well.

Outlast

I just can't say enough good things about Outlast - it's the perfect length, the mechanics make it so you are playing through your own found footage horror movie, and the scares come fast and furious.

Easily one of my favorite horror games of all time, Outlast is really one of the best iterations of the "defenseless" horror style where the main character can't fight back.

Other than the hard left turn in the story at the very end, there's very little wrong with this game. It's a must-play for the fall season. Just make sure you turn those lights off and put the noise cancelling headphones on -- if you play it right, I guarantee some actual screams will be forthcoming.

Now sadly pushed back to Q1 2017, Outlast 2 remains one of our most anticipated upcoming horror games.

I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream

Another point-and-click puzzle game, I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream probably won't have you startled out of your seat at any point, but it is unquestionably a horrific experience.

Featuring the final five remaining humans on Earth who are all being tormented for unknown reasons by a sadistic computer, there is some deeply disturbing material across this game - just be sure to have a walkthrough handy, as the old school adventure style isn't always intuitive.

Clive Barker's Jericho

Featuring much more modern controls and gameplay mechanics over Undying, Clive Barker's Jericho is less on the atmospheric side and more of a full-force gore fest. 

There's plenty of legitimate horror on display outside just the blood and guts though, and honestly I'm surprised this game didn't have more controversy and backlash with the messed up characters and settings.

The things Nazi zombie Lichthammer screams during her exorcism in particular just can't be unheard...

Darkest Dungeon

Although not strictly a “horror” game in the sense of Outlast or Amnesia, the atmosphere of Darkest Dungeon is just absolutely black as death, and all the creatures are utterly sanity-blasting.

Without question there is a horror vibe as your group of doomed adventurers attempts a crusade against the darkness and you learn even more details about the terrible things your ancestor did to cause this whole mess in the first place.

There's so many ways for your party members to die here outside the norm: die of starvation, die because you opened the wrong chest in the ruined cathedral, die because your companion went insane and started attacking the group, die fighting the severed heads of your fallen comrades, die in an obese witch's cook pot, and the list goes on!

SOMA

From the depraved minds that brought you the Amnesia series comes SOMA, an object lesson in how horror can be quiet and thoughtful.

Although there are a couple of jump scares and "oh sweet baby Jesus run for your life from the monstrous thing!" segments, overall what's on tap with SOMA is an unsettling atmosphere that continuously pulls back new layers to make you question: just what does it mean to "be human," and at what point is it no longer worth it?

Call Of Cthulhu: Dark Corners Of The Earth

It has to be said right off the bat that Call Of Cthulhu: Dark Corners Of  The Earth is majorly flawed - and there really should be an HD update with fixed controls - but this is easily the most faithful adaptation of a Lovecraft story ever presented in the video game format.

Well before "defenseless" horror was a genre, this game had you spend the first half with no gun of any kind, forcing gamers used to a different style to think in very unconventional terms.

With any luck, the two different upcoming Call Of Cthulhu games in development will beat this one and finally give us the definitive cosmic horror experience.

Layers Of Fear

Showcasing the power of crowd funding and early access releases, the indie title Layers Of Fear killed it on the atmospheric front and really got around a lot of the frustration from the typical puzzle game (the mad painter can be "killed" by the ghostly wife manifestation repeatedly but you still keep playing, for instance).

The spinning wall of doll heads had me legitimately jumping out of my chair, and the Inheritance DLC featuring the painter's daughter is no slouch either, offering some very different scares from the base game.

Clock Tower

Even before the first Silent Hill game, there was the Clock Tower series establishing the survival horror genre. Following a Super Famicom entry that never came in an English version to the United States, the first real stateside release was the PS1 entry from '96.

Granted, the controls are as clunky as they come (somehow its both survival horror and a point-and-click PC style game?) and the graphics are primitive to say the least, but there were some truly shocking moments in this one that '90s console gamers were not prepared for.

Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines

An entirely different beast from previous entry Vampire: The Masquerade Redemption, the later Bloodlines was much more faithful to the tabletop RPG and has a gothic punk horror vibe on full blast.

Consistently ranked among the greatest PC offerings of all time, Bloodlines put you in the role of a newly embraced vampire thrown into the dark underbelly of a city, trying to survive with no one on your side. 

Mixing in the best elements of conversation-driving RPGs with some action-oriented combat, Bloodlines is one that will always be fondly remembered (even if it was buggy on launch) and makes for mandatory autumn gaming for the vampire fanatics. That haunted house segment alone makes the game worth the price of admission!

Costume Quest

Alright, alright, this one's not scary in the slightest, so just consider it a bonus game! Even if it's incredibly cutesy (and hilarious - the little kid conversation between siblings is perfect!), Costume Quest is still mandatory Halloween gaming.

With turn-based JRPG combat, puzzles based around switching costumes, and a storyline that may be all make believe or may really be happening outside the notice of the adults, Costume Quest is a short and sweet triumph of gaming.

Well there you have it - 13 games to refill your horror coffers and keep you plenty busy through fall into Halloween and hopefully beyond!

What did you think of our scary picks, and what games did we miss that you have to play every year when the leaves start falling?

Published Sep. 16th 2016

Featured Contributor

Ty splits his time between writing horror fiction, covering underground black metal bands, and bringing you the latest gaming news. As much as digs the latest shooters, he thinks gaming peaked with Planescape: Torment.


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