30. The Coma: Cutting Class
School is horrific enough. Add a psychotic killer demon into the mix and you’ve got yourself a heart attack. Oh, and everything takes place at night… at school… everyone knows that’s about the creepiest setting imaginable. After falling asleep in the middle of your exam, you wake up to find yourself totally alone in the darkness of a classroom.
From there it’s a scramble to survive the blood curdling screams of the demon-teacher hunting you. There’s something primal about merrily conducting your gameplay business, collecting clues and exploring new areas, only to hear distant footsteps and bolt in a blind panic.
The Coma: Cutting Class is survival horror in its purest form, a claustrophobic creep fest without weaponry or defence, just a good old locker to hide in.
29. Layers of Fear 2
It’s helpful when a game title is clear and upfront about what it has to offer, which is very much the case with the Layers of Fear series. Both feature atmospheric psychological horror with the bonus of solid storylines and engaging – and scary – exploration.
Layers of Fear 2 puts you in the shoes of a Hollywood actor aboard an ocean liner, the set for your next film. Of course, this is no ordinary film. You have to explore the ship, figure out what’s going on and make it out alive while doing so.
What sets the game apart is its interesting creative choices. It makes numerous homages to classic cinema, not least in the fact that a significant portion of the game is played in black and white. It’s beautifully designed, with a fascinating setting full of atmosphere. While it doesn’t follow on very closely from the first Layers of Fear, it’s worth checking out in its own right.
28. IMSCARED A Pixelated Nightmare
There are horror games that go viral online and then there are horror games that become memes in and of themselves. The notorious White Face character from IMSCARED had enjoyed the digital fame of the latter. The short, low resolution experience had players squinting at screens before reeling in horror more than the Maze Game and yet still retains an indie charm devoid of all the common pitfalls of vitality.
That’s because IMSCARED builds a terrifying world that will have you peeking through your fingers without relying on cheap jump scares. Instead, there’s such an all consuming sense of dread that every step through this grim, grainy world accomplishes far more horror than a shock tactic ever would.
27. Bendy and the Ink Machine
Bendy And The Ink Machine takes players through the warped Joey Drew studios as Henry Stein, an old animator invited back to his old haunt. And I mean that literally. In the years since Joey Drew closed its doors, a seemingly possessed ink machine has been bringing all the studio’s old characters to life.
As you tip toe your way across the old floor boards and creak through heavy wooden doors, these characters stalk your every move, showing up every now and then just to remind you of what you should be afraid of. It makes for some truly pant changing jump scares and an equally self-soiling atmosphere.
Homesick is a relatively short but nonetheless striking and memorable horror game that’s different than most. It’s post-apocalypse, and you’re exploring a run-down building that’s decaying and succumbing to nature. You’re hoping that you can find other survivors and not be alone anymore.
Much of Homesick’s gameplay is puzzle-based, with the completion of these letting you progress further through the building and learn more about what actually went off. It’s interesting to piece together the story, and it helps that you’re surrounded by such a beautifully bleak setting.
At night you’re haunted by nightmares, which is where the scares come in. Either way, this is an atmospheric and emotional game that’s worth a look.
25. Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs
A Machine For Pigs represents a slight departure from the Amnesia series’ roots in pure survival horror. Whereas the series started out playing with the fear of the unknown, the last entry showed players exactly what they should be afraid of and refused to let them look away.
While still adhering to generic tradition, A Machine For Pigs replaces the old sanity mechanics and dark corridors of yore with a more overtly horrific imagery and vastly wider world. This latest entry feels like a very different game to its ancestors, and that’s inevitable when a new studio takes over development.
Nevertheless, the puzzles, clues, and storyline are just as driving as ever, and the tension of every moment spent just outside the view of an enemy is just as thick with dread.
24. Layers of Fear
Coming from the award-winning Bloober Team, Layers of Fear is a terrifying psychedelic horror with a strong focus on narrative and exploration. Taking on the role of a painter consumed by his Magnum Opus players are thrust into an ever-changing victorian style mansion filled with ghastly visions of reality.
Delve into the mind of a painter driven mad by the demons that pursue him and his work. Discover the secret of his insanity and unravel the shifting rooms and hallways of the cursed mansion you inhabit.
Praised for its atmosphere and strong narrative elements, Layers of Fear goes beyond your typical jump scares to present some truly unsettling experiences. Colourful and yet immensely dark at the same time this breakthrough horror is one not to be missed this Halloween.
23. The Blackout Club
We’ve probably all got a group of friends together when we were younger to investigate a mystery two, you know, Scooby-Doo style. If not, then The Blackout Club might be your perfect opportunity to live out your Monster Club fantasies.
This first-person co-op horror tasks you and a group of friends with unravelling the secrets of a small town and its mysterious blackouts. Working together you’ll have to execute a coordinated attack against the horrors lurking in the dead of night through procedurally-generated missions.
All this suspense is set in a modern suburban neighbourhood featuring the usual houses, buildings and small woods you’d expect. Except, there is a strange and complex tunnel system running throughout the whole town. Maybe this is the key to finding the missing children. Time to grab a few reliable friends and find out.
22. Penumbra Overture
This first-person survival horror really puts the emphasis on survival in more ways than one. In Penumbra Overture you’re presented with a plethora of challenging puzzles to unlock without the need for over the top gore or violence.
As one of the first truly interactive first-person horror games, Penumbra Overture was cutting edge for its time and laid the foundations for some of the brightest titles we now see in the genre. Games such as Outlast have a lot to thank Penumbra Overture for in regard to the trajectory of psychological horrors.
After receiving a mysterious letter from his father, protagonist, Philip embarks on a journey to an uninhabited part of northern Greenland. There, he stumbles into a disused mine for shelter only to become trapped and forced to survive on what he can. After eating some of the local fauna and flora he begins to ingest strange spiders with harbouring psychoactive toxins. From here he falls down a rabbit hole of intrigue and horror finding the mine to be inhabited by an ecosystem of abnormally large and hostile animals, including dogs, giant spiders and gargantuan earthworms. He also finds a variety of documents as he explores that suggest the mine is home to some kind of secret society that are studying some unusual phenomena inside the mines. It all gets pretty mysterious is the main takeaway.
Some things aren’t scary as such, just more, weird. A sense of surreal strangeness can itself be very unsettling though, to and beyond the point of being afraid. Paratopic definitely sits in that unusual genre of horror that doesn’t need jump scares to have you crawling with fear and uncertainty.
Styled in a fashion reminiscent of low-poly 3D horror titles of the late ’90s, Paratopic revolves around the transportation of illicit VHS tapes that seem to invoke a strange reaction in people that view them. It’s a world where everything is a little fuzzy and something just doesn’t seem right.
It’s certainly not for everyone, as its ability to unsettle in the strangest of ways is unprecedented. You’re dealing with a highly experimental game that subverts any expectations of the genre instead opting for a new kind of horror, something more creeping than shocking.
The scariest thing about this game is its existence.