P.T. is legendary in the horror genre, for good reason. This near-perfect, short-but-sweet experience was only meant to be a proof of concept but was lauded in its own right. Of course, the full game will never see the light of day. But trust indies to grab the baton and continue where P.T. left off. Enter Visage.
Visage is a four-part, episodic game that takes part in an old house during the 80s. This house has a disturbing history, in which its residents have died in brutal and suspicious circumstances – and not just the most recent ones, but too many over time to be a pure coincidence. It’s your job to work out how and why those ex houseowners died – while avoiding meeting the same fate yourself.
What’s unnerving about investigating these deaths is in Visage is that you get to re-experience them. Just be careful to watch your sanity meter – this can take a beating if you experience too much of the paranormal. Visage is in Early Access with two of its chapters still yet to come, but worth checking out at this stage.
19. Outlast 2
The Outlast franchise is a real indie horror success story from this generation, and with good reason. These popular titles are well-polished and, of course, packed with scares. After the great reception of the first game, Outlast 2 pits you as a journalist at a creepy locale once more – but a less typical horror setting this time, moving from an asylum to the location of a cult in Northern Arizona.
Except, you didn’t exactly intend to go there – the game begins with you crash-landing in the remote location. Making it to a nearby town offers you far less than salvation, unfortunately, as you become embroiled with an insane cult that murders its women and children. If one crazed cult weren’t enough, however, you meet another that kidnaps your wife.
While you’d hope to be well-armed in such a nightmarish scenario, your character is equipped with nothing more than a video camera. Thankfully, it can at least be used to see in the dark and detect enemy footsteps. This is invaluable as you sneak and hide your way to rescuing your wife and escaping.
18. Remothered: Tormented Fathers
While some genres are constantly reinventing themselves, there’s something about horror games which has them paying homage to the classics – fair enough, when there’s a lot of good old source material to draw from. Remothered: Tormented Fathers is one such ‘modern classic’ heavily inspired by old survival horror, particularly Clock Tower.
Remothered: Tormented Fathers uses psychological horror at its forefront. You’re investigating the disappearance of a girl named Celeste, but when you visit the girl’s adopted father you become trapped in his mansion. Needless to say, that’s when shit goes down and the true horrors of the setting and its inhabitants show themselves.
As well as being mostly defenceless against your enemies, you have some classic survival horror design aspects to grapple with. While not as clunky as its forebears, the controls aren’t the smoothest. And saving and healing are constrained to special save points. Some solid visual design brings the game successfully into the present day, however, and its unpredictable story is well worth experiencing.
17. Doki Doki Literature Club!
Appearances can be deceiving. Perhaps not since Frog Fractions has this phrase applied so much to a video game. This cutesy-looking anime visual novel about a group of high school girls has some shocking surprises in store if you judge it solely based on its cover.
Doki Doki Literature Club! begins as a fairly typical high school sim visual novel, with the prospect of dating some of its students. You get to hang out at the titular literature club every day and read poetry. But without spoiling things too much, things soon take a turn for the worse. Doki Doki Literature Club can get very weird and very dark.
There are two factors that make Doki Doki a no-brainer to try out. Firstly, it’s fairly quick to breeze through if you’re short on time, but has the potential for multiple playthroughs with different story branches if you choose. Secondly, it’s absolutely free to download on Steam, or you can support the devs with ‘pay what you want’ on itch.io.
Bloober Team are no strangers to horror, with several of their games featuring on our list. But Observer is something quite different to most other horror titles. This cyberpunk dystopian thriller has you playing as a neutral detective with the ability to hack into people’s minds.
You’ll explore the futuristic city in the search for evidence, solving puzzles as you go. But when you jack into the minds of some of its crazy inhabitants, that’s when the horror really ramps up. Observer plays liberally with your sense of reality, placing you in terrifying, trippy scenes that do a wonderfully creative job of freaking you out.
Outside of all of the scary moments, Observer is a fascinating, well-realised piece of dystopian fiction. Its intriguing story with voice acting from the late Rutger Hauer make it well worth a look for fans of spooks and sci-fi.
15. Five Nights At Freddy’s
Scott Hawthorn’s animatronic masterpiece has taken many forms over the franchise’s life. However, it’s the original strategy horror experience we’re interested in today. The others are terrifying enough, sure. But this is the one that started it all.
If you haven’t already stepped foot in Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, Five Nights At Freddy’s asks players to survive until 6am in their new job as a security guard at a local pizza restaurant. All is well until the animatronic mascots start their nightly attempts to murder you.
Fend off your attackers by spending your battery power wisely to keep the lights and security cameras rolling. These robotic foes will creep closer and closer the longer they’re left alone in the dark, so tension rises as your juice slowly depletes until finally those smiling faces appear at your office door.
INSIDE is the bleak story of a young boy’s misadventure through a laboratory that’s home to some pretty disturbing experiments. Outlining them in detail would be giving the game away, but rest assured that there’s some screwed-up stuff in there. You have to do your best to survive against it, or even turn it to your advantage.
INSIDE takes the form of a 2.5D platformer with puzzles to solve along the way. Some of these are tied to really creative mechanics that are surprising and fun to control. Make no mistake, though – this is a creepy game with an oppressive atmosphere.
Part of what creates this is the gloomy visual style. Though not quite monochrome like its forebear Limbo, much of LIMBO is sapped of vibrance, creating visual impact with the colour that is sparingly used that stands out against the dim, shadowy backdrop.
Releasing during the golden age of indie games, Limbo awed players with its monochromatic, minimalist art style and smart puzzles. Its dark and mysterious story urges you to push forward into its dreamlike world of abstract meaning and symbology.
Waking up as a little boy in a dark forest you soon learn how to navigate your dangerous surroundings finding grisly deaths as the signatures of your mistakes. It had a unique sense of surreal creepiness to it that unsettled the sense more than made you jump out of your skin screaming.
It’s a game of few words, well none in fact, but the combination of tone and atmosphere come together to form a deeply unnerving horror with deep metaphorical themes.
Darkwood thrusts you into the centre of a procedurally generated nightmare where you have to struggle to survive the night in eerie surroundings. It’s strange world, somewhat inspired by Slavic folklore, is shrouded in mystery blurring the lines of reality.
To be within any kind of chance to survive the night you’ll need to craft weapons and fortify shelters against the deadly shadows that lurk outside the light. This top-down, tense survival game will have you battling for your life by the end of the first nightfall.
The gameplay is brutal and the hands-off approach to the game’s difficulty makes exploration terrifying yet continually intriguing as you uncover more of the secrets hidden within the forest. Be prepared for a nightmarish fantasy that pulls no punches.
It’s fair to say that Outlast really reinvigorated the first-person found footage style horror games on PC. Tapping into films of the late ’90s, such as Blair Witch, Outlast brought a new level of jump scare that hadn’t been seen much in the video game space at the time.
The twist was that the player had no way to defend themselves from the horrors around them. Games like Doom may have put the power back in your hands but Outlast stripped everything away. All you could do is hide, shivering in a locker as a huge demonic entity stalks your trial.
Viewing the world around you through the shaky view slot of your video recorder only added to this horror. As it was the only way to see in night vision you had no choice but to scan the darkness around you with the handheld camera hoping and praying our batteries didn’t run out. There’s no doubt it’s one of the scariest games of all time.