Friday the 13th has come and gone, and as per my usual, I spent the evening watching my favorite gory, somewhat-cheesy scary movies. As I watched Jason terrorize a new batch of campers, my concentration shifted from these favorite scary movies, to my favorite scary games, the games that will forever have me curling up with a blanket tucked under my toes at the edge of the couch, glued to the screen and the controller. It’s time to turn off the lights, bolt the door, and come with me on a journey through the top five best scary video games guaranteed to keep you up at night.
I could go on and on about the many games I have played and watched other people play that have left me utterly terrified, but when it really comes down to it, there are some that stand out above the rest as being the most terrifying. My top five scariest games are Until Dawn, Outlast, Resident Evil 2 (the remake), Five Nights at Freddy’s, and Alien: Isolation. Each of these games is, in my opinion, the embodiment of absolute peak horror in video games.
5. Until Dawn
Until Dawn, the 2015 game from Supermassive Games, is truly the first game that really terrified me. My first experience with it was watching a friend play through it on Halloween night in 2016, and I had nightmares about it for at least a week afterwards. The creators of Until Dawn managed to make a game that includes all the best elements of horror: gore, psychological weirdness, and a solid amount of questions that aren’t explicitly answered. It’s been four years now, and even though many horror games have crossed my path since then, Until Dawn is still one of the scariest games I have ever encountered.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I started playing Red Barrels’ 2013 game Outlast because my last experience with found footage, the film The Blair Witch Project, wasn’t exactly terrifying. Outlast, however, brings some serious heat to the found footage genre. As if being in an old mental hospital wasn’t scary enough, the monsters that you never fully see coming and the incredibly messed-up mental aspects of the asylum’s secrets are more than enough to make you never want to creep around old, abandoned buildings (if that’s something you were interested in to begin with.) Outlast has such convincingly frightening scenes that some of them have actually merged together with some recurring nightmares I have, making them even scarier.
3. Resident Evil 2
The 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2 was the first Resident Evil game I ever played, and it definitely lived up to the hype around the series. It has, quite literally, the perfect amount of jump scares, and a really good amount of problem solving and intense gameplay as well. I was playing it while sitting with a friend, and there were so many moments that I had to hand the controller to my friend because I kept locking up out of fear. Too many moments to count. As I am still making my way through the other Resident Evil games, I cannot say for sure if this one is the scariest of the series, but it’s definitely earned its place on my list of scariest games.
2. Five Nights at Freddy’s
Five Nights at Freddy’s, the game from Scott Cawthon that first began in 2014, is really its own breed of horror. As a person who went to Chuck E. Cheese a few times as a child, FNaF has not only confirmed I was right to be frightened of the giant, costumed actors, it has taken my initial fear and dialed it up to the point that I actually have a little bit of a panic attack whenever I even think about playing. If you want to read even more about this terrifying creation from Scott Cawthon, check out this article from Stropse’s very own Rachel Mailhot. The only way I can really properly describe the scariness of FNaF is to say that whenever I play it, it feels like the cold hand of one of the animatronics is clenching down on my heart and chilling me to the bone.
1. Alien: Isolation
I saved Alien: Isolation for last because it is, in one particular way, the most impressive of these scary games. When I first saw that a game had been made based off of the Alien films, I didn’t think it was possible for a video game to live up to the scare factor of the films. I was wrong. Alien: Isolation, from Creative Assembly and Sega in 2014, somehow managed to capture the exact fear and exhilaration of the films. It’s something about the combination of darkness, the unknown and unbeatable monster, and the ever-present threat of being lost in space that makes this game so unbelievably terrifying. I love playing it, and I also absolutely love and recommend watching Markiplier play through it on his Youtube channel. If you’re looking for a quality scare that will take you back to the Alien film franchise, you can’t go wrong with Alien: Isolation.
The horror genre in gaming has been explored in so many ways, with so many different results. These five games are only a few of some of the really scary ones that I have played and watched, but these ones in particular rise above the other scary games because they somehow transcend normal levels of scare; they each have a certain quality that brings them to a whole new level of terrifying. Whatever type of scary game you enjoy, there is something for you on this list, because these games are, truly, the height of horror in gaming.