Survival horror games are a bit of a niche genre. Not everyone enjoys voluntarily putting themselves in situations where they feel vulnerable and helpless. Some people do, and to those we say, "to each their own."
All joking aside, there's no genre quite like it. Survival horror can bring some of the most memorable gaming experiences when done well, or leave you feeling burned when the credits roll. Thankfully, we won't be looking at the latter today.
Instead, we're taking a look at survival horror games that you need to check out if you even remotely like the genre. They combine haunting visuals with mind tricks and solid gameplay. Some games rely on clever design to make you scream. Others are about as standard as they can get.
Whatever your fancy is when it comes to horror games, we're discussing it here. Grab your cozy blankets and find a nearby hand to hold, because we're looking into 15 of the scariest survival horror games.
15 Resident Evil 4
Many people regard Resident Evil 4 as the pinnacle of the series, and it's not hard to see why. Before the franchise turned into action games, we had this last hoorah of the survival horror style. As you play this game, the ever-growing infection looms over you as you deal with hordes of the undead.
Resident Evil 4 combines everything that was beloved about the series up until that point, and puts into an excellent package. To be fair, the game was focused more on action than in the past, but the way that it was handled made for a scary experience all the same. The terror of being rushed by an army of infected is just too haunting to beat, and it still has us reminiscing to this day.
14 Dead By Daylight
One of the newer entries on this list, Dead By Daylight was a game that came out last year on PC, but has now been ported over to PS4 and Xbox One. At only $30, now is a perfect time to jump into the slasher-inspired game.
Unlike most horror games, Dead By Daylight holds a 4 v 1 format. 4 people are survivors that have to turn on generators to open the escape door, and one person is the killer (whose job is pretty straightforward). Not only does this style of play force the survivors to work together to outsmart the killer, but also means that jump scares won't be present here. Instead, the thrill comes from knowing you're being stalked and figuring out ways to cut it close and slip from the killer's grasp.
13 Slender: The Eight Pages
We understand that Slenderman was a fad that has all but died out now, and there were tons of people who were looking to emulate that style of play. After playing several of them, we still believe that Slender: The Eight Pages is the best of the bunch.
It's a simple concept, but that's why it's so effective. As you collect pages, drums alert you that there is something else out there. Always afraid to turn around, you press on as the lurking entity watches you from afar. While it's not the hardest game to beat, the atmosphere presented makes for a haunting experience. If you get through it quickly, we also recommend checking out Haunt for more scares.
When you become a reporter, you're willing to do just about anything to get a great story out there (perhaps to a fault). That's where we have to fault Miles Upshur for going into an insane asylum that had been reopened after several years. He had heard rumors of something disturbing going on there and decided to see for himself.
Unfortunately, this first-person experience will often put you right in the gaze of the patients themselves, many of whom are decrepit, broken, or mutilated in some way. Sometimes you'll be able to sneak right past them, and other times, they'll give chase without warning. What makes Outlast so scary is that it always keeps you on edge and never lets you know when something is about to happen.
11 Left 4 Dead
Valve loves creating games that focus on teamwork, and that's where Left 4 Dead works so well. However, it's not the gameplay that we're here to rave about- it's the fear factor of the experience.
While the series is focused more on action and taking out zombies when they pop into frame, there are some terrifying moments throughout.Hearing the screech of a hunter always sends chills down your spine, sneaking by a witch makes your heart jump into your throat, and once you hear the noise for the tank, you can't do anything but run for the hills. Then there's the fact that if you make one small mistake, you could alert the horde to your presence, and that's never a fun time.
10 Silent Hill 2
Not only is Silent Hill 2 so frightening because of its imagery, but also because of how it makes players think about morality and has them deal with the consequences of their actions (as they control the protagonist, that is).
Silent Hill 2 captures the right tone necessary for a game of its caliber. It's bleak and hopeless all the way through, and only gets more painful as you start to piece the story together. Then as you deal with the demons of your past, you are forced to see some terrifying sights and deal with some horrifying foes. There's never a moment in this game where you feel safe, even a small extent, as the creeping level of discomfort never leaves your side.
9 System Shock 2
You see a lot of zombies and supernatural killers in horror games, but there's no denying the poignancy of having AI go out of control and try to slowly destroy you. That's the premise behind System Shock 2 and we can't say that we're still over the horror it provides.
Not only is there a parent AI that's trying to figure out how to slowly destroy you, there are strange hybrid people in the game that are begging for you to join them. It's this ambiance that rockets you into a state of panic, always thinking about what to do when you run into another problem. What makes the whole experience so discomforting is that the AI is in control of the environment, leaving you helpless at every turn.
8 Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
Some of the greatest horror games play with how your mind works, and that's why Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is still one of the best in the genre. As you travel through the game, you'll be forced to do double takes when you could've sworn you saw something move only to realize you didn't and then question yourself as you continue.
Then, as your sanity drops, the game will trick you by saying "Your controller's unplugged" or something along those lines. The point is that Eternal Darkness constantly makes you question your own reality, and when that occurs, your mind becomes open to accept just about anything, maybe even your worst nightmares.
7 Dead Space
Dead Space doesn't play any mind tricks on you, but its classic premise is still horrifying. You travel on a ship looking for a woman. However, you quickly realize that the facility has been overrun by mysterious creatures with long sharp knives for arms.
What makes this so effective is that Dead Space, and its sequels, flip the conventions of horror survival games on their head. You don't kill the creatures by blasting their heads; instead, you have to cut off their arms. The dark corners and fog always make you wonder when the next monster will show its face, and no matter how strong your weapons are, you question if it will be enough. If you're a first-timer, don't do what some of us did and start on the hardest difficulty.
6 Amnesia: The Dark Descent
If you choose to take on the game known as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, know that you will deal with your worst fears like you never have before. You play as a man named Daniel, and that's really all you know about him. You don't know who he is and where you are; the only thing you know is that you're in a castle plagued by all kinds of dark creatures and you have to get out.
Like Eternal Darkness, Amnesia also plays with your sanity. By giving all kinds of haunting imagery, your sanity level will go down and cause you to hallucinate the worst fears imaginable. As your sanity goes down, once again, you will question your own reality, leading you to believe the worst has come true.
As if the developers of Amnesia didn't already give you enough scares, they created another survival horror game known as SOMA. This title throws you into an underwater facility and takes the mind games to a whole new level.
From the very start, you'll constantly be guessing what's real and what's not. Packed to the brim with haunting ambiance, there will be moments where you'll hear a strange noise and bolt for cover only to realize that nothing was coming. There are many working parts to make SOMA a terrifying experience, but the biggest one is that the game forces you to wonder if your mind is causing all of the horror. If you value your sanity, don't play this game.
4 Alien: Isolation
What if you were in the shoes of Ripley and had to play through the first Alien movie? That's essentially what Alien: Isolation offers. However, instead of playing as Ripley, you play as her daughter. When you travel on the classic ship, you are instantly confronted with the same monster that tortured Ripley all those years ago.
At that point, the game becomes purely haunting. Because the AI in the alien is so well-crafted, you always feel like it knows where you are and can hunt you better than you can hunt it. Alien: Isolation also handles the isolation part of the game extremely well. You're alone in a ship with a murderous alien that outmatches you in spades.
3 Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly
Fatal Frame 2 provides a unique take on the survival horror genre by allowing the player to decide when they face the terror. However, in order to progress through the game, you have to do this.
For those of you unaware, Fatal Frame 2 has you use an object called the Camera Obscura. This device can help you move through the story, but through it, also allows you to see a host of dark spiritual creatures. It grants you hope and takes it away at the same time. It also doesn't help that the character you play as is a young girl, further emphasizing the persona of helplessness in the game. If you like those kinds of games, Fatal Frame 2 is about as good as it gets, but if you really don't want to have nightmares, do yourself a favor, and skip this one.
2 Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
In the context of the rest of the series, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a bit of an oddball. Rather than dealing with hordes of the undead, you are instead whisked away to the life of a family in a house in the middle of nowhere. Each member has their own quirks that are both realistic and terrifying at the same time. This leads to moments that will never leave your mind (even when you're trying to sleep).
The game will make you uncomfortable as these people get inches from your face and break the boundaries of standard survival horror games. If you're extremely masochistic, you can also play this game in VR mode, meaning that everything you see will be from your own point of view.
Oh, the potential of PT. This game was essentially a free demo for Silent Hills released on the PlayStation Store that was later taken down because the project was canceled. The reason why many were disappointed about the game being canceled was that the game revolutionized how survival horror experiences were presented.
Not only did it provide you with all kinds of horrible imagery, but it also continuously made you question what you were doing and whether you were going the right way or not. At its purest form, PT made you travel through the same hallway over and over, but with strange twists and turns each time that both chipped away at your insanity and had you hiding behind your own controller. It's just a shame that we never got to see the end result.