Just like on the big screen, horror games are a major staple of the gaming market. These games are here to stay for better or for worse. They are totally addicting. The reason that these games are so addicting is because they stimulate our adrenaline junkie tendencies in the comfort of our own homes. Unfortunately, not all of these games are able to titillate us in a way conducive to what we want, in fact many of these games are so bad that we put them down and forget to throw them out.
The greatest horror games all have a lingering impact on the gaming community, as seen with Resident Evil, but even the worst of the worst should be remembered. Whenever a game is so bad that it gives you nightmares, you know that it is worth a revisit. Not all games that are terrible should completely be thought of as garbage, as some of them have concepts and ideas that should be expanded on in later games.
This list of the lamest and greatest “horror” games so far was quite difficult to put together. There are so many titles that deserve to be on this list, you could fill an almanac with them.
20 Scariest: Dead Space
The Dead Space series has been one of the most successful in the horror genre, especially in its ability to capture some of the old nightmares from our youth. It doesn’t matter who you are, the original Dead Space game was a tour de force of horror. It embodied not only the terror of the undead madness from the Resident Evil, but it delivered the claustrophobia and isolation which are hallmarks of the Alien film series. The fact that the game easily preyed on our fears is nothing short of a wonder. Since it takes place in space, no one can hear you scream and you may need to bring a nightlight. The controls of the game are reminiscent of the more well-known games of the genre, but Dead Space had an impact on the Fallout modding community. It may seem strange to see that typed up, but the Daughters of Ares mod for New Vegas is directly inspired by Isaac’s health-bar location.
19 Lamest: Ju-On: The Grudge
This game is bad. There is nothing nice that can really be said about it, simply because it has failed in just about every single way possible. Since all reviews and rants need a beginning, we’ll start with the graphics. The graphics were low-grade, especially by 2009 standards. Cutscenes had alright graphics, but when it came to normal play, it looked like was from the early PlayStation 2 period. There was a lot of potential, but clunky controls and awful presentation ruined all the possible scares. The greatest travesty here is that every time it sets you up for a moment of fright, it let you know exactly what's coming. The scariest moment was a bathroom scene with Toshio and it is more weird than scary. The disappointment makes this game more like a cheap hell house than a quality haunted house.
18 Scariest: Resident Evil
Resident Evil is the OG survival horror game, having had more influence on the genre than any other title. The series was able to rekindle the zombie craze during a time when wasn't as hot as it is now. When the game came out, the world was still trying to figure out what was going to happen in the aftermath of over four decades of tension between NATO and the Soviet Bloc; there was a lot of fear and confusion. Resident Evil masterfully took all of that and delivered a something which left its mark on history. The game was completely revolutionary in several aspects including its controls, presentation, and the story that it weaved. The visuals were not the best for its era, but it used what it had to inspire a tale of terror. We should all be thankful that Resident Evil exists.
17 Lamest: Bloodborne
First of all, Bloodborne is a great game, especially for fans of the Dark Souls and Demon's Souls series, but as a horror game it is awful. Sure, it has all of the elements that define the genre, but it feels more like a frustratingly difficult beat-em-up action game than anything resembling horror. Bloodborne could easily be likened to the Underworld film series in this regard. The only fear that a player should have here is how many times they will die before moving the next fifteen meters. Besides those negative comments, the game itself is pretty solid and fun. There’s a lot to say about running around killing all the beasts and demons of your nightmares, and everything that can be said is that it feels pretty cool.
16 Scariest: Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Fatal Frame 2 is one of those video games which played very well into folklore in such a way to fashion its own little universe. The series is renowned for its controls and gameplay mechanics which keep the player on their toes. The vengeful spirits of Minakami seek to complete a ritual in order to move on, or in the case of the main antagonist, reunite with her sister. One of the best aspects of this series is that it creates an environment where even the central villain is somewhat sympathetic. That aspect is central to the horror and dread of Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly as destiny, abandonment, and yearning are themes intrinsic to the plot. Multiple endings are possible, establishing a great amount of replay value.
15 Lamest: Blade II
Unlike the film, the only thing that makes Blade II truly horrifying is the fact that it was ever made. First and foremost the voice acting is among some of the worst ever done for a game of its generation, as it is murky and out of sync. The controls were an utter abomination. Whenever combat was initiated, players only had control over the direction Blade attacked and fight scenes were slower than a lethargic sloth after sedation. This new combat system was a valiant attempt to spice the game up, but it should never have made it beyond the drawing board. Blade II is definitely not worth the time, effort, or money to even touch the box, in fact, it sucked the life out of the Blade experience.
14 Scariest: Outlast
One of the greatest games of the last decade, Outlast is functionally a nice and unwholesome game of adult hide-and-go-seek. The insanity presented here is something that the developer, Red Barrels, should be proud to have made. The game is not particularly hard when it comes to its puzzles, but the platforming features make it one of great difficulty. Unlike most horror games, Outlast does not give you a way to fight back and it features a deep and enthralling story. The uniqueness of this particular entry in the survival horror genre is contrasted by its reliance on one of the genre’s more common stomping grounds, an insane asylum. The atmosphere that this game commands makes it a truly unsettling affair and its brevity is something which makes it worth a try.
13 Lamest: Deadly Premonition
Not every game needs to be the scariest or the most unique in terms of gameplay to be fun or even great. Unfortunately for Deadly Premonition, something more than average is needed in at least one of those categories. The gameplay is insanely generic, feeling more like any other title in the endless horde of mediocrity. The milk-toast nature of Deadly Premonition is most readily revealed by the soundtrack. More often than not, the soundtrack is inappropriate to the situation and forces the game to be more quirky than scary. Surprisingly, not everything is awful about this game which has something that should be featured more often: an unreliable narrator. The sole saving grace of Deadly Premonition is that you don’t know if Francis Morgan is crazy or not. Too bad that isn’t enough to make up for bad graphics and general blandness.
12 Scariest: Alien: Isolation
Let’s start with the coolest thing about Alien: Isolation, it’s a one-on-one game of hide-and-seek where the one enemy lacks a predetermined path. That’s right, the Alien roams freely as if it were an actual animal hunting its prey. Since the antagonist roams the halls of the ship freely, it forces the player to think and act more stealthily. The player cannot act like a frightened deer, but instead they must act like a quick moving groundhog. The non-linear path to surviving the game is something which makes this game so terrifying. That concept, plus the fears of confined spaces and the titular isolation, give Alien: Isolation tremendous replay value. For fans of the films, this game will surely bring back a lot of fond memories of our favorite biologically engineered mass-murder machines.
11 Lamest: Alone In The Dark: Illumination
What makes the game so lame is not the fact that’s a perfect example of total mediocrity, but that it has a fantastic concept poorly executed. Thanks to this one game, they should just bury the franchise. What was so cool about the concept behind this game? The monsters are allergic to light! The only other appearances of such a trope that come to mind are in the films Darkness Falls and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. One of the main problems that this game faced is that both multiplayer and single player are exactly the same and the one-size-fits –all mentality for the difficulty make it not that enjoyable. Furthermore, the lack of attention paid to the presentation of the game makes the whole affair feel as if it is incomplete.
10 Scariest: Silent Hill 2
Something that cannot be stated enough is that the core of any horror movie, game, book, or whatever is atmosphere. Let me tell you, Silent Hill 2 is thick with atmosphere. Players feel completely and utterly consumed by the dense fog and forlorn existential dread. As fun as the game is, the near flawless transitioning from gameplay to cutscenes is something which often times goes overlooked. The appearance of the series’ most iconic monstrosity, Pyramid Head, shows the game is not worried about making you happy. The theme of sexual violence and repression which Pyramid Head symbolizes adds to the scream-factor, something which would be more than appropriate when playing the game is, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Silent Hill 2 drains you of everything warm and happy in the most delightful of ways.
9 Lamest: Outlast 2
What brings Outlast 2 down are the exact same things that made the first game so great; the way that it’s played is almost exactly the same. In the fairly open world environment of Outlast 2, the mechanics which made a name for the franchise just feel clunky and out of place. On top of being basically a copy-paste of the first game in the way it’s played, the game relies heavily on cheap jump scares, cheaper gore, and redneck jokes to keep going. The aesthetics detract from the terror factor, taking what could have been 7/10 to a 3/10. Also, the general look of Outlast 2 is just goofy. The one saving grace for this game is the camcorder and the night-vision, which was able to give mild heart titillation.
8 Scariest: Condemned: Criminal Origins
Condemned: Criminal Origins is one of those rare gems in the horror scene that deserves high praise. The most iconic feature of this game is the rarity of firearms and forced reliance on melee combat. The general absence of guns made it to where players had to think on their feet and utilize their environment to survive. Add that to the game’s unusual pacing and visceral visuals and combat, and you have yourself a masterpiece. The unsettling nature of Condemned is made all the better by having some of the most difficult enemy AI of its generation. Something which is sadly overlooked for the game, however, is that it is basically a “horror detective.” The mysteries which you have to solve to progress add a number of dimensions to the fun. Condemned really inspired the future of survival horror as future entries to the genre made use of the limited firearms concept.
7 Lamest: Night Trap
With a cover that looks like a 1960s B-movie, Night Trap had little to offer in the way of the three f’s of horror: fun, fright, and fulfillment. The game was an interactive movie and changed, to some degree, with the player’s decisions. The whole point is to trap the killer using switches and security cameras. For all that Night Trap wants to be, it ends up as little more than a lackluster horror version of Mousetrap. Something that this title suffers from is something which I like to call “Five Nights’ Fever.” Five Nights’ Fever is when a game just drones on and on with the security-camera gimmick to the point of just wanting to give up. The whole affair of this title is predictable, stale, and above all, mediocre at best. Night Trap makes us glad that motion picture games are out of fashion.
6 Scariest: Until Dawn
The open ended story market is quickly growing to overtake all genres. Until Dawn is one of the most fun and innovative stories that has been released thus far. It heavily borrows from Algonquin folklore with the appearance of Wendigoes and revenge. The coolest thing about this game is that every single character can die and the game can still be completed. With so many possible choices, it is no wonder that Until Dawn is touted as never being the same game twice. The “butterfly effect” system of the game thoroughly blurs and blends the lines between what is right and what is wrong as every decision may have a consequence down the line. Having been designed to prevent players from seeing all content on any particular play-through, great replay value is added to this nerve wracking entry.
5 Lamest: Cry Of Fear
Cry of Fear is one of the most polarizing entries on this list, as players either absolutely loved it or hated it beyond compare. The main source of contempt for this free-to-play is that it has a great likelihood of crashing. The crashes are the main source for players giving up on the game, but after you move passed that facet, the atmosphere and the scares of Cry of Fear are not even that great. There are points where this game does shine, namely the inventory system and its unusual setting. The game’s inventory system mimics that you can only carry as much as you have room for, doing so by allowing only six items to be in your inventory at any given time. The location in Sweden is also invigorating, but not enough to save this one.
4 Scariest: P.T.
Nice, short, and to the point, it is a shame that the Playable Teaser (P.T.) will never be realized as the next Silent Hill game. The game is only a few hours in length and comes with a casket full of fright and unique mechanics. There are three characters in the entire game, you, a stillborn fetus, and Lisa. Lisa is a rather unique antagonist as she epitomizes rage and sexual frustration from a female character that you presumably killed. The game’s reliance on a never ending corridor and the suffocating enclosure of the hallway are utterly disorienting. The disorientation is greatly augmented by a series of disturbing images, sounds, and the creeping footsteps of the dreaded ghost. P.T. may no longer be available for play and the game it was supposed to tease may not be made, but this short little demo left its mark on gaming history.
3 Lamest: Friday The 13th
This game should have never been made, as no game should be as bad as Friday the 13th for the NES. The unfortunate reality is that it exists and that it is worse than what you may have heard. The game is unlike any other in that it is so hard and headache inducing that you just want Jason to hurry up and kill everyone so that the ordeal is over. Outside of the gameplay, the music is stuck on infinite repeat, driving the player to the point of mind numbing madness. Friday the 13th is so formulaic, even the most generic of slashers is less predictable than this abomination of the digital kind. Thankfully, the 2017 release redeems our favorite supernatural mass-murderer for the most part. This game should be at the bottom of this list, but there is one somehow even worse.
2 Scariest: Dead By Daylight
Dead By Daylight gets your adrenaline going and has a decent amount of variety. The whole selling point here is that you can play as either a killer or a survivor, competing against real life people. The unpredictability afforded by having all players being human makes it rather fun. The downside is that gameplay is highly repetitive and that the survivors set the pace. The revolutionary nature of Dead By Daylight has begun to influence the market, as more games are coming out that have modes similar to “Kill Your Friends.” The most overlooked aspect of the game is that it has a pretty nice story, if you look hard enough. The game is still in development after its initial release with new killers, survivors, and gameplay mechanics to alleviate any burgeoning boredom.
1 Lamest: Lifeline
This entry is the saddest on the list as it did something no other game had done by that point but it was way too early. Lifeline is the most unique game on this list as it is entirely voice controlled. The voice-recognition function of this game made it quite revolutionary, as it was the first of its kind. The unfortunate reality of this is that it was not done particularly well. The player had to enunciate extremely clearly when giving commands on this PlayStation 2 game, often times having to repeat many times just to open a door. The game is not particularly scary even when it should be, but that is not why it is ranked the worst here. The cool concept of this game was released too soon, but maybe it can be revisited in the future.