Whether you want a modern chiller or gems from years gone by, we’ve got you covered From modern thrillers to all-time spooky classics, our guide to the best horror games for PC, PS4, Xbox One and a few from last generation and virtual reality, has something spine-chilling for everyone.
Here are the best games to play if you want to scare yourself, so turn the lights down low and get stuck in.
Related: Xbox One X
Resident Evil 7
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC
- Genuinely terrifying
- Stellar visuals
- Superb voice-acting and amazing sound design
- Some plot points aren’t as impactful as they should be
- VR experience can be nauseating
When did Resident Evil lose its power to shock and scare? Was it with the co-op nonsense of Resident Evil 5? The disastrous action-game heroics of Resident Evil 6? Only the spin-off Revelations series showed any clue that Capcom knew what fear meant. Then along came Resident Evil 7. The shift to first-person marked a new kind of survival horror game; incredibly immersive, often unpredictable, frequently terrifying. Out went the baroque plotting and panto villains, in came something altogether grittier and nastier.
As you wander around the Baker homestead, dodging the various warped and psychopathic members of the family, Resi 7 doesn’t just so much keep you on the edge of your seat as make you want to hide, whimpering, behind it. It’s not a game that makes you feel empowered as you head-shot zombies with slick precision, but one designed to put you in a cold sweat panic, desperately trying to sneak around without getting spotted. And when you do get the chance to turn the tables, revenge is all the sweeter. With Resident Evil 7, Capcom managed the impossible: redefining the horror game for a third time.
Layers of Fear
Available on Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
- Strange and disturbing
- Brooding atmosphere
- Creepy sound
- Keeps messing with your senses
- Fairly short
- Some illogical puzzles
The best horror movies aren’t just about jump scares, but about a brooding sense of dread – a fear that something, psychologically, is off kilter. You can say the same about Bloober Team’s indie horror masterpiece. On the face of it you’re a painter, returning to your Victorian mansion to find and finish your last masterpiece, but the game’s six chapters are more a journey into the artist’s troubled mind, exploring the price he paid for his art – or the price that others have paid for him.
That makes Layers of Fear seem dull and arty, but it’s anything but. What starts off as your generic haunted mansion shifts and twists into something else, as the layout changes around you, halls lengthen and rooms grow taller, paintings seem to move and swathes of oil colour erupt into the scene. The use of sound to scare is merciless – especially on headphones – and when the monsters come, they’re more disturbing than any standard-issue ghost or zombie. Literate and with its own horrid beauty, Layers of Fear is the stuff of sweaty nightmares.
Dead by Daylight
Available on Xbox One, PS4, PC
- Brilliant asynchronous gameplay
- Powerful and terrifying killers
- Tense hide-and-seek gameplay
- Incredible use of sound
- Wasted narrative
- Could use more meat and substance
There aren’t many great games inspired by the big killer franchises of the seventies and eighties, but Dead by Daylight brings them back to life better than the modern movie remakes. The secret’s in the setup. Four players play survivors, working to escape each creepy level by fixing the generators that power the gate. But they’re being hunted by a fifth player – a fiendish killer with supernatural skills. It’s the killer’s job to find each survivor and hang them as a sacrifice from a hook. They’re fast, strong and can’t be hurt. The survivors will need all their ingenuity to dodge them, distract them and live long enough to get out.
Each killer has his or her own special powers, laying traps, turning invisible, shifting forwards for a brutal stealth attack. Dead by Daylight started strong with riffs on Leatherface and Jason, and has since added movie tie-ins for Saw, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm St and Halloween, plus monsters inspired by Japanese horror, haunted hospitals and killer clowns. Sure, it’s hide and seek at heart, but so much scarier for the hiders and viciously rewarding for the seeker. If Dead by Daylight doesn’t raise your pulse, well, it must be daylight already for you.
Exclusive to PS4
- Dark, moody feel
- Satisfying action-game mechanics
- Smart level design
- Frequently frustrating
- Can be wilfully obscure
There’s always been an element of horror in the fantasy of the Souls games, but with Bloodborne From Software let it rip. Yharnam is the place where steampunk dark fantasy and Lovecraft meet, where malevolent horrors haunt the squares and cemeteries and blood-crazed mobs roam the dark, cobbled streets. Prepare to die? Even with a toolbox of shape-shifting weapons and a stagger-causing firearm you’ll struggle to survive for long. Bloodborne pushes you to play aggressively, but it’s hard being aggressive when you’re every impulse is to run and hide.
While it’s doomed to play second fiddle to the Dark Souls trilogy, Bloodborne is still From at the top of its game; tough, beautifully balanced and featuring some of the most dramatic gothic scenery and hideous monsters it’s every produced. It’s the ultimate fight or flight game, and the scariest effort From has ever produced.
Available on Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS
- Eerie and intriguing
- Sophisticated dialogue system
- Distinctive art style
- Few real puzzles
- Quite short lived
Stranger Things has yet to produce a proper console adaptation, but maybe it doesn’t need to. Oxenfree has the same eighties vibe, the same movie influences and a similar story of high-school teens in trouble with mysterious forces. It’s smart, well-written and as funny and lovable as it is dark.
Built by Night School Studio, a studio set up by ex-Telltale folks, it’s a graphic adventure shown from a distinctive zoomed-out perspective, yet its characters seem recognisably real. Stuck on a holiday island where extra-dimensional powers appear to have been unleashed, it’s short on jump scares but big on creepy atmosphere, where mundane details clash against the sense that something really strange is going on. It’s not the most terrifying game on this list, but it can be touching and oddly haunting – the sort of game where you’ll want to play it twice just to get the bigger picture.
Available on PC
- Gorgeous retro-tech presentation
- Effective chills
- Plays with what you can’t see
- Brilliant use of audio effects
- Quite short-lived
- First chapter is the best
Talking of Stranger Things, there’s more than a little of its influence in No Code’s horror adventure anthology. Its four parts seem unconnected, each featuring a protagonist seated at a desk, interacting with the world only through the vintage computer equipment in front of them. And in each, something uncanny is happening – something that makes you want to take your eyes off the screen in front and head for the hills. Like a classic ghost story, Stories Untold isn’t trying to shock and horrify; it wants to steadily infer things, unnerve and disturb you. It’s going to sneak up on you and creep you out.
If its first part, The House Abandon, is the best, it’s because it has a tale worthy of a modern M.R. James which it tells with a merciless economy. The latter segments aren’t quite so scary, but they build into a bigger picture with a quietly devastating final punch. The retro tech, dialogue and music is pitch-perfect, the eerie atmosphere spot-on and if you grew up in the era of 8-bit home computers and clunky text adventures, you’ll get the strong sense of nostalgia. Stories Untold won’t scare you to death, but don’t be surprised if it haunts your dreams.
Available on Xbox One, PS4, PC
- Incredibly immersive (and even submersive)
- Constantly building tension
- Horrifying monsters
- Thought-provoking storyline
- Monsters too often feel like a nuisance
Frictional Games are the masters of creeping dread and outright terror, Amnesia: The Dark Descent now looks dated, yet still makes hiding in the dark, trying not to look at something monstrous, powerfully scary eight years on. The studio’s follow-up, Soma, can be every bit as creepy – a journey through a deep ocean base in a post-apocalyptic world, patrolled by monsters so hideous you won’t want to look at them, or have them look too close at you.
As with Amnesia and Alien: Isolation, Soma isn’t a game about defeating threats but running away from them. You try to avoid detection and, when all else fails, leg it. For some, this runs counter to the game’s slow accumulation of dread, in which case the new Safe mode makes the monsters a little less threatening. The whole experience is sold by the undersea environments – so well-conceived and detailed that it’s hard to believe that they’re a fantasy – and once Soma’s probing nature gets under your skin, you just won’t shift it. Both cerebral and creepy, it’s a real thinking person’s horror game.
The Evil Within 2
Available on Xbox One, PS4, PC
- Nervy open-world survival horror
- Some really scary and gruesome moments
- Nerve-wracking stealth
- Hard-hitting combat
- Storyline is absolutely bonkers
- Open world stuff has its dull stretches
With The Evil Within, Horror-master Shinji Mikami delivered a confounding would-be horror classic, mixing suspense and psychological horror with the scares and body horror he’s pioneered with Resident Evil 1, 2 and 4, but undercut by a baffling story, woeful dialogue and bizarre design choices. Mikami came within reach of creating a better Resident Evil than Resident Evil 6, only to blow it.
With the under-appreciated sequel, The Evil Within 2, Mikami stepped away to act as a consultant, leaving the team at Tango Gameworks to lead the game. But instead of cutting down on all the WTF tomfoolery, they came back with something every bit as strange – the first open-world survival horror game. Like most of The Evil Within 2 this idea doesn’t always work, but at its peak it’s a crazy, trippy game, where elements of Silent Hill rub against parts of Resident Evil, with imagery from Cronenberg, Lynch and Clive Barker and a love of tripping you up just as you’re racing through it. A year on, it’s faults are almost endearing, it’s best bits terrifying.
Exclusive to PSVR
- Great use of VR for tension and release
- Scary use of sound and lighting
- Fascinating mix of genres
- Can be repetitive and frustrating
- Very indebted to Dead Space
The Persistence isn’t the last word in VR horror – if your stomach and nerves can handle it, go for Resident Evil 7. It is, however, a stunningly effective attempt at making horror work in VR, mixing Dead Space with Dead Cells and Dark Souls, the randomised kill, die, repeat antics of the roguelike with the jump scares of a more orchestrated linear game.
You’re the last remaining human on the Persistence, or at least the last remaining human consciousness that can be jacked into a succession of cloned bodies. This colossal star ship has gone crazy, affected by those good old dark dimensional forces which have set the ship’s matter replicators on overdrive, creating hideous mutant clones of the crew and creating a ship that changes shape every time you die. You keep pushing through, harvesting DNA from downed mutants and the corpses of old crew-mates, improving your abilities and gaining access to new weapons. And all the time you’re both hunter and the hunted, sneaking up on the mutants while ever wary of surprise attacks.
Out of VR this would be a good game, but not all that special. The Persistence wouldn’t actually be as weird or scary as last year’s sci-fi horror effort, Echo, which nearly stole its place in this list. In VR, though, it’s a different story. You peek around nervously, alert for every sound and every sign of movement, with the tension only made worse by the nerve-torturing use of sound. Maybe being the second-scariest VR horror game is enough.
Dead Space 2
Available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Xbox One (through backwards compatibility)
- One of the scariest games of the last console generation
- Grim supernatural meets sci-fi blend
- Necromorphs make challenging enemies
- Superb use of sound to cause brown trouser issues
- Not as innovative as the original
- Sometimes goes too action heavy
Just when Resident Evil started going wrong, Dead Space gave us a new sci-fi take on survival horror, and the first two games are still amongst the genre’s best. For its clear vision and scary atmospherics the original is hard to beat, but the sequel is even darker and more psychologically affecting, helped by one of the great dark future settings of any video game.
In the abandoned space colony of xxx, you’re facing not just the lanky-limbed, sabre-clawed necromorphs, but the nutty cultists working to bring an apocalypse about. The series use of sound is one of its shining glories, every clank, murmur and gurgle a source of lurking fear. And where Dead Space 3 went awry with its overpowered military weapons, Dead Space 2 gave you the tools you needed to slay the monsters but not so much firepower that you wouldn’t fear them. Grab both games for PC on EA Origin or on Xbox One through the store (thanks to backwards compatibility). They haven’t lost their ability to freak you out.