Anyone can do horror. We’re interested in games that do something much more difficult: get under your skin.
As a rule, it’s usually much easier to go for a jump scare than taking the time to really creep an audience out. The approach that prizes subtly usually is the one that is most effective in the long run and ultimately is remembered. And, as we know… there are plenty of games out there that’ll make us jump. But like a good movie, it’s the ones that get under our skin that ultimately become classics.
So, in honor of the fast approaching Halloween, we’re here to give you a list of our 10 favorite creepy games. We stress these are not necessarily horror games (though most are), but games that really know how to get creep you out and make you feel uneasy long after you’ve played them.
1. Silent Hill 2
Long considered to be not only the pinnacle of the series, but also a deeply disturbing tale. Silent Hill 2 delves into abuse, psychosis , and the lies we tell ourselves to rationalize our actions. The game features some pretty disturbing character moments and the series’ most fearsome villain: Pyramid Head.
2. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
What could have been an otherwise run of the mill survival horror game was turned into a true classic with the introduction of a “sanity meter.”
When exposed to the game’s enemies, your character’s sanity begins to drop, causing the game to break the fourth wall and completely screw with the player. Strange noises and strange camera effects led to the game pretending that there were problems with your TV or your controller. More than a few players yanked out their controller cords in panic, and all of them remember the game well.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
While Majora’s Mask may not be a horror game, it’s actually the perfect Halloween game. Not only the game creepy as hell, but the primary game mechanic has Link running around wearing masks. The game’s “three days ’till the end of the world” premise gives the game a tension and unease that you felt in your bones. One of the biggest themes of the game is also death, which is brought to the forefront by the fact you receive your primary masks from dead or dying spirits.
4. Dead Space
Dead Space could have been a run of the mill survival horror game, but they decided to take it that extra step that makes it memorable. Sure, the game mechanics are full of tension and the necromorphs are scary, but the moments that fake you out and put you in Isaac Clarke’s mentally unstable shoes are what makes the game a true atmospheric classic.
5. Thief: Deadly Shadows
The Thief series in general belongs on this list, as its use of the occult and the dark places of its Middle Ages/Victorian era setting. But special attention goes to third game, Thief: Deadly Shadows, that sports a mission where you need to infiltrate an orphanage turned asylum. We won’t spoil the surprise, but you can bet some disturbing stuff goes down inside. An honorable mention in the same genre goes to Dishonored.
6. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 – The Sith Lords
Like Majora’s Mask, Obsidian’s Knights of the Old Republic 2 is a sequel that goes in a completely different direction than the very by-the-book first game. Instead of a straight forward Star Wars adventure, this game features a galaxy that’s just broken and eerie. In fact, all the characters are damaged in some way, many of them questioning the very fundamentals of the Star Wars universe that we took for granted.
From the melancholy soundtrack to the muted color palette, Knights of the Old Republic 2 has a sadness to it and a feeling that something beneath the surface is wrong. Nowhere is this personified better than Kreia, an old woman who serves as your mentor… but features many dark secrets always just out of your reach.
7. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
If gaming ever had a love letter to H.P. Lovecraft, it’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Not only did it start the powerless first person horror genre that’s been popular the last few years, it also decided to drip itself in the atmosphere of Victorian horror.
You awake in the midst of an estate without your memory, your only knowledge of your predicament in the form of a letter urging you to kill someone who has performed terrible supernatural deeds. Oh, and the letter was written by you. So, it’s up to you to go deeper into the estate and brave its secrets in order to find your target… which include all kinds of horrific sights. Oh, and this one has a sanity system too. Have fun with that.
8. System Shock 2
We were honestly thinking about including Bioshock here, but decided that if we’re going for pure horror and creep factor System Shock 2 takes the medal. Not only is its cyberpunk-gone-wrong approach to horror genuinely refreshing, it works as a fantastic action RPG in its own right. It also features one of the most iconic twists of all time.
9. Clock Tower
Sometimes you just can’t beat a classic. A classic point-and-click adventure that is very much the grandfather to many modern horror titles. You’re stuck in a mansion (where else?) filled with inexplicable puzzles (of course). The thing the game is most known for is Scissorman, a killer who stalks you the entire game with a massive pair of (you guessed it) scissors. Like Nemesis in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis or the Xenomorph in Alien: Isolation, this bad boy is always on the prowl for you… and if he catches you be prepared to fight for your life. At the time, this was the horror game to play.
10. Half-Life 2
Yes, Ravenholm is possibly one of the scariest sections in any game ever. But Half-Life 2‘s creepiness goes beyond the section of the game. Like other games on this list, Half-Life 2 portrays a world that has gone wrong on a basic level. An extra-terrestrial totalitarian regime has enslaved the world, which you experience first-hand. But the oppression isn’t just overt, there’s a subtle and still sadness to City 17 and its people that sets such a thick atmosphere it stays in your mind years after you’ve watch the end credits roll.
Oh, and the G-Man is just super creepy. Seriously, the way that guy talks makes our skin crawl.