Horror games are a great way to enjoy the spooky season from the comfort of your own home.
Illustration by Molly Moline, Columbia College
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Horror games are a great way to enjoy the spooky season from the comfort of your own home.
Illustration by Molly Moline, Columbia College

Dive right into the spooky season with these chilling experiences sure to leave you trembling in your seat!

While most people get their adrenaline fix by riding a roller coaster or watching a horror movie, others might decide to combine both experiences into one. This is where horror games come into play. Horror is one of the most common genres produced in the video game industry and it’s no surprise why. Many people choose horror games in search of a good scare without experiencing any real danger. Game developers choose different ways to scare the player, such as classic jump scares, psychological horrors, or forcing the player to make risky decisions. Regardless of which game you pick, these horror games will certainly make you scream in fright.

1. Outlast (2013)

This horror game takes place in Mount Massive Asylum, where an investigative reporter, Miles Upshur, receives an anonymous tip that this hospital is performing unethical experiments on its patients. Tasked with uncovering the secrets of this privately owned psychiatric hospital, the player begins the game with an encounter with one of the security staff members, skewered on a pole, warning you to leave.

This is where the game quickly shifts gears, transforming from a quest for the truth to a desperate fight to stay alive. The entire game is viewed through the camera Miles Upshur brings to record evidence, which comes with a night vision feature. Even after all these years, the game still has incredible reviews and two additional installments. The horror game can be played on any platform for $19.99.

2. Five Nights at Freddy’s (2014)

This game centers around a rundown pizzeria where several children have gone missing, and the animatronics reek and have strange red stains oozing from their eyes and mouth. In this horror game, the player plays as the night guard assigned to watch over the building from midnight until six in the morning. Before each shift, the player receives a phone call explaining how things are supposed to operate at night, such as the animatronic cast roaming the halls. Yet Freddy, Bonnie, Chica and Foxy all have one goal in mind for the night guard: to stuff you into an empty suit.

This horror game stands out among the crowd since the player does not search for the jump scares, the jump scares go to them. Your only means of protection are two metal doors on each side of the room, along with a tablet that displays a set of cameras of the entire building; however, you have a limited amount of electricity to power them. This game by Scott Cawthon, the creator and developer, has created an entire franchise. The first is available for $4.99 on all platforms.

3. Until Dawn (2015)

In this interactive game, the player is given the opportunity to make decisions that will affect the rest of the game — creating a butterfly effect. The game is divided into 10 chapters, during which the player takes control of one of the eight characters thrown into this horrendous night.

As the title would suggest, the main objective of this horror game is to survive until dawn, in this case, while fending off grotesque humanoid creatures known as wendigos. Native American folklore is woven throughout the plot, from the creature that hunts you in the night to the totems that can be found throughout the game, giving hints to possible outcomes. Only $19.99, this game is exclusively available on the PlayStation, so explore all the possible outcomes and choices — it might save a life.

4. Layers of Fear (2016)

This game is a psychological horror from the perspective of an aspiring painter whose sanity is quickly diminishing. While you begin the game as a painter returning home in hopes of creating his masterpiece, hallucinations quickly set in. As the player explores a beautiful house that begins to turn ugly, reflecting the painter’s mental state, the player begins to learn more about this anonymous painter and his family, discovering how a loving family crumbled due to his obsession with art, his battle with alcoholism and his struggle with possibly undiagnosed schizophrenia.

Even though jump scares are used heavily throughout the game, what’s truly frightening is how unsettling the house becomes. Paintings begin to turn, the walls start to decay, and rats are seen and heard through the halls and walls of the home. This psychological horror game is only available for PC players on Steam for $19.99.

5. Stories Untold (2017)

This episodic horror game tells its story through four episodes, each played in a unique style that allows the player to slowly unravel the truth of an accident that befell James Aition, the main character. Each episode is formatted differently, telling a unique story that forces the player to think outside the box in order to progress the game. While it has few to no jump scares, the unsettling scenarios are enough to send a chill down anyone’s spine. Throughout each chapter, the truth quickly falls into place, all against the backdrop of the horror-like elements that are intertwined with the story. This text-based game can be played on any platform for $10.99.

6. Doki Doki Literature Club! (2017)

Don’t let this title fool you; this is actually a pretty scary horror game. You play a nameless protagonist that is invited by your neighbor Sayori to join your high school’s literature club. Throughout the story, the player creates poems for the club, picking specific words that are aimed at one of the main four characters: Sayori, Yuri, Natsuki and Monika. Each girl has a unique taste in literature that can improve your relationship with them if you choose the correct words.

However, things take a turn for the worse when Monika wants alone time with you. She takes drastic measures so that the other three girls rapidly change in the hopes of making the player like Monika. She goes so far as erasing the player’s entire game file and hacking into their data, retrieving the player’s actual name, as opposed to the main character. While the game is free to play on any platform, it contains many graphic and triggering scenes the player should be aware of.

7. Visage (2020)

Set in a suburban home, the game finds protagonist Dwayne Anderson trapped in his house after killing his wife, children and himself. The main objective of the game is to escape the house and uncover the paranormal activity haunting his home. It features a semi-open world that gives the player the freedom to explore and solve puzzles that reveal more about the house, although the game loves to psychologically mess with the player too. The player must also be aware of their level of sanity; to keep it at a reasonable level, the player must avoid staying in the dark for too long, avoid witnessing paranormal events as well as avoid the ghost/demon at all costs. To combat their decreasing sanity, the player can also either take pills or keep a light source on them as they explore the darkened house. This game can be played on any platform for $34.99. 

8. Phasmophobia (2020)

This game is the perfect choice if you want to play a horror game with friends; the goal is to explore haunted pieces of property. The game allows players to communicate in-game, but be warned, your friends are not the only ones who can hear you.

As the player tries to figure out what kind of ghost is haunting the map, they are given the chance to interact with the ghost through a variety of tools. These tools determine which kind of ghost you’re dealing with and how to prevent it from killing you. While the player tries to learn what ghost is haunting the place, the player’s sanity will fade, which makes the ghost more hostile. If the player becomes unlucky and the ghost starts a hunt, the player must remain quiet and hide in order to survive.

The player can choose from many maps, each with its own ideal number of players and tools. The level of difficulty can make these hunts easy or extremely hard. Since this game is still in early access on Steam, it is currently listed at $13.99 with continuous updates being pushed out.

 9. Fears to Fathom (2021)

The game is told in an episodic style, each chapter being a horror story based on something that happened in real life. While there are only two chapters out, both chapters feature a unique story that will certainly instill fear into the player. The first chapter is told by Miles, a 14-year-old left alone for the weekend who discovers that someone has broken into the house. As Miles, the player must remain quiet and hide from the stranger until the cops arrive. If they fail to do so, then the game automatically ends and the player must try again.

The second chapter is told by 19-year-old Holly. Her car breaks down so she catches a ride to a local motel where a strange man begins peeking through their window into the room. Unnerved by this, Holly leaves the room to grab a cup of coffee that has been drugged; once the player reaches their room again, they ultimately pass out, only to wake up to the stranger trying to let themselves into the room. With more chapters to come, the horror game is free to play on Steam.

10. The Mortuary Assistant (2022)

A horror game that forces the player to clean up and interact with dead bodies is already unsettling. To make matters worse, Rebecca Owens, the latest assistant and the game’s protagonist, quickly discovers that there’s more to the job than simply prepping the bodies. The player finds out that a demon has attached itself to Rebecca and the only way to make it through the night is to pass possession onto one of the three bodies you’re instructed to prepare. If the player chooses the wrong body, Rebecca dies. There are seven endings to this game, with two secret endings and one true ending.

As the player begins to piece together clues about Rebecca’s past and the mortician’s office, the demon grows stronger. It’s up to the player to discover and pick the correct demon while enduring several jump scares in this disconcerting situation. Because you prep the bodies just like a real mortician, the game is extremely graphic. The horror game is only available on Steam for $24.99.

Writer Profile

Kirsten Kalebich

Arizona State University
Major in English, Minor in Business

A dreamer who wants to become an author or editor. In her spare time, she writes countless stories on her phone and reads an insane amount of fiction.

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