With many beloved franchises such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil, horror games have become some of the most popular games in the entire medium. Some of these games get large fanbases, many sequels, various adaptations, and even films. But because there are hundreds of horror games, some of them have slipped through the cracks and remained relatively unknown.
Despite the obscurity, games like Siren and The Path are hidden gems that definitely should be tried at least once. Even for players that are not typically fans of horror, these games have plenty of unique gameplay elements and ideas to explore.
UPDATE: 2022/10/26 00:15 EST BY SHAWN S. LEALOS
Many people love to watch horror movies during the Halloween season to get a good scare. However, for gamers, there is nothing better than dimming the lights, throwing on a pair of headphones, and sitting down with a terrifying horror video game. While everyone knows about the old stand-byes like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and others of that kind, there is often a desire to find something new during the spooky season. There are plenty of obscure horror video games out there to choose from, and these are games that will not only scare the gamers, but also surprise them since it is like nothing they have ever played before.
The Suffering came out in 2004 for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC. The story follows a prisoner on death row named Torque, sentenced for killing his ex-wife and two kids. However, the twist is that he has no memories of the murders and doesn’t know if he did it or not.
The horror game starts when an earthquake rocks the prison and supernatural forces attack. While critics seemed to love it, and it sold well at first, it never had the lasting power of the bigger horror franchises. While the violence is gritty and this is a more adult title, the story is what carries it as the player’s decisions will affect what kind of man Torque really is, and will determine what really happened in his past.
Clive Barker’s Undying
Clive Barker’s Undying might be the scariest horror video game most people have forgotten about. It is a first-person horror shooter that came out in 2001 and critics and gamers both praised Clive Barker’s entry into the video game world.
The game mixed magic and gunplay to allow the gamer to kill evil humans, undead monsters, and other Lovecraftian creatures of the night. It also had the bonus of telling a Clive Barker story at the same time. It is unnerving and gruesome and exactly what a horror fan could want from a video game.
Cold Fear is a horror game that could have been huge if released at any other time. However, it came out two months after Resident Evil 4, which was one of the best games in that franchise. As a result, it was overshadowed and remains mostly obscure to this day as a result.
Many fans at the time considered it an inferior version of RE4, but that wasn’t really fair. The story follows a Coast Guardsman named Tom who investigates a whaling ship and finds mindless zombies onboard. His job is to figure out what happened to the ship and survive the hoards, on a dark ship, in the middle of the ocean. The gameplay, graphics, and setting are all great, and the game deserves a second look.
Rule of Rose
Rule of Rose is a horror game many people forgot existed because of the controversy that surrounded its release. The entire purpose of this game was to create a horror experience that was very different from Resident Evil and Silent Hill. They succeeded with a very disturbing story.
Jennifer is a teenager on an airship, at the mercy of a sadistic group known as the Red Crayon Aristocrats. They force her to bring them offerings every month, and she only has her dog Brown as a companion. The story also has a very dark ending, and there is no happily ever after here. This is for true horror fans who want something that will push the boundaries of the genre.
Detention was a horror videogame released in 2017 by Red Candle Games. The game is very scary, but that isn’t what makes it a must-play game for any horror fans. The highlights are the characters, story, and how both of those leave players very emotionally invested in what happens.
The game is a 2D side-scroller set in the 60s in a society under martial law. It follows two students trapped at a hgigh school in a remote area when evil creatures known as the lingered arrive. These two kids then have to find out the dark past of the school while trying to stay alive. Despite the old-school gameplay, this is a terrifying addition to the horror game genre for players who don’t usually get scared.
Released in 2003 for the PS2, Siren is a stealth survival horror game where the player controls ten different characters who gain the ability to see and hear what other creatures see and hear. This “sightjacking” ability is used to help the characters survive against zombie-like creatures called “Shibito” and escape the recently devastated village of Hanuda. Over the course of three in-game days, the player will switch between the different characters and complete objectives in the levels to unlock other objectives and levels.
Developed by Keiichiro Toyama who created the first Silent Hill game, Siren‘s non-linear gameplay and sight jacking mechanic has made it a cult classic. Though the gameplay has been criticized by some players for being tedious or frustrating, the unique ideas and mysterious plot make the game worthwhile. Despite its relative obscurity, the game has had several sequels, adaptations, and even a film called Japanese Siren.
Realms of the Haunting
Created for the MS-DOS in 1997, Realms of the Haunting is a first-person shooter survival horror adventure game about a man named Adam Randall who gets trapped in a large mansion while investigating the death of his father. After meeting a psychic named Rebecca Trevisard, Adam slowly discovers that he is the chosen one meant to stop the apocalypse by traveling to different universes, solving puzzles, and killing monsters.
With over 80 hours of content and many FMV cutscenes, this obscure horror game has an expansive narrative filled with plot twists, hidden lore, and various moral perspectives. While the gameplay is a little awkward, the creative universe will easily entice the player and lead to a unique experience.
In 1996, the point-and-click adventure horror game Harvester was released for MS-DOS. The game follows amnesiac eighteen-year-old Steve Mason as he explores the disturbingly violent town of Harvest. While interacting with creepy characters and investigating strange locations, the player can choose to either solve puzzles or just kill NPCs to progress.
Harvester has become a cult classic for its absurd narrative, extreme violence, and unsettling FMVs. The game’s moody aesthetics and basic controls are reminiscent of The 7th Guest, one of the most influential horror games. Over the course of the narrative, the game asks whether there is a connection between fictional violence and real-life violence, which is a question that still resonates today.
Originally titled Dark Messiah in Japan, Hellnight is a first-person survival horror adventure game published by Atlus and Konami. Released in 1998 in only Japan and Europe, this obscure PlayStation game follows an unnamed male protagonist as he and a companion travel through an underground city called “The Mesh” while being pursued by a monstrous creature. Since the player cannot fight the creature, they must avoid it, solve puzzles, and explore the maze-like tunnels under Tokyo to find a way back to the surface.
With a unique premise and status as one of the first survival horror games to not have combat, Hellnight convinces gamers to dive deeper to uncover some shocking mysteries. Also, since a player can only have one companion and each of the available companions has their own abilities, story, and dialogue, there is some incentive for multiple playthroughs.
The Path is a 2009 psychological horror art game that is a modern reimagining of the well-known fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. In this PC game, the player chooses from one of six sisters to take a basket to grandmother’s house. The game gives one rule: “Go to grandmother’s house and stay on the path.” But the player has to break this rule and go into the woods in order to find items, meet their own unique “wolf,” and eventually get the “ending” after playing as each of the girls.
Along with the beautiful art and narrative focus on the trauma of growing up, The Path is known for going against gameplay tropes by requiring the player to not follow the rules and not having a definite ending. Many games have been inspired by The Path, which includes some popular titles like The Stanley Parable.
White Day: A Labyrinth Named School
Originally released only in South Korea in 2001 for Windows, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School is a survival horror game about a high school boy named Lee Hui-min who decides to visit his school at night to deliver a White Day gift to his crush. But after he enters the school, he gets trapped in the school and must solve puzzles, make dialogue choices, and avoid enemies such as killer janitors and ghosts in order to escape.
The game is filled with interesting puzzles and a wide variety of ghosts, which makes it fun to explore the building. Years after the game gained a small cult following, the game got a remake in 2015 with an official English translation.
Martian Gothic: Unification
Released in 2000 for PlayStation and Windows, Martian Gothic: Unification is a survival horror game where the player controls three characters as they investigate a Martian base called Vita-01 and discover that all the humans at the base have turned into zombies. Similar to the Resident Evil franchise, the characters must fight zombies and solve puzzles. The unique part is that the characters, who entered the base separately, cannot physically meet because they will mutate if they get near each other.
Despite sharing many similarities with fixed-camera Resident Evil games, the extensive lore and stronger focus on puzzle-solving make this game stand out on its own. Also, combat has to be done differently because the zombies can only be temporarily defeated, which adds an extra level of difficulty.
In 1998, FromSoftware, which is best known for the Souls game franchise, released a horror adventure game for the Playstation called Echo Night. The game follows Richard Osmond as he investigates what happened to the vanished ship Orpheus. After the player gets supernaturally teleported to the ship, they will need to solve puzzles, avoid hostile ghosts by turning on lights, and work with other ghosts to get “Astral Pieces.”
As one of the few horror games that take place on a ship, Echo Night has a unique premise. The puzzles involving the ghosts add an interesting gameplay mechanic, and the supernatural plot will keep the player guessing until the end.
Made by the indie developer Kitty Horrorshow, Anatomy is a 2016 psychological horror game that can be downloaded on itch.io. During the game, the player explores a dark house while listening to audio tapes that talk about how a house is similar to an organic body. As the game continues, the house becomes more distorted with glitches and fleshy walls.
Similar to the developer’s other games, Anatomy uses excellent sound design and the creepiness of PS1-styled graphics to convey surreal body horror. The game burrows into the player’s head and remains there long after the game ends.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
Based on well-known science fiction author Harlan Ellison’s short story with the same name, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a horror point-and-click adventures game released in 1995 for the MS-DOS and Mac OS. The game is about an evil sentient supercomputer named “AM,” who is voiced by Ellison, that recently wiped out all of humanity except for five individuals. While facing their traumas and flaws, the human characters must properly solve puzzles and ethical dilemmas in order to defeat “AM.”
With a strong narrative that focuses on difficult topics, this challenging game successfully brings the spirit of dystopian science fiction narratives into video games. Regardless of the ending the player gets, the game is unforgettable.
NEXT: 10 Fun Horror Video Games That Even Non-Horror Fans Can Enjoy