The 10 Best Survival Horror Games, And Why You Should Play Them
It's no longer news that survival horror has been in the renaissance phase for some time now and it doesn't look like it's slowing down. With the recent remake of Resident Evil 2 and the announcement of titles like The Last of Us: Part 2 and Man of Medan, fans of the genre have much to look forward to. It's safe to say that this genre won't be losing steam any time soon.
With the excitement for future titles, we've compiled a list of 10 horror games that made an impact on the industry and left gamers sleeping with the lights on. There are many great titles out there that didn't make the list, but these are just the ones that we believe stand out on top.
Top 10 Best Survival Horror Games
10. Until Dawn (2015)
Not your typical survival horror game, Until Dawn utilized a new means of storytelling only successfully done a few times before in titles like Heavy Rain where the gameplay is solely story-driven, and the choices, dialogue, and actions that the player takes with characters have an effect on their psyche, future interactions, and even the climax. In Sony exclusive, players take control of a group of teens having a get-together in the snowy mountains, but hell soon breaks loose when they discover a masked madman is stalking them. What the game does so brilliantly is allow each little interaction and action determine how the characters will fair for the rest of the story. Who will die and who will live? It's up to you.
Also to note: Man of Medan will be by the same developer with similar storytelling techniques. It is scheduled to launch in 2019.
9. The Evil Within (2014)
One of the coolest details of The Evil Within is that it was directed by Shinji Mikami, the creator of the Resident Evil franchise. What's significant about this is that gamers and fans can spot the similarities between games. The Evil Within has familiar and satisfying gameplay and combat mechanics that are reminiscent of Resident Evil 4. But the game isn't a clone. It stands out on its own accord due to its creative and brilliant storytelling that take the typical horror elements of the genre and make the player wonder what's reality and what's not. The game delves into the psyche of psychopaths and what horrors rise from the depths of the subconscious. There's plenty of jump scares, intense moments, and gore to satisfy the horror enthusiast.
8. Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly (2003)
It's one thing if you have plenty of weaponry to defend yourself against the physical horrors that await, but what about the spiritual terrors? The Fatal Frame franchise has explored the terrifying world of ghosts and spirits for some time, but it was the second installment in the series that stuck with people. First, the series took players' worst fears and forced a confrontation. Not only did players have to deal with vengeful and aggressive spirits, but they also had to deal with them through the lens of a camera with the power to exorcise, changing the POV of gameplay from a safe third-person distance to an up-and-close first-person. Having to stare down the twisted forms of the deadly spirits made for one horrifying experience. If any game were to force gamers to keep the lights on at night, it was this one.
7. Alien: Isolation (2014)
The type of horror that takes place in this game is displayed in the title. Taking place within the timeline of the Alien movie franchise, the game follows the film protagonist's daughter, Amanda Ripley who's in search of any information regarding her mother's whereabouts. This, of course, leads Amanda down a path that puts her before a Xenomorph. The catch? Amanda's all by her lonesome in this survival game, hunted endlessly by the alien. There's no killing it, so the name of the game is running and hiding, with only a few tools to aid in Amanda's survival. The game made waves amongst horror fans because it captured the right tone and horror elements that made the original Alien film so great.
6. Silent Hill 2 (2001)
There are horror games, and then there are horror games that both terrify and blow minds. Silent Hill 2 is nearly 18 years old now but is still talked about because of the impact that it had at the time. The story starts rather simple; a man comes to the town of Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his deceased wife, requesting him to meet her there. As the story progresses, the realities of the story become muddled and confused, making players wonder what's real and what's just in the psyche of the protagonist. There are multiple endings to the game, but the overall arc of the character and what Silent Hill means has impacted gamers for years. The answers to all the player's questions flip the idea of a heroic protagonist and beg the question: "who's really the monster in Silent Hill?"
5. Condemned: Criminal Origins (2005)
For its time, Condemned: Criminal Origins was one of the terrifying horror experiences in gaming history. First, it took place in a darkened and ravaged city, overwhelmed with psychotic criminals just wanting to kill the next person they see. Second, all of the levels were in abandoned and empty buildings with little to no light. Third, it was in the first-person POV, forcing the player to deal with threats up-close and personal. The unpredictable psychos that roamed the buildings wielded various weapons, including blunt objects and firearms. They were also extremely quiet and hid around corners, waiting for players to come their way for a quick ambush. The jump scares in this game were many, and it never became predictable, keeping gamers on their toes and always anticipating someone behind every door.
4. F.E.A.R. (2005)
The story revolves around Paxton Fettel, a man with unnamed powers who takes control of a battalion of clone super-soldiers (i.e., where the combat comes in). It's your job to eliminate Paxton, but he continuously eludes the protagonist and his efforts. Soon after, the player finds themselves face to face with a paranormal threat; a little girl in a red dress named Alma, who stalks the protagonist throughout the game. This creates a terrifying experience when she's crawling at you while in tight spaces, or standing behind you when you turn around. In the same vein of first-person POV horror shooters, F.E.A.R. made players feel safe by placing machines guns, grenades, and rifles in their inventory and then completely making them useless against a spiritual threat. Although the game does feature great action elements and weapon combat, once the horrors start, there's nothing saving gamers from it.
3. Dead Space (2008)
Taking inspiration from two of the best horror films, John Carpenter's The Thing and Ridley Scott's Alien, this sci-fi horror title gave us something fresh and new that made it an instant classic. Despite its heavy inspirations, the story was unique and stood out amongst the others in the same genre. It gave us an empathetic character (who didn't speak) in search of his wife aboard the mining ship USG Ishimura. He is tasked as an engineer with a team responding to a distress signal from his wife's ship. Once there, they find the horrors that await them are beyond anything anyone had seen before: a new alien species that infected and deformed human-life forms, making them grotesque creatures. Players had to be strategic in taking down the deformed aliens since shooting them in the chest didn't do the trick, so the key to survival was dismembering the alien's limbs in hopes to subdue them. To this day, Dead Space is still a classic amongst horror fans.
2. Resident Evil 7 (2017)
One of the longest-running horror franchises in the gaming industry, Resident Evil has gone through many changes over the years to keep it fresh and new. The series' biggest change came in the form of Resident Evil 7 in 2017, when Capcom took everything we knew about the zombie title and turned it around on us. Changing from third-person POV to completely first-person, players had to deal with tense atmospheres and new enemies closer than usual. The game also places gamers in the shoes of Ethan who comes to a mansion in Louisiana after receiving a message from his wife who was presumed dead for nearly three years. Upon arrival, Ethan discovers that nothing is right with the situation and the owners of the mansion are infected with a type of virus, making them extremely violent and near-impossible to kill. Ethan is also one of the first protagonists of the franchise to be a less-than-competent survivor, having no previous experience as a cop or S.T.A.R.S. member. He's just a regular guy, trying not to get killed. Filled with jump scares, low ammo, classic monsters, and good old mansion exploration, Resident Evil 7 is a groundbreaking experience for longtime fans of horror and the franchise.
1. The Last of Us (2013)
Equal parts survival horror and a character drama, The Last of Us taught us that you can have terrifying moments and deep character development all at once. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, where most of humanity has been infected with a fungal disease that turns them into quick-moving zombies, the game looks into the heart of the human condition and gives us some of the most memorable characters in gaming history. Players will take the role of Joel, a grieving father who lost his daughter during the onset of the apocalypse, whose task is to take a young girl who is immune to the fungus across the country to Salt Lake City, Utah. On this long journey, the two characters develop a relationship that comes to a devastating end. The Last of Us is from the PS3 era but has been rightfully remastered for PS4, so it is easily accessible. There will also be a sequel that was promoted at last year's E3 conference, which picks up with the same characters years after the end of the first game. We can't recommend this game enough.