One of the most fundamental emotions that all people experience is fear. But not every form of terror is the same.
A profoundly unsettling game can shock you to your very core, just like a well-timed jump-scare can make you lose your cool.
It’s the sensation you have when something is gravely wrong but you are unable to identify what it is.
Or maybe you’re afraid of what you could find if you investigate more closely.
We are more disturbed by the implications of the thing than by the item itself.
These scary video games will appeal to you greatly if you enjoy films like Hereditary and Get Out.
- 16. Remothered: Tormented Fathers
- 15. Outlast (2013)
- 14. Manhunt (2007)
- 13. Hatred (2015)
- 12. Biohazard from Resident Evil 7 (2017)
- 11. Hellblade: The Sacrifice of Senua (2017)
- 10. Eternal Darkness
- 9. Silent Hill (1999)
- 8. Unwelcome Siren
- 7. Rebirth in The Binding of Isaac (2014)
- 6. Pony Island (2016)
- 5. Dead Space (2008)
- 4. Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly
- 3. Sanitarium (1998)
- 2. Doki Doki Literature Club! (2017)
- 1. LISA: The Hurting (2014)
16. Remothered: Tormented Fathers
Remothered: Tormented Fathers got off to a great start for an independent game.
The script could have been written by a child, the controls are a little awkward, and the graphics aren’t flawless, but it hits all the proper survival horror notes.
Rosemary looks into the puzzling disappearance of a little child and ends up questioning Richard Felton because she believes he is responsible.
Rosemary hides in the house until the nurse leaves after their interview.
That evening, she learns that Richard is a psychopath, and she needs to move stealthily to avoid the dead man while attempting to learn the truth about Celeste.
15. Outlast (2013)
available on the PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
In Outlast, you take control of a dimwitted journalist who, rather than sitting home and penning a sports piece, infiltrates a shady mental facility, putting himself in mortal peril.
Putting the jokes aside, this survival horror game is excellent at causing you to want to turn away from the screen.
It’s filled with horrific mutations, horrifying mutilated bodies, and abnormalities that will serve as a reminder of how malleable the human body is.
Despite this, the game only really has bizarre and graphic graphics to offer.
You’ll sail through the game without a problem after you get used to the flayed bodies and mad inmates.
14. Manhunt (2007)
accessible on the Wii, PSP, and PS2.
One of the video games that hurt history is Manhunt.
As a mental patient with amnesia in this psychological horror game played in the third person, Leo Kasper drags you into his murderous rampage.
The terror comes from your blatant lethal brutality as much as from the vicious and depraved nature of your opponents.
When it first got out, the media demonised this story. It makes sense, though.
A significant increase of murderous psychopaths was going to occur if video games were truly making people more violent.
Naturally, nothing of the sort occurred.
13. Hatred (2015)
accessible on a PC.
Sociopaths and homicidal psychopaths frequently represent the problems in our society.
They are a sign of the ugly truths we choose to deny.
Nothing is more unsettling than recognising ourselves in them.
It makes sense that when hatred was initially introduced, there was such a media uproar.
The game is essentially a mass-murder simulator where you try to kill as many innocent New Yorkers as you can in defiance of humanity’s inherent evil.
Additionally, it features gratuitously nasty mechanisms like regaining health by horrifyingly killing unconscious victims.
The game is meant to be a protest against the gaming industry’s political correctness.
12. Biohazard from Resident Evil 7 (2017)
accessible on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
The seventh main instalment of the Resident Evil series is something of a return to form, emphasising survival horror rather than the series’ trademarked action and fighting since RE4.
As the main character Ethan, you take control of him from the first-person viewpoint, giving you a front-row seat to the atrocities he must face, including having his arm chainsawed off at one point.
It doesn’t matter that he quickly replaces his missing hand with a stapler and some sort of mystical healing liquid.
If I were him, I would be petrified to death.
11. Hellblade: The Sacrifice of Senua (2017)
available on the PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Critics and mental health professionals praise Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice for its accurate depiction of mental illness and the delusions of reality experienced by psychotic patients.
Of course, the fighter from the 8th century that you play as doesn’t think of herself as “mentally ill.”
She perceives beings and evil energy pursuing her, tormenting her while urging her toward her goal.
A terrific game with satisfying gameplay is Senua’s Sacrifice.
Even so, the realisation that real individuals go through something like Senua’s hallucinations daily disturbs me a little.
Our reality’s vulnerability is an existential tragedy.
10. Eternal Darkness
Despite being an intriguing game, Eternal Darkness received little attention when it first came out. It was initially intended for the Nintendo 64, but it ultimately came out on the Gamecube.
The plot follows several people as their paths cross in a convoluted tale about ancient gods and the Tome of Eternal Darkness, a book bound with flesh.
The story takes place in various historical periods and has multiple characters.
The stories are told in non-chronological sequence, and as we slowly piece together the truth about the tales contained in the Tome of Eternal Darkness, we move backwards and forwards through time.
It’s a clever game in the way it combines gameplay with storytelling.
Similar to Amnesia, it uses a sanity meter.
9. Silent Hill (1999)
Offered on PlayStation.
Perhaps not the most unsettling game on the list is Silent Hill.
But it’s unquestionably among the most recognisable.
Because of clever sound design (I can still hear the radio static), and inventive storytelling, Silent Hill was able to produce a deep psychological horror experience despite the restrictions of its period.
In Silent Hill, something seems inherently off.
The trait that unites every character and setting in this game is more fundamental than the deserted streets or the creepy fog. You automatically feel like there is no way out because they are polluted.
8. Unwelcome Siren
Another Japanese nightmare we wish we’d never encountered is Siren, also known as Forbidden Siren in some regions.
That’s a falsehood, in actuality.
While we’re happy we found it, our dreams aren’t.
Players assume these personas and follow several survivors of a catastrophe as they attempt to piece together what transpired in the isolated mountain community of Hanuda.
Of course, the fact that this was not a natural calamity only serves to heighten the tension.
The entire village has been transferred to another dimension as a result of a sacrifice to a cultish god gone bad, as we discover later.
The alpine town has transformed into an island amid a sea of red.
7. Rebirth in The Binding of Isaac (2014)
accessible via all popular platforms.
Realistic surroundings and intricate graphics are not necessary to produce a distressing experience that will make you uncomfortable.
You take control of Isaac in this independent roguelike shooter as he wanders the dreadful dungeon beneath his house to kill his mother before she kills him. Isaac is a traumatised boy.
He will encounter horrifying things along the way, such enormous severed hands and ghostly aborted foetuses, which must be killed by… sobbing?
What else can a kid do, then?
The Binding of Isaac has a lot of secrets, difficult procedurally generated levels, and a horrible psychedelic trip into hell feel to it.
6. Pony Island (2016)
accessible on a PC.
Pony Island deceives you into thinking it’s a simple 2D game about a good unicorn, but as soon as it becomes clear that the game is haunted, things swiftly spiral out of control.
And possibly so is your PC.
This game will frighten you out in unusual ways, much like Doki Doki Literature Club.
Let’s just say that the devil is difficult to encapsulate in an executable file to avoid ruining this metafictional experience.
5. Dead Space (2008)
accessible on the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
Any game can be eerie. However, a truly chilling experience and a lasting impact require a fantastic game.
That and more are done by Dead Space.
This was my first experience with a terrifying game, in retrospect.
The sound of Necromorphs crawling around in the USG Ishimura’s vents immobilised me, and the “quarantine sections,” where you have to fight off waves of monstrosities, were the closest thing to a panic episode I’ve ever experienced.
The game is also replete with the heartbreaking tales of how the crew of the Ishimura was transformed one by one into Necromorphs.
Every location you visit has a disturbing tale about the last few days of a crew.
4. Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly
If you’re unfamiliar with Fatal Frame, also known as Project Zero in the UK, it is a television series where the main characters use cameras to battle ghosts in various haunted places.
Yep. Only by entering first-person mode and confronting these eerie ghosts directly can they be vanquished. Lovely.
Although there are other games in the franchise, most gamers agree that Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly is the finest.
It centers on two young sisters exploring a deserted town to learn its startling mysteries. It’s a dark tale with themes of sacrifices for cults, death, and perverted customs.
3. Sanitarium (1998)
accessible via mobile and PC.
Things that realistically deviate from the usual are the things that disturb us, humans, the most.
We’re terrified of monsters and demons, but we’re also worried about what might happen to us if we get a little unlucky.
Playing the point-and-click adventure game Sanitarium, where you’ll be exposed to deformities, self-mutilation, and lunacy of all kinds, you’ll feel this kind of intense discomfort.
As you journey with asylum inmate Max on his descent into hell, you’ll cringe as you travel through a town of deformed children, a psychotic circus, and even an Aztec village that Quetzalcoatl destroyed.
And don’t even consider turning your head.
2. Doki Doki Literature Club! (2017)
accessible on a PC.
You wouldn’t know DDLC was anything other than a cute dating sim with a cute cast of sexy anime females at first glance, but you shouldn’t always judge a book by its cover.
While it does begin as your typical high school romance comedy in which a boy joins the Literature Club to prevent it from being shut down, things quickly spiral out of control once the girls start revealing their true (and unsettling) personalities.
After that, the game simply becomes darker and darker until it eventually entirely breaks down and reveals yet another puzzling layer.
It’s safe to say that this review pretty much nails it.
1. LISA: The Hurting (2014)
accessible on a PC.
Most men’s lives depend on women in some way.
They sort of serving as our engine for progress. Without women, we’d probably be sluggish and descend fast into vice. And maybe we’d eventually lose our minds.
That kind of society is just what LISA: The Painful explores, where your playable character, a middle-aged bald man, must defend his adopted daughter from the perils of a post-apocalyptic world without women.
This humid and hairy society is ruled by all manner of deviation, and surviving there is not cheap.
Will you desert your pals? give up a limb?
Or are you going to use some helpful chemicals to give yourself a little boost?
Whatever strategy you choose, this grim tragicomedy will leave you with scratches.