There’s nothing quite like getting scared in a video game. Whether it’s the atmosphere that’s weighing down on your psyche or well-crafted jump scares, it’s a thrill to have your heart racing and palms sweating. We recently got our hands on MADiSON, a horror game by the small team at Bloodious Games and it got us thinking about some of our other favorite titles. If you’re in the mood for more spooky scary video games, any one of these is bound to necessitate a fresh pair of brown pants.
The Alien films are some of cinemas greatest sci-fi thrillers. Sometimes, they even dabble into horror territory. Alien: Isolation takes what viewers loved about the films and puts it into the video game format: trying to flee and survive against a nigh unstoppable creature.
In Alien: Isolation, the Alien is this ever present threat, capable of hunting the player down. If the team at Creative Assembly hadn’t been so creative, this could have become like any other game out there but instead, the team focused on stealth and survival. Despite having access to guns and explosives, players are strongly encouraged to practice avoidance.
There’s nothing quite as terrifying as trying to flee from the Alien. It’s a delicate balance of trying to locate it using the motion tracker while only using the tracker sparingly so that the incessant beeping isn’t detected by your pursuer. Special shout out to getting your feet grabbed by androids that appear dead on the ground.
From the incredibly talented team at Frictional Games comes SOMA. While most horror games will try to spook you with haunted spaceships, old mansions, and graveyards, SOMA takes you to a place you definitely try to avoid thinking about: the deepest depths of the ocean.
Set in the Mariana Trench, SOMA threatens the player with monsters that are part machine, part organic material. As you desperately try to work out what went wrong with this underwater research facility, you’ll be pursued by various beasts as they lurch through the dark and dripping corridors.
The game is terrifying not only because of how far below the surface you are, the ever-present monsters, and the atmospheric tension, but because of the story and discussions of philosophy. SOMA delves into what it means to be conscious, what it means to be a person, and just when you feel safe, you’ll be left alone, stranded with nothing but your thoughts as you contemplate this bag of meat you call a body.
It’s not every day that you get to play a psychological horror game featuring the incredible Rutger Hauer. Before the Blade Runner actor passed away in 2019, he starred as the lead character in this 2017 cyberpunk game set in a dystopian future.
In _Observer, players navigate a world that has crumbled following the spread of a digital plague. You take on the role of a detective who, by using a device called a Dream Eater, can hack into people’s brains as a form of interrogation. This is where the horror really kicks off.
Stepping foot into someone’s subconscious is risky business, especially when everyone is so scarred from the desolate world in which they live. These dream-like sequences are full of horrific visions and oppressive darkness that will make you shrink away from the screen. Even outside of the brain hacking, the world shows the collision of technology and oppression as you slink through dilapidated apartments lined with technology to help people mentally escape their woes.
If you’re in the mood for a combat-free horror game with a cyberpunk setting, Bloober Team’s _Observer will leave you rattled.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
We’re going a bit old school with this one. Condemned: Criminal Origins is the perfect blend of true crime and the supernatural. Players take on the role of Ethan Thomas, a crime scene investigator who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. After being blamed for the death of two police officers, Ethan finds himself in pursuit of a serial killer.
Though a little more combat heavy than the other titles on this list, Condemned: Criminal Origins features some truly terrifying gameplay. Not only will you need to investigate crime scenes by taking photos and analyzing wounds, you’ll be slinking through the usual cavalcade of spooking locations. Burned out schools and department stores, dark subways and abandoned farms make up the bulk of the locations, all of which will set your heart racing.
As for the combat, the player never truly feels powerful. It will be a constant fight for your life using a variety of melee weapons. If anything, the combat heightens the tension, as the deranged attackers will sprint at you, screaming bloody murder. Besides, even if you do have a weapon, there’s one thing that is guaranteed to make you feel defenseless: mannequins.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
A list of excellent horror games to play if you enjoyed MADiSON would not be complete without mentioning Amnesia: The Dark Descent. This is a masterpiece of atmospheric horror game design. With nothing but a lamp and your own sanity, you’ll need to do your best to solve puzzles in the dark, draughty, and creaky halls of Brennenburg Castle.
Light and dark play a major role in Amnesia. While in the light, you will feel safe and comfortable, but the monster slinking through the halls will see you. Sitting in the dark will keep you from being seen, but you’ll slowly lose your sanity, with your character whimpering and beginning to see things. It’s a terrifying mechanic that has you pleading with the monster to walk away so you can get out from darkness of the cupboard.
Beyond the threat of the monster, the atmosphere of the castle is bone chilling. Floorboards creak and wind rushes through the stone halls, leaving your spine tingling as you inch forward through the dark. The music only seeks to heighten the sense of dread, underscoring the entire experience with an ominous wail.
As the game progresses, things start to become more and more unhinged as you slowly strip away the mysteries of the story. By the end, you’ll be sprinting through the dark, crying and begging for mercy, not daring to gaze upon the horrors around you.
There are so many phenomenal horror games out there that it’s hard to whittle a list down to just five. But if you’ve rolled credits on MADiSON and need something similar (or in some cases just a little bit different), then one of these is bound to have you trebling. If you haven’t already, take a look at our MADiSON review and then give us your horror game recommendations for something in a similar vein. We’ll be leaving the lights on tonight.
Sam Chandler posted a new article, 5 must-play horror games if you loved MADiSON
wtf is Madison?
It’s getting a lot of buzz lately. I haven’t watched any streams of it, though.
Great list, adding: Layers of Fear, Edith Finch, And Life is Strange 1
Always happy to see my beloved Observer on the list.
BUT, there are a bunch of weird, janky but trippy indie horror titles out there nowadays kind of in the Madison vein….so many, they’re a little difficult to keep track of.
This is my favorite channel for keeping track of all these: https://m.youtube.com/c/AlphaBetaGamer/videos