The 12 Best Horror Games on PC

1 week 2 days ago

PC is the evil lab where new horror games are grown and tested. Some of the greatest modern horror games are word-of-mouth hits and some of the most popular horror games of the last decade began as PC exclusives.

To that end, we’ve selected the top 12 horror games you can play on PC right now. While some of these aren’t exclusive to PC, they either got their start on the platform or live and breathe there. Some of these are horror classics that have influenced countless imitators, while others are still hidden gems that deserve to keep you up at night. Here are our picks for the 12 best horror games on PC.

12. IMSCARED

IMSCARED: A Pixelated Nightmare is the only game on this list that breaks through its .exe boundaries and carries the scares into the real world. As you creep through IMSCARED’s low-res environments, finding keys and attempting to escape the nightmare you’re currently in, an entity known as White Face stalks your every move.

Once caught, White Face triggers a crash back to your desktop and in its wake, a folder containing a text document appears on screen, taunting your failure. It plays with your mind in other ways too: your browser might suddenly open, landing on a spooky YouTube video; elsewhere, HTML web documents appear in another folder, showing a map and the supposed exit to the area you’re in, but can you trust it? It even goes as far as requiring you to delete in-game documents to progress through certain moments. Much like Eternal Darkness, IMSCARED brings its unique style of horror outside of itself - a truly cursed game. - Jesse Gomez

11. The Cat Lady

Less than a minute into The Cat Lady, you find out the main character, a lonely 40-year old woman named Susan Ashworth, has committed suicide. Soon after, she reawakens in a mysterious world, only to be greeted by someone called The Queen of Maggots who instructs her to remove five ‘parasites’ from the world so that she may finally find peace.

The Cat Lady, despite its complex themes around mental health and serious tone, is surprisingly simple to play. You’ll explore twisted and bizarre environments, collect various items to solve puzzles and guide Susan’s decisions via dialogue choices with other characters. But beyond its traditional point-and-click adventure trappings is an affecting story, rooted in an authentic struggle of a woman who no longer wants to live. - Jesse Gomez

10. Dead By Daylight

Dead By Daylight launched in 2016 as a meager but well-meaning asymmetrical slasher horror game where various bumbling teenagers avoided gnarly eviscerations from archetypal slasher movie villains. By 2021, it’s become the Smash Bros. of horror games, bringing in iconic killer characters like Freddy Kreuger and Michael Myers to legendary horror game villains like Resident Evil’s Nemesis and Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head. Dead By Daylight continues to evolve on its premise, routinely adding new characters, features, and more to its rock-solid foundation. One thing remains constant, though: it’s just as fun to play the game as a group of seemingly helpless survivors in one round as it is to play as a huge, powerful, horror movie monster in the next. - Brian Altano

9. Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is one of the older games on this list, but it’s here for good reason: its gameplay mechanics helped spur a rebirth (no pun intended with Amnesia’s recent sequel) of the survival horror genre that had drifted into action game territory.

Amnesia starts off with the protagonist, Daniel, waking up alone in a dark castle, Brennenburg. He has no memory of how he got there (hence the name), and as he explores his surroundings, he realizes there’s a shadow stalking him. Wandering about the castle are other creatures that will give chase if they spot you. This wouldn’t be a huge problem if you could fight back, but you can’t. Your only defense is to run and often hide in the dark – a stark contrast to more action-oriented horror games like Resident Evil 5 which had come out the year before.

But here’s the kicker: stay in the dark too long and you’ll lose your mind. It’s not the first game to have a “sanity meter” (Eternal Darkness says hello), but its implementation in Amnesia is pretty ingenious. You’ll need to balance the game’s use of light to see what the hell you’re even doing with hiding in the darkness to avoid monsters, the same darkness that is slowly driving you insane.

Amnesia’s sequels and follow-ups all build upon The Dark Descent’s mechanics in smart ways, and other developers have taken notice. The Dark Descent still holds up today, even if the controls and interface are a little rough on consoles, so if you’re in the mood to sit in the dark for 10 hours, take a trip to Brennenburg. Just don’t stay in the dark too long. - Jobert Atienza

8. World of Horror

Fans of Junji Ito and/or H.P. Lovecraft will want to look into adding World of Horror to their list of scary games to play this October. This “1-Bit” horror game feels like you just stumbled upon a series of eerie and extremely detailed drawings on MS Paint.

Set in Shiokawa, Japan, players are tasked with stopping the apocalypse by exploring various locations and fighting monsters inspired by Japanese horror manga and urban legends. It is, of course, a horror game, but World of Horror also adds elements from the roguelite and RPG genres.

World of Horror’s grasp of tension, perfectly paired soundtrack and overall challenge make it a must-play on PC. - Taylor Lyles

7. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Few games have successfully captured a sense of overwhelming bleakness and foreboding like the STALKER trilogy does. Whether you’re racing to the site of the world's worst nuclear incident deep within Chernobyl or discovering the secrets hidden within the decrepit city of Pripyat, this living, breathing world is ready to sap the life from your body. So if going toe-to-toe against spirits deep underground, or zombified foes who were once your companions and bloodsucking mutants sound like your kind of thing, it’s time to pay a visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone. - Jesse Gomez

6. Five Nights at Freddy’s

There was always something inherently creepy about being in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant as a kid, a dimly lit, rat themed birthday party center with sad pizza, a mostly broken arcade room, and a giant animatronic animal band that would shut down in between songs to stare into the souls of children with giant, dead-eyed looks. Five Nights at Freddy’s is an entire game about the fleeting joy and haunted magic of a seemingly lifeless collection of animatronic pizza restaurant mascots who suddenly spring to life and become horrifying nightmares, although instead of being a kid at a birthday party, you’re an employee tasked with watching the restaurant after dark and surviving the night yourself.

You’ll flip through security cameras and other various devices while unsettling mechanical faces pop up sporadically or generally go bump in the night, but what makes it all so unique is that Five Nights at Freddy’s is one of the few horror games that most kids can play without enduring a lifetime of trauma. It’s rare to have a game series that can cater to both young and adult horror fans, mostly because it features a thing we can all agree on: animatronic animals are terrifying. - Brian Altano

5. Pathologic

Pathologic was ahead of its time when it was released way back in 2006. Set in a mysterious town beset by an unknown plague, Pathologic combines horror and mystery for a truly unique experience. Choose one of three player characters who must survive for 12 days while uncovering the mystery of the ‘sand plague.’

Each day, new quests will be available that will take characters one step closer to the truth. But be warned, because these quests will only be available on a specific day, and once it passes it’s gone for good.

Pathologic and its sequel Pathologic 2 truly excel at atmosphere. While jump scares are a bit few and far between, the overwhelming sense of dread will linger through your entire playthrough, and your time in Pathologic will burrow in your mind for much longer. - Matt Kim

Author
Adam Bankhurst

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