There is really only one qualification a horror game needs to be considered great and that is that it is scary! A quality horror game should be difficult to get through, not in terms of mechanically challenging gameplay, but rather that you find yourself hiding in a closet for half of the playthrough because you can not summon the courage to leave it. That being said, horror games that create generally creepy ambience and a sense of uncomfortableness through the storyline were valued much higher on this list compared to a game that is simply full of cheap jumpscares.
Just because a horror game comes with the necessity of being scary, does not mean that it has to have one set way to play. Many of the games that have made this list vary greatly in terms of gameplay. Some are a typical single player storyline playthrough while others are competitive online games. As long as the game was creepy enough, it was considered for this list no matter the gameplay’s genre! With that out of the way, let’s get into Steam’s top four horror games (in our opinion!):
Amnesia: Rebirth is the most recent installment to the classic horror series Amnesia. The series started back in 2010 with Amnesia: The Dark Descent and is widely considered to be one of Steam’s (and in general) most classic horror games. Rebirth is no different, combining the creepy aura players fell in love with over a decade ago with modern graphics, new puzzles, and a completely new storyline.
Amnesia games typically play in a similar fashion. There is a main storyline to get through, with a variety of puzzles, monsters, and creepy environments to struggle through to get to the end. Rebirth plays out very similarly, except the environment for this game is the Algerian desert which gives the game a completely different vibe than past installments.
Furthermore, the main character has to deal with navigating these environments whilst carrying a child, creating a sense of dread within the player for the unborn baby. This would be especially nerve-wracking for those with children as they could relate all too well (not to navigating the scariest amalgamation of the Algerian desert in any game yet to be released, but to the sense of dread of carrying a child in a world full of dangers). If this feeling is too relatable for you, then Amnesia: Rebirth may not be the game for you or at the very least you now know what to expect. In the case that you are now wary of playing through this game, I recommend playing through the first Amnesia game (The Dark Descent) as it has nothing to do with this concept!
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Rebirth is full of suspense and a range of puzzles varying in difficulty. It has a great storyline and can generally be described as being creepy, but not outright terrifying. This would be a great game for those looking to get into the horror category but do not want to start out with a game so scary they will never be able to play one again!
“Great game, unlike any typical horror game where you're getting chased at night. Great story and graphics. Even the loading screen tells another story as the game progresses.” Tiff on Steam
Phasmophobia takes a unique twist on the horror genre by creating a multiplayer (or solo) experience in which you are actively trying to hunt down the monster. You can take in a variety of equipment, as well as a few friends, into a number of different locations that vary in difficulty to try and record some evidence of the ghost/monster. Better yet, you get rewarded for the evidence by receiving in-game currency that can be used to bring in better equipment and give yourself a better chance of surviving!
The game can be a little bit confusing at first as to how to narrow down the clues you discover and apply them to a certain ghost type. If you guess the right type, you get a huge bonus whenever you ‘extract’ from the mission. Other bonuses include pictures of the monster, pictures of evidence, or unique pieces of evidence outlined during the mission brief.
A unique aspect to Phasmophobia that I was completely unaware of during my first play through was the game’s ability to constantly monitor your default microphone. In Phasmophobia, saying the ghost’s name will provoke it to the point that it will begin to chase you down and try to kill you rather than just being generally creepy. My friends and I, being completely unaware of this, ran around the house jokingly talking about how weird the ghost’s name was… two minutes later and we were all dead.
If you truly desire to be scared to your core, Phasmophobia is also playable with Virtual Reality goggles. VR tends to make even the dumbest of horror games petrifying, so taking a quality game like this and adding VR to it adds a whole new level of freaky.
The best part of Phasmophobia is playing it with some of your closest friends. Don’t get me wrong, it is arguably more frightening solo, but with friends you are able to sneak around and have the monster chase others instead of just you. This lets you hide while your friend is screaming in terror just outside the door. It adds a refreshing dose of comedy to an otherwise terrifying game. This balance allowed us to play it for many hours straight as the comedic moments kept us coming back for more!
“I typically despise horror games, but they somehow made having constant anxiety actually fun, 10/10” - FormidableLG on Steam
Perhaps the most unique game on this list in terms of graphical terror, Little Nightmares II is the second installment in the Little Nightmares series. The reason the second one is being recommended in this list is that the game generally can work as a standalone game. That being said, there are numerous theories out there (some with a generally solid argument) that the second installment is actually a prequel to the first game. This would make a little more sense once you have completed the game and experienced the ending. Whether the second game is actually a prequel is unknown, but the fact still remains that it works wonderfully as a standalone game.
Little Nightmares is a platform style game featuring the main character Mono (a small child) traversing her way through a horrifying world in a glorified game of hide and seek. There are a variety of puzzles and little quirks necessary to continue through the story map that do take some serious thought. Most of the time, however, you will find yourself jumping in head first to see what happens so the second time around you know how to combat the trials ahead.
One of the best aspects of the Little Nightmares series is their absolutely terrifying villains. The unique art style combined with the developers twisted creativity have allowed them to create villains that are truly bone-chilling. From a school teacher with a neck that just never seems to stop stretching, to a ‘Thin Man’ oddly reminiscent of slender man from the days of old. The villains certainly bump up the excitement of the game and present a genuine challenge in defeating/escaping them.
The storyline to Little Nightmares II is quite a heart-wrenching one. Without spoiling anything, you’ll find yourself experiencing a wide range of emotions both positive and negative. In the end, disbelief will set in and you may even need to do a second playthrough to completely understand all of the nuances to the game. I would argue this only adds to the brilliance of the game and further argues for the case of Little Nightmares II deserving a spot on this list!
“You should definitely play this great game! it makes me jump more than once, is exciting, and it's just a great game to play!” - The Xara on Steam
Dead by Daylight is a unique game on this list in the sense that it is the only multiplayer horror game to be featured. However, that does not make the game any less terrifying than any other game on this list. It does add a sense of competitiveness which is relatively unique within the horror game genre. There is even a ranked system in place that players are able to climb and is generally taken relatively seriously within the community.
The game itself is essentially an upgraded game of hide and seek except for the fact that you are not hiding from other human players, well sort of. The ‘seeker’ in this instance, is a player controlled killer picked from a broad list of creatures. The survivors’ goal (four of them vs one killer) is to repair five different generators throughout the map to open the gates to freedom and live to fight another day. The killer's goal is quite simply, eliminate all of the survivors and sacrifice them on hooks to the vaguely named ‘The Entity.’
One strong point to Dead by Daylight many horror game fans can appreciate is their use of classic horror villains as playable killers within the game. For example, players can choose Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Amanda Young from the Saw series, a Demogorgon from Stranger Things, Pyramid Head from the Silent Hill series, and many other classic horror figures. All of the killers have unique quirks and abilities to make gameplay distinct to them and even give players a decent reason to ‘main’ a killer.
Another cool aspect to Dead by Daylight is the bloodweb accessible to both survivors and killers. Much like any other leveling system, the bloodweb allows players to upgrade certain aspects of their character to perform better while in game. Each bloodweb is unique and procedurally generated which allows for endless creativity. ‘The Entity’ will halt some of your progress as it devours random nodes whilst you level. This can lead to some unfortunate choices needing to be made or some really lucky characters if it happens to devour useless nodes you had no desire to unlock anyway.
The ranked system is quite robust within Dead by Daylight. Opting for a monthly ranked season, Dead by Daylight has 20 different ranks to climb through to reach the top. The progress for ranking is tracked separately for killers and survivors, meaning that you can main whichever you prefer and rank up solely in that category.
“This is the most fun multiplayer horror game I've ever played. Go up against iconic movie and video game killers in an intense 4v1 experience. My personal favorite killer to play as is the Pig from the Saw franchise because they utilize stealth and add a trap mechanic into each game session.” - 7xPrototype on Steam
No matter what your preferred horror game is in terms of gameplay and mechanics, I hope there was some game on this list that fit your needs. There were competitive multiplayer games such as Dead by Daylight, creepy platformers like the Little Nightmares series, and full-blown nightmare simulators like Outlast or Amnesia: Rebirth. Whichever game you decide to pursue, you are in for an adrenaline pumping session sure to get your heart racing!
Image courtesy of indiegamewebsite.com