A screenshot of the "Underground" in Amnesia: The Dark Descent (Courtesy image)
Some claim that it’s easier to make a scary video game than a scary movie. A game is, after all, interactive, and so the viewer feels more invested. But if you’ve ever thought it’s easy to make a truly scary video game, ask yourself why there are so few around.
And, just to be clear, we’re talking about something that is scary beyond a few cheap jump scares. Dropping a jump scare on the player is, let’s face it, pretty cheap, and requires a great deal less skill than making something deeply unsettling.
Here are some of the top truly scary video games that can be played on PC and console.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a legendary game in many ways. Back when it released, no one expected it to do especially well, given that it was from a then fading PC exclusive studio; Frictional Games. But, upon release Amnesia gained a sort of cult status for being truly terrifying.
The game was adopted by many YouTube streamers, including the then unknown Pewdiepie, and blew up across the world, selling millions. Most notable of all is that the game did not rely on jump scares, but instead on spending hours creating a thick, oppressive atmosphere, then dropping an unexpected monster on the scene. If you haven’t played this game, do so alone, with headphones, and then claim you didn’t get freaked out. Or if you do, switch to the online gambling Canada has to offer to quell your fears and have some fun!
Alien: Isolation is similar to Amnesia: The Dark Descent in many ways. It spends much time creating atmosphere, and only unleashes the scares a fair way into the game. In the case of Alien: Isolation, the actually alien doesn’t become a real enemy for an hour. When it does arrive, however, the player is so dreading the encounter that it creates true, psychological horror.
Although Alien: Isolation didn’t blow up as much as was hoped for, selling only reasonably well, it is widely regarded as a masterpiece in scary video game history.
The Dead Space franchise petered out and died by its third installment, which focused more on action than horror. And this is a real shame, given how deeply traumatizing the first game in the series was. Using deep space as a setting, the player faced shambling, terrifying alien mutants, which were not afraid to shriek, crawl on walls, and otherwise deliver some bone chilling encounters.
The oldest game on this list, but by no means less scary, FEAR was a bizarre combination of first person shooting, and paranormal scares. The player spent half the game blasting soldiers in slow motion, and the other half being terrified. A truly excellent video game experience, at least for those not faint of heart.
The FEAR series also petered out, however, ending with a disappointing third part that focused on cooperative action, as opposed to being scary. One can only wonder why truly scary video games seem so short lived, when the industry is clearly crying out for it.