The 100 best horror games on PC

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FREE HORROR GAMES AND MODS

You want to play new horror games? Put that cash-wad away. No, really, put it away it’s crawling with deadly spiders. I have some good news - there are developers out there who like scaring complete strangers more than they like making money. This is a big win for us, the victims, because we can submit ourselves to their will and be reduced to a broken, shivering meat-puddles at no financial cost to ourselves. All we have to do is willingly give up our our time and sanity to the following free games and mods and ride the resulting terrorgasm into sweaty oblivion.

DayZ

Link: DayZ mod
Expect to pay: Free

Is DayZ a horror game? Absolutely. It's also a military shooter, an MMO, and a survival sim wrapped into one. Are you afraid of the zombies, who will run screaming in your direction with remarkably little provocation, or of your fellow humans, many of whom would shoot you in the back over a can of beans? The answer of course is that you're scared of everything, and everyone, and that fear only intensifies as you acquire better equipment, form alliances and grow more confident in your dealings with the undead – all of which will get you killed if you don't remain eternally vigilant. Death in DayZ robs you of all but the most basic equipment, throwing you back to a random point on the beach and forcing you to make your way all over again. Can there be anything more terrifying than that?

SCP - Containment Breach

Link:SCP site
Expect to pay: Free

SCP - Containment Breach is based on the fiction of The SCP Foundation, a collection of crowdsourced creatures, notable for their disturbed imagery and varied powers that target a multitude of fears. You play as D-9341, a test subject locked in the foundation during the titular containment breach. It's your job to explore, decipher and escape the facility, but you'll be facing a number of SCPs along the way. The most notable of these is SCP-173, who acts like a more terrifying version of Doctor Who's Weeping Angels. He'll stalk you through the facility, stopping only when you've direct line of sight. If that doesn't sound too scary, understand that the game features a constantly diminishing bar that tells you when you'll next be forced to blink.

Slender: The Eight Pages

Link:Parsec Productions site
Expect to pay: Nothing for The Eight Pages, $10 for The Arrival

The slim, suited menace known as Slenderman started life as a forum meme, and has quickly grown into a horror series. His schtick is simple, but terrifying enough. If you look directly at him, he devours you, but when you look away he can move position instantly in an attempt to trick your gaze. You have to collect eight notes from a dark forest as the demon hunts you. The free downloadable version, The Eight Pages, has inspired a wealth of YouTube Let’s Play videos, because it turns out it’s almost as fun to watch Slender’s potent psychological terror inflicted on others as it is to endure it yourself. Its popularity encouraged Blue Isle studios and Parsec productions to create a prettier version called Slender: The Arrival, which is available for $10 on Steam, and has bonus Oculus Rift support for VR terror.

Imscared

Link:Gamejolt
Expect to pay: Free

Not enough games break the fragile barrier between a game and its audience, and the wonderful Imscared does this rather insidiously (and ingeniously) by lightly mucking about with your PC. It's a lo-fi series of first-person scenes, interspersed with forced game shutdowns and the sudden appearance of unsettling text files in the game's folder. Every time you start the game (for the first few times at least) you're shown something different, taken somewhere new, and even as you play you become acutely aware that you'll be greeted by another surprise – a message or even an image – the next time you exit back to desktop. With most games, escaping the horror is a simple matter of quitting the game – Imscared makes you believe, albeit for just a second, that the horror could follow you, and that's a remarkable achievement.

A Mother's Inferno

Link:A Mother's Inferno site
Expect to pay: Free

A short student horror project created in just six weeks, A Mother's Inferno puts you in the role of a mother struggling to reclaim her son onboard a train full of otherworldly demons. That's almost as harrowing as the 08.30 from Bristol to London Paddington. Motherhood is never easy at the best of times, but I'm pretty sure I missed the episode of Call the Midwife where Whoosits from Miranda fought a procession of demons armed only with a single shard of glass. Your demonic opponents in this dark, novel horror game represent the five stages of loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Anchorhead

Link:Play Anchorhead
Expect to pay: Free

Horror games owe a significant debt to one Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and not just because he's long dead and his work is out of copyright. Plenty of games have included references to his unique brand of cosmic horror, but Anchorhead is more inspired than most, drawing from several of his novels and stories to tell the tale of the a married couple who have inherited an old mansion in a creepy New England town. The sedate exploration of the game's opening segments eventually give way to tense, turn-limited puzzles as you struggle to stop an ancient, possibly world-ending ritual from being completed. No pressure then.

No More Room In Hell

Link:Steam page
Expect to pay: Free mod for Half-Life 2

No More Room In Hell is a co-op zombie shooter with are shades of Left 4 Dead, but there's more than enough here to distinguish it from Valve's undead romp. It's not just that it supports eight players; the entire philosophy is to create a harder, more brutal zombie apocalypse. Ammo is scarce, logistics matter, and while a sledgehammer is still an effective zombie deterrent, a single bite means you could become infected. Of course, if you do get bitten, it's up to you whether or not you let your teammates know about the impending zombification.

Cry of Fear

Link:Cry of Fear site
Expect to pay: Free mod for Half-Life 1

Cry of Fear started life as a Half-Life mod, before being spun out into a standalone game earlier this year. Despite the first-person perspective, this psychological survival horror has more in common with Silent Hill, as it's set in a creepily abandoned city and it features a limited, choices-matter inventory system. Waking up after a car accident with only a phone, a switchblade and a hoodie to your name (standard attire for today's urban ruffian on the go), you have to piece together the many odd events surrounding you, while receiving the occasional text message from your worried mum.

The Haunted

Link:ModDB page
Expect to pay: Free mod for Unreal Tournament 3

The Haunted contorts Unreal Tournament 3 into a third-person wave-based multiplayer shooter, featuring all the mutant zombies, exploding heads and roundhouse kicks you could ever want. Horror might be a word which here means 'lots and lots of gore', but if you're after some brown, Gears of Warsy arcade multiplayer – and you don't want to shell out for an Xbox 360 – The Haunted has your chainsaw-wielding survival needs covered. An expanded standalone version, Hell's Reach, was later released as a paid download.

Underhell: Chapter 1

Link:ModDB page
Expect to pay: Free mod for Half-Life 2

Part horror game, part tactical shooter, part zombie thriller. Underhell packs a lot into its prologue and first chapter, switching genres at will and effortlessly introducing new ideas. You play as Jake Hawkfield, a troubled SWAT operative who's struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife. That recovery isn't helped by the fact that his wife is still around, as becomes apparent as you explore his now haunted house. But from Gone Home with a ghost, Underhell takes a tonal shift when Hawkfield returns to his day job. Suddenly you're giving orders, checking sectors, and securing rooms, as you clear terrorists out of a hospital. Naturally, this distraction doesn't last, and Hawkfield continues to slip further from reality.

Hide

Link:SFC forums
Expect to pay Free download

The blocky, low-fi visuals are designed to obfuscate the fine detail of your environments and reduce them to a series of creepy ambiguous silhouettes. You’re being pursued by a hideous unknown thing as you explore at an agonising pace, dodging deadly ghostly orbs as you pick through each environment. You’ll want to download this one for the sound design alone. Hide uses noise to great effect, creating an ominous, persistent menace that’s more unsettling than enduring than the lazy jump scares favoured by so many horror games.

Silhouette

Link:Free Indie Games
Expect to pay: Free webgame

Like a number of free horror games, Silhouette doesn’t rely on high-tech visuals to generate its scares. It’s a two-player killer vs. victim game set in a dark house. Control shifts between the knife-wielding killer and their unarmed victim, allowing for turns of real-time movement that shorten as the killer and the victim draw closer together. The increasingly fraught pacing does a great job of inspiring mounting panic in both players, toying with the same manipulative patterns seen across horror cinema, from the Jaws soundtrack to the murder famous murder scenes of Psycho. An effective horror experiment that’s worth a go if you can get a couple of horror fans around your keyboard.

Black Snow

Link:Desura Page
Expect to pay: Free mod for Half Life 2: Episode 2

Corporations should really keep a better eye on their isolated research stations. They hold a top five position in the list of “places where horrible horror biz will happen”. So it proves in Black Snow, a Half-Life 2: Episode 2 mod set in the Amaluuk research station, which you must explore as a member of an investigative team after the bunker ceases all communication. It’s exploratory horror in the vein of A Machine For Pigs, but in a varied, near-future setting that creates you may not have seen rendered before in Valve’s Source engine.

Cyberqueen

Link:WET
Expect to pay: Free, playable online

Cyberqueen vomits you out of a sack into a malignant, sentient ship and gives you your first choice: “flail”, “scream” or “breathe”. There are heavy lashings of System Shock in this superbly written work of interactive fiction that has you wandering the halls of the vessel, trying to escape the machinations of its omnipresent guardian. The Twine interface paces the text to good effect, and it’s more easily navigated than traditional IF builds like Anchorhead. Cyberqueen is an evocative and sinister piece of work that’ll appeal to those who haven’t tried interactive fiction before.

I See You

Link:Gamejolt
Expect to pay: Free download

I See You adopts a similar low-fi visual approach to Imscared for an exploration game set in an abandoned hospital. You can only see a few metres in front of your face, but you must move from room to room, searching for keys to unlock doors to new areas of the hospital. As you unlock doors, the hospital environments start to fragment, moving away from the easily plotted early layouts to new designs that don’t make sense. The tutorial messages that guide you through the first few rooms become more sinister. I See You casts the game designer as the monster and you as the victim, tasked with helplessly running the monster’s gauntlet as it rearranges reality into increasingly broken shapes.