The 100 best horror games on PC

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HORROR ADVENTURE GAMES - PART ONE

Adventure games are a great vehicle for some explorative slow-burn horror. They’re also often incredibly strange. Take Bad Mojo, in which you play a cockroach exploring a world of over-sized creatures drawn from real exterminator-slain animals. Or Harvester, one of the most demented games ever made. Adventure games also have the time and space to let you build attachments to characters, a point that’s exploited to harrowing effect in the likes of The Walking Dead, where likeable characters can be destroyed horribly at any moment, often as a consequence of one of your decisions.

Gone Home

Link:The Fullbright Company
Expect to pay: £15 /$25

One of the highest-rated horror games on this list isn’t really a horror game at all - it’s a love story. A teenage girl comes home to find her family absent, and pieces together their lives from the everyday objects they’ve left behind. Still, skulking around an empty house, floorboards creaking and rain lashing at the windows, works so well at building tension that Gone Home is a great horror game almost by accident. It’s at once isolated and intimate.

Murdered: Soul Suspect

Link:Artight Games
Expect to pay: £30 /$50

The hardest murder to solve is your own in supernatural thriller Murdered: Soul Suspect. Here detective Ronan O’Connor tracks the sadistic killer who offed him in a violent burglary. How rude. The gothic town of Salem has both living and dead worlds to probe as you make like a smartly-dressed poltergeist and possess people, teleport between locations, and walk through solid walls. You’re not just messing about, though; it’s all to gain information leading to the killer’s capture. As a plus, your hero wears a fedora. Actually wait, that’s a minus.

The Walking Dead

Link:Walking Dead site
Expect to pay: £21 / $25

Is anyone still scared of zombies? Sure, they’re creepy -- there’s something intrinsically unsettling about a vacant sack of human flesh -- but when is the last time you felt visceral, gut-wrenching fear in the presence of the horde? Blood, guts, and realistic subsurface glistening just don’t do it any more. Telltale’s The Walking Dead, on the other hand, forgoes the anatomy lesson for something altogether more harrowing. The eponymous dead are but extras in a bleak human drama, a handy plot device to prompt the fall of society and watch what happens when people break. Those people, written and acted with aplomb, make for a more immediate, more believable horror story than gore alone can accomplish. The Walking Dead could be real, a plausible portrayal of a world gone to shit, and that is scary indeed.

Darkness Within: In Pursuit of Loath Nolder

Link:Moby Games
Expect to pay: £8 / $13, free demo available

Improbably named private investigator Loath Nolder has gone missing, and the only man capable of finding him is one Howard E. Loreid, a fellow graduate of the University of Truly Terrible Character Names. Darkness Within is a Lovecraftian point and click horror, with all the candles, dark corridors and puzzles you'd expect, but its sequel shakes things up by embracing full first-person movement. Istanbul-based developers Zoetrope have disappeared off the radar since the 2009 sequel, so chances of a third Darkness Within seem slim at best.

Barrow Hill: Curse of the Ancient Circle

Link:Barrow Hill site
Expect to pay: £8 / $13

Plenty of Myst-style point and click horrors have been released over the last decade or so, but Barrow Hill is one of the wittier and more rewarding static adventure games you'll come across, boasting a solid story and a pleasantly under-utilised setting: the dark and witchy Cornwall wilderness. The carefully constructed atmosphere does fall apart slightly when the weird South Park-style character models make their ugly appearance, but there's a mostly enjoyable few hours of archaeological pointing and clicking on offer here.

Cognition

Link:GOG
Expect to pay: £22.99 / $29.99

Her name is Erica Reed, and she has a power few possess - to star in an episodic adventure game that actually made it to the end. Also, she's psychic. That's also pretty useful, especially when tracking down a sadistic killer who's watched Saw a few too many times and thought "Hey, why not me?" Very unpleasant scenes await in this four part adventure that occasionally stumbles over its police procedural elements, but knows how to stage and time a grisly cut-scene that manages to keep the pressure on anyway. It's certainly a big shift from the team's previous effort, King's Quest fan-fiction The Silver Lining, but one which did well for them. It's no secret that it's inspired by the Gabriel Knight series (and indeed, creator Jane Jensen provided story consultation). They're now working on that game's actual remake, due sometime next year.

Waxworks

Link:GOG
Expect to pay: £4 / $6

For many years, Waxworks was the king of gory death scenes. They're still pretty damn nasty. Waxworks is an old-school adventure with the difficulty dial turned all the way to 'cruel', opening five paths to five hideous worlds via a collection of waxwork displays. You'll find yourself facing off against Jack The Ripper, through fungus infested mines of darkness, and many, many instant deathtraps, constantly greeted with scenes of eye-popping horribleness, throat-slit brutality and oh, so many more delicious things. You do at least get some weapons to play with, including a home made flamethrower, but they don't make things much easier. Again, not a good game to play while or just after eating.

Phantasmagoria

Link:GOG
Expect to pay: £7 / $10

Released at the height of FMV adventure game fad, Phantasmagoria revolves around a writer who moves into a mansion formerly owned by a 19th century magician – you can probably see where she went wrong. You could use the word 'controversial' about a lot of full-motion adventure games, but this outlandish horror game featured plenty of violent scenes, earning it a reputation as one of the nastiest FMV titles around. Today, it looks like a particularly shocking episode of Knightmare, though there's doubtless plenty of historical value to its garish mixture of live action footage, puzzles and pre-rendered props.

The 7th Guest

Link:GOG
Expect to pay: £7 / $10

You're not going to be kept glued to the edge of your seat by The 7th Guest's haunted corridors, unless you count craning to try and hear what the primitive, poorly done FMV characters are trying to say, but it's still a game with power when it comes to atmosphere. A fantastic soundtrack combines with some nicely done 3D and occasionally even creepy outbursts from the mad toymaker who owns this most iconic of horror houses. The actual puzzles are often quite silly, involving fare like slicing evil cake into pieces and infamously deducing a message from soup cans, but the wrapping makes them at least temporarily feel like more than they are. It gave people the creeps in 1993, back when CD-ROM was a novelty. It can still do so today if you're willing to meet it halfway.

Harvester

Link:MobyGames
Expect to pay: £10 / $15

Phantasmagoria is the most infamous horror adventure of the interactive movie age, but that's only because almost nobody played the infinitely gorier, endlessly more disturbing Harvester. You wake up with amnesia in a messed up 50s town, where mothers pop their babies' eyeballs, the paperboy packs a gun, the local teachers deals discipline with a baseball bat at Gein Memorial High School, and nobody bats an eye at the wasp woman down the street. All you know is that unless you join the mysterious Lodge in the middle of town, you're not going to last the week - one that ends in an involuntary blood drive where the nurse uses a scythe. Then things get really weird. It's a tough game to find legitimately, but check out our Saturday Crapshoot on it for more.