The 100 best horror games on PC
EXPERIMENTAL HORROR GAMES
Some of the weirdest games ever made have been horror games. They defy genre and introduce systems designed to deliberately generate frustration, rage or, in the case of The Void, a feeling of entropic existential demise. Others, like Alone, embrace new technology like The Oculus Rift to push into new territory. Then there’s Deadly Premonition. Nobody really knows what’s going on with that.
Expect to pay: £10 / $17
Despite token solo functionality, White Noise Online comes alive (or should that be dead? (no, I was right the first time, it should be alive)) in co-op where up to four budding ghost-hunters team-up Scooby-Doo-style (or should that be Nancy Drew style? (no, I was right the first time, it should be Scooby-Doo-style)) in order to explore eerie locations and unravel a sinister mystery - hopefully before a roaming monster devours them all (the ghost-hunters, not the mysteries). Think a multiplayer spin on Slender: The Arrival, but with over 15 playable characters, each one with their own perks and skills. Check out the replay feature, in which players can check the path their friends followed. “Why did you go over there, dick?” you might ask.
Link:Tales of Tales
Expect to pay: £7 / $12
This short experimental horror plays like a modern day version of Little Red Ridinghood, and it’s ripe with moral choice. Like that famous girl from folklore, you can either stick to the path or - if you’re naughty - stray from it, watching for the wolves who lie in wait. With grandmother falling ill, your mum sends you and five sisters - all of whom playable characters - on errands for her. While slow-paced and lacking in challenge (the developers don’t want you to play the game in a traditional sense, seeing as ‘losing’ in The Path gives a larger glimpse of the story), it’s one of the most memorable horror games on the list, one you’ll need an active imagination for. An introspective adventure nonetheless.
Expect to pay: £5 / $8
What on Earth happened to Simogo? How did the developers follow a clutch of kid-friendly iOS curios like Bumpy Road and Beat Sneak Bandit with this disturbing oddity? Alas, we can only assume they’ve gone insane. Based on the Swedish tradition of ‘årsgång’ - quite literally, ‘year walking’, this sometimes 2D, sometimes 3D point-and-click sees players roam a snowy forest solving puzzles and encountering supernatural beings, from the freaky Backahasten (or Brook Horse) to the creepy dead baby you need to give it. During one puzzle you have to remember the notes of a witch's song and replicate it. There’s even an in-game encyclopedia to brush up on genuinely interesting juicy scandinavian folklore. Though developed for smartphones, it slides seamlessly onto mouse and keyboard.
Expect to pay: £6 / $10
Pathologic is ugly and broken. It will sit on your hard-drive like a gangrenous limb, in need of amputation. If this sounds like a criticism, it isn't. Beyond the dirty, putrefied atmosphere, Pathologic is also weird and theatrical, frequently breaking the fourth wall and questioning your role as the player. You choose one of three characters, each with their own mysterious past. Afterwards, masked figures explain the rules of the game: that you have twelve days to cure the town of its disease, and that time will progress regardless of your actions. As it slips by, you'll have to pick your goals wisely, gathering resources and helping characters in the hope of slowing the inexorable decay. Whatever your choice, the town continues to rot, and the game builds towards its horrific conclusion.
Expect to pay: £8 / $12
Ice Pick Lodge cemented their reputation for creating disturbing and nightmarish landscapes with The Void. This first person survival game is set in a grey purgatorial realm ruled by a group of known as the Brothers - warped creatures who seek to control the realm’s supply of life-giving colour. You survive by storing colour in your internal organs, but must also spend it to draw glyphs to fight, plant colour trees and create pathways between the Void’s bizarre dimensions. All the while the Brothers watch, first assuming that you’re one of them, but becoming more suspicious - and more dangerous - as you grow in power. The entropic decay of your stored colour makes the Void a difficult game, but there’s nothing else like it. The Brothers in particular are an impressive imaginative feat. One is a groaning wheel of limbs, another floats on top of a bloated sack of flesh. The Void blends body horror with existential ennui in a way that hardly makes it /pleasant/ to play, but it’s a must if you enjoy weird game worlds.
Expect to pay: Free prototype demo available at the link above
This experimental Oculus Rift game puts you on a couch in a lonely house and asks you to play a horror game on the virtual TV in front of you. As you play, events in the TV game start to bleed into the virtual house around you. Spooky whispering appear behind you, curtains will start twitching, door start creaking and it’s soon hard to shake the feeling that there’s something in the house with you. It’s an unnerving psychological experiment that its developers have attempted to Kickstart. The ten minute prototype shows off the game’s potential well enough, but the crude third person adventure you play on your virtual TV there will be replaced with a first person horror game called The Witching Hour, set in a gothic vision of the 1800s. If you have an Oculus Rift headset, you can download the demo for free from the Oculus Rift site
Expect to pay: £18 / $25
It's Twin Peaks: The Game. It's one of the best games of the year. It's one of the worst games of the year. It's a chaotic mix of imagination and genius. It's a frustrating combination of bloody awful design and writing bad enough to turn milk into cheese with its mere presence. Its quirky take on survival horror is refreshing. Its combat is bloody awful. Say what you want about Deadly Premonition though, it's an experience. As, some would argue, is having a root canal performed by Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout. With a fan patch currently fixing up its appalling resolution though, it's one of the more interesting gambles you might make in the near future. Don't expect greatness, even if you absolutely love it. Expect the unexpected though, almost from the very beginning.
Link:Yume Nikki site
Expect to pay: Free
Probably the biggest, and most enduring, cult indie horror around, inspiring fan sequels, anime and even albums. Yume Nikki is as ambiguous as it is terrifying, telling the story – if you can call it that – of a young girl named Madotsuki, and of the strange, disturbing things she sees in her dreams. Nothing more than that is ever explicitly explained, but you'll roll all sorts of theories around in your head as you explore the game's surprisingly huge dreamworld, collecting 'effects' that warp the environment, NPCs or yourself in unexpected ways. Despite their being no way for Matotsuki to die while she's asleep, the fact that she keeps returning to this nightmarish dreamscape makes this more disturbing than most of the games on this list.
Expect to pay: £2 / $3
There's no place like Home, and that's a theme this sidescrolling indie horror taps into as it turns the familiar on its head. Waking up in an unfamiliar house, you have to piece together what's happened – and what's still happening – as the world appears to be falling apart around you. Well, perhaps that's not quite accurate: despite being in control of its nameless protagonist, the game also puts you in the role of narrator, asking you to shape the narrative at key points in the story by choosing what the main character did or didn't do in certain situations. Like the real thing, Home is what you make of it – only instead of deciding on scatter cushions or where to put that chaise lounge, you're deciding the fate, and grisly backstory, of its curious central character.
Expect to pay: £12 / $20
“Imagine a world where death is no longer final, where precious memories are saved to enjoy forever, where your soul is immortal.” Master Reboot conjures up a pretty terrifying vision of The Cloud gone bad, of a digital, man-made heaven that's unsurprisingly not quite as rosy as it initially appears. This newly minted indie game combines science fiction element with first-person exploration and horror, in an all-digital world constructed from the memories of its dead inhabitants. It's easily one of the most imaginative games on this list, and progressive in an unexpected way – the Steam page proudly boasts that Master Reboot “supports the Welsh language”. Sydd yn braf.
Will Love Tear Us Apart
Link:Will Love Tear Us Apart
Expect to pay: Free to play online at the above link
There are few more horrifying prospects than that of being made to re-explore the intricacies of an irrevocably broken relationship again and again. Will Love Tear Us Apart harnesses the theme’s of Joy Division’s hit to create a strange and disturbing experience in which you must treat with a hideous, swollen partner on a hopeless quest for reconciliation. The sparse line art evokes an empty, angst-ridden world as the game evolves from one phase to the next. It’s a human communication breakdown abstracted into an interactive form. A fascinating experiment that demonstrates how fertile human relationships can be as inspiration for nightmarish horror scenarios. It’s free, to, and you can play it in your browser at the link above.