Love that feeling when the hairs slowly stand up on the back of your neck? Stylist’s Kayleigh Dray – self-confessed video game addict – has you covered as she unveils her pick of the best (and most terrifying) horror games…
Updated on 12 June 2020: The Last Of Us Part II is trending. And for all the right reasons, too.
Naughty Dog’s much-anticipated sequel picks has been met with widespread critical acclaim, picking back up with Ellie and Joel about a decade or so after the events of the first video game. Unlike the OG The Last Of Us, though, this game leans heavily into the horror side of its survival horror subject matter.
Sure, things start off idyllic enough: Ellie, now 19, has set up base in the relatively safe community in Wyoming. Joel is still around, over-protective as always, but Ellie no longer has to rely solely on the father-figure in her life: she has friends, colleagues, even a love interest of her own.
Watch the trailer for The Last Of Us Part 2 below:
Without giving too much away (here at Stylist, we’re ever mindful of spoilers), though, things soon take a change for the bleak. And Ellie, hellbent on revenge, is forced to up sticks and head out alone to Seattle, a city filled with a new array of zombie-like creatures: there’s the blind Clickers, desperately hunting their prey through a series of percussive clicks. The Runners, who pop out from under the snow and sprint at you without warning. The Shamblers, who let out guttural moans as they spread their toxins far and wide. And… well, and there’s even worse, too.
All of this makes for terrifying gameplay. But it’s also heartbreaking, too, because, unlike so many video games, The Last Of Us Part II forces players to deal with the consequences of every decision. No death is undertaken lightly, no villain felled without emotional distress. Expect to feel Ellie’s losses keenly, and prepare to sit in this discomfort, to feel it deep within your bones, long after the game is over.
Of course, The Last Of Us Part 2 is by far from the only one out there intended to scare players half to death. If you prefer a hefty dose of scare alongside your cosy night in, then I recommend stepping inside the horror with one of these terrifying video games.
Resident Evil 2
Netflix recently announced that it is bringing the legendary video game and movie franchise Resident Evil to the small screen. According to Deadline, the team behind the zombie-filled show is still looking for a showrunner/producer. However, it is believed that Constantin Film, which has been behind the film series, will be heading up the project, which intends to delve deeper into the world that we find Alice (Mila Jovovich) in. It is hoped that we will at last find out the truth about the Umbrella Corporation, not to mention how and why they decided to manufacture the zombie virus. perhaps most importantly of all? That we will find out what life was like before the outbreak.
Of course, this news comes hot on the heels of the release of Resident Evil 2, the critically-acclaimed remake of the original 1998 game of the same title. In the survival horror, players control rookie police officer Leon S. Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield as they attempt to escape from Raccoon City during a zombie apocalypse. This time, though, gameplay has been updated to introduce “fully 3D, over-the-shoulder affair with atmospheric lighting effects, impressive facial animations, and the best-looking zombies I’ve ever seen in a game”, according to IGN’s glowing review.
Go in expecting a beautifully crafted survival horror games, and you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t blame us if, after playing, you find yourself unable to sleep with the lights off…
The Last of Us: Remastered
The original game had to make the list, for obvious reason.
Ever wondered how you’d manage in a zombie apocalypse? Now’s the time to put your survival skills to the test in this terrifying game from Naughty Dog, which challenges you to use firearms, improvised weapons and stealth to defend against the slew of zombies that have taken over a post-apocalyptic United States.
You play as Joel, a hard-as-nails smuggler tasked with escorting Ellie – a teenage girl – to a rebel safe house outside the quarantine zone. Unfortunately, though, there’s a horde of infected zombies in the way – and half of them don’t even need to see you to attack. Just like bats, they work on the slightest sound alone, which means that you’ll need to listen out for their tell-tale clicking sounds. Eek.
Even creepier than a blind zombie groping its way through a darkened hallway towards you? The fungus which causes the game’s fictional zombie outbreak is based on an actual, real parasitic infection known as Cordyceps, which – much as we see in The Last of Us – infests and grows within a host until fungal growths erupt from the body, driving them slowly mad in the process. So what if it currently only affects insects and arthropods? The fact that such a nightmarish horror is rooted in reality makes The Last Of Us all the more alarming.
The Last of Us: Remastered (£15.02) is available on PlayStation 4.
At a first glance, Little Nightmares looks like something out of a fairy-tale – albeit a dark and twisted one (think less glass slippers and happy-ever afters, more big bad wolves stalking lost children through a shadowy forest).
You play as Six, a lost little girl who has woken up in the shadowy depths of The Maw. Dressed in a bright yellow mac, and nearly crippled by excruciating hunger pangs, she decides to try to escape. However, as she slowly makes her way upwards, she finds herself stalked through the darkness by a contorted blind man with impossibly long arms…
While this puzzle-platformer game has some issues (think frustrating perspectives and checkpoints), critics have praised its horrible atmosphere, graphics, sound and revolting cast. All that’s left to do is switch off all the lights, grab a controller and try to navigate The Maw for yourself…
Little Nightmares (£24.99) is available on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.
Until Dawn: Extended Edition
This is, quite possibly, my favourite horror game of all time. Boasting an all-star cast (think Hayden Panettiere and Rami Malek, for starters), Until Dawn centres around a group of eight teenagers who decide to spend a night in a cabin on Blackwood Mountain, exactly one year after the disappearance of two girls. Somewhat unsurprisingly, this turns out to be a Very Bad Idea – and, shortly after arriving, the gang find themselves under attack by a madman and must attempt to survive until sunrise.
So where do you come in? Well, it’s your job to keep everyone alive, obviously – but every single decision you make, no matter how small, sparks a “butterfly effect” series of consequences. This means that there are hundreds of different outcomes: you might keep all eight characters alive, you might see all of them perish, or you might have just one or two make it to the very end. There are also countless different paths and scenarios, not to mention several different endings for each character.
It’s worth noting that there is a strict auto-save function in place, which means that there’s no going back once you’ve made any decision: you have to play through to the very end, relying on your gut to see you through. And even more stressful than all of this? Well, on top of all those abandoned mineshafts, mysterious strangers, Saw-esque games, dilapidated asylums, power cuts and life-or-death choices, is the fact that you have to navigate the politics of a teenage friendship group. One ill-timed compliment could tear a relationship apart – and result in someone being less inclined to, y’know, save your life later.
Trust me, though, when I say that Until Dawn is addictive. Once you start the nine-hour game, you won’t stop until you’re done – which means that you may well be up to see the sun rise yourself after a night of terrified gameplay. Or, you know, not, depending on the choices you make that evening…
Until Dawn: Extended Edition (£29.99) is available on PlayStation 4.
Picture the scene: you’re a hunter, wandering through the decrepit Victorian-era city of Yharnam, in search of the Paleblood remedy. It should be a simple task but, shortly after your arrival, it quickly becomes apparent that something terrible has happened: a plague has swept the city, transforming most of its citizens into violently deranged monsters. It’s up to you to navigate the darkened streets, overcome its horrifying inhabitants, stop the source of the plague and escape the nightmare. Simple.
Bloodborne (£20) is available on PlayStation 4.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Dubbed the most successfully frightening game to have ever been made, Amnesia: The Dark Descent is definitely only suitable for the most hardened of horror fans.
The plot is simple: Daniel – a young man from London – has woken up in the dark and empty halls of the Prussian Brennenburg Castle with a severe case of memory loss. There are only three things he is certain of: his name, the fact that he lives in Mayfair, and the surety that someone – or something – is hunting him.
As Daniel, you must make your way downwards into the Inner Sanctum of the castle, uncovering clues about your identity all the way. Naturally, though, there’s more to it than that: mysterious monsters stalk the corridors, which means that you must hide or flee (no weapons for you, pal) whenever you hear them coming. Your survival is dependent on your ability to avoid the unearthly presence of “the Shadow” – and cling onto the thin thread of your own sanity as the world falls apart around you.
Trust us: the slow-burning horror of this game will have you sobbing under your duvet in no time.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent (£17.96) is available on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and PlayStation 4.
Let’s up the ante, shall we? In this first-person horror game, you assume the role of freelance journalist Miles Upshur as he – armed only with a video camera – investigates a dilapidated psychiatric hospital. At night. And believe me when I tell you it’s f**king frightening.
Much of the hospital is unlit, so you have to rely on your camera’s night vision mode to make your way around… and that thing really uses up your batteries, so you have to scavenge around for additional ones wherever and whenever you can. Because, trust me, you don’t want to be caught without them: you aren’t alone in this eerie building.
Remember I mentioned that you’re a journalist? Not a superhero, or a spy, or a member of the SAS: you are a journalist. Your forte is scribbling notes, meeting deadlines and spinning a good headline, not clobbering enemies to death. So, if you come across one of the countless knife-wielding stalkers, homicidal maniacs, and murderous inpatients that lurk around every corner, you have two choices: run (no doubt sobbing and squirting urine at every step), or hide. No wonder this game won the ‘Most Likely To Make You Faint’ accolade of 2013.
Outlast Trinity (£22.97) is available on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Silent Hill 2
Often listed among the greatest games of all time, Silent Hill 2 has it all: chilling atmosphere, great graphics, eerie story, spine-tingling soundtrack and more monsters than you can shake a bloodied crucifix at.
You play as James Sunderland, who makes the journey to the eponymous American town after receiving a letter from his deceased wife, who promises she is waiting for him in the thick fog of Silent Hill. The issue is, of course, that’s she’s not alone: whenever your radio starts spitting static, it means there’s a creature close by – and, as ever, they aren’t friendly.
This game is particularly brilliant in its blending of psychological horror with classic jump scares, slowly building up the tension until it reaches almost unbearable levels. Will you escape Silent Hill? Only time will tell…
Silent Hill 2 is available as part of the Silent Hill HD Collection (£20-£30) on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
It’s the horror video game franchise that needs no introduction – but, as I’m here…
You are Ethan Winters, a man drawn to a derelict plantation in Dulvey, Louisiana, by a message from his long-lost wife, Mia. And guess what? Things go wrong. Very wrong. Expect minimal guts and gore, maximum mildew-tinged tension as you navigate your way around an abandoned house…
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (£27) is available on Windows, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One
This article was originally published in October 2018.
Image: Naughty Dog
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.