Sick of the same old recommendations for horror games? Here are five hidden gems you may have missed that will chill and thrill you.
Over the years, many great horror games have been released for video game consoles and PCs. Many gamers love these titles because they are often immersive, exhilarating, atmospheric, and spine-chilling. A few are downright terrifying and can cause sleepless nights — both from terrors haunting your dreams and the inability to put the controller down once you’ve been sucked into a world of dark, suspense-filled horror.
We all know the staples of the genre, including Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and The Last of Us. But we’ve got a few of our horror favorites you may not have experienced yet. While the most popular titles are indeed titans for a reason, many of the best and more terrifying games don’t get the love and attention they deserve. For whatever reason, these genre gems slip under the radar. But that doesn’t make them any less worthy of your time.
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Without further adieu, here are five of our favorite underrated horror games you can play right now on Steam.
1. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
This one is for all my fellow fans of Lovecraftian horror. If that’s your jam, this intelligent survival horror game from 2005 — based on Lovecraft’s “The Call of the Cthulhu” and a reimagining of his 1936 novella The Shadow over Innsmouth — is one of the best games you can play. It combines action-adventure gaming with a realistic first-person shooter.
After an intense and wildly creative opening sequence that should get your heart racing and your head ready for the fantastic horrors that await you, get ready for a compelling mystery with heaps of atmosphere and surprises around every corner.
Set mostly in the year 1922, the story follows Jack Walters, a mentally unstable private detective hired to investigate Innsmouth, a strange and mysterious town that has cut itself off from the rest of the United States.
Before becoming a private detective, Jack was a police officer summoned to a decrepit manor house inhabited by a bizarre cult. Once inside, he finds the cultists dead by mass suicide and discovers an inter-dimensional portal. By the time backup arrives, Walter has apparently gone insane. After a brief stay in Arkham Asylum, he is released and begins studying the occult. He loses all memory of his period of mental disturbance. But when he takes up a missing person case at Innsmouth, he finds horrors at every turn.
Though it spent years in development hell and was a commercial failure upon release, it’s so much better than its fate would lead you to believe. You play a character slowly losing his mind, resulting in terrifying hallucinations, panic attacks, vertigo, paranoia, and more. You’ll explore many diverse locations as you play, from quaint towns to alien locations. The graphics and atmosphere are top-notch, and it features Lovecraft’s famous monsters and locations.
Boasting a creepy premise, some well-designed puzzles, and thrilling action-shooter gameplay, you’ll want to add Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth to your play list.
While this game doesn’t hit you over the head with gore and jump scares, it does deliver a heavy dose of terror by way of incredibly creepy atmosphere and riveting psychological horror.
You’ll begin with a simple prologue that offers an important gameplay tutorial. You’ll be playing as an unhinged doctor obsessed with finding a way out of the Darkwood forest. Like another exceptional horror title, Silent Hill, Darkwood is a possessed setting that traps people inside and terrorizes them with nightmarish creatures and sinister shifts in reality.
After the prologue, you’ll find yourself in a dilapidated home. This will serve as your hideout. It’s your sanctuary, but it’s also hell on earth. By day, you’ll have to go out exploring to find weapons and other survival essentials. Daylight is the only time when you’re safe from the nightmares. A generator keeps the lights on at home, theoretically keeping the horrors at bay. But you’ll soon find you need to travel further and further away from your safe haven to find the supplies you need. This makes it harder and harder to get home before nightfall.
If you’re caught outside at night, prepare for a truly frightful experience. Aided by stellar sound design and claustrophobic darkness (you can hear what’s coming, but you can’t see it), it’s a panic-inducing, deeply unsettling ordeal, unlike anything you’ve likely played.
This top-down game features a simple but interesting story that is challenging and captivating. It features great characters and a high degree of replayability. And it’s guaranteed to give horror fans the tense chills they crave.
3. Clive Barker’s Undying
With an absolute horror icon like Clive Barker attached, you would have expected Undying to have garnered a much wider fan base. But sadly, this rapid-fire first-person shooter went largely unnoticed, even though it’s one of the best horror FPS games ever made.
The game begins on the coast of Ireland in 1923. You play the role of Patrick Galloway, a World War I veteran with a reputation for knowledge and experience about the occult. He has arrived at the estate of an old friend, Jeremiah Covenant, who has sent him a letter asking for his help. Galloway finds a house of horrors populated with Jeremiah’s dead siblings, all of whom harbor sinister intentions toward Jeremiah.
As Galloway, you can cast various chilling spells, including one that lets you see and hear horrific past events.
Originally slated to be a Steven Spielberg project, Barker was brought in by the developer to consult on the story and characters. He immediately requested changes to make the protagonist more relatable. He viewed the project as a whole as taking heavy influence from H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, and Undying comes complete with extensive lore to help fully immerse players in this terrifying tale.
The game is legitimately frightening, with a creepy atmosphere, outstanding visuals, and a spine-tingling plot. It also boasts an innovative (at the time) two-handed attack system which would later be incorporated with great success by Bioshock 2.
The specters are quite spooky and unique, and the visuals are excellent for an older game. Released in 2000 originally, many devotees will cite this as one of the best horror adventure games of the time — and for good reason.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of and likely experienced Until Dawn, which generated considerable buzz as an interactive interpretation of the slasher genre. But you may not know that, long before Until Dawn, there was the aptly titled Obscure, an early ’80s slasher simulator that combined the classic film style we love with outstanding survival horror gameplay.
Obscure lets you control five high school students trying to survive a vicious onslaught from supernatural forces that have invaded their school. Between battling dark forces, you must tap into each student’s unique skill set to solve various puzzles.
True to its slasher inspiration tropes, you’ve got a familiar cast of characters. There’s the cheerleader who can skillfully wield a rapid-fire pistol, a jock with considerable speed, a brainiac who is great at solving puzzles and can even heal others, a stoner who happens to be a brilliant hacker and locksmith, and the quintessential nerd who is infinitely valuable — seemingly knowing more than anyone else.
Developed by Hydravision Entertainment and released in 2004, the horror plays out at Leafmore High, where you’ll face mutated classmates, countless dangers, and an assault of nightmarish attacks.
You can play as any of the main characters solo or in co-op, which is the best way to experience the game. You can also enjoy replaying different scenarios with a different combination of characters.
Like Until Dawn, if a character dies, they stay dead. Not only does this help ramp up the tension, but it does truly feel like you’re immersed in a horror movie with real stakes.
It’s campy and intentionally cliched, but that’s a huge part of its charm. And it looks quite good for the time it was released. You can also enjoy the 2016 HD remaster of the game on Steam.
Last but definitely not least on our list is the more modern horror game, the debut from developer Red Candle Games, Detention. You may have seen the recent film adaptation of Detention (2021), available now on Shudder and Tubi. If you’ve seen it, you have some idea of what’s in store for you when you play this hauntingly beautiful, eerie, and unnerving game. The film comes with our strongest recommendation if you haven’t yet seen it.
Set in 1960s Taiwan under martial law, this side-scrolling point-and-click game incorporates religious elements from Taiwanese/Chinese culture and mythology. It’s built on a foundation of real-life horror, taking place a decade into the 38-year period known as the White Terror, in which access to certain knowledge was forbidden. The nation is in a state of Communist paranoia, and certain literature has been outlawed. Possessing this forbidden literature comes with dire consequences.
The game follows two students that wake up to find themselves alone in their school. From there, things get stranger and creepier as you try to uncover the mystery of what’s happening.
There are two playable characters, but most of the time is spent with Ray, a girl who doesn’t speak. The school is set across several floors, with just a few rooms per floor. There are puzzles to solve, but it’s nothing too challenging, and there’s no fighting in this one.
Much like Darkwood, the goal of this game isn’t to startle you or terrify you with in-your-face horror. It’s all about creeping dread that will get under your skin and unnerve you in the best possible way. It’s about relatable characters in an impossible situation against a background of real horror and oppression. It’s melancholic, extraordinarily well-crafted, and packs a powerful punch. And, my goodness, do the developers ever stick the landing.
Though it’s reminiscent in many ways of Silent Hill, it’s a wholly unique playing experience thanks to its thought-provoking story and historical context.