There’s a psychology to fear, and horror video games provide one of the best and most therapeutic ways to escape and face real-world horror.
We all love horror here. But I have a soft spot for horror video games. While I love a good horror movie, the interactive element of gaming raises the stakes, gets more invested, significantly elevates the fear factor, and offers more overall excitement. These games are especially great if you fall into one of the following categories:
- You love to be scared but find most horror movies fail to truly frighten you
- You suffer from anxiety or just need a healthy way to escape the stress of the real world
- You love a good challenge and something that will engage your mind and keep you guessing
- You get distracted easily, especially in movies, and need something more active to hold your focus
Here are just a few reasons why horror video games top my list of great activities that can be both stimulating and relaxing, helps keep boredom away, gives me that thrill I crave, and keeps me grounded when the world seems a little overwhelming.
Just for the Thrill of It
Being scared is exhilarating. This is because fear produces adrenaline by prompting the body into fight-or-flight mode. The metabolism increases and the body begins to put all of its focus on surviving. Simply put, the body cannot necessarily tell that the threat isn’t real. Of course, you know you’re not in any real danger, which makes it possible for you to get the benefits of the terror without any of the risk or worry.
The same can be said for rollercoasters. They tap into the body’s fear response without putting you in real harm. The exhilaration of being scared is also often paired with a sense of accomplishment when you have managed to make it through the fear. It’s a natural high, making horror video games actually a boost for your mental health.
While single-player games are great, in and of themselves, you might also explore some of the many thrilling multi-player options. There is often a communal element when it comes to fear which can heighten your enjoyment. When you are playing a horror game with your friends, emotions become heightened. You can all feel each other’s fear, and it’s both palpable and contagious.
While we are huge horror fans here, it’s important to note that adrenaline production is not limited to the horror genre. It can be seen in many different genres and types of gameplay. Perhaps the most notable type of online gaming guaranteed to release those endorphins is online gambling. OnlineCasinos has a list of the best casinos and their bonuses for you to try out if you are looking for exhilaration without fear or if you want to expand your gaming horizons.
Satisfying, Safe Scares
Many people, present company included, have a strong interest in the macabre, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are a lot of reasons for — and proven benefits of — exploring the darker side of life (safely, of course).
For people like us who constantly seek out the strange and unusual, we may find that ordinary things don’t hold the same appeal as they do for the wider population. We need to be shocked, challenged, thrilled and surprised.
Indulging in the horror genre is like a release; it is a safe way to explore fear in a controlled environment. Truthfully, being scared is relaxing for a lot of people, allowing them to dive into a fictional experience that provides a distraction from the more realistic anxieties and worries which are more rooted in reality. In essence, playing horror games is often seen as cathartic.
There are a number of common stressors that a lot of people encounter on a daily basis, and playing a horror game really puts things in perspective. If you can guide your character around a horde of zombies to survival, you can probably do that public presentation in front of your team or make that phone call you’ve been dreading.
We’re Building a Mystery
The most enjoyable horror games tend to follow a mystery through to its conclusion. People do love to be scared via their gameplay, but their interest may not be solely rooted in fear. For many of us, it’s as much about curiosity and the thrill of adventure as it is about the actual scares. In fact, some of my favorite games aren’t actually that traditionally terrifying. Instead, they are merely dark and atmospheric, and they keep me glued to the edge of my seat while playing and wondering what’s just around the corner.
In a lot of horror games, the monster or antagonist is often hidden for large parts of the game. Thus, the game becomes more about navigating the space itself, which is often incredibly eerie and creepy. As with horror movies, we understand that what is not shown can often be scarier than what is shown. Sometimes the biggest kicks come from anticipation and not knowing what to expect next.
The best games are often the ones that give us a mystery to unravel; they cycle through the processes of discovery, disclosure, explanation, hypothesis, proof, and confirmation. Many horror games are centered around a central theme of mystery, which really means there is something to figure out. This could mean facing off against a monster and having to work out how to survive or defeat them.
Choose Your Own Adventure
The great thing about horror games, like movies, is the sheer variety of options a player has to indulge their thirst for fear, mystery, and adventure.
A lot of horror games are based on the idea of a scavenger hunt. There’s something you need to find, like clues or pieces of the puzzle. Or maybe you will have to locate objects to solve a problem, escape a certain part of the game, or defeat a villain. At a minimum, many games will include a few side quests to make the game more challenging and exciting and extend the value of your gameplay.
Some excellent examples are Alien: Isolation, Limbo, Detention and Devotion, Slender: The Arrival, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, and Outlast.
Another common trope is giving the main character memory loss, typically following an accident or tragic event. This often allows developers an easy way to load up on the exposition, helping explain everything a player needs to know when starting the game or as the game progresses and new information is needed. It gives them a reason to explain the game’s world and surroundings, and it’s another element of mystery when you have to figure stuff out and don’t have all the information you need from the very start.
Great examples of this done really well are Amnesia, Sanitarium, Resident Evil 7, Persona 3, Remember Me, and Silent Hill 2.
Of course, many, many games will present you with monsters you have to escape and/or kill throughout the game.
Naturally, zombies a staple among the horror genre — though you will see plenty of variety in the type and design of the zombies, as well as the lore behind how the zombies came into existence. Popular zombie games include The Last of Us, Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, Left 4 Dead, Red Dead Redemption, Dying Light, and Dead Space.
Another classic archetype of the horror genre is creepy kids or creepy dolls. They are often used as props that prompt the player to question their morality when they potentially need to defeat a child in order to progress in the game. If you like creepy dolls, we highly recommend Noctambulant, Alisa, Emily Wants to Play, Layers of Fear, Condemned 2, or Poppy Playtime. If you like creepy kids or babies, consider Dead Space 2, Catherine, The Witcher 3, Bioshock, Silent Hill: Homecoming, or F.E.A.R.
And, of course, there are always plenty of human and supernatural terrors to combat. Some of the best horror games where a serial killer is on the prowl include Silent Hill 4, Red Dead Redemption, Murdered: Soul Suspect, Condemned Criminal Origins, The Evil Within, Heavy Rain, and Deadly Premonition.
And if you’re really twisted (don’t worry, this is a safe space), there are even some amazing games that let YOU do the killing. Our favorite games where you get to play as a serial killer include Manhunt, Dead by Daylight, Prop Night, Friday The 13th, Deceit, and Lucius.