The best horror games are the ones that take full advantage of the unique abilities of the video game medium. That isn’t to say that a more cinematic video game experience can’t be scary, but rather that there’s something special about horror games that explore what’s possible when you’re the one responsible for what happens. So far as that goes, few do it better than Eternal Darkness.
We really like Eternal Darkness‘ level design, centuries-spanning story, and memorable cast of characters, but Eternal Darkness‘ sanity system is the reason it’s on this list. As your protagonist loses their sanity through various in-game mechanics, the world around them is altered in fascinating ways. Statue heads follow them around, you can noises everywhere, the room shakes, the walls bleed…madness has really been depicted this effectively in a game since.
However, the best moments come when the game makes players believe that all of their saves have been deleted or that their GameCube somehow shut itself off. Those moments of meta-horror genuinely make you question what’s real and what’s in your head.
2003 | Rockstar
The horror of Manhunt isn’t limited to the ways the game scares you. This gem’s premise, environments, and tense stealth sequences are all exceptional but we’ve also seen them elsewhere before. What makes Manhunt truly horrifying is how it makes you feel when you play it.