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Best Psychological Horror Games – TheFantasyTimes

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By Nikita Gambhir

Best Psychological Horror Games



Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror that delves into the disturbing and unsettling mental state of a person. With the advancements in gaming technology over the past few decades, developers have been able to create incredibly immersive experiences that are capable of giving players a genuine scare. Additionally, the influx of money in gaming has allowed studios to hire high-quality voice actors who can play layered and disturbed characters, further enhancing the horror experience.

Creating a successful psychological horror game is no easy feat, but there have been some remarkable entries into the genre that have left players with unforgettable experiences. As knowledge of mental health issues increases, so does the quality of storytelling in psychological horror games. Many game studios now consult mental health experts while developing their psychological horror games. This has given the genre far more depth than before, touching upon many sensitive real-world issues.

Detention, developed by Red Candle Games in 2017, is a psychological horror game that takes place in 1960s Taiwan under martial law. It features some of the best atmosphere, visuals, and sound design in horror gaming today, while the enemies are some of the most disturbing in the genre. It was well-received by both fans and critics, with an 83 Metascore and Overwhelmingly Positive All Reviews score on Steam.

Layers of Fear, developed by Bloober Team, is another psychological horror game that puts players in control of a troubled painter who is trying to create a masterpiece. The game is packed with jump scares that made it a hit with reactionary streamers. F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon, developed by Monolith Productions, is a combat-heavy shooter that features surprisingly solid FPS mechanics for a horror game.

The Silent Hill series, specifically Silent Hill and Silent Hill 3, developed by Konami’s Team Silent, are iconic psychological horror games that put players in control of regular people instead of trained soldiers or police officers. Despite struggling to hold up visually and in terms of gameplay mechanics, Silent Hill’s storyline is still gripping and deserves to be among the genre’s best releases.

Doki Doki Literature Club! aimed to hide its psychological horror elements by branding itself as a dating simulator, only to take a disturbing turn based on the player’s choices. Outlast is another indie horror game that gained popularity through the reactions of streamers and influencers. Soma, developed by Frictional Games, subverts expectations by misleading players in a subtle way and exploring the possibilities of technological advancements and their impact on the human brain.

Observer, also developed by Bloober Team, features an immersive world design, atmosphere, and story that make it a must-play for fans of psychological horror. Kill is a unique entry that blends psychological horror with classic Japanese role-playing gameplay. Finally, Alan Wake, initially released in 2010 and remastered in 2021, is a psychological horror game that features a captivating storyline and unforgettable atmosphere.

In conclusion, the psychological horror subgenre has consistently grown in quality over the past few decades, providing players with unforgettable experiences. With the help of mental health experts and advancements in gaming technology, game developers are exploring sensitive real-world issues and giving the genre far more depth than before.

Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror that predominantly focuses on unsettling and disturbing depictions of a person’s mental state. Like the horror genre, the psychological horror subgenre has consistently grown in quality over the past couple of decades, as improvements in gaming technology have let developers create frighteningly immersive experiences.

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Furthermore, the amount of money in gaming today means that many studios can now afford high-quality voice actors capable of nailing layered, disturbed characters; enhancing the horror even further. Psychological horror games are tough to get right, though there have been some fantastic entries into the genre that have provided memorable experiences for players.

Updated on June 23, 2023, by Jack Pursey: As knowledge of mental health issues increases, so does the quality of storytelling in psychological horror games, which often touch upon sensitive real-world issues. Many game studios now consult mental health experts while developing their psychological horror games, which, in many cases, has given the genre far more depth than before. To shine a light on some recent releases, this list has been updated to include some more of the best psychological horror games​​​​​​.

14 Detention

Girl sitting alone surrounded by empty chairs

Detention is a 2017 psychological horror game developed by Red Candle Games that takes place in 1960s Taiwan, which was under martial law at the time. The game’s atmosphere, visuals, and sound design are among the best in horror gaming today, while the “lingered” enemies are some of the most disturbing enemies that the genre has ever produced.

Detention was well-received by both fans and critics, exemplified by its 83 Metascore and Overwhelmingly Positive All Reviews score on Steam.

13 Layers Of Fear

A Painting From Layers Of Fear

Layers of Fear was developed by Bloober Team, who have created numerous psychological horror games over the past decade, including Observer, Blair Witch, and The Medium.

Layers of Fear puts players in control of a troubled painter who is desperately trying to create a masterpiece. The game isn’t for the faint-hearted, as Layers of Fear is packed with jump scares that made the game a hit with reactionary streamers.

12 F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon

FPS gunfight in F.E.A.R. 1

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who don’t find children scary and those who have played the original F.E.A.R.

Monolith Productions’ F.E.A.R.: First Encounter Assault Recon was first released in October 2005 and introduced the gaming world to Alma Wade, a psychic spirit out for revenge after the Armacham Technology Corporation conducted disturbing experiments on her. Unlike many other games on this list, F.E.A.R. is a combat-heavy shooter that features surprisingly solid FPS mechanics for a horror game.

11 Silent Hill

silent hill 1 konami burger

The first game in the iconic Silent Hill series was developed by Konami’s Team Silent and first released on PlayStation 1 in 1999 before arriving on Game Boy Advance in 2001.

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Silent Hill stood out from other horror games at the time with its disturbing but encapsulating atmosphere and for putting the player in control of a regular person instead of a trained soldier or police officer, which was uncommon at the time. While Silent Hill‘s visuals and many of its gameplay mechanics struggle to hold up today, its storyline is still gripping, and it deserves to be mentioned among the genre’s best releases for its influence on horror gaming alone.

10 Silent Hill 3

Heather Mason from Silent Hill 3

From one Silent Hill game to another, Silent Hill 3 was also developed by Konami’s Team Silent and was released on PlayStation 2 and PC in 2003.

The game puts players in control of a teenager named Heather, who finds herself alone in a shopping mall following a nightmare. Silent Hill 3 doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel with its gameplay, as exploration and puzzle-solving are again at the forefront. Silent Hill 3 was a hit with fans and critics, exemplified by the game’s 85 critic score and 8.6 user score on Metacritic.

9 Doki Doki Literature Club!

Monika from Doki Doki Literature Club

One inherent issue with making a psychological horror video game is that when a game brands itself as psychological horror, players will boot the game up already expecting shocking imagery, key characters having severe mental issues, and other quintessential aspects of the genre, making it difficult for the developers to create a genuinely unsettling experience.

Doki Doki Literature Club! aimed to solve this issue by trying to hide that it was a psychological horror game. The game was originally branded as simply a visual novel, and images of the game made it look like some sort of dating simulator, which is exactly how the game appears to begin with. However, Doki Doki Literature Club! will soon take some disturbing turns based on the player’s choices, which can affect not only the main character but also the player in ways they would never expect.

8 Outlast

Outlast enemy looking at the player

Like many indie horror games from the past decade, Outlast can attribute much of its success to streamers and influencers, who would have large audiences watching them to see their horrified reactions to many of the game’s scariest moments. Along with a handful of jump scares, Outlast also aims to frighten its players by not letting them use weapons – meaning their only choice is to run and hide – creating some extremely tense moments.

Outlast received a sequel in 2017, which struggled to have the same impact as its predecessor but is certainly worth checking out for fans of the first game.

7 Soma

Human and robot trying to touch

Soma was released in 2015 by Frictional Games, the same company that made the psychological horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent (more on that later). Consequently, the game was highly anticipated by psychological horror fans which, as mentioned before, can make it difficult for developers to unsettle players, as they will already know roughly what to expect. Frictional Games did a fantastic job of subverting expectations, however, by misleading players in a subtle way.

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The game begins with the protagonist suffering a serious brain injury and agreeing to let a doctor perform experimental treatment on them, which results in them waking up in an unfamiliar, eerie place. Seasoned psychological horror fans’ ears will have perked up at “brain injury,” and many will have expected the protagonist to have awoken in some sort of manifestation of their inner thoughts – an expectation that the developers were likely leading players down. Instead, what follows is a Black Mirror-like look into the possibilities of technological advancements and what they could one day do to the human brain.

6 Observer

tv people in observer

Observer was first released in 2017 by Bloober Team, the same studio that created The Medium, Layers of Fear, and Blair Witch. Like the aforementioned Soma, Observer received some criticisms upon release for its gameplay, which put a lot of players off purchasing it. However, the game’s world design, atmosphere, and story are all among the best in the psychological horror genre, making it a must-buy for anyone wanting to be immersed in such a game.

In November 2020, an enhanced version of the game was released titled Observer: System Redux. The game features more story content and improved visuals and is ultimately the best way to play Observer today.

5 Kill

Omori - Battle

Kill is a unique entry on this list as the game features an interesting blend of psychological horror and classic Japanese role-playing gameplay. The game puts players in control of a withdrawn teenager named Sunny and follows him in both his real life and the dream world that he has created.

Kill is based on a webcomic series of the same name and was initially released on PC in late-2020 after a Kickstarter campaign. The game is now also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 4. It currently has an Overwhelmingly Positive All Reviews score on Steam.

4 Alan Wake

Alan Wake holding a torch and gun

Alan Wake was initially released exclusively on Xbox 360 in 2010 before coming to PC just under two years later. In October 2021, a remastered version of the game was released with both DLCs on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, PS4, and PS5.

The game’s psychological horror story takes a healthy dose of influence from Stephen King, who is referenced in the opening. This is particularly clear in the abundance of supernatural enemies and occurrences present, which accompany the story’s focus on a writer worried that he’s losing his mind.

3 Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Senua in Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was developed by Ninja Theory and is an unorthodox psychological horror game in the sense that – unlike most games in the genre – it doesn’t take place in the modern-day with an immediately relatable protagonist; it is instead set in a dark fantasy world inspired by Celtic and Norse mythology.

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Despite this fantasy setting, the game’s story focuses on the all-too-real mental illness of psychosis. Hellblade’s depiction of psychosis, which was constructed with the help of neuroscientistshas been central to the game’s praise and significantly contributed to the game’s impressive 88 Metascore on Xbox One.

2 Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Daniel Holding His Lantern From Amnesia The Dark Descent

Amnesia: The Dark Descent was released in September 2010 by Frictional Games and is one of the most influential games in not just psychological horror history but horror history in general. Like Outlastmuch of the game’s success can be attributed to frightened YouTubers playing through the game to the amusement of their audience, most notably PewDiePie.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent was particularly influential for not giving players any weapons, which went against the grain of horror releases at the time, as they were becoming more and more like action games with zombies simply taking the place of soldiers, aliens, or whatever else.

1 Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2 - Maria walking

As mentioned before, psychological horror games are, generally speaking, getting better and better as technological advancements allow developers to create more detailed, immersive, and ultimately scary horror experiences. This serves as a reminder as to how special of a game Silent Hill 2 is, as despite releasing over 20 years ago, it still offers one of the best horror experiences in gaming.

This is predominantly due to how great Silent Hill 2’s storytelling is, as the journey of discovering what happened to Mary is still as interesting today as it was upon release, while the depiction of James’ psyche remains one of gaming’s best visual storytelling achievements.

More: Free Horror Games That Are Just As Terrifying As Resident Evil

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