5 Horror Games That Will Mess With Your Head

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I recently watched Oculus and enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. It’s a trip, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you get on that. Also, if you haven’t yet, don’t fret, I won’t be spoiling anything here. The reason I bring the film up is because it inspired this list. Thanks to some clever storytelling and editing, I spent a large majority of the film not really know what I was seeing. Or rather, I knew what I was seeing, but I never truly believed it.

That’s smart. And it’s particularly effective for a horror film, because it kept me engaged the whole time, and that’s crucial for gauging the efficacy of a horror film (or even a game, book, TV show, etc.) If you enjoy that sort of thing and would like to experience it elsewhere, I’ve compiled a list of horror games that use similar toolsets to get in the player’s mind. Enjoy.

Mindfrak2

Ah yes, the classic. When it comes to video games that use sanity as a tool for gameplay, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is likely to be one of the first that comes to mind. Released in 2002, this game was one of the first to break the fourth wall. If bleeding walls, voices, and the myriad other horrifying hallucinations didn’t break you, then it would take things to the next level with simulated errors with your television or GameCube.

That game features a number of scares, but the fake “Blue Screen of Death” was by far the most effective.

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  • Vlad

    This list definitely lacks Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. Letting a game mess with your head had never been so enjoyable. Or probably HAS never been.

    • Adam Dodd

      I absolutely love Call of Cthulhu, but I don’t remember that game doing what the above five do. Granted, I haven’t played it in some time, but I remember it being VERY linear and scripted. There isn’t much room for unpredictability in a game like that.

      Still great though.

      • Vlad

        Well, from time to time CoC makes your protagonist dizzy or hallucinating for no apparent reason, and you cannot but feel the same. Actually sometimes you have to do things without looking at what you’re doing – I think that’s great.

    • Said Serna

      I totally agree, Call of Cthulhu is one of the best ever!

  • VictorCrowley

    Fatal Frame NEEDS to be on here.

    • Adam Dodd

      I LOVE that series, especially Crimson Butterfly, but Fatal Frame doesn’t really go out of its way to mess with the player. They’re unsettling, sure, but the five games on this list actually use gameplay mechanics and techniques to try and get in the player’s head.

      Silent Hill adapts based on the player’s actions, Eternal Darkness and Amnesia have environments that shift and change unpredictably (as does Silent Hill), Dead Space 3 shows separate events for each player, etc.

      Fatal Frame is fantastic and terrifying, but not in the same way that these games are. Again, just my opinion!

      • VictorCrowley

        I must respectfully disagree. FF really got into my head. It is the only game that literally had me scared to turn the next corner. Just a total mind-f*ck for me. A few years ago I showed it to my wife. Actually sat her down and handed her the controller. She played it for about 15 mins and put it down, refusing to go on. Then, she went and turned on all the lights in the house and put on happy music. It was hilarious. I hear there is something new in the FF series on it’s way to Wii U. Wonder if they’re releasing an official version of part IV or if it’s a completely new game.

    • ThunderDragoon

      I agree. Fatal Frame got into my head more than Silent Hill did. But, as with all lists, all the games we think of won’t all be there so it’s fine.

  • Tim West

    Yeah, where is Fatal Frame? I have III, and it’s scared the piss out of me more times than naught…that said, well done with the Silent Hill series…

  • http://goo.gl/00MI6I Overlord of Darkness

    Eversion
    ‘Nuff said
    …Fine. What makes this much worse is how A. the game is cutesy and then throws HOLYCRAPWTFISTHIS at you. Also, the head messing-with isn’t a gimmick, but something passive. It never forces you to change the game due to the strange things you might encounter.
    Also, honorary mention to Half Life 2 for having a fairly tame game and then using the HOLYCRAPWTFISTHIS to throw in the level We Don’t Go To Ravenholm, which makes ME scared and I don’t get scared at all in games.

    • Okami Amaterasu

      Oh god Half Life 2…I played that level recently, had to take plenty of breaks to avoid quitting. It scared me as a child and it doesn’t fail to do that now…

      • http://goo.gl/00MI6I Overlord of Darkness

        Actually, after playing the full game, We Don’t Go To Ravenholm isn’t nearly as scary anymore. While it still made me jump (which is EXTREMELY rare for me) it ends up being way too much fun cutting zombies in half with buzzsaws for the game to really mess with you.

        • Okami Amaterasu

          It scared me the first time a lot more than the second time playing it. It only scares me now because of how cheap the poison headcrab and fast zombie combo can be. Insta-death.

  • Michael Hodges

    I know of one that I always loved for the scenes you would see by glancing into random mirrors at certain points in the game. Each scene being pretty graphic and since it seems more like a movie than a game it really had the feel of a horror. And that game would be Phantasmagoria, released for the PC in 95.

    • Adam Dodd

      AMAZING game, good pick!

  • SpaceManSpliffz .

    I would have read your list, but then saw you like the movie Oculus. Any credability you had was gone after that statement.

    • Adam Dodd

      Ouch.

      • SpaceManSpliffz .

        Come on man, even YOU can admit Oculus stunk! Watch it again!

    • notWilliamHMacy

      what a douche

  • horroraddiction

    Rule of Rose is a good psychological horror game. Will never forget that one!

  • Matt Ellis

    you forgot Harvester on p.c. it screwed with my head pretty good.

  • Mkm

    The Suffering . anyone ? man that game gave me nightmares for a month. i would love if anyone would remake this game in current graphics.

  • Michael Collier

    FEAR franchise ? 5.1 surround sound headphones late night in front of my laptop screen. Very creepy

  • luke dwyer

    Outlast

  • Ethan Turner

    Rule Of Rose was kind of creepy and messed with you a lot…

  • Oskar RT

    DS was the king… was :(

  • Drlathe

    Why is dead space 3 on there? Its not a horror game, its an action game.

    • DracoHandsome

      It’s not a /survival/ horror game, but it is quite obviously a horror game.

  • Nicholas G Brown

    haha… Silent Hill… OH GOD NO

  • Kawwah

    Fatal Frame?

    • Judy Kats

      I am shocked Fatal Frame wasn’t listed.

  • madafaka

    Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, uno de los pocos juegos que me han hecho saltar de la silla

  • Rus

    Does anyone remember Sanitarium? It’s pretty old, but man that game used to bug me out back in the day…

  • Blue

    Actually thought Phantasmagoria was pretty creepy. The whole way things changed and what you could control was pretty good.

  • tin ribs

    siren blood curse was one of the scariest for me because your character is super weak and cant kill the monsters so you sort of end up feeling pretty vulnerable as a player.. it’s a very interesting game, I didnt find it that fun but it was scary..

  • Stefano Nuke Nusperli

    Cry of Fear

  • Florian Schaffer

    One of the most scary games i have ever played is The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The graphics were not the best so all the monsters were like super edgy and fucked up, and the detection system didn’t allow you to see monsters before it was too late. Furthermore if you didn’t have one-shot weapons you could never kill anything faster than in 10 seconds, because the hitbox of all weapons were messed up. The most shocking experience in this game are the dungeons. No sounds whatsoever and when you open a door something just pops out and scares the shit out of you. The game itself might not be as scary as other horror games, but it sure as hell makes you jump out of your chair sometimes.

  • Richard Hawkes

    Can I throw in 3D Monster Maze on the ZX81? Crappy graphics, and a maze that you could barely navigate because the keys were so damn hard to use. When that pixelated t-rex (I think) turned a corner to face you, you literally sh*t your pants!

  • Alisa Alisa

    http://robotunicornattack.us

    Upon loading up the game and probably startling Google Chrome itself with the absurdness of what I was playing, the word disappointment temporarily fell out of my vocabulary because after even 30 seconds of playing my head was filled with rainbows, amazement, and awe at how simultaneously simple and entertaining the experience was. Aside from the frightening array of colours that would distress even the hardiest of retinas, everything about this game is unbelievably simple and easy to grasp. Taking the fact that you are a mechanical unicorn as given, you are thrown into a bubblegum world of fantasy and sparkle which, upon witnessing it with your own eyes, will make you understand what those Skittles talk about when they bang on about ”tasting the rainbow”. As a robot unicorn, your job is to simply run endlessly across terrain, jumping intermittently when the ground beneath you ends and landing on the next platform. The jumps become increasingly difficult as you progress, with terrain and giant star-shaped obstacles getting in your way.

  • Patryk Zowczak

    Dead Space 3 isn’t even scary. It’s funny.

  • Alisa Alisa

    Robot Unicorn Attack

    http://robotunicornattack.us

    Upon loading up the game and probably startling Google Chrome itself with the absurdness of what I was playing, the word disappointment temporarily fell out of my vocabulary because after even 30 seconds of playing my head was filled with rainbows, amazement, and awe at how simultaneously simple and entertaining the experience was. Aside from the frightening array of colours that would distress even the hardiest of retinas, everything about this game is unbelievably simple and easy to grasp. Taking the fact that you are a mechanical unicorn as given, you are thrown into a bubblegum world of fantasy and sparkle which, upon witnessing it with your own eyes, will make you understand what those Skittles talk about when they bang on about ”tasting the rainbow”. As a robot unicorn, your job is to simply run endlessly across terrain, jumping intermittently when the ground beneath you ends and landing on the next platform. The jumps become increasingly difficult as you progress, with terrain and giant star-shaped obstacles getting in your way.

  • Kyle Danner

    Just watch Oculus a couple days ago too. I had never seen the previews and it turned out to be a great movie. Love it when that happens :)

    and it scared the shit out of my wife xD

  • Pennsbury student

    Not the whole series of silent hill was scary, didn’t do shit for me. I played the most recent one downpour I think is what it’s called, it was boring and made me walk in circles for an hour trying to figure out what the hells going on. There were more puzzles than horror. The first one though, is a fucking nightmare….don’t wanna play that again.

  • Pennsbury student

    What I mean by nightmare is that shits scary, I’d have to say the first one is the best

  • Pennsbury student

    I guess dead space 3 is a horror game althought I never played that one, I played dead space 2 and It’s just straight up funny and has tons of action. The only reason that it’s considered a horror game is because your stumbling around in the dark and the jumpscares

    • LoveAnimation

      Dead Space 2 got a really scary and disturbing atmosphere to me so in my opinion its a really scary and great horror game.
      That you can kill all the monsters that attack you does not mean that a game cant be scary.
      People like you makes it sound like it must be like Outlast that your forced to run away and hide all the time for a game to be scary and thats not true at all.

  • Pennsbury student

    But out of all of theses games I want to play outlast, all my friends keep saying that it’s scary as fuck but the more they say that, the more I want to play it

    • mewmew34

      Play it. I’ve watched Lanipator of Team Four Star play through that game as Krillin over half a dozen times, yet the game STILL manages to creep the hell out of me when I try to play. I haven’t beat it yet because I have to play in small doses.

  • disqus_4JyBwNLpWZ

    Call of duty with no sound in the dark multiple players and u come around a corner u will shit your pants, outlast on psi did nothing to scare me

  • MrDeLeon82 .

    Yeah I know this “article” is a bit old so I understand why the game that made me jump and scream “ohhhhhh shhh***” isn’t on here but that game is P.T. on Ps4 and yeah its just a “Playable Trailer” hence P.T. title. A demo that you can play about Silent hills next game and if your a “The Walking Dead” fan your going to love it, and that’s IF you can unlock the freaky puzzles and experience the trailer like it was meant to be seen. Its a MUST HAVE GUTS TO PLAY TYPE.