There is a lot of horror out there related to the paranormal. Ghouls, ghosts, dead people who come back to life to eat their brains, that kind of thing. The genre is full of it, because the unknown is inherently terrifying. Playing on people’s understanding of natural laws is an easy way to scare them. Although it is not the only way.
There are plenty of great horror titles out there that don’t require anything magical or physically challenging to pull off. Some freak out over technological advances and speculate about what might lie ahead for humanity further out in the universe. Others are more focused on fear of other people. Either way, if the idea of spirits and demons makes you roll your eyes, a few of them are worth a try.
Of all the animals you’re likely to get killed for, humans are probably at the top of the list. The horror where the monsters are ordinary people hits too close to home. The infamous Manhunt game will pit you against the worst that humanity has to offer.
Playing as death row inmate James Earl Cash, you are forced to take part in a huge live action snuff movie, orchestrated by a mysterious director. Escaping with your life means making your way through groups of assassins and organized criminals hired to dispatch you, by any means available. Needless to say, a lot of those outlets are pretty brutal.
8/9 the long dark
As humans, we’ve gotten pretty good at controlling our environment to help us thrive. Technology is able to keep us mostly comfortable and safe. In The Long Dark, all of that is gone. A colossal solar flare has wiped out all electrical power on earth. To make matters worse, it has disrupted weather patterns, causing sudden and severe storms.
If the atmospheric chaos wasn’t bad enough, when it happened, you were flying over northern Canada and found yourself stranded in a barren, icy wilderness with aggressive, hungry wolves and bears with disrupted hibernation patterns. Fear comes from the slow realization of your own frailty, when, unaided, almost anything can kill you.
7/9 Sarah is missing
The internet is full of stories about cursed content. Videos and images that, if viewed, have some dire consequences for the person. While those might just be urban legends, what if tech-savvy people decided to make something like that a reality?
In Sara Is Missing, you find an apparently missing phone and decide to check it out in hopes of finding the owner. Unfortunately for you, the owner is not easy to find and it seems that the interaction with the apparently compromised device has drawn the attention of some very dangerous people. You know what they say: no good deed goes unpunished.
6/9 pumpkin eater
Sometimes the reality of death is far more terrifying than any hint of life after it. Pumpkin Eater is a visual novel that follows a girl whose brother is killed in an accident.
Unwilling to accept the reality of the situation, his mother rebuilds her son, with a pumpkin for a head. The writing takes many clues from the forensic science investigation and slowly details the decomposition of both the body and the life of the family as the days go by. There is no more monster than pain and the terrible things it does to people.
In the present, understanding the thoughts and feelings of the dead brings images of mediums and psychics, but what if technology allowed you to do just that? Thanks to the cyberpunk advancements of the Observer world, you can do just that.
You play as a detective who can hack into the brain implants of people living or dead to get an idea of what is or was going through their heads. The result is usually a hallucinatory, glitchy nightmare. However, if you can solve them, you may be able to solve a very personal case.
The human mind is a very complex thing, and it is something that can easily go wrong. Soon, you are trapped in a nightmare from which you cannot escape.
This is the case with Korsakovia, a Half-Life 2 mod in which you play as a man named Christopher, who suffers from Korsakoff syndrome. This has caused him to experience vivid and intense delusions. While the doctor’s voice tries to affirm the reality, that you are blind and hospitalized after an intense act of self-harm, what you perceive is very different. A miserable and decadent world of monsters and isolation awaits you.
Dying is scary. It is one of the cornerstones of scaring people. Perhaps even more terrifying is the idea of living through technological advancement but losing some fundamental aspect of yourself.
SOMA is a science fiction horror in which the AI of an underwater base, the WAU, was tasked with preserving humanity. Unfortunately, its creators didn’t do a great job of defining where something begins and ends as a human. As a result, the setting of PATHOS-II is littered with semi-robotic abominations, patched up by the WAU in their failed attempt to preserve humanity. Suddenly forgetting doesn’t seem so bad.
2/9 Alien: Isolation
What is worse, discovering that we are alone in the universe or discovering that we are not? That’s a question to ponder as you make your way through Sebastopol Station in the survival horror masterpiece Alien: Isolation. On their world, humanity has mastered space travel, but they are still largely helpless when they come face to face with an alien life form that has evolved to become an unstoppable predator.
You’ll get to enjoy life at a lower rung of the food chain as you sneak through the station, trying to avoid the alien and dodging hostile members of the station crew who are making the situation worse.
1/9 fears of depth
What is more ingrained in our reality than horror based on true stories? Fears to Fathom is a horror anthology based on stories told on Reddit, by people who have survived terrifying encounters with people who mean to harm them.
The scares in Fears To Fathom are things you can probably relate to. From being home alone one night and seeing someone outside acting suspicious, to being out after dark far from home and realizing something is wrong with your car. You can play worst case scenarios in the game’s stories, and then you’ll double check that you’ve locked the doors.
Next: The Best Horror Games That Use Found Images