Great horror video games often have a really hard time trying to break into mainstream popularity. Apart from the stalwart flagships like Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Dead Rising, top-notch horror games are frequently overlooked, under-marketed and condemned to the lonely shadows of the outer peripheries of audience mindshare.
The horror video game landscape has changed dramatically over the years, hand-in-hand with console hardware’s ever evolving technology. Ironically, the real twist is, good horror doesn’t necessarily need cutting edge tech to be successful. The iconic fog in the original Silent Hill, for example, is well renowned for hiding the technological limitations of the PS1’s limited 3D rendering horsepower and serves as a convincing case study that highlights how hardware limitations can help shape a horror experience for the better.
Another hugely influential horror game is the free-to-download, YouTube jump-scare sensation Slender: The Eight Pages. This is another title that veritably drips with atmosphere, and once again, a lot of the game’s success stems from its stripped back simplicity and lo-fi, gritty charm. If you haven’t played it and you’re interested in the roots of modern horror, then I implore you to go and check it out — it’s a very pure, unadulterated slice of fear-inducing insidiousness and its charisma is grounded in its low budget, no frills origins. It can practically run on a toaster, so you’ve got no excuse!
Long story short, I’m a sucker for horror games and it often makes me sad to see them go under-the-radar, forgotten in the modern industry’s race for more power, more razzle dazzle and more unbridled spectacle. The kicker of it all is that great horror can not only exist, but can actively flourish in the grainy, underpowered, low resolution confines of limited hardware. When it comes to horror — less is often more.
In regards to this list, my sole caveats are that only games with an average score of 79 or less on Metacritic have been included (sorry Eternal Darkness, Fatal Frame II and Lone Survivor), and I’ve also decided to only include titles that I’ve experienced personally first-hand. As a result, it’s a pretty diverse list of old and new.
So, without further ado, here are 10 underrated horror games that didn’t get the critical or commercial success that they deserved. Drum roll, please…