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The 13 Greatest Horror Game Franchises

July 31, 2020 172 votes 27 voters13 items

Horror may have gotten its start in the pages of books, and later movies, but the one place it seems to have found a permanent home in the world of video games. There's something about playing a character being hunted by zombies, werewolves, or animatronic monsters that puts the player right into the action, which no movie can emulate. One of the best aspects when it comes to horror games is that each spine-tingling release is often followed by an equally chilling sequel, and developers don't seem to be stopping anytime soon.

Some of the best horror game series have been around for decades, and many of their most popular titles came out when graphics weren't nearly as immersive as they are today. Despite that technical problem, the best horror game franchises have easily overcome limitations on graphics and sound to become solid entries in the genre, but which horror game franchise is the most bone-chilling of them all?

From Resident Evil to Silent Hill to Left 4 Dead and more, vote up all your favorite series to see which is the most terrifying.

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  • Silent Hill
    Photo: Silent Hill 2 / Konami

    The first game in the Silent Hill franchise was released in 1999, and since then, there have been a total of seven sequels and four spinoffs. On top of those, there are comic books, films, and more, which make the franchise one of the heavy hitters in terms of adaptations into other media. The games are all set in the town of Silent Hill, where a great deal of psychological horror is used to freak the players out as much as possible.

    What Makes It So Creepy: The first game dealt with a cult that wanted to revive a god, and to make that happen, some seriously sick stuff has to go down. The player takes the role of Harry Mason as he searches for his adopted daughter in a town that has literally hone to Hell. Each subsequent game delves deeper into the nature of death and various psychological elements that lend themselves very well to the survival horror genre. Many of the enemies are disturbing perversions of humanity, and they are all more frightening than the last.

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    Truly terrifying?
  • Resident Evil
    Photo: Resident Evil 2 / Capcom

    Resident Evil first came out in 1996, but it wasn't long before sequels were being made for the incredibly popular new take on the zombie genre of horror. The games of the franchise feature an immense backstory and lore, which has helped the games to develop into one of the most successful horror video game franchises of all time. In addition to movies, there are live-action and animated films, tie-in novels, comic books, and more.

    What Makes It So Creepy: Resident Evil is the reason the market eventually became flooded with zombie games, comics, films, and television series. It singlehandedly revived the genre in the late 1990s, and it blew up from there. The zombies in the first Resident Evil game are decidedly frightening, but as the franchise evolved, so too did its monsters, and each game offers up something newer and scarier than whichever title came before it.

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    Truly terrifying?
  • Fatal Frame
    Photo: Fatal Frame / Tecmo

    Fatal Frame is a longstanding series that first began on the PlayStation 2 in 2001. The games are set in 1980s Japan, with each title focusing on a separate location plagued with supernatural events. The players use Camera Obscura to capture and pacify spirits, which leads to the furthering of the story and the history of the dead. Fatal Frame has released seven games and spinoffs in the franchise, with the most recent having hit the WiiU in 2014.

    What Makes It So Creepy: Fatal Frame games rely heavily on traditional Japanese horror elements, which include a great deal of supernatural horror in the form of poltergeists. Capturing them and learning about them is about as creepy as a game can get, but it's not anything like Ghostbusters, so don't make that mistake. There's no comedy in a Fatal Frame game, so make sure you have a hearty constitution, or you might find yourself losing sleep out of fear of what might be lurking just out of view...

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    Truly terrifying?
  • Outlast
    Photo: Outlast Trinity / WB Games

    The first game in the Outlast franchise hit windows in 2013, and the following year, it found its way to the major consoles. As of 2020, there have been a total of three games in the franchise, though more are in development with expected releases sometime in 2021. The series revolves around a freelance investigative journalist named Miles Upshur, who figured it would be a good idea to investigate a remote psychiatric hospital deep in the mountains of Lake Country, Colorado.

    What Makes It So Creepy: The hospital isn't what it seems, and due to the unethical experiments carried out by the Murkoff Corporation, the inmates have mutated into murderous psychopathic monsters called "Variants." These monsters love jumping out and surprising the player with their desire to eat them, and they don't go down easy. As you go deeper into what makes Outlast such a compelling horror game, the threats only intensify, as does the creep-factor!

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    Truly terrifying?