Get ready for a fright as we rank the best classic horror games that still bring the thrills. With the photo-realistic graphics, impeccable sound design, and incredibly convincing voice acting of today's horror games, it's hard to imagine that the genre was ever any different — or that games from a few decades ago could actually be scary, especially today. However, there are plenty of well-designed vintage horror games from the earliest days of gaming that can have the most seasoned horror fans hiding behind their chairs. (Note that for the purpose of this list, we’re only including games from 5th generation consoles and earlier — that means classic horror gems like Eternal Darkness aren’t applicable.)
While these games may not have all of the trappings of modern technology, there’s plenty of atmosphere, suspense, and, of course, a few jump scares to keep you on the edge of your seat. From monumental survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill to thrasher classics like Splatterhouse and even classic pc horror games like The 7th Guest, this list features 20 of our all-time favorite retro horror games that will still send chills down your spine.
So dim the lights and blow the dust off those old cartridges as we rank the greatest (and scariest) classic horror games of all time.
- Photo: Konami
Often referred to as one of the scariest franchises of all time, Silent Hill games may share a striking resemblance to the Resident Evil series, but while the latter emphasizes fast-paced gameplay and tension, the former is a slower and more atmospheric, focusing on pathological horror rather than tangible zombie opponents.
This thesis was fully realized with Silent Hill 2, giving gamers a masterclass in pure psychological horror. Every path you walk down and ever door you open leads you one step closer to a realization you're too terrified to accept, and really, what more could you ask for in a horror game?
- Release: 2001
- Developer: Konami, Team Silent, Creature Labs
- Photo: Capcom
It's impossible to have an old-school horror games list without mentioning the original Resident Evil, and while every classic Resident Evil entry could easily make this list, we decided to go with the original. After all, this was the game that actually created the survival horror genre.
Capcom's first outing in Raccoon City featured two playable characters (Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine), great puzzles, and some of the scariest zombies gamers had ever seen before. There have been tons of enhanced ports released throughout the years, but there's still a certain kind of macabre magic you get when you play the original.
- Release: 1996
- Developer: Capcom, Happy Happening, Westwood Studios, Nex Entertainment
- Photo: Terminal Reality
In the same vein as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, Nocturne is an often overlooked 3rd-person survival horror game that takes place during the Great Depression, so you know it's going to be grim. Assuming the role as the Stranger, your job is to investigate all the various creatures in the surrounding area. The story is broken into different acts, each its own mini-story that can be chosen from the start.
In addition to featuring sharp graphics, the gameplay is extremely fluid, and when coupled with the engaging (and often creepy) storyline makes for a seriously great horror game. The game received a varied reception during its run, although an official sequel was never made, Blair Witch Volume I: Rustin Parr has been confirmed as a direct crossover.
- Release: 1999
- Developer: Terminal Reality
- Photo: The Dreamer's Guild
As if the title wasn't enough to strike a sense of dread deep within your soul, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is cyberpunk horror game from the '90s that channels the insatiable feeling of a coming apocalypse.
Being a point-and-click adventure game, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is based on Harlan Ellison's short story, and features an incredibly rich world with multiple endings.
- Release: 1995
- Developer: The Dreamers Guild