In the past decade, the horror genre resurged after a period of relative calm only to be shot dead once again and resurging once again, this genre has really been a tale of ups and downs. Once dominated by Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Fatal Frame, F.E.A.R, amongst others in the 2000’s. The rise of tools and independent publishing has seen the formation of new games in the genre alongside some brand new franchises to contend with such as Dead Space and Outlast. Over the past ten years, some of the best titles have been indies and some of the big boys as well.
In regards to the AAA space, the AAA developers never failed to impress. Resident Evil and Silent Hill managed to hold their own in the face of brand new contenders. As Nostalgia played a big role in the genre, we moved away from creepy houses and asylums to brand new environments like a community in space to alien infested spaceships and much more. With so many new ideas coming in and out, the horror genre has established itself as one of the most creative genre in games design. Here is the Top 12 horror games of the 2010s.
12: Alien Isolation (2014)
I fell in love with Alien Isolation back in 2014, its’ commitment to the legendary franchise sense of disempowerment won me over, so much so, that it won Game of the Year for 2014 for me. I remember crawling through a vent with a flashlight, praying that the Xenomorph wasn’t behind me or was going to crawl into the vent to hunt me down. It’s really hard for me to be disappointed with this game, Isolation does a lot of things right that many horror games should try to emulate.
11: The Evil Within 2 (2017)
The Evil Within 2 is probably one of the most underrated games this generation. Tango Gameworks did a phenomal job on cleaning up most of the issues that plagued the original Evil Within way back in 2014, one issue was that it was too Japanese for someone like me to approach and replaced it with a little bit more western horror alongside adding in more Japanese horror to make the game more attractable to western audiences.
The game was a mini-sandbox, a far cry to the hospital setting of the original game in 2014, and the game was fresh every few seconds as the game world changed which kept you on your toes. The story itself was still corny while the characters were B-movie level which made the whole game even more cheesier, it seemed like Tango missed the mark to improve the story and characters and bring them up to more triple A levels but this was still The Evil Within. The Evil Within 2 didn’t feel as scary as the original or other games that released in the time period that this released in but it doesn’t negate the game. Tango created a masterful piece of art that should get more recognition.
10: Outlast (2013)
Outlast offered a first person trek through an insane asylum, which is nothing new, but the way it was done changed the course of horror games forever. Outlast played out like Found Footage: the game, via clever use of your camera’s night vision mode. The grainy and glowing green view made things a little bit more realistic, maybe too close to real life, for some and that alone was excellent.
9: Until Dawn (2015)
Teen slashers have been around for decades now, but aside from a few terrible games, games have been afraid to enter that space and do it justice as opposed to their film counterparts until now with Until Dawn.
While many of the games here on this list are based on their scare factors and their revolutionary impact within the genre, Until Dawn is here based on different factors: Until Dawn is woefully entrenched in horror tradition and horror stereotypes and uses those stereotypes brilliantly. It’s packed to the trim with easter eggs and winks to the genre that it’s based upon and based in, you’ll love the ridiculous twists even if you see them coming from blocks away. You’ll laugh, even in the face of terrible deaths, and every few games can capture that sense of grisly fun. Until Dawn is a tribute to the genre that it is based upon.
8: Prey (2017)
Many horror games borrow from film and other horror games, as in the case of Alien Isolation and Outlast, fashioning jump scares with familiar tools as seen in the cinema. But, the horrors that await us in 2017’s Prey, are much more of the systems that get under your skin than the actual terrors that are physical.
Any conversation about Prey being an horror game starts and ends with mimics. Talon I, the game’s setting, has been overrun by the Typhon, an inky alien race that can transform itself into anything but, the Mimics, are something else entirely. Mimics, as their name suggests, can transform and adopt the form of anything within the environment. The mimics aren’t powerful, but they are a constant threat and for that reason, they are always there in the back of your head and that’s scary in itself.
7: Alan Wake (2010)
In the 2000’s, Remedy made their name with the first two Max Payne games, but they needed to grow and prove that they could do things other than noir titles and Alan Wake was the answer.
Releasing on the same day as Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake borrowed heavily from Twin Peaks and genre defiant Stephen King, but how the story was set up and how it unfolded in a unique episodic structure was unheard of at the time in 2010 and it worked so well. The story was this Twilight Zone-like experience that made you go back to the game every day. Every good thing Remedy has done in the years since, it is the result of the success of Alan Wake.
6: Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010)
There’s no game on this list that is as influential as Frictional’s Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The Dark Descent has been on horror game’s lists throughout the decade and for good reason. You can track it’s legendary legacy throughout the games on this list: for example, Outlast and Alien: Isolation. Would Alien Isolation exist? Would Outlast even exist? Would P.T even exist? Would Resident Evil take the turn that it did in 2017? The short and long answer is maybe no.
Amnesia is possibly responsible for more things happening in the horror genre, including the revival of some of the Lovecraft-inspired stuff, but none of them do it on the level of Amnesia.
Amnesia wasn’t the first of its kind, as usual, but it did it better and it was a perfect melting pot of things that make horror horror.
5: Resident Evil 2: Remake (2019)
After the legendary remake of the original back on the GameCube in the 2000’s, everyone was waiting with bated breath on the eventual remake of Resident Evil 2, the iconic horror game from the 20th century and Capcom delivered.
Any doubts of fear were soon washed away when we stepped into the boots of Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy. Much like how they did back in the day, Capcom tweaked a few things and left some things the same which drew in new fans and old fans alike. It is the near-perfect modernization of what made survival horror mainstream.
4: Dead Space 2 (2011)
With a lot of gaming franchises, the second entry is a hit or miss but most of the time it usually a mediocre affair but in the case of Dead Space 2, it’s legacy is legendary and one of the very few sequels that enter the realms of the hall of fame.
The original game has a legendary legacy as one of the greatest horror games of all time, Dead Space 2 followed it up and while it is not as legendary as the original, Dead Space 2 is an iconic game that does a lot of things better than the original. Dead Space 2, in the opening intro, is a rollercoaster of emotions as it throws you into the middle of an invasion. In that opening of 20 minutes, Dead Space 2 throws you into the brink and you completely feel hopeless before giving you the weapons to fight back and that opening sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the game.
3: P.T (2014)
Declaring P.T as the decade’s ultimate horror game seems redundant in a lot of ways, given that all the praise won’t even bring it back and nor will it undo the damage that Konami did, if you haven’t experienced this watershed moment in gaming then you’re shit out of luck.
If those who are uninitiated with the tragic backstory of P.T, here goes. P.T was an appetizer for an unannounced collaboration between Hideo Kojima and GDT, Guillermo Del Toro. Covertly uploaded to the Playstation Store in Summer of 2014 under the disguise of an original IP, it eventually transpired to be a preview slice of something else entirely, a brand new Silent Hill game, that was going to be a reboot of the franchise. When it first released, it took the internet by storm and it was showered with praise for its puzzles, scare factors, and it’s photorealistic graphics, to the point where it landed into many GOTY lists.
Which makes all the more baffling in this tragic story is what Konami did. Presumably overcome with jealous tendencies and self-destructive tendencies, they cancelled the game and cut all ties with Hideo Kojima. It was a bone headed move, one so historic that many chalked it up as a publicity stunt but the sudden cancellation and the removal of Kojima was all too real and not only did Konami remove the game but they went a step further by removing and eradicating any trace of its existence. If you don’t want to shill out $700 for a PS4 already installed with the game, you might as well chalk it up as a game to be one of mythical relic, akin to the Fountain of Youth or the City of El Dorado.
2: Resident Evil 7 (2017)
I’ll never forget the initial feeling of that first trailer at E3 2016. Before this point, the Resident Evil franchise was faltering and lacking behind after the disaster of Resident Evil 6 earlier in the decade, and Capcom smartly revealed a trailer that looked nothing like Resident Evil and saved the name reveal for the very end. It ditched the zombies for southern backwood hillbillies and slimy monsters, stuff that haunts you in your nightmares.
Not only did it change the setting, but it also changed the point of view. The first person view perfectly evoked the feel of the original game in a brand new context. Thanks to their efforts, Resident Evil is back again to the forefront and I’m very curious to see where Resident Evil 8 goes.
1: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017)
While the horror genre is chained and tied to things that go bang in the night and tied to the labels within the genre, few really do anything with psychological terror. Hellblade goes the extra mile by making the psychological aspect of it’s unique adventure the main focus of not just the story but also the gameplay, but the experience as well.
Hellblade is truly a horror game at its heart, set at a point in history that is ever rarely seen in videogames. Thanks to what it did and the legacy it left behind, I think that Hellblade is the ultimate horror game of the decade despite not being “horror” in the traditional sense and what we come to know as horror but it certainly belongs in this genre. Hats off.