There are many horrors that concern the paranormal. Ghouls, ghosts, the dead coming back to life to eat your brains out, that sort of thing. The genre is filled with it, because the unknown is inherently frightening. Playing with people’s understanding of natural laws is an easy way to scare them off. It’s not the only way, however.
There are plenty of great horror titles out there that don’t require anything magical or physics-defying to happen. Some fear advances in technology and speculate on what might await humanity further out in the universe. Others are more focused on the fear caused by others. Either way, if the idea of spirits and demons makes you roll your eyes, some of these might be worth a try.
Of all the animals you are likely to be killed by, humans probably top the list. Horror where the monsters are ordinary people hits a little too close to home. The infamous Manhunt game will pit you against the worst humanity has to offer.
As death row inmate James Earl Cash, you’re forced into a massive live-action snuff film orchestrated by a mysterious director. Escape alive means getting past the groups of murderers and organized criminals hired to dispatch you, by any means available. It goes without saying that many of these means are quite brutal.
8/9 The long darkness
As humans, we have become quite good at controlling our environment to help us thrive. Technology is able to mostly keep us comfortable and safe. In The Long Dark, all of that is gone. A colossal solar flare wiped out all electrical power on earth. To make matters worse, it disrupted weather patterns, causing sudden and violent storms.
If the atmospheric chaos wasn’t bad enough, when it happened you were flying over northern Canada and found yourself stuck in a freezing cold wilderness with aggressive, hungry wolves and bears with disrupted hibernation patterns. . Fear comes from the slow realization of your own fragility, when, without help, almost anything can kill you.
7/9 Sarah has disappeared
The internet is full of stories about cursed content. Videos and images which, if viewed, have terrible consequences for the person. While these are just urban legends, what if people with tech savvy decided to make something like this a reality?
In Sara Is Missing, you find a seemingly lost phone and decide to check it out, hoping to find the owner. Unfortunately for you, the owner is not easy to find, and it seems that interacting with the apparently compromised device has caught 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 so much scarier than any indication of life after it. Pumpkin Eater is a visual novel following a young girl whose brother is killed in an accident.
Unwilling to accept the reality of the situation, their mother rebuilds her son, with a pumpkin for a head. The writing draws heavily on forensic research and slowly details the breakdown of the body and the life of the family as the days pass. There is no monster but grief and the terrible things it does to people.
In the present, a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of the dead brings up images of psychics and psychics, but what if technology allowed you to do just that? Thanks to the cyberpunk advancements of the Observer world, you are able to do just that.
You play as a detective who can hack the brain implants of living or dead individuals to gain insight into what was or was going through their heads. The result is usually a trippy, glitchy nightmare. If you can solve them, you might be able to solve a very personal case.
The human mind is a very complex thing, and it’s something that can easily go wrong. Soon you are trapped in a nightmare from which you cannot escape.
This is the case in Korsakovia, a Half-Life 2 mod where you play as a man named Christopher, who has Korsakoff syndrome. This made you experience vivid and intense delusions. As the doctor’s voice attempts to assert reality, as you are blinded and hospitalized after an intense act of self-harm, what you perceive is very different. A decaying and miserable world of monsters and isolation awaits.
Dying is scary. It is one of the cornerstones to scare people. Perhaps even scarier is the idea of living, thanks to technological advancement, but losing a fundamental aspect of yourself.
SOMA is a sci-fi horror where the AI of an underwater base, the WAU, was in charge of preserving humanity. Unfortunately, its creators haven’t done a great job of defining where something human begins and ends. As a result, the setting of PATHOS-II is teeming with semi-robotic abominations, re-enacted by the WAU in their misguided attempt to preserve humanity. Suddenly forgetting doesn’t seem so bad.
2/9 Alien: Isolation
Which is worse, finding out we’re alone in the universe or finding out we’re not? It’s a question to ponder as you journey through Sevastopol Station in the survival horror masterpiece Alien: Isolation. In his world, humanity has mastered space travel, but is still largely defenseless when it comes face to face with an evolved alien life form to become an unstoppable predator.
You’ll be able to enjoy life on a lower rung of the food chain as you sneak around the station, try to avoid the alien, and bypass hostile station crew members who make a bad situation worse.
1/9 Fears to understand
What could be more rooted 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 wish them harm.
The fears in Fears To Fathom are things you can probably relate to. Whether it’s being home alone one night and seeing someone outside acting suspicious, being out after dark far from home and realizing that something is wrong with your car. You can play through the worst-case scenario in the game’s stories, and then you’ll check you’ve locked your doors afterwards.
Next: Best Horror Games Using Found Footage