Virtual Reality revolutionized the horror industry and the gaming industry alike. While horror gamers have been dedicated to their genre since the early days of Resident Evil and side-scrolling games, VR is kind of like the reward for their years of service. It brings the genre to life on levels that we never could have even imagined back in the day.
What makes horror and VR work so great together is that the experience of playing a game in the virtual world feel immersive and… dare I say “real”. Horror has always had an aspect of realism, though, which is part of what draws so many to the genre and never lets them go. The idea of being chased by an invisible ghost that can only get you if you touch the water in Amnesia: The Dark Descent generates very real feelings of flight or flight. It’s stressful! Put a VR spin on that and the stress becomes pure insanity in the best way possible.
Do you remember the video of some VR gameplay from The Brookhaven Experiment going around? There was a video of a woman playing this game, and it really served to demonstrate the effect that playing a horror game in VR has on somebody. When you’re playing in only the second dimension, you’ll have some small blood pressure spikes and maybe a few screams here and there. But the woman in this video had far more than that. She had intense screams, shaking hands so vigorous that the gun on screen shook too, and there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that she was experiencing genuine fear as she fought off wave after wave of zombies.
VR simply serves to enhance our gameplay. That service is especially conductive to the horror genre. It really makes the difference between being spooked and being stricken with pure fear. And after all, isn’t that pure fear what we’ve been chasing since the early days of Half-Life?
If you’re one of the lucky ones who has already delved into the world of VR or if you’re just looking to get your feet wet with some gory, terrifying, VR optimized horror games, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find a list of ten of the top horror games for VR. These games all make for both a great player experience and an unforgettable fright.
Read on, play on: you’re in for a treat!
In this game, you, the player, will wake up in a super dark dungeon with only sparse sources of light. To survive and make your escape through the exit of the dungeon, you will have to navigate this creepy dungeon with only a lamp in your arsenal to light your way. However, in the dark lurks various kinds of horrific monsters. You can’t fight. You can only use the dark for your safety in hiding. You’re alone, trapped, and desperately clinging to the last part of your sanity in this dungeon explorer game.
2. Affected: The Manor
Fallen Planet Studios, the development team behind Affected, wanted to make a game that felt similar to those intense horror walk-throughs. You know, the ones that make you sign a waiver before you can enter. While researching concepts for Affected, they visited some of these walk-throughs and discovered that the source of their fear during the visit was the complete and utter lack of control. That’s what they sought to replicate with Affected, and boy did they succeed.
Affected uses a number of common fears and phobias combined with a lack of control to really play on your anxiety and keep you guessing as to what may or may not be lurking around the corner. The game is crafted perfectly to creep you out in ways that your brain cannot even process consciously with light and sounds.
The gameplay here is quite simple, really. There’s no mystery. There’s no dying. It’s just about moving forward and having the experience… the experience of scaring the pants off yourself.
3. Doors of Silence: The Prologue
Here, you’ll wake up after a presumed fugue state. You have no idea where you are, how you got there, what you’re doing, or even who you are. What you do know is that what lays ahead of you is the stuff of nightmares. You’ll have to keep yourself hidden from the evil that lurks around and solve puzzles and find keys throughout all the different bunkers, labs, and rooms to discover the answers to all the questions you’ve had from the start. Your fate is in your own hands.
Players report that gameplay in Doors of Silence: The Prologue can get so intense that they’ve needed to take breaks just to regain their composure. Proceed with caution!
DreadEye is more unique than truly horrific. There are, of course, horror elements. You’ll encounter ghosts, haunted settings, gruesome horrors, and an entire realm of the dead… but you’ll do this through your practice as an Indonesian Shaman, called a Dukun. By practicing a careful ritual you’ll call upon the restless spirits and in turn they will invite you to their realm. What waits for you there is for you to discover…
5. Crystal Rift
Crystal Rift takes elements from the classic grid-based dungeon games that you grew up with and combines it with exploration, puzzle-solving, traps, secrets, and a slow unfolding of a mysterious narrative… all within the confines of a horrifying set of locations. There are even challenges custom made by other players available for you to play, so there really is no end to the fright contained within the confines of Crystal Rift.
6. Late Night Shop
The premise of Late Night Shop is super simple but sends chills up your spine before you even download the game. Kotaku reviewed it and said, “The mannequins only move when you’re not looking at them, which becomes the player’s survival strategy. How this plays out in the game is deeply unsettling.” Kotaku isn’t exaggerating. Late Night Shop is all about navigating to the exit without getting attacked by the creatures trapped in there with you. The trick to making your way to the exit is to keep looking at them. As soon as you turn your back… they’re after you.
7. Albino Lullaby: Episodes One, Two, and Three
If you’re a fan of the likes of David Lynch and his psychological masterpieces with horror elements like Eraserhead and Twin Peaks, then the Albino Lullaby series of three episodes is definitely up your alley. The Albino Lullaby games won’t lean on jump scares or fill your screen with gore to keep it interesting. Oh no. What they do is much worse than that. The game developers claim that it “dynamically twists and contorts around you in real time, as you unravel an equally twisted narrative. Discover the hidden spaces haunted by ‘The Grandchildren’ as you uncover clues to understanding just where and what you are.” Colin Campbell of Polygon says that its “Part Stanley Parable and part Alfred Hitchcock... This is a sick place, full of sick allusions and sick jokes.”
So, get ready. Because Albino Lullaby is here to take you on a stomach-wrenching adventure over the span of three twisted episodes.
Monstrum is survival horror reinvented. You find yourself stuck on a derelict cargo ship. But you’re not alone. With you is a slew of AI driven predators, levels that are generated procedurally and are thus unpredictable, and a certainty that if you make one wrong move… you’re starting from ground zero on a new ship with nothing to your name but “failure”. “Monstrum will force you to use your wits and whatever tools you can find to outrun or outsmart your pursuer. Attempt to escape from an environment that is out to kill you while evading the lurking terror that could be around any corner. Can you survive Monstrum?”
My guess: probably not. But take the challenge for yourself. Good luck. You’ll need it.
9. Alien Isolation
There’s something to be said for a game that wins Game of The Year in this hyper-competitive industry. That’s just what Alien Isolation did. It’s the GOTY from 2014 and it’s clear to see why. It’s a continuation of the Alien franchise and takes place fifteen years later. Amanda, the daughter of Ellen Ripley, is trying desperately to keep alive so she can uncover the mystery shrouding the disappearance of her mother.
As you go, the world becomes more volatile and the environment around you only adds to the panic and desperation. You have very limited preparations, almost no power, and no idea what to do next: but one goal is vital: survive. You’ll scavenge, improvise, and will be challenged to think. Fall short and you’ll either become a victim to the natural world or a hearty meal for the Alien.
10. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Where there are horror fans, there are Amnesia fans. Everybody who comes across this game seems to love it, and it always has a special place in any conversation about games. It’s a classic in its own right despite being only eight years old, and it’s one that nobody ever forgets. Amnesia has a way of scarring itself on your brain. It’s a must play. It’s a rite of passage.
In Amnesia, you wake up after a bout of… well, amnesia. You don’t know where you are, how you got there, or anything really. The memories come back in pieces and you start to understand as the game proceeds, but you’ll also have to battle with your slipping sanity and the constant hunt of the creatures in the castle. It’s a nightmare both in and out of the game.
You’ll be hiding, uncovering clues, exploring, discovering, searching, evading, and clinging to your sanity for dear life. Your survival depends on it.
The horror genre of video games is a deep treasure trove of creative, unforgettable experiences. That has never been truer than after VR came out. Horror is having a revival thanks to VR and its simply because the experience in the third dimension with extremely life-like experiences is unbeatable. It’s the closest you can get to true, crippling fear without coming face to face with a serial killer at large. These games all serve to present a nightmare before your eyes. Some may shy away from that… but not you.