Liked That? Play This – Thematically Similar Horror Games You Might Have Missed

by Blake Hester on Jul 03, 2016 at 08:30 AM

Horror is ambiguous – largely in part because it can affect so many facets of our minds. There is violent horror that makes one feel uneasy, psychological horror that preys on our fears and insecurities, and supernatural horror that plays with our fear of the unknown in the afterlife, just to name a few. We looked at today’s popular horror games to find a few games you may have missed similar in tone.

Did You Like The Last Of Us?

The Last Of Us does an excellent job of making its players feel uneasy. Alongside telling a story that tackles the human condition, what it means to live, and what it means to live with loss, the game also makes players deal with some of gaming’s hardest-to-watch moments. The way an enemy begs for his life right before Joel shoots him; the way touches of humanity slip from Runners’ mouths when beaten; the way Joel and Ellie have to desperately hide from those stalking them, is troubling and hard to watch. The Last Of Us’ portrayal of the means some will go for survival is, frankly, scary. 

Manhunt does an excellent job of making its players feel nauseated. Players control James Earl Cash, a death-row prisoner broken out of jail by “The Director,” who promises Cash his freedom at the end of a long, bloody night. The Director instructs Cash through several areas of Carcer City stealthily and brutally killing gang members, while he collects the footage from surveillance cameras for snuff films. Making players watch close-up shots as Cash suffocates others with plastic bags, beats them in the head with baseball bats, or stabs them in the face – all in the hopes of winning his freedom. Manhunt presents an uneasy tradeoff for wanting to do what is best for the character at the cost of having to watch him do something awful to another. The game’s nihilistic tone and examination of voyeurism makes Manhunt, like The Last Of Us, scary. 

Did You Like The Evil Within?

The first 30 minutes of The Evil Within are among the hardest I’ve confronted in a game, and not in terms of difficulty; I was just terrified. Guiding a limping detective Sebastian Castellanos from a chainsaw-wielding mutilator left me feeling helpless, as if the section of the game was impossible to get through – a testament to effective horror. Horror is often at its best when it strips the player or viewer of the tools to fight back, leaving evasion up to wits and quick legs.

Condemned: Criminal Origins puts players on the wrong side of town in the city Metro as Serial Crime Unit investigator Ethan Thomas. Framed for the murder of two officers, Thomas sets out to prove his innocence and find the guilty serial killer, all the while fighting off homeless individuals who have been driven insane. Like the Evil Within, Condemned often makes its players feel helpless, focusing on melee combat in dark areas against enemies that make effective use of hiding the element of surprise, and tricking players into leaving themselves vulnerable. 

Did You Like PT?

PT was a demo built on mystery, with something new and terrifying around literally every corner and something far worse constantly behind you. It invoked a watercooler culture where players could share theories about what was going on in the sublime “Playable Teaser” and how to get to its final surprise: the reveal of Silent Hills, a joint production between Metal Gear Solid’s Hideo Kojima, director Guillermo del Toro, and The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus. Players were forced to walk through a single hallway as the scenery slowly changed, became more surreal, and a ghost named Lisa haunted them – often violently. Its mystery and sheer terror made it a hot topic when it released in 2014.

Alas, after a long, public split between Kojima and publisher Konami, the title was canned and the publisher went so far as to pull it from the PlayStation Store. Silent Hills is ostensibly a game we will never get – at least not one with the direction of Kojima and Del Toro. 

However, PT is evocative of Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly – a game built around so many mysteries that players can’t even see what haunts them without the aid of a camera, called the “Camera Obscura,” which allows the viewer “take pictures of impossible things.” Players are put in control of Mio Amakura as she explores an abandoned village in search of her twin sister Mayu, while being haunted by specters who must relive the causes of their death over and over. Players must use the Camera Obscura as their only weapon against those that haunt them. Like PT, Fatal Frame has been regarded as one of the scariest games of all time, even gaining the top spot of our “10 Scariest Moments In Gaming” feature in October 2007.

Did You Like Silent Hill 2?

Sex often isn’t handled maturely – if at all – by video games. A few horror games have ventured into the topic, but they often have skewed, or even violent, approaches. That’s not to say, however, they don’t have something interesting to bring to the table. 

Silent Hill 2 is perhaps both one of the best horror games of all time, and one of the best examples of games taking a thoughtful look at human sexuality. Protagonist James Sunderland ran into sexual frustrations due to his wife’s three-year illness, one that left her weak, affected her appearance, and presumably hindered her ability to have sex. Many of the enemies and characters, and their actions, are allegorical representations of Sunderland’s frustrations with not being able to act upon his sexual desires because of his commitments to his wife.  Ultimately, his time in Silent Hill point toward his own loss of reality and mental well-being, as he’s plagued by his own actions and thoughts.

“Whistle Blower,” the DLC for Outlast – a game centered around mental illness in severe cases – pits players against Eddie “The Groom” Gluskin, a victim of sexual abuse who has since turned on others, becoming a serial killer who hunts protagonist Waylon Park in an attempt to make him his “wife,” through a pretty awful means of mutilation. Extreme, sure (and there is certainly a case to make about the demonization of victims), but it’s a pretty troubling commentary on the effects of molestation and abuse – one that, through its severity, leaves an impression on players.

For more games you might have missed, make sure to check out a similar feature based around adventure games. And for more horror, make sure to read our Top 25 Horror Games Of All Time.