Remember the first time a horror game genuinely scared you? For me, it’s been a while, and it feels like new titles don’t pack the same punch. Horror games don’t scare me anymore? Let’s see why.
Even with cutting-edge titles like “Resident Evil Village” and “Dark Deception Chapter 4,” there’s a yearning for the raw terror that games like “Amnesia: The Dark Descent,” “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” and “P.T.” delivered.
Three iconic games that have redefined horror
Those classics had a knack for crafting that eerie vibe. “Amnesia” threw us into pitch-black corridors, defenseless, heightening the sense of danger. The horror came from not just what you saw, but especially what you didn’t.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” terrorized us with its creepy animatronics and the tension of enduring each night. The limited point-and-click gameplay made every moment a nerve-wracking experience.
And “P.T.,” the teaser for a canceled “Silent Hill?” Well, that was one of its kind, and my shirt still feels soaked. The playable teaser features a suspenseful atmosphere and looping corridor gameplay, leading to a disturbing, fear-inducing experience.
Big titles that illustrate the decline of true horror
Gaming titans like “Silent Hill,” “Resident Evil,” and “Dead Space,” once set new standards for virtual fear. These titles once stripped away our sense of safety and played with us rather than vice versa. Good old times!
Rise and fall of “Dead Space”
It started as a horror masterpiece. But by the third game, it leaned more into action. It’s an example of how sequels can dilute the essence of horror in an attempt to be more inclusive or profitable.
“Dead Space 3” saw EA chasing profits with microtransactions and a co-op mode, expanding the audience, but at the same time, gave a clue as to why horror games don’t scare people anymore—too much action.
Resident Evil’s fight for its original horror
The History of Resident Evil, on the other hand, also had its ups and downs. Fun fact: Its creator, Shinji Mikami, was once a developer for Disney games. His transition from whimsical to terrifying was propelled by his own fears, leading to the birth of one of the most iconic survival horror franchises.
The first installment is still revered as a horror milestone, blending a claustrophobic atmosphere with puzzles, resource scarcity, and chilling sound design. The dialogues, campy as they may be, have become beloved hallmarks of the series.
Action is one big reason why horror games got boring
Over time, though, the series also pivoted towards more action, especially from the fourth installment onwards. While “Resident Evil 4” struck a balance, the fifth and sixth games veered away from horror into more action-oriented gameplay and got rather boring than spine-chilling. Even “Dark Deception Chapter 4,” while nodding to “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” leans heavily into action, compromising some of its scary potential.
It’s a real challenge for game developers to sustain horror across sequels. Yet, “Resident Evil 7” showed it’s possible to return to form, being hailed as one of the scariest in the series. “Resident Evil Village,” however, shifted gears again, emphasizing action over suspense, which, coupled with a weaker plot and characters like Lady Dimitrescu, sparked mixed reactions.
Horror game developers need to redefine gamers’ psychology
True horror requires developers to tap into deep psychological fears, not just rely on a dark setting and jumpscares. Games like the first “Layers of Fear” did that well by constantly altering perceptions, keeping us on edge.
Indie games often still can surprise
While big studios face creative constraints, indie developers stay free to innovate, delivering unexpected horror experiences. A great example is “Chordosis,” impressively created by a single developer—heaps of creative ideas and innovative approaches.
This survival sci-fi horror game, whose story revolves around alien abductions, has been praised for its ultra-realistic graphics while delivering a unique blend of cosmic horror and realistic terror.
Alan Wake 2 is a refreshing exception
But the recently released triple-A title “Alan Wake 2” from Remedy Entertainment also managed to maintain the unique essence despite its action sequences with engaging narratives and unexpected moments.
This sequel takes the horror of the first part to a whole new level and plays 13 years after the original game’s events.
Why am I not scared of horror games? Social Media has a big impact
Despite all odds, the horror genre still has a chance to regain its former glory. In a world where bite-sized content from TikTok, YouTube Shorts, and Insta-Reels is king, it’s getting harder for us to settle into longer experiences.
Gamers have difficulties getting involved properly
This rush can make it tricky to fully immerse ourselves and let horror work its magic. For seasoned gamers, life’s distractions and the nagging thought that “it’s just a game” also often strip away the thrill. So game developers face a tough crowd, but occasionally, they still deliver a surprise that reminds us why we love getting scared. To feel alive.
Want to relive some fears?
And if you get too attached to the dull zombies, you can run back into their arms (or cut them off) in these Zombie Games.
What do you think makes a horror game truly frightening and which title is your favorite?