A well-executed horror game can be far more effective at scaring us than even the most terrifying of films. That's because when you're playing a game, you're being forced to face your fears head on and fight for your own survival, rather than just watching a series of events happen to somebody on-screen – no matter how gruesome.
With Halloween fast approaching, now is the perfect time to revisit some of the most memorable horror gaming experiences to have ever graced our screens. With such a terrifyingly large catalogue of titles to choose from, we narrowed it down to the games that we felt either helped defined the genre or otherwise introduced video gamers to new levels of fear.
So close the curtains, switch off the lights and hunker down in the dark for a (literal) monster gaming session, as we bring you the 10 most terrifying video games to play this Halloween.
The playable teaser of the ill-fated Silent Hill game by Hideo Kojima and film director Guillermo Del Toro is like nothing you'd expect from a horror game, and a terrifying example of what video game horror can be when in the right hands.
PT throws you into its nightmare with zero pretext and forces you down the endless, looping corridor of a once-idyllic suburban home, steadily ratcheting up the dread with subtle environmental changes and the intrinsic knowledge that the game is building up to something you cannot escape. If you can make it through to the end, we applaud you.
Sadly, if you haven't already downloaded the game you may never experience it first hand experience it, as it has now been removed from the PlayStation Store.
2. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Amnesia: The Dark Decent is a game that dedicates itself to instilling a deep sense of unease in players, interspersed with moments of extreme tension and panic. While unglamorous from a technical perspective, the game's atmosphere acts like a slowly increasingly weight that builds the anxiety to near-unbearable levels.
The only way to survive Amnesia's monster-infested dungeons is to run and hide. Spend too long in the darkness, however, and you'll soon find that monsters aren't the only thing to be afraid of.
3. Silent Hill 2
There was a lot of debate over which Silent Hill game to put here, but ultimately there's only one that has come to personify true horror. Not only is Silent Hill visually chilling, but its pitch-black subject matter will leave a mark on you that's hard to shake, making it disturbing in a way that goes far beyond the original.
While Pyramid Head - the game's implacable, de facto villain - grabs most of the attention, Silent Hill 2's deep dive into the subconscious guilt and desires of its beleaguered protagonist defined Konami's horror series as gaming's destination for psychological terror.
Outlast casts you as a freelance journalist investigating an old psychiatric hospital after hearing that unethical experiments are being conducted on patients. Unsurprisingly, things quickly go south and you find yourself embroiled in a relentless game of cat-and-mouse with the asylum's psychotic inmates.
Your reliance on just a night vision camera to see where you're going is a mechanic used to terrifying effect, resulting in some of the most bowl-loosening scares in video game history.
5. Alien Isolation
Alien Isolation rarely lets up after a slow-burning beginning, and will keep you on the edge of your seat right through to the closing credits. It also stars one of the most relentless and downright terrifying in-game enemies ever, one that adapts to your tactics to ensure that you never once feel safe during the game's 15-hour runtime.
The tension is notched up further by the fact you need to crawl through levels to avoid attracting the alien's attention, making frequent use of hiding places a necessity. A non-stop adrenaline rush from start to finish.
6. Dead Space
Dead Space's enemies aren't your typical zombie cannon-fodder, and make Visceral's sci-fi outing a unique entry in the survival horror genre. Made from the reanimated corpses of their victims, the Necromorphs will shake off a well-placed shot to the head like it was a brush from a feather duster.
Instead, players must quickly and precisely dismember their foes on the fly with devastating mining tools. Necromorphs are fast, and fending them off is no easy task within the claustrophobic corridors of the USG Ishimura.
7. Resident Evil HD
Alone in the Dark may have come before it, but Resident Evil was the game that came to define survival horror. Capcom's 2002 GameCube remake and the subsequent HD remaster in 2015 brought new enemies, new scares and whole new environments to the Spencer mansion, reaffirming Capcom's position as the king of survival horror. Subsequent entries in the series haven't all hit the same high, so we're looking forward to a return to the series' roots in January's Resident Evil 7.
8. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem is a game that commits itself to getting inside your head. The inclusion of a sanity meter lends the game's health management system a whole new dimension, forcing you to monitor both your character's mental and physical wellbeing.
Neglect to do so and the game will start playing tricks on you, from fake system crashes to telling you your saved data is being deleted. Combined with a time-hopping and utterly-engrossing Lovecraftian storyline, Eternal Darkness delivers one of the most richly atmospheric horror games ever made.
9. Until Dawn
Until Dawn offers more fun than fear, but still serves up effective scares amidst its slasher B-movie backdrop. The game makes you think carefully about the decisions you make, which can determine whether each of the games' eight protagonists make it through to the closing credits.
Whether you'll actually care about them is another matter, given how difficult they find it to separate their teen angst from the much more immediate threat of being brutally murdered. Fortunately, Until Dawn is still plenty enjoyable and the Cabin in the Woods vibe will keep you hooked until the end.
10. Condemned: Criminal Origins
Monolith Productions' Condemned: Criminal Origins pulls influences from 1995 Thriller Se7en, putting you in the shoes of a detective investigating a series of grisly murders. It was a bit of a trend-breaker at the time, pitching the player against (mostly) human foes as opposed to the demonic hordes that populated most horror games.
With most levels taking place within derelict buildings, the combination of limited weapons and ammo and psychotic enemies who stalk you before hurtling around a corner makes for tense, skittish gameplay.