10 Scariest Games of 2023
The horror genre has witnessed a renaissance of sorts in 2023 due to the release of dozens of scary games that have breathed new fear—and life—into the genre. Remakes of classic horror titles, including Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space, hit gamers with a massive wave of nostalgia; sequels to popular survival horror games were released that improved upon the gameplay experience of their predecessors—think Sons of the Forest and Amnesia: The Bunker; and the list of video game adaptations of horror movies grew that little bit longer with the highly anticipated release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Whether you love a bit of tense, atmospheric dread with your psychological terrors or you're all about the horde shooter mentality of games like Witchfire, you're bound to find that at least one of the horror games released this year suits your taste. Check out our list of the top 10 scariest games this year:
1. Dead Space Remake
The long-awaited remake of the 2008 original, Dead Space Remake sees you stepping into the space boots of Isaac Clarke as he and his team investigate the strange goings on in a seemingly abandoned spaceship. Although some aspects from the original were altered, like the character designs and some of the more archaic gameplay mechanics, including the turret section, most of the remake remains faithful to the original title. The remake does, however, up the ante with a grotesque flesh system that sees Isaac peeling his necromorph foes like bananas. The Dead Space series offers some masterful body horror, making it one of the more unsettling mainstream horror series’ you can play. Pair that with some legitimately great jump scares and a dose of psychological torment and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect Halloween game.
2. Resident Evil 4 Remake
Resident Evil 4 Remake is not just a nostalgic nod to one of the finest Resident Evil games of all time, it’s also a terrifying reinvention that stands on its own two feet. The sheer stress of being rushed by a parasite-infested local population, headed up by a sack-masked, chainsaw-wielding maniac, ranks up there with gaming’s most frightening moments. In the remake, protagonist Leon S. Kennedy is deadlier than ever. He’s a true action hero, parrying flying axes and roundhouse-kicking people’s heads clear off. It’s definitely a horror game at its heart though, full of disgusting parasites and enormous monsters that can obliterate Leon. The story has been fine-tuned into a more well-thought out package compared with the original Resident Evil 4, and that’s before mentioning the game’s full use of today’s graphical prowess to deliver a more terrifying interpretation of rural Spain. The visual overhaul has made the game scarier and punchier, and the increased aggressiveness of the enemies ensures that the game never feels like a cakewalk. Resident Evil 4 Remake is a terrifying masterpiece that every horror fan should play this Halloween.
3. Sons of the Forest
Sons of the Forest is an upcoming survival horror game that was released in early access in February. It is also the sequel to The Forest, an influential member of the same genre. This sequel keeps the DNA of the previous game alive, even beginning with a similar aircraft disaster that leaves you stranded on a not-deserted island. Sons of the Forest looks much more impressive than its predecessor, however, with enhanced graphics that make human companions, cannibals, mutants, and animals all look and act extremely lifelike and that make the dense, lush forests you explore beautifully immersive. The gameplay experience has also been vastly improved thanks to a revamped crafting system and the addition of an AI companion, who can be instructed to take on some of the more tedious activities, like scrounging around for resources and building shelters. More content and gameplay improvements can be expected by the time the game is fully released.
4. My Friendly Neighborhood
Imagine a Resident Evil-style classic survival horror. However, instead of running away from zombies and other Umbrella Corp abominations, your biggest enemies are cute puppets that look like they’re straight from the set of Sesame Street… That’s the delightfully bizarre premise of My Friendly Neighborhood. My Friendly Neighborhood is not exactly a kid’s game, but it is sort-of family friendly, in the sense that there’s no blood and all combat is nonlethal. In melee combat, you’ll find yourself swinging your wrench wildly at approaching puppets, hoping for the best. More often than not, however, that's not good enough, and you’ll find you have to rely on your gun—a Rolodex shooter, of all things. My Friendly Neighborhood nails the backstage studio experience; you’ll have a blast as you wander between dressing rooms, abandoned sets, and behind-the-scenes areas. And as you creep along dark hallways, the eerie murmuring of murderous phrases by unseen puppets will keep you feeling tense.
5. OXENFREE II: Lost Signals
Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals follows Riley, an adult woman returning to her hometown of Camena, Oregon, to investigate some mysterious radio signals. The game is a perfect pick for those who want a less physically demanding gameplay experience, and the game’s supernatural narrative and gorgeous esthetics make the experience highly engaging. With choice-driven dialogue and simple exploration, players can sit back and enjoy an atmospheric ghost story without fiddling with controls; it’s like an interactive young adult horror movie. For the most part, Oxenfree II is a modern adventure title that uses a bit of platforming as a means of traversal. The game may be presented in 2D, but the game has movement reminiscent of some 2.5D games—you can sometimes find a path in the background to walk through, and jumping or climbing requires you to be near an edge or climbable surface, respectively. Over time, the game becomes more unnerving, making it the perfect choice for an all-nighter this month.
6. Amnesia: The Bunker
The Amnesia series has been terrifying gamers since 2010, taking us through various time periods and locales, and Amnesia: The Bunker takes us to perhaps the grimmest setting yet: the nightmarish world of World War I trench warfare. The protagonist, a French soldier named Henri Clement, awakes after an accident, finding himself seemingly alone in his unit’s underground bunker and wracked by gaps in his memory. He discovers that he’s far from alone and that among the corpses of his former comrades is a creature stalking the halls—a creature more terrible than even the worst horrors of the war above. Amnesia: The Bunker is purist survival horror at its best with a thoughtful take on the genre and mind-shredding scares. Even the most hardened gamer will feel their pulse racing as they are stalked through the underground hell, feeling a desperation to see daylight. The challenge is not just mastering your environment but mastering your own fear of the evils that lurk in the darkness.
7. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a 1974 film that has become iconic in the horror genre, telling the story of a family of cannibalistic serial killers, the Sawyers, who brutally murder a group of unsuspecting teenagers. The film's almost documentary-like style and its visionary brutality contributed to its immense success and led to the development of various derivative works in both film and gaming, such as the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a third-person asymmetrical survival horror game released in August by publisher Gun Interactive and development studio Sumo Digital. The game’s story involves four young adults who are trapped in the Sawyer family’s house and who have to do everything they can to escape while three killers try to hunt them down. Sumo Digital seems to have worked very carefully figuring out how to arouse tension in each of the players. In many cases, a single hit from a killer is enough to kill a victim, and running away is not usually a viable solution considering that you generally start out injured and slow. These features show that emphasis has been placed on stealth gameplay elements, which serve to maximize the thrill of the atmosphere. The game beautifully weaves the horror of one of the slasher genre’s most guttural and unsettling movies with the action of similarly themed titles, such as Dead by Daylight. It’s a wholly terrifying and addicting horror game.
8. Layers of Fear
Layers of Fear is a first-person horror adventure game developed and published by Bloober Team. It is both a remake of the original game in the Layers of Fear series and also the next installment in the series, serving as an all-encompassing package that reimagines everything released so far, including Layers of Fear (2016), its Inheritance DLC expansion, and Layers of Fear 2 (2019). These three components, previously only available on older consoles and built on Unity, were entirely remade and updated to run on Unreal Engine 5. The result is a visual upgrade that is easily the best and most definitive way to jump into the Layers of Fear series. The game balances an intriguing story with a deep sense of atmospheric immersion, with the jump to Unreal Engine 5 being nothing short of remarkable. Every location you trudge through looks phenomenal, rebuilt from the ground up to deliver a better sense of place than the original games. It delivers an immersive and atmospheric horror experience and features stunning visuals and a haunting soundtrack alongside jump scares, puzzle-solving, and tense exploration.
9. Alan Wake 2
Fans have been eagerly awaiting the release of Alan Wake 2 since the credits rolled on Alan Wake, the first installment of this action adventure series. The original 2010 release is known for its unique blend of narrative storytelling and survival horror, and after a 13-year journey filled with hurdles and passion, developer Remedy Entertainment is set to shed new light on this haunting franchise. The sequel, which launches on October 27, introduces a dual-protagonist system, thrusting players into the shoes of author Alan Wake or those of a new character, FBI agent Saga Anderson. Alan has been trapped in a nightmarish world known as the Dark Place, and Saga is investigating a string of mysterious murders in the Pacific Northwest. According to previews of the game, Alan Wake 2 shows great promise. New mechanics, compelling characters, improved combat, and remarkable visuals combine with the game’s unique blend of psychological horror and storytelling to create a fresh yet familiar experience. You won't want to miss this game over this year's Halloween weekend.
10. World of Horror
World of Horror is a roguelite role-playing game that has been in development for approximately six years by a one-man development team. Released in early access in 2020, the game has since gained in popularity and is finally getting a full release this month, just in time for the scary season. Playing as one of a handful of characters attempting to solve the mysteries haunting their town, players collect items, solve puzzles, and defend themselves from the forces of darkness. World of Horror is influenced by both H. P. Lovecraft and Japanese master of horror Junji Ito and contains a mix of Japanese urban myths and ghost stories, using jump scares and atmospheric horror to build up a feeling of dread in players. The game’s esthetics are reminiscent of 1-bit adventure games; enemy design tends to take influence from both aforementioned authors, with nightmarish results. If you are looking for a creepy and supernatural experience, you’ll want to add this game to your list.
Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.