10 terrifying horror games you can play for free


October is just around the corner, which means it’s time for horror fans to start delving into spooky games to sate their appetites for some good scares. By replaying the big names of the genre like resident Evil is practically a seasonal tradition at this point, those looking for something new can find an abundance of short, spooky experiences for the extremely reasonable price of zero dollars.

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Indeed, innovation in the horror genre doesn’t just happen in the hallways of big-budget studios. Small development teams with limited time and resources have produced some of the scariest games in recent memory, whether it’s hidden gems, viral thrills, or old classics ready to be rediscovered.

ten Ib

Work of the main characters of Ib.

Ib is a sort of spiritual successor to the famous Yume Nikki, the title that kicked off a renaissance of RPG Maker horror titles in Japanese hobbyist game development circles. Yume NikkiThe overt surrealism and opaque goals of it’s inspired many to develop similar titles, but in several cases these ramifications leaned further into explicit horror than their predecessor.

Ib is such an example and is one of the best full-fledged RPG Maker horror games. While visiting an art museum, the player suddenly finds themselves swept away by a distorted mirror version of their surroundings. Their task is then to escape this nightmare world, solve puzzles and avoid enemies along the way.

9 Start investigation?

A laptop with a survey on the screen in Start Survey.

The premise behind Start investigation? is exceedingly simple. The player sits at his in-game laptop, unable to move, and answers a series of simple yes or no questions in a seemingly innocuous poll. It might not sound like too bad, but the developer of this title was able to extend this simple concept to some terrifying conclusions.

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This is one of those games that wants to break the line between play and reality, which makes scares all the more effective. Not content with letting the horror linger at the edge of its gaming window, Start investigation? is sure to have players checking over their shoulders in real life as often as they do in the game.

8 Cry of fear

A hooded figure spills blood on a wall in Cry of Fear.

Cry of fear is a legend in Half-life modding circles and a classic PC horror release that all gamers must try. As one of the many hit titles inspired by the silent Hill series, Cry of fear follows his protagonist as he slowly loses his mind. You never clearly know what’s real and what isn’t, which seriously increases the tension.

It focuses more on combat than some of the other entries in the genre, but players would do well not to get lulled into being armed into a false sense of security. The enemies in this game are utterly nightmarish, and facing them, armed or not, is always a terrifying affair.

7 The house in the woods

A cross with candles on the night of The House In The Woods.

Fans of Witch Blair look no further, this game, clearly inspired by the classic horror film, is perhaps the clearest reinterpretation of the film’s grainy and found vibe in a video game. True to its inspiration, this game plunges players into the midst of terribly dark, possibly haunted woods.

The low-poly aesthetic does wonders for the gaming atmosphere, capturing the low-budget charm of Witch Blair. The sound design here is also particularly noteworthy, supporting the terrifying vibe with well-timed musical beats and otherworldly noises.

6 Slender: the eight pages

Slenderman appears from behind a tree at night in Slender: The Eight Pages.

Almost anyone interested in horror games, or perhaps a passing familiarity with online culture around 2012, will have heard of the viral sensation. Slender: the eight pages. This game was everywhere back then, catapulting its titular monster, Slenderman, into pop culture stardom for its fifteen minutes of fame.

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Behind the memes, streamers, and hapless Hollywood reinterpretations, however, lies a competent little horror game. It’s a simple premise – browse through these creepy woods and find the eight pages before Slenderman catches you. However, the game is extremely effective in cultivating the sensation of being watched; it always feels like he’s out there, just out of sight.

5 Spooky Jump Fear Mansion

A piece of toast floats in a hallway of Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion.

Remember that a jump is scary Dead space 2 where a cardboard cutout of a cartoon sun falls right in front of Isaac’s face? Spooky Jump Fear Mansion is kind of like that, but spans an entire short but sweet love letter to the horror game as a genre. Through the thousand halls of terror of this charming mansion, pretty cardboard cutouts spring up in front of the player’s face, sure to make anyone feel silly for being scared.

Don’t go thinking that this is a game even spooky cats can enjoy, though – it’s not for the faint of heart. Designed to lull players into a false sense of security, the spooky but ultimately charming jumps betray a much more sinister climax. Those who dare to brave the 1000 Chambers of Terror will not be disappointed.

4 Doki Doki Literature Club

Monika in an empty room at the back of the Doki Doki Literature Club.

In case there is someone who has not been completely spoiled as to Doki Doki Literature Clubthe true nature of – stop reading this entry now and play the game. It’s a title best to experiment with with as little contextual information as possible, in order to keep its many baffling twists in mind new players.

Spoilers and viral success aside, Doki Doki Literature Club remains one of the most successful examples of shattering fourth wall horror on the market. Seeing the game collapse on itself as the story progresses is deeply unsettling, and there are some truly shocking fears behind the game’s disarming presentation.

3 SCP: Containment Breach

The player's view at the very start of SCP: Containment Breach.

Containment violation remains one of the most terrifying video games to endure the SCP coat. Based on the online horror writing project, SCP, Containment violation sees the player take on the role of a humble Class D test subject when everything goes terribly wrong in the containment facility.

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The highlight of the game is its faithful interpretation of several of the most famous entities of the SCP Project. For example, an innovative “blink” mechanism is used to great effect, giving players a counter indicating how long they can avoid looking away from SCP-173.

2 Ie No Majou

A screenshot of the remastered version of Ie no Majou.

Another classic RPG Creator horror title, Ie no Majou (Where, The witch’s house) is a great dark horror game that sees players solve assorted environmental puzzles as they attempt to escape a spooky haunted mansion. Unraveling the mysteries of the house while trying to stay alive is a haunting moment, as are the many horror-themed puzzles.

Beneath the low-budget exterior and straightforward premise, however, lies a surprisingly detailed story that fuels the game’s multiple endings. Some of those endings hit pretty hard, both as emotional beats and scares, so it’s better to enter Ie no Majou as preserved as possible.

1 No player online

The server is empty in No Player's Online.

Anyone who has played a dead or dying MMO, or logged into a Gmod server, will be able to explain the acute concern that accompanies living in an abandoned virtual space that should be populated. What sort of things happened here? Where did everyone go? What if there was still something there?

No player Online is a short, sweet horror game built exactly around this feeling of anxiety. The player logs into an empty flag capture server in a long dead shooter and embarks on exploring the sorry map. It soon becomes clear, however, that there is something else online.

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