Anurag loves playing video games. His guides and listicles revolve around popular iOS, Android, PC, and console games.
Scary Games Are Fun!
What makes a game scary? Good visuals, engaging gameplay, or an immersive plot? What if all these features were found in a computer game? Thanks to indie game developers, we horror fans can play some of the weirdest and scariest games on our PCs without paying a dime.
After Slenderman's success, a good number of indie horror games were released for Windows-powered computers. While many games were outright clones of the original, there were some decent titles that had a good plot, excellent graphics, and brilliant level design. The games listed below are some of the best titles for your computer. All are free, not heavy on specs, and can easily be played on mid-range laptops or desktop computers.
All screenshots are courtesy of their respective indie game developers.
1. One Late Night
If you think abandoned houses are creepy, think again. One Late Night will force you to change your opinion about haunted locations. This indie horror game presents a nightmarish adventure of an office employee who chooses to work late one fateful day, only to realize he made a big mistake.
One Late Night is a short game, but it has plenty of tense moments to keep you at the edge of your seat. The protagonist must escape the office and it’s you who can help him find clues and search for an escape route to get out of the haunted office. This exploration-based game can be a bit intimidating in moments where you will need to search for clues in an enclosed space, surrounded by monsters.
The puzzles are of normal difficulty for a seasoned seek and find adventure gamer. The office setting will make you feel a bit constricted and claustrophobic. On more than one occasion, you will feel totally vulnerable, as there isn’t enough space to hide. The only way to escape is to search for clues, solve puzzles, and escape the doomed office.
Graphically, One Late Night doesn’t disappoint at all. Powered by the Unity 3D engine, the game graphics are excellent and every object is highly detailed. Developers have dedicated their time and effort to create and the fact that this game is free is unbelievably true.
2. SCP: Containment Breach
Set in a top-secret facility dedicated to researching strange anomalies and creatures, SCP: Containment Breach puts you into the shoes of a test subject thrown in a chamber of human guinea pigs. The objective is to escape the facility alive or hunt for secret documents and find a solution to fix the breach.
The game has some of the weirdest creatures and anomalies you have ever seen, but the most frightening entity is a concrete figurine code-named SCP-173. The sculpture comes to life and is extremely dangerous. It snaps the necks of inattentive souls, but stays still if in your direct line of sight. There are some more oddities and objects, each more bizarre and frightening than the next. Beware of the Shy Guy and the Plague Doctor and if you're able to survive those two, then keep a safe distance from the Peripheral Jumper and the main enemy.
To make gameplay more interesting, developers have introduced a “Blink Meter." The faster your eyes blinks, the more uncomfortable it will be for you to search for objects or find a hiding place. You can set the blink rate manually or use eye drops to make it normal. Make sure your character blinks as you would do in real-life. An abnormal blink rate can really make survival extremely difficult.
As a psychological/survival horror game, SCP: Containment Breach’s randomly-generated maps will make you feel trapped, claustrophobic, panicked, and extremely scared. The game’s frightening atmosphere and even more frightening creatures and dangerous anomalies will keep you guessing while you run and hide from danger.
J-Horror games have wowed the audience with their bizarre plot, grotesque monsters, and unique gameplay mechanics. Most of these titles have been released for the PS2 platform and are good examples of top-notch horror that can give even the most popular movies a run for their money.
Compared to PS consoles, PC has fewer Japanese horror games. In the indie horror scene, there are a few brilliantly-designed 2D computer horror games. The one that immediately comes to mind is IB. It’s a scary, exploration-based survival horror game that takes place in a haunted art gallery. The main character, a young girl named IB, is lost in an art gallery full of bizarre contraptions, riddles, and frightening entities.
While IB is nowhere close to graphics of a PS2 J-horror game, it has plenty of scary moments to frighten you. Developers have done a great job creating a gloomy atmosphere with plain 2D sprites. Lights go off all of a sudden, mannequins start moving, grotesque-looking paintings come alive, and a frightening stalker suddenly appears—every moment spent in the art gallery will make your heart skip a beat. There’s plenty more to meet the eye and the bizarre settings of each area truly make it one of the weirdest PC horror games of all time.
4. Nightmare House 2
Nightmare House 2 is a modification that requires players to have both Half-Life 2 and Episode 2 installed on their PC. This free mod can be found at developer WeCreateStuff’s website or at Moddb. If you are fond of conventional horror games (the ones that have those predictable jump-scare moments, plenty of weapons/ammo and monsters straight from '70s horror movies), then NH 2 is for you. Set in a haunted hospital, the game puts you into the shoes of an amnesic man. The abandoned hospital setting is a perfect place for experiencing horrific encounters and NH 2 developers have left no stone unturned to make it an unforgettable frightening experience.
The first-person horror shooter seems influenced by the famed Penumbra series, Half-Life, and FEAR. The physics-based puzzles and characters are similar to top horror games, but the game's presentation, visuals, and brilliant level design overshadow them.
5. Kraven Manor
Kraven Manor’s graphics are so amazing. Any player’s first reaction would be; “I can’t believe this game is free." The Amnesia-like gameplay and brilliant 3D visuals will make you forget top horror games for a moment. Developed using the Unreal engine, the game was actually a college project before it hit the indie gaming scene. It was developed by a team of Southern Methodist University students. You can download this free horror game on your PC via IndieDB’s page.
The atmospheric horror game lets players explore a huge manor full of secrets and a puzzle room. There’s no plot, but I can safely say that it lets you play the role of an adventurer, probably a ghost hunter who wants to uncover the hidden secrets of Kraven Manor. Upon entering the doomed mansion, you will find miniature pieces of each room scattered here and there, among other oddities. The miniatures are part of a series of frustratingly difficult puzzles. You will need to find these model rooms by finding hidden trapdoors and other secret areas and add them to the scale model in the puzzle area. A room materializes when the associated miniature model is added to the scale model. Finding room models isn’t easy, as the manor has plenty of hidden chambers and trapdoors.
To make miniature-finding more difficult, there’s that occasional confrontation with a horrifying creature. His appearance is totally unpredictable and can really cause those jump scares. The sudden appearance of the scary entity would surely make you nervous each time you wander around the abandoned rooms. You will never know from which corner the creature will crawl out from.
To me, Kraven Manor is an underrated game and deserves more kudos for the brilliant level design and visuals. The game’s ending is tense and extremely well executed. A must-download game!
6. REC Shutter
If movies like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, or reality shows like Ghost Hunters have scared the daylights out of you, wait until you play Shutter. The game lets you capture paranormal entities through the lens of a handheld camera. You will be exploring dark areas of a haunted madhouse, solving puzzles, and occasionally bumping into paranormal entities.
Every moment spent in the asylum will be recorded on your handheld camera. You can investigate objects, search for clues, and film ghosts in the haunted asylum. The game’s interactive part will ask you to take photos of paranormal activity with your camera. You will need to press the "F" button to take images of ghosts and ghouls.
Another unique feature besides the camera view is the panic meter, which increases whenever a paranormal entity is near. Your panic level also increases when you stare at enemies. The Panic System works a bit like SCP: Containment Breach’s Blink Meter, and it can really hamper your ghost-hunting adventure as it will be difficult to control your player. You can take pills when the panic levels are high.
REC Shutter can be extremely frightening if played after dark, with your headphones on. You can download this free survival horror game from sites like IndieDB and Desura.
7. Cry of Fear
Cry of Fear (CoF) begins with a rather clichéd plot but turns out to be a terrific horror game, courtesy of a dark atmosphere, quick and deadly combat, and extremely terrifying monsters that make weird sounds and spring from nowhere. The game gives you what you want—jump scares.
This horror shooter is another brilliantly developed Half-Life mod; a completely revamped game with zero content from Valve’s hit title. The gameplay style, combat, and puzzles are unique. You won’t find any similarity between Half-Life and this mod.
CoF’s visuals are not that bad. In fact, the primitive visuals do make it look creepier, just like it did for Half-Life. Things get scarier when monsters come out from nowhere, leaving you totally confused. The horrific moments and the combat system are what makes a game scary, and it is clear that CoF’s developers know their horror. They left no stone unturned to keep the tension intact in every frame. To experience the scare-fest, download the mod from Moddb or Steam.
8. The Yore
The Yore is a short, isometric horror adventure game. While it may not be as scary as other 2D indie horror games, it’s quite playable and has a rather dark and haunted house setting. The game has a familiar plot—the main character wakes up in a room he has never seen before. You will need to help him uncover the mystery behind the haunted house. While exploring, you will solve puzzles by interacting with the environment.
Graphically, The Yore is too good for a free game. The animated characters are excellent and the entire atmosphere looks extremely scary. While developer Cobrasoft did a pretty good job presenting a scary atmosphere, the rather short gameplay session will surely make players wanting for more. The puzzles are too easy for the seasoned adventure player. The game will appeal to casual gamers more than hardcore adventure fans. It’s easy and too short and only 16 Megs large. You can download it for free from izzygames.com.
9. Deep Sleep
Don’t let Deep Sleep’s pixel art graphics fool you. This short point-and-click horror adventure game can extremely scary in some places. Deep Sleep is actually a dream sequence. The dark rooms and ghostly staircases surely look like somebody’s nightmare. You will need to get out of this dream, exploring rooms and solving inventory-based puzzles.
Playing Deep Sleep will make you feel gloomy and depressed. The game infiltrates your psyche to unsettle you. The puzzles are easy to solve, but you might need to go back to an already-explored room to find objects for a puzzle. Few objects can be combined with others to create a new one and then used in puzzles. Some areas can be darker than the others, so make sure you increase the in-game brightness by clicking on Game Options/Walkthrough at the top-right corner of the screen. A sequel to Deep Sleep, called Deeper Sleep, is equally terrifying. You can play both these games for free at Kongregate.
Sepulchre is a free PC horror game with point-and-click mechanics. It takes place in a creepy train and has those horror novel moments to keep you at the edge of your seat. The game is not for those who prefer an outright scare-fest. It’s subtle, gloomy, and has those tense moments to keep you glued to your monitor. Certain events within the game will leave you wondering about the objects and people around you. There aren’t any gory monsters to confront, but several sequences will leave you flabbergasted. The surprise ending is what makes it worth the download.
Sepulchre is a short game. You can download the free version from OwlCave’s website or pay just $2.99 and download the special edition featuring wallpapers, soundtrack, and a special copy of a horror novel. Download it while it's free—you never know when developers put a price tag on it.
© 2013 Anurag Ghosh
Manolis Lardas on April 06, 2015:
Can you tell me where I can find Dungeon Nightmares 2 online or download it? I would be very glad if it wasn't a demo. Thanks.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on April 05, 2014:
Sarah Forester from Australia on February 01, 2014:
I made a mistake clicking on this Hub during nighttime, these all look great and I can't believe they are free. I've got my next week booked out with these games for sure.
Leda on November 29, 2013:
CoF, One Late Night, SCP, Ib and Nightmare House are all extremely good games- glad to know that others are aware of these great games haha. Also, Team Psykskallar (creators of CoF) made a game called Afraid of Monsters- it's not as good as CoF, but it's definitely up there & I would definitely recommend checking it out if u haven't already :)
Anurag Ghosh (author) on October 17, 2013:
Hezekiah from Japan on October 17, 2013:
Wow, never knew about these. Worth taking a look. Thanks!!
Eric on October 16, 2013:
I think this games are pretty interesting to make a live stream from
Samita Sharma from Chandigarh on October 16, 2013:
Really all are very interesting games... I loved all
carlarmes from Bournemouth, England on October 14, 2013:
I might try some of those games out, my eldest son loves playing horror games, great fun for all the family.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on October 11, 2013:
golpo on October 11, 2013:
Anurag Ghosh (author) on October 10, 2013:
Anna Marie Bowman from Florida on October 10, 2013:
Very interesting!! I had no idea that there were so many horror games for the PC, let alone free ones!! Now I can't wait to get my computer fixed, because I will definitely be looking for a few of those!!
Anurag Ghosh (author) on October 10, 2013:
Vishakha Bajaj on October 10, 2013:
Nice hub.Thanks for sharing this hub.