While many trumpeted the death of survival horror in the late aughts, like so many genres, it's come roaring back. Triple-A entries like Resident Evil or Dead Space form a rock solid core for this revitalized genre, but the real joy is found in the weird ones. Indie horror reigns supreme, and whether you want to weld yourself into a submarine at the bottom of an ocean of blood or stress yourself out in the graveyard shift of a funeral home, we've got you covered in this list.
The best survival horror games
Resident Evil 4 Remake
PC Gamer's got your back Our experienced team dedicates many hours to every review, to really get to the heart of what matters most to you. Find out more about how we evaluate games and hardware.
Release date: 2023 | Developer: Capcom | Steam
Okay look, Resident Evil 4's never been the scariest entry in its series, but it is essential. Between it's attaché case inventory management and frantic crowd control, it's an extremely tense experience while also offering some truly standout horror set pieces in its middle and later portions. The remake's take on the Garrador enemy especially is inspired. Act 2's castle remains one of the most atmospheric locations in gaming, its sumptuous, decaying 17th century interiors given new life on the RE Engine. Other entries on this list may be spookier, but there's a reason the genre hasn't been able to get over Resident Evil 4 in 18 years.
Read more: Resident Evil 4's knife parry is the best thing to happen to the series in 18 years
Dead Space Remake
Release date: 2023 | Developer: Motive | Steam
2023 games: Upcoming releases
Best PC games: All-time favorites
Free PC games: Freebie fest
Best FPSes: Finest gunplay
Best MMOs: Massive worlds
Best RPGs: Grand adventures
Dead Space was once the bold herald of survival horror's future, the 2008 original showing that actionized, over-the-shoulder combat doesn't preclude old-school dread. Despite proclamations of its demise, survival horror was alive and well in the Xbox 360 generation. Now in 2023 we get a perfect, as-you-remember-it remake, though protagonist Isaac Clarke is newly talkative, ginger, and arguably yassified.
Modern rendering and conveniences are bolstered here with new story content and a New Game Plus mode featuring an alternate ending. For the first time in 10 years, the future of Dead Space looks bright. Er, is it still bright if it's horrible on purpose?
Read more: Dead Space's definitive remake paves the way for more great things from the once-dormant series.
Release date: 2022 | Developer: Ebb Software | Steam
Scorn's like a gross Myst, Myst with guns and body horror. This first person adventure sees you crawling through the guts of a fallen civilization, one where everyone else went to the rapture a long time ago, leaving you to puzzle at their remains. Are you an unlucky member of its citizenry left behind when everyone else peaced out? More likely you're the grist for their biological mills, somehow spared that awful fate and now waking up into a different, possibly more awful fate.
The combat is challenging and has the same cadence as an old, tank-controlled PS1 survival horror game. While there may be a case that Scorn would have been stronger focusing purely on exploration and puzzle solving, The combat does have a certain delicious tension and demands the same movement mastery as juking Crimson Heads in the Resident Evil Remake. Ebb quickly patched the game's initial rough checkpoint system after launch, making Scorn a hands-down horror slam dunk.
Read more: Scorn is a guided tour of a forsaken civilization from its grim brown bowels to the heights of its lilac capital city
The best multiplayer horror games
Left 4 Dead 2
Release date: 2009 | Developer: Valve | Steam
A horde of great four-player co-op shooters followed in the wake of Left 4 Dead, much like the hordes of zombies follow its protagonists. Some of those co-op shooters are great, and you'll find them over on our list of best FPS games, but Left 4 Dead 2 remains one of those games that's still worth keeping installed for whenever you and up to three friends feel like working together to push across a slice of zombie-infested America.
The rhythm of Left 4 Dead means it always tells a story. Both quiet moments and swarming attacks are punctuated by special enemies with attacks that force you to work together, and Left 4 Dead 2's survivors—Coach, Rochelle, Nick, and Ellis, as well as the returning characters from the original game—chat and banter with each other like a functioning unit in a way that encourages you to do the same.
Of course, you may well be playing with mods that replace those survivors with Hatsune Miku, Deadpool, Master Chief, and Juliet Starling from Lollipop Chainsaw, all fighting across Silent Hill or Helm's Deep. That's just another reason Left 4 Dead 2 keeps bringing us back 4 more.
Read more: Great moments in PC gaming: 'Don't startle the witch'
Release date: 2014 (early access) | Developer: Kinetic Games | Steam
TV shows like Ghost Hunters helped popularize a kind of pseudoscientific paranormal investigation, and Phasmophobia lets you and up to three friends become those kind of well-equipped spook-studiers. Each of you can only carry a handful of tools, which is why you need those friends to lighten the load. Technical tools from EMF readers to humble flashlights and cameras alongside supernatural tools like crucifixes might all be necessary.
Need your horror games to look their best? Here are the best gaming PCs right now.
With those tools, you explore a haunted location, trying to find clues about what kind of ghost you're dealing with. Meanwhile, said ghost will start messing with you via poltergeist tricks while listening in on your panicked conversations thanks to Windows voice recognition so it knows when to ramp up the scares.
It's not all nightmares, though. Thanks to its early access state there's definitely some slapstick jankiness to it, and once you get familiar with its locations and tricks it can become a casual good time with friends. Or maybe we're being lulled into a false sense of security, and that's just what the ghosts want us to think.
Read more: Phasmophobia is the best ghost game ever made
Killing Floor 2
Release date: 2016 | Developer: Tripwire Interactive | Steam
Killing Floor offers a similar sort of high-zombie count, frantic survival as Left 4 Dead but with more of an emphasis on stationary wave survival than proceeding through linear levels. It also, quite crucially, has the advantage of being a live, well-supported game. Left 4 Dead will live on by sheer quality and reputation, but Tripwire is on that grind keeping Killing Floor players awash in new maps and cosmetics. A perfect "catch up with your friend from high school for a few hours on a weeknight" game if there ever was one.
Read more: Killing Floor 2 is a polished, fun co-op horde shooter with a healthy server browser