The horror genre can be very subjective. Some may find true scares in the supernatural, while others discover an existential crisis with the realisation that extra terrestrials could exist. No matter who you are, everyone has a fear of something.
When it comes to gaming, this can be a tricky slope to navigate as you hopelessly attempt to scare the hell out of everyone playing. A plethora of instances have resorted to simple jump scares to invoke fear into the player, while others throw everything and the kitchen sink into the mix to get under your skin.
One of the oldest elements of horror is the fear of being watched. It's a universal terror that has most likely plagued each and every one of us at some time or another in our lives. It's also an element to horror games that is becoming more prevelant in this day and age.
The reason this method works so well is how it can be translated to any medium of horror. From deranged serial killers, to other worldly predators, the fear of the unknown is what drives players back to these games again and again.
Some work better than others however, so here are ten creepy and grotesque enemies that got under our skin through intense stalking in our gaming sessions.
10. Xenomorph - Alien Isolation
Alien Isolation did many things right. It took everything we love about the world of Alien, from the retro styled look at futuristic space travel, to the ambiance that draped the first two films, and sucked the audience in.
It also retained the ability to scare the living crap out of you!
The majority of Alien Isolation has you in a cat and mouse chase with our Xenomorph friend, and no, we are not the cat.
Armed with very little, you spend most of your trek through this decrepit space station with little more than a motion tracker. Nothing fills you with dread more than the sudden beep, followed by the green blob on the tracker approaching your position, faster and faster.
Much of your play-through will be spent in the muggy air of old crew mates' lockers as you desperately hold your breath to avoid detection. The knowledge that there's a Xenomorph pressed up against the door conjures a feeling of horror not many games can match. In fact, with the amount of time you do spend hiding away in lockers, it's shocking this wasn't actually called Locker Simulator.
Alien Isolation is terrifying, intense and relentless. But it's a bloody good embodiment of the franchise.
9. Laura - The Evil Within
One of the most popular fears people have is spiders. Another is the absolute dread of bumping into your ex-partner in a public place. Laura incorporates both of these.
With the legs of a spider and the mentality of an old ex who still hasn't had the last word, Laura becomes a truly terrifying presence that will make the majority of your time with The Evil Within a stressful one.
Up until the point of meeting Laura, The Evil Within is a fairly creepy and over-the-top horror thrill ride. Once you've cleared an area of enemies, you can take a deep sigh and feel accomplished in a moment of brief safety.
Laura does away with all of this.
Your first introduction to Laura is when she emerges from a dead body. Creepy right? Well, you'll quickly learn that Laura can in fact emerge from ANY dead body she sees fit, making avoiding her nigh on impossible.
On top of this, she's pretty much impervious to any attacks. Those moments of brief safety in levels quickly become stripped away and regulated to only safe rooms. The constant fear of Laura being able to appear at any given moment is one of the greatest elements The Evil Within incorporates, with a true sense of psychological horror.
8. The Ink Demon - Bendy And The Ink Machine
Childhood fears stay with us throughout most of our lifetimes. Some of us get over them, but others will stay gripped to our very beings till the very end.
Bendy and the Ink Machine takes seemingly innocent children's drawings and turns them into a truly horrifying concept. The story behind Bendy is an ink machine which seemingly gave life to this daunting drawing. Starting off seemingly harmless with no soul, it's not long before the demonic side of Bendy is unveiled and brings pure horror to the players investigating this abandoned art studio.
Bendy's innocent grin becomes all the more sinister as he mercilessly tracks you down throughout the various levels of the art department. This corrupted version of Bendy is anything but the happiness the artists wanted to convey in their comics, but instead wants you dead.
The chilling atmosphere of the chase is made unsettling through an art style which invokes old Disney cartoons such as Steamboat Willie, a much cherished childhood memory. Bendy and the Ink Machine takes these comforts, turns them on their head, and then chases us down endless hallways with them. Truly haunting.
7. Nemesis - Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
How do you build upon a game which terrified thousands of players with an onslaught of seemingly never ending Zombies? Well, you do all of that and add in an unbeatable one too.
This was the plan for the titular character who spends the majority of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis tracking you down in an attempt to end your life. Nemesis is a bio-engineered super mutant who's goal is to track down all remaining witnesses of the treacherous Umbrella Corporation experiments.
While it's entirely possible to attempt to fight Nemesis at multiple points throughout the story, your best bet is to run, and to run faster than you've ever ran before. Nemesis is a relentless machine with very little that will slow him down.
The basis on which Nemesis appears in the story depends on what choices the player takes, meaning that two play-throughs could effectively be very different. This makes replays of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis just as terrifying as the first as it constantly feels as though the AI is working against you (which it most probably is).
While the remake of Resident Evil 3 retains the truly brutish presence of Nemesis, nothing is as horrifying as the original, who left a mark with his constant stalking abilities.
6. Hunter - Dead Space
Dead Space teaches you one thing very early on. You need to dismember the truly horrifying creatures that roam the space station if you have any hope of survival. While most games teach you to aim for the head, Dead Space hopes that you'll cut off arms, legs or torsos in an effort to slow down the grotesque beasts.
Then you meet the Hunter.
The Hunter changes the rules completely and can completely regenerate its limbs within seconds. Everything you've learned up to this point is thrown out the window as the foe does exactly as he states he will -- hunt.
An early encounter with the Hunter leads you into a false sense of security as you're led to believe you've frozen it. Dead Space remains adamant that you don't have that security blanket for too long as it returns again, and again, and again.
With no means to permanently put it down, you're left with many situations involving you being consistently stalked by this ravenous beast that resembles a creature from John Carpenter's The Thing. It's a terrifying pursuit that ensures the rules of Dead Space are not always set in stone.
5. Slender Man - Slender: The Eight Pages
Perhaps one of the most defining horror icons of this genre is Slender Man. An phenomenon which took the world by storm has since spawned theories, creepy stories and even his own movie.
It's crazy to think a simple internet story spawned a true horror legend. His simple design is perhaps what has struck with so many people. He is simply a tall man with no face and tentacle like arms. There's no massively out of this world design, but instead the minimalistic approach is what lends to this terror.
The game sees you in a seemingly endless woodland area in the search for eight pages of notes. Find all eight and you win, but the more you seek out, the more adamant Slender Man is on tracking you down.
Built around a heavy emphasis on sound design, Slender Man stalks your presence consistently and becomes more and more deadly the closer you get to achieving your goal. The trial and error gameplay constantly has us coming back for more, in the hopes to beat him at his own game.
If he catches up to you though, be prepared to leap from your seat from his startling gaze.
4. Chris Walker - Outlast
Outlast is a testament to horror gaming, combining slow paced stealth sections with high-octane chase sequences as you attempt to foil the many deranged occupants of the mental hospital the story resides in.
One of these occupants is the towering Chris Walker who is scarred with self mutilation. He's a very large fellow and you wouldn't be wrong to assume that you could outrun his brutish persona. Unfortunately for you, Chris Walker is highly athletic and varying chase scenes will push your adrenaline to your limits as he stalks you through the dreaded corridors.
Outside of this, many slower paced parts of Outlast will have you hiding in rooms, lockers and anything else you can jump behind as you navigate your way around him, his ghoulish face scouring the room for you. Much of Outlast is in complete darkness with nothing but the night vision on your camera to navigate through.
Let me tell you, there's nothing more terrifying than being shrouded in the darkness, lifting up your camera and being greeted by his deathly stare. Yep, I'm not sleeping tonight.
3. The Gatherers - Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a truly terrifying first-person horror game that places you in what can only be described as the darkest pits of hell.
You don't fight demons in Amnesia, in fact, they hunt you. Instead, you're battling your own mentality as you struggle to comprehend the world around you. The enemies known as The Gatherers do nothing to help this.
Make eye contact with them and your sanity will lower drastically. The more you lose, the harder the game is as your character becomes incomprehensible to control. The Gatherers will use this perfect opportunity to snap you up.
What you must do is use the many beds, cupboards and doors to hide and simply prey that they'll move along. You have no tools to defend yourself with, so you own wishful thinking is the only element you have to play with.
The sound design across the whole of Amnesia is certainly unsettling and has the ability to mess with your own sanity. Those of you who play with headphones on, hats off to you.
2. Mr. X - Resident Evil 2 Remake
Though Nemesis is perhaps the most well known in the Resident Evil franchise, nothing comes close to the sheer terror Mr. X puts players through in Resident Evil 2 Remake.
The introduction to Mr. X is brutal and showcases his brute strength as he plunges his fist through a wall and crushes an innocent mans head. From there, every corner becomes an internal struggle to go around in the hopes that his persistent venture to kill you isn't heading your way.
As you make your way through Racoon City Police Department, the loud thud of his foreboding footsteps echo through its many halls. As you desperately attempt to complete objectives, it's nigh on impossible not to bump into him once or twice.
And when he does, the chase is on as he pushes back hordes of zombies with one goal in mind -- you. As you push past the multitude of nasties that reside in the hallways, you'll have to do so quietly with the mindset that you won't startle Mr. X.
He's like The Terminator, beefed up and with the face of someone who's spent too many hours underwater. If that's not terrifying enough, I don't know what is.
1. Lisa - P.T
The idea of being trapped is a very intense thought for some of us. An irrational fear of being bury alive eats away at our very soul and can sometimes keeps us up at night.
P.T kept us trapped in one specific hallway. It was like Groundhog Day without the joys of Bill Murray or lighthearted nature. Instead we were left to constantly loop the same corridor, and we weren’t alone.
Nope. We had our good friend Lisa, a spirit who plagues these halls and spends the majority of the shortly lived P.T scaring the living crap out of you!
It’s since been proven that Lisa is in fact tethered to the player, constantly watching their every move, waiting for the opportune moment to startle you and eject your controller out of the window.
Her visual appearance is striking, gleaming with a sinister smile that’s enough to give you nightmares. She may pop up when you look in the bathroom mirror or she can stare down at your from the balcony. No matter where you see her, the next vision is always more haunting than the last.
P.T was a taster for Silent Hills, which unfortunately never saw the light of day. But the legend lives on and so does Lisa’s grimacing smile.