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10 of the best survival horror game series

These games taught us every trick in the survival horror handbook. Treat yourself to a quick recap

Resident Evil 4 Remake

At times atmospheric and haunting, at others bloody and fierce, these are the best survival horror games that brought our nightmares alive…

Resident Evil

The game that defined the genre, the first Resident Evil, released by Capcom for the PlayStation in 1996 and known as Biohazard in Japan, pits a team of law-enforcers against a spooky mansion packed to the rafters with zombies, mutated spiders and biological experiments. The haunting soundtrack combined with eerily beautiful backdrops that begged to be splashed with undead blood.

After a successful sequel or two, the series began to evolve. Resident Evil 4 was a big change, and a hugely sucessful game that has been remade for modern hardware. It brought the action closer to a thirdperson shooter, with an over-the-shoulder perspective and controls that weren’t enough to instil panic just by themselves. The series has continued to change, taking its cues from classic horror movies with Resident Evil 7, and introducing everyone’s favourite giant vampire lady in the eighth instalment. There have been movies of varying quality, both animated and live action, but the games endure and both original titles and remakes have become major selling points for the latest consoles.

Silent Hill

A desperate father searches for his daughter in the streets (and secrets) of a town possessed by demons in the first game in this long-running series. Too easy? A dense fog has enveloped the town and your weapon is a rusty pole. Terrifyingly limited visuals and an evocative score conspired to rival the suspense of a Japanese horror flick. Spare pants were advisable.

The games then fleshed out, often literally, all kinds of nightmares as they went on. The acclaimed Silent Hill 2 put you in the shoes of James Sunderland as he searches for his dead wife in a town that moulded itself into a representation of his own guilt. Along the way he faces undead nurses, a monster with a pyramid helmet and enormous sword, and other reflections of the characters’ subconscious.

The series hasn’t been heard of for some time, with both mainline and spin-off games being cancelled, but the second game is getting a remake, while The Short Message – a combat-free experience taking on themes of bullying and the impact of social media – was released in early 2024.

Alone in the Dark

The original mansion-based zombie-fest coined the term ‘survival horror’ and inspired a generation of imitators. It lacked the ability to curdle blood as effectively as later titles, but first counts for a lot. You began your assault unarmed in the spookiest room in the house – the attic – but things looked up once you found the kitchen knives downstairs. The original PC game from 1992 looks like a polygonal mess and plays like it’s coated in treacle now, as do its two sequels, but as with the games above things have moved on, though not in as coherent a fashion as Resi or even Silent Hill.

The ’90s series was rebooted in 2001 for The New Nightmare, taking inspiration from the Resident Evil games. Another game sharing the Alone in the Dark name, but not really linked to the rest of the series, was released in 2008, and yet another will come in 2024, this time a reimagining of the original featuring performance capture from David Harbour and Jodie Comer.

Dead Rising

Frenzied horde of zombies, meeet American shopping mall. The rehashed Dawn of the Dead plot sees players fighting for survival until the rescue chopper arrives three days later. You can spend those days trying on clothes if you like, but the preferred method is increasingly creative zombie genocide using pretty much anything you can pick up as a weapon.

The series has so far spawned four main games and some spin-offs, with a fifth instalment cancelled in 2018.

The House of the Dead

This zombie shoot-em-up from Sega used light guns in place of traditional controllers when it launched in 1996, and encouraged regular reloading to beat a succession of ever more evil creations. The House of the Dead became an arcade classic and would eventually inspire the likes of Resident Evil Survivor, but the series has become dormant in recent years, with only a 2022 remake of the first game on the Switch being released.

Dino Crisis

Dino Crisis

Capcom threw a Jurassic-sized spanner in the works with Dino Crisis, which released for the PlayStation in 1999. From the brain of Resident Evil‘s director Shinji Mikami, it swapped slow, ambling enemies for lightning-fast velociraptors and rendered backgrounds in full polygonal 3D. It has obvious ties to Resi, with a secret operations teams investigating the mysterious island stronghold of an unhinged scientist, but still tries to go its own way with a quicker, more panicky pace.

From a successful launch, the series continued for a few sequels before becoming extinct following 2003’s Dino Crisis 3. A fan favourite, rumours often circulate regarding a remake or new instalment for the series, but at the time of writing this dino shooter is one for retro consoles only.

Left 4 Dead

Smoking the living dead is always more enjoyable with company. That was more or less the development pitch for Left 4 Dead and its sequel. Arguably the best multi-player FPSes in the genre, it presses the same buttons for gore chasers that Call of Duty does for armchair squaddies.

From Valve, the company behind Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike and the Steam distribution system, Left 4 Dead uses an AI ‘director’ that sends extra zombies after players who lag behind, and hands out the big guns to those who push ahead and take risks. The standard campaign sees human players team up to pass through zombie-filled gauntlets, while a Versus mode puts some players in charge of special infected creatures to track down the survivors trying to escape. And despite seeing its last release in 2009, Left 4 Dead 2 recieved its most recent official update in 2020, meaning it’s still a going concern for PC players.

Alan Wake 2

Remedy’s horror sequel took the gaming world by storm when it launched in 2023. Following the adventures – some real, some less so – of a novelist who’s been trapped in an alternative dimension for 13 years (coincidentally the amount of time that passed between Alan Wake games) it’s not afraid to offer up a jump scare or two, but spends most of its time sending Alan and FBI agent Alex after weird cults, alternate versions of themselves, summoning rituals and live-action segments that ape TV talk shows. Worth playing just to see what all the fuss is about.

The Thing

The Thing

Bizarrely, this is a 2002 PlayStation 2 sequel to the 1982 film of the same name. The game starts three months on, back in Antarctica. You lead a squad bound in a common quest, but should a team-mate start acting strangely, it’s up to you to finish him off. Shoot someone on a false suspicion, though, and you’ll lose the squad’s trust. A quirky mixture of politics and critter killing.

Clock Tower

Your character in this 1995 SNES title is an orphan girl on her way to her newly adopted home. Sounds pretty tame, right? Her new home is one of those massive spooky mansions. If that’s not bad enough, on arrival the lights go out. Then it transpires a scissor-wielding maniac has killed her orphan friends. Who says point and click games can’t be scary?

A new version of Clock Tower seems to be in development at the time of writing, the first release in the main series since 2002, though it has seen ‘spiritual successors’ in the form of Haunting Ground (2005) and NightCry (2016). All that seems to exist of the new game is a trailer, however, so details are few.

Profile image of Sam Kieldsen Sam Kieldsen Contributor


Tech journalism's answer to The Littlest Hobo, I've written for a host of titles and lived in three different countries in my 15 years-plus as a freelancer. But I've always come back home to Stuff eventually, where I specialise in writing about cameras, streaming services and being tragically addicted to Destiny.

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