In the labyrinthine halls of gaming history, no sub-genre promises the same spine-tingling blend of story, character, and atmospheric dread as the RPG horror game. Imagine a game that not only sets you in a vivid world of haunting aesthetics and creeping dread but allows you to tailor your journey, impacting how the story unfolds. It’s not just about survival; it’s about choices, morality, and your own ethical compass—all dressed up in the chilling attire of horror.
As you probably know, RPGs allow you to take on roles, complete quests, and explore open worlds. They originate from tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, branching into various subgenres like action RPGs, tactical RPGs, and more. On the other hand, horror games have their roots in classic literature and movies, designed to invoke fear through atmosphere, story, and gameplay.
But, if you’re under the impression that RPG horror games are a product of modern gaming culture, think again. The roots can be traced to the late ’80s and early ’90s with text-based games like “Zork: The Great Underground Empire“.
Here, the horror was often psychological, a nod to the unknown dangers lurking in your imagination, fueled by text on a screen. As technology progressed, so did the genre. Titles like “Sweet Home” for the NES laid the foundation for a rich tapestry of RPG horror experiences. Thanks, Japan!
➡️ Subgenres Within RPG Horror Games
The RPG horror sub-genre mashes up the best of these two worlds. Within this category, there are several subgenres to explore—cosmic horror, psychological horror, and survival horror, to name a few.
Examples such as Survival Horror RPGs; you can think of “Resident Evil“, but with an added layer of character development and customization. Here, resources are scarce, and every decision could be your last. So, choose wisely.
Games like “Silent Hill” and indie hit “Yume Nikki” prey on your mind. They delve into complex characters and situations that make you question the line between the in-game world and reality. It’s not about what’s chasing you but what you’re running from within.
Games like “Bloodborne” blend cosmic horror with intricate storytelling. The terrors aren’t just physical—they’re existential.
Each comes with its own rules and ways to instill dread, offering a wide range of experiences that challenge your skillset and your bravery.
➡️ Moral Dilemmas and Branching Storylines
Traditional RPGs often incorporate ethical choices and branching paths, but these elements take on a darker, more complex hue in a horror setting. Moral dilemmas aren’t about good and evil but survival and sacrifice. Will you save a companion at the risk of alerting the creatures lurking in the shadows? Should you share resources or keep them for your inevitable confrontation with a terrifying boss?
Branching storylines provide replay value and craft a narrative personalized to your actions and choices. Multiple endings, often a staple in RPG horror games, offer rewards or condemnations based on your decisions, forcing you to live with the consequences of your actions.
And now, let’s plunge into the worlds of some of the most intriguing, terrifying, and choice-laden RPG horror games that will keep you up—not just because they are scary, but because they are irresistibly engaging.
Inspired by fairy tales with a dark twist, ALICEMARE is an indie game that draws heavily from “Alice in Wonderland” but adds sinister elements.
Alice Mare uses simple controls and pixel art graphics. Players explore eerie settings, solve puzzles, and make choices influencing the story’s outcome.
You play as Allen, a boy who wakes up in a mysterious facility after escaping an abusive home. As you navigate through your psychological fears and interact with other kids in the facility, the lines between reality and the surreal blur.
Release Date: November 22, 2016
➡️ Check it out on Steam.
Crafted by the genius minds at FromSoftware and given life by Sony, Bloodborne plunges you into the derelict, Victorian-esque city of Yharnam—a place reeling from a blood-cursed plague that turns its unfortunate residents into terrifying monstrosities.
You take on the role of a Hunter on a chilling quest to unravel Yharnam’s darkest secrets, all while slaying nightmarish creatures and even otherworldly entities. Think of it as a tour of cosmic horror inspired by literary greats like H.P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker but with more swordplay and less poetry.
Your Hunter is yours to customize in this third-person ARPG, letting you battle through a web of enemies ranging from creepy to downright demonic. The game’s arsenal of trick weapons and firearms offers more than just pew-pew action; it’s a masterclass in strategic combat and tactical finesse.
This is no mere hack-and-slash fest; Bloodborne urges you to explore labyrinthine streets and murky corners, engage with enigmatic NPCs, and solve the cryptic puzzles that saturate Yharnam’s Gothic architecture—much of which was drawn from real-world locations in Romania and Czechia. And yes, prepare to face some genuinely hair-raising bosses along your journey.
Developer: FromSoftware Inc.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Dive into the abyss of Darkest Dungeon, a haunting roguelike RPG crafted by the maestros at Red Hook Studios.
Picture this: You’ve just inherited an eerie, gothic mansion, and below it lies a labyrinth of dungeons teeming with all sorts of nightmares. You’re not going alone; you’ll be managing a motley crew of heroes from fifteen different classes, each loaded with unique stats and upgradeable skills.
The gameplay oscillates between real-time exploration and heart-pounding turn-based combat. But the real kicker? Stress. The game slaps you with an Iron Crown—the game’s stress symbol—to keep tabs on your heroes’ sanity (or lack thereof). Their stress meters tick up as they delve deeper, combating foes and facing the unknown. Push too hard, and your heroes could pick up some gnarly afflictions that might mess with their dungeon-crawling game. Or hey, maybe they’ll get an unexpected boost; stress works in mysterious ways.
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Before you head underground, you’ll hang in the Hamlet—think of it as your own personal hero HQ—where you can tweak your roster, stock up, and mentally prepare for the horrors ahead. Remember: If a hero bites the dust down there, they’re gone for good. So tread carefully in this emotional and strategic rollercoaster of a game that keeps you on the edge of your seat, gripping your controller and questioning your choices.
Developer: Red Hook Studios, Sickhead Games
Publisher: Red Hook Studios, Merge Games
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Dead Space 3
Dead Space 3 is a sci-fi survival horror masterpiece with gamers on the edge of their seats. Brought to life by Visceral Games and dished out by Electronic Arts, this 2013 gem was designed for the PS3, Windows, and Xbox 360 and marked the spine-tingling conclusion of the epic Dead Space trilogy.
You’re in the boots of Isaac Clarke, your average space engineer turned Necromorph-slaying bad*ss. With a ragtag team, you’ll journey to the icy wastelands of Tau Volantis on a mission to unravel the dark mysteries behind the terrifying Necromorph epidemic. Oh, and watch out for those Unitologists. They could be more friendly.
Prepare to immerse yourself in a riveting storyline filled with jaw-dropping missions, mind-bending puzzles, and hair-raising monsters. Did we mention Necromorphs? These nightmarish creatures are your neighbors from hell and are not alone. Say hello to John Carver if you join the game’s online co-op mode. Oh, and did we also mention that this is one of the best co-op horror games available today?
But this isn’t just your run-of-the-mill shooter; Dead Space 3 offers a new level of interactivity. You’ll scale ladders, rappel down cliffs, and even take a breather in outer space. You’ve got limited air, so stay aware of the celestial view.
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Prey shines like a supernova in the galaxy of FPS games. Imagine a world where the Space Race didn’t just put a man on the moon; it catapulted humanity straight into orbital living. That’s the universe of “Prey”, where you step into the space boots of Morgan Yu. You’re not just orbiting Earth — you’re on Talos I, a space station hanging out near Earth–Moon L2, with a mission to study the Typhon. These aren’t your garden-variety aliens; they’re an evil force of shape-shifters with psychic chops to match their physical prowess.
But what happens when your extraterrestrial lab rats break out of their cosmic cage? Chaos, that’s what. Armed with a mixed bag of human and Typhon-inspired weapons, you’ll need to outwit, outgun, and outlive these alien nightmares while you figure out how to peace out of Talos I. And this isn’t some linear tour through the cosmos. The game evolves as you do, giving you keys to new areas as you level up your skills. It’s an open-world smorgasbord that blends elements of RPGs, stealth games, immersive sims, and Metroidvanias into one delicious gameplay casserole.
When you choose Morgan’s gender and make your first game-altering decision, “Prey” becomes a personalized space odyssey. Your mission? Survive. How? By scavenging the station for resources and blasting Typhon into stardust. So, strap in and get ready to play god, hero, and maybe even a little bit of villain all in one. Welcome to “Prey”, where the only thing sure is uncertainty.
Developer: Arkane Austin
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: May 5, 2017
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
Step inside S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the cult video game that reimagines Chernobyl as a Spooky, Post-Apocalyptic Playground.
Imagine this: You’re wandering through an eerily realistic rendition of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, except it’s not precisely the Chernobyl you know from history. Welcome to S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl, a 2007 masterpiece that mixes first-person shooting with survival horror and a splash of RPG elements.
The game plunges you into an alternative reality where Chernobyl faced a second, inexplicable disaster. Yeah, you heard that right. This “Zone”, stretching over a fictional 30 square kilometers, is teeming with mutated wildlife, bizarre physics, and enough radiation to make a Geiger counter do the cha-cha.
Ever wondered what it’s like to have amnesia in a post-apocalyptic wasteland? You’ll take on the role of the “Marked One,” an enigmatic character hunting down the elusive Strelok within this forbidden land. Your mission? Navigate ethical quandaries, trade goods, and engage in two-way chit-chat with other characters while doing your best to stay alive.
The creators didn’t just conjure this world from thin air; they borrowed some of their gritty lexicon and atmospherics from the novella “Roadside Picnic” and the haunting film adaptation “Stalker”. For all you sticklers for accuracy, S.T.A.L.K.E.R’s Zone even tips its hat to real-world geography — albeit with some artistic tweaks. Think of Pripyat, but situated just a bit differently than its real-life counterpart, teeming with in-game reimaginings of actual landmarks.
And get this: “Stalkers” isn’t just game lingo. It was initially used to describe the brave souls who explored the heart of the actual Chernobyl sarcophagus in 1986. Summing up, this is one of the best horror games on Steam, even though it’s been available for over a decade.
Developer: GSC Game World
Release Date: 20 March 2007
➡️ Check it out on Steam.
System Shock 2
Ready for a time-warp that’ll make you question if Y2K ever happened? System Shock 2 is an iconic 1999 game with gamers clutching their joysticks in existential dread. The twist? This wasn’t supposed to be a sequel. But hey, when Electronic Arts rolls in with the rights to the System Shock universe, you pivot and make narrative magic happen.
You’re floating through 2114’s cyberpunk-tinged cosmos aboard a starship where a gene-altering infection has unleashed utter chaos. You? It’s just a soldier trying to play hero by keeping this genetic apocalypse at bay. No biggie. The gameplay is like the lovechild of an action RPG and a survival horror movie—first-person combat meets skill-building in a world where hacking and psionic powers are as commonplace as caffeine addiction in a startup.
Like the OG System Shock, the sequel fuses high-octane action with a dose of spine-chilling horror, all in first-person perspective. But it’s not just a shoot-em-up fest. The devs blended in RPG elements—think character customization and skill development—that add depth and nuance to the experience. So, relive the nostalgia—or experience it for the first time. Either way, System Shock 2 is the retro-futuristic thrill ride you didn’t know you needed.
Developer: Irrational Games, Looking Glass Studios, Nightdive Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts, Nightdive Studios
Release Date: August 11, 1999
➡️ Check it out on Steam.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
You’re walking through the moonlit streets of early 21st-century Los Angeles. You’re not human anymore—a newly minted vampire catapulted into the grim, stylish world of White Wolf Publishing’s World of Darkness. Welcome to Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. This 2004 cult classic video game had players questing to solve the mystery of a world-ending relic while adjusting to their blood-sucking new lifestyle.
You see the world through your choice of first- or third-person eyes, and you’re not just any generic vamp. Bloodlines offers an array of vampiric clans to join, from the brute-force Brujah to the opulent Toreadors. Your line of choice affects your vampiric skills and how the world reacts to you. Interactions aren’t just a dialogue box—they’re a multi-pronged narrative playground where you can play it cool or raise hell. Beyond the main plot, you’re free to prowl around LA hubs like Santa Monica and Chinatown, diving into side quests to your cold heart’s content.
Years later, Bloodlines’ reputation remains as immortal as its characters, adored by fans for its narrative complexity and freedom of choice. And they haven’t just sat back—the community has kept the game alive with unofficial patches and bonus content. On the horizon? A sequel, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, promises to bring players back into the dark, captivating world they fell in love with.
So if you’re down for a supernatural romp that’s equal parts stylish and substantive, it might be time to revisit—or discover—Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. Because some stories, like vampires, refuse to die.
Developer: Troika Games
Release Date: November 16, 2004
The Evil Within 2
The Evil Within 2 isn’t just another run-of-the-mill fright fest; it’s a layered, psychological journey designed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Released in 2017, this beast serves as the spine-chilling sequel to the 2014 hit, “The Evil Within”.
The game’s visuals and atmospheric gameplay are pure gold. You jump back into the twisted world of Union as you don the detective hat of Sebastian Castellanos on a desperate quest to rescue his daughter, Lily. Choose your pain from five distinct difficulty modes—whether you’re a casual gamer (shoutout to producer Shinji Mikami for the rec) or a masochist eager to relive the previous game’s challenge, there’s a nightmare setting just for you.
One-upping its predecessor, the game now offers expansive maps and a nifty tool called “The Communicator” to guide you through the hellish terrain. It highlights objectives, resources, and the scary dudes you’ll inevitably face. Side quests? Check. Resource scouting? Double-check. Choose your own terrifying adventure as you decide whether to go in guns blazing or take the stealthy route to avoid detection.
The game’s crafting system is a resource hoarder’s dream. Pick up crafting materials throughout Union to create handy items like ammo because you’ll need all the help you can get. Crafting’s more efficient at a workbench, but hey, you do you. Let’s not forget the customization system: Use Green Gel to pimp out Sebastian’s abilities across categories like health, stealth, combat, and more.
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass
Imagine a game where your strengths aren’t just about brute force but also how well you can walk a mile in a monster’s… tentacles? Enter “Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass“, a JRPG that’s as much about emotional intelligence as it is about grinding stats. In this labyrinthine world, Jimmy, our uber-empathetic protagonist, flexes his emotional muscles by literally becoming the creatures he encounters. Yep, your monster foes are basically your skill tree.
In gameplay terms, these monsters act like diverse character classes. Switch between them to overcome that creepy maze or totally dominate in battles. And oh boy, these classes can level up. Imagine gaining skills from a Fire Elemental and using them as a Human Knight. Talk about cross-training!
While its pixel aesthetic gives off “Earthbound” vibes, don’t get it twisted—this game is its own brand of strange. Sure, there’s humor, but this is a heady mix of charm, soul-searching, and, yes, horror. Since you’re deep-diving into Jimmy’s imagination, expect mood swings in the scenery—from candy-cute to bone-chilling in a snap. Get ready for a wild ride through the corridors of a vividly imaginative, and occasionally terrifying, young mind. This is a Japanese horror game that you don’t want to miss!
Developer: Kasey Ozymy
Publisher: Kasey Ozymy
Release Date: August 7, 2018
➡️ Check it out on Steam.
In the sprawling universe of RPG horror games, it’s not just about the thrills and chills. Think you’ve seen it all? Then you haven’t wandered through Alicemare’s nightmarish, pixel-art labyrinths or clashed swords with Bloodborne’s grotesque, Lovecraft-inspired monsters. But hold up—these games aren’t just your garden-variety scare fests. Whether you’re unpacking the emotional baggage in the deeply human story of Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass, or navigating the murky moral waters of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, be prepared for an experience that goes beyond the typical jump-out-of-your-seat moments.
These titles offer intricate decision trees, multi-layered narratives, and gameplay mechanics that’ll haunt your thoughts long after you hit the ‘power off’ button. In a nutshell? These aren’t just games; they’re full-on emotional odysseys that redefine what the RPG horror genre can do.
Can’t handle the jumpscares alone? Check out our list of the best multiplayer horror games to share the scares with a friend!