8 Tricks Horror Video Games Use To Terrify You

These sneaky tricks get us every time.

Resident evil 2

When it comes to creating a horror video game, there are numerous factors that can separate a good game from a truly great one. The narrative, voice acting, art design, music and gameplay are all vital components in immersing us within the game, and keeping us invested in their narratives for dozens of hours.

But all of the hard work that's been poured in to making the game by teams of developers ultimately counts for nothing if the final product isn't scary.

Horror has been part of our culture for centuries, with the craft of scaring audiences being honed over decades of literature and cinema alike.

It's no surprise then, that video games have learned a trick or two when it comes to terrify those willing to face their fears - ever since Alone In The Dark hit the scene back in 1992.

Paving the way for interactive horror as we know it today, that was just the beginning, and despite how familiar we may be with these scare tactics, when done well they can be incredibly effective.

8. Limiting Your Vision

Resident evil 2
Red Barrels

Being confronted by monsters on the big and small screen is never a pleasant experience, but it's often what we don't see that scares us the most. Whether it's Lovecraft's cosmic terrors or sounds of unseen horrors offscreen, the fear of the unknown and its ability to generate suspense often proves to be the most effective way of scaring us.

A key way developers replicate this is by severely limiting what players see onscreen at any given time. In the early days of Silent Hill and Resident Evil, this was accomplished with fixed-camera angles which made walking down a corridor a nerve-wracking experience as we were never sure what was lurking just out of shot.

In modern games, however, the fixed-camera has been substituted for the first-person perspective of Outlast, Amnesia, and Alien: Isolation. While players can control the camera here, only a fraction of the environment is ever framed - something made more frightening when a measly flashlight further restricts what's visible.

Even non-horror games like Subnautica can transform into nightmares when hundreds of meters of darkness is all that separates you from a hungry leviathan.

By keeping players in the dark (literally), horror video games can generate constant suspense.


Glasgow-based cinephile who earned a Master's degree in film studies to spend their time writing about cinema, video games, and horror.