Role-playing horror games are an undeservedly niche genre. Probably because combining the confidence-boosting treasure-hunter bliss of RPGs with the ominous tension of horror is a difficult marriage to pull off. Hence, games that manage to combine both elements with care usually come out as timeless masterpieces whose brilliance might never get replicated (save for a certain game with "souls" in its name that's featured here).
In any case, finding RPG horror games that are of Triple-A quality or at least close can be a grueling task. So, we've searched far and wide to bring you the best in RPG horror. Of course, they're not as scary as dedicated horror genre games, but they sure as heck are more replayable.
Updated February 10, 2023 by Keitha Sims-Korba: As long as we have controllers, we will have horror games. With the recent release of the Dead Space remake and the promise of Silent Hill 2 and Resident Evil 4 remakes, along with a new entry in the Amnesia series on the horizon, horror is back in a big way. With that in mind, we've updated this list to include a few more RPG-adjacent horror titles to make you shudder in anticipation…and dread, of course.
15 Pathologic 2
The plague is here, and it is so very, very hungry. Pathologic 2 is a symphony of conflicting genres, from immersive sim to RPG to survival horror. You are stranded in a small, remote village that has been overtaken by a sickness that blots out the sky and sucks all the warmth out of the world.
The horror elements of Pathologic are subdued, but it would be lying to call them subtle. Dread in Pathologic comes from human problems – everything is scarce and morals must be bent to get what you need. You're not scared in Pathologic because of the otherworldly elements – you're afraid because you become someone different when you play.
You move through the world like a shadow of your former self, driven by an unholy hunger and, perhaps paradoxically, your innate desire to do good. Vampyr has you trekking through dreary London streets, haunted by illnesses and the late stages of the first World War. Yet, even you, a creature of the night, will feel that palpable terror in the marrow of your bones.
Vampyr's characters and stories reflect your choices from beginning to end. Districts can fall into disrepair and vampiric violence if you give in to your thirst too often – any and every target can be more than they seem. You're the monster here, in the literal sense of the word. But you don't have to be the thing that lurks in the dark.
Arkane Studios loves an immersive sim RPG with a little eldritch edge, and Prey is no exception. High in the sky, far from the dredges of reality on Earth, orbits Talos 1, a mid-century modern space station. It's here where TranStar has built its science and testing station for a product that interfaces with a user's brain… and uses aliens called the Typhon to give users psychic powers.
Of course, everything breaks bad; what else did you expect? As Morgan Yu, you will navigate through Talos 1 after a calamity. The storyline reacts to your actions, and Morgan's skill set is fully customizable. The Typhon are always near and can appear as innocuous as a coffee mug – remember, safety first.
When you first play Omori, you may think something so cute and nostalgic couldn't be frightening. You may feel something uneasy beneath your skin, but you'll brush it off as quickly as it appears.
Omori is a game that embraces dread. It relies on its surreal setting and slowly unfurling psychological horror story, centering on a boy called Sunny. That, coupled with a soft pastel palette and gameplay that harkens back to the simplicity of RPGs on the SNES, makes for an uncanny experience.
11 Dead Space (2023)
Isaac Clarke is not having a good day. Dead Space's 2023 remake takes everything that made the first game jaw-droppingly terrifying and ramps it up a few notches – with no escape from its constant tension.
With better graphics and tighter design, you can expect to be frozen in fear more than once. Customizable and upgradable weapons allow you to play your way, and the open exploration gives you some breathing room – just don't get comfortable. Ever.
10 Dark Souls Series
You're probably already sick of hearing about this series whenever someone asks for horror; well, too bad because the Dark Souls franchise is one of the most horrific RPGs ever made. While the brand of horror here is more slow-burn dread than in-your-face jump-scares (though there are some of those as well), the foreboding atmosphere and creepy creature design are undeniably there.
In all three Dark Soulsgames, there is a constant fear of getting squashed to paste and losing your hard-earned currency. That may happen so many times that the fear factor dissipates and is slowly replaced with infantile rage. Still, nothing comes close to the feeling of despair and hopelessness upon seeing a boss execute its most disgusting kill combo against you.
If Dark Souls' horror elements are too soft-core for you, then you might want to look at its more terrifying cousin, Bloodborne from the same developers. It has the same formula but takes place in a fictional Victorian era plagued by Lovecraftian monsters and mythos. As you can imagine, the creature design here is the stuff of nightmares…if a high-fever delirium accompanied the nightmare.
It's a game you really shouldn't miss if you've been a longtime fan of Lovecraft. There aren't many games that successfully translate that kind of horror, either. Even some fans of the Souls-like genre consider Bloodborne better than Dark Souls. Getting your hands on Bloodborne, however, might be more difficult as it's a console-exclusive game.
8 The Evil Within 2
The Evil Within 2 has proven itself to be a worthy successor to the first game. The series was somewhat successful at rivaling the Resident Evil franchise. In any case, it's more horror than RPG, so don't go in as a hardcore RPG fan expecting some deep customization and character development. Most of what The Evil Within 2 has are RPG elements, and at times, those can even feel tacked on.
However, that provides a nice change of pace and offers more freedom than games like Resident Evil. Your character, Sebastian Castellanos, can be upgraded and has some specialized skill sets you can develop for a specific playstyle. Weapon variety is also commendable, and you'll certainly start feeling more powerful (or less helpless) as you progress into the game.
7 Dead Space 3
The preceding Dead Space games were flag bearers of the horror genre and were unique in their own right. They became so much more than just Resident Evil in space, and were even popular enough to get a third title. Even so, the third game, Dead Space 3 is notably a weaker entry than its predecessors. It introduced a new progression system to its aging mission structure and incorporated more RPG elements.
On top of that, there are also optional side missions in the game that can distract you from the main story. What really does scream 'RPG' in Dead Space 3 is the modularity of the guns. Your arsenal has been expanded, and you can even do some crafting to make hybrid versions of your default weapons. It's arguably the third game's greatest advantage over the first two.
6 Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
There's no doubting the horror elements of this one; it's written in the name. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a classic from 2004 but was revolutionary back when it was released. Still, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is more of a traditional RPG than a horror game. You get to customize your character's stats at the character creation and even pick your vampire clan.
There's also lots of dialogue in between the action and your choices matter more than most games on this list. It's a true RPG alright. There is, however, at least one guaranteed spot in the game called the Ocean House Hotel which can quickly change the tone and make you feel like the prey instead of a bloodsucking predator. It's a ghost hotel that's better if you experience by yourself.
5 System Shock 2
The first System Shock game shook the gaming industry to its core and eventually led to the creation of some spiritual successors, like Bioshock. Point is, it's a masterpiece and was certainly ahead of its time. System Shock 2 follows it up with awesome additions to the core gameplay.
System Shock 2 incorporates certain RPG elements such as skills and character progression through stats but it's still mostly a horror and survival first-person shooter (FPS). Nevertheless, it's a worthy follow-up to the cyberpunk legacy that System Shockcreated. If you can stomach the heavily outdated graphics, it's worth giving a try.
4 Stalker Series
Here we have another hybrid survival FPS game that, to this day, has never been successfully recreated: the Stalker games. Clear Sky, Shadow of Chernobyl, or Call of Pripyat: no matter which game you play among these three, you'll surely have a unique experience. The Stalker games have successfully interwoven survival, RPG, FPS, and horror elements into one package (albeit a buggy one).
You play as a lone Stalker in the Zone, a quarantined area made desolate because of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. You'll have to do your best to scavenge gear, improve your stats, and discover the secrets of the Zone – maybe even reach the fabled ground zero where an entity who grants wishes resides. There's nothing quite like these games, despite them having existed for more than a decade.
Since horror RPG games are not a very popular combination of genres for gaming, not many mainstream or Triple-A developers make them. So it's up to indie studios to fill in that void and one of the best indie games in this genre mishmash is Darkwood. You play it from a top-down perspective, but it's every bit as immersive as most horror games.
The RPG elements are quite simple, but they work well to support the game's survival aspect. There's also a crafting system to keep the monsters out. Even the premise is simple: the woods are creepy, dark, and deep (sorry Robert Frost); so you do your best to explore and survive the place while finding some weapons and tools to aid yourself.
2 Parasite Eve Series
Leave it to Japanese developers to invent some hybrid games that actually work. What would the gaming industry do without them? Anyway, the Parasite Eve games are one of our best choices to recommend for anyone looking for that harmonic horror RPG experience. It's made by Square (that figures) and thrusts the NYPD rookie named Aya Brea, the player character, into a mutant apocalypse in motion.
The gameplay is turn-based for the first game while the sequel revamps it in real-time. As with most Square games, intricate and serviceable RPG elements are present but in no way does Parasite Eve skimp on the horror aspects. In fact, it might have even worked without the RPG elements. The unique gameplay and the interesting ideas of Parasite Eve games alone make them worth playing.
1 Darkest Dungeon
We mentioned earlier that Lovecraftian horror games are too few, right? That's what makes the handful of them all the more memorable. Darkest Dungeon, in that matter, is a shining diamond. It takes the good old-fashioned dungeon crawling and turn-based combat and added a dash of madness and masochism to it.
The result is one of the most difficult and nerve-wracking horror RPG games ever. It might even be harder than Dark Soulsor Bloodborne. You have to manage your adventurers' stress levels and the fact that they're all disposable no matter how much you value them. Oh, and you also frequently deal with freaky Lovecraftian monsters who love to lurk in ambush in every nook and cranny of the titular Darkest Dungeon.
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