Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

The world of gaming has come a long way since its inception, and horror games have played a significant role in its evolution. With the increasing popularity of horror games, it’s natural to wonder, what was the first horror game? This question has been debated among gamers and historians for years, and the answer is not as straightforward as one might think. Join us as we delve into the origins of supernatural horror games and unravel the mystery behind the first horror game.

Quick Answer:
The origins of supernatural horror games can be traced back to the early 1980s with the release of the game “Haunted House” for the Atari 2600. This game was one of the first to incorporate elements of horror and suspense into a video game format, and it laid the foundation for the development of future horror games. However, it is worth noting that other games, such as “Halloween” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” were also released around the same time and could be considered among the first horror games. Nevertheless, “Haunted House” remains a significant milestone in the history of supernatural horror games and continues to influence the genre to this day.

The Emergence of Horror Games

Early Atmospheric Games That Paved the Way

Mystery House (1973)

  • The game that started it all: Mystery House, released in 1973, was one of the first text-based adventure games to incorporate elements of horror.
  • Players explored a haunted mansion, solving puzzles and uncovering a sinister backstory as they progressed through the game.
  • Its focus on creating a creepy atmosphere and building tension through environmental storytelling laid the foundation for future horror games.

The Haunted House (1972)

  • The Haunted House, released in 1972, was another early text-based horror game that predated Mystery House.
  • Players navigated a haunted house, encountering various supernatural entities and solving puzzles to progress through the game.
  • The game’s focus on creating a frightening atmosphere and introducing players to classic horror tropes, such as ghosts and monsters, made it a pioneering title in the genre.

Other Early Text-Based Horror Games

  • In the early days of gaming, several other text-based horror games emerged, such as the infamous “Stalker” series, which was later adapted into the popular game “S.T.A.L.K.E.R.”.
  • These games were often experimental and relied heavily on text-based descriptions and player imagination to create a sense of dread and suspense.
  • While not as polished or refined as modern horror games, these early titles paved the way for the development of the genre and influenced many of the horror games that followed.

The Rise of Survival Horror Games

The rise of survival horror games marked a significant turning point in the evolution of the horror genre in video games. This subgenre, characterized by a focus on exploration, resource management, and psychological terror, emerged in the early 1990s and gained widespread popularity over the following decade.

Resident Evil (1996)

One of the most influential survival horror games, Resident Evil was developed and published by Capcom. Released in 1996 for the PlayStation, it introduced players to the desolate mansion of the Umbrella Corporation, where they faced hordes of undead creatures and a mysterious virus known as the T-Virus. The game’s atmosphere of dread and tension was enhanced by its emphasis on resource management, limited ammunition, and the need to conserve items for survival.

Silent Hill (1999)

Another groundbreaking survival horror game, Silent Hill was developed by Konami and released in 1999 for the PlayStation. The game follows the story of Harry Mason, who searches for his missing daughter in the haunted town of Silent Hill. The game’s oppressive atmosphere and psychological horror were enhanced by its eerie soundtrack and unsettling imagery, as well as its emphasis on puzzle-solving and exploration.

Other Notable Survival Horror Games

In addition to Resident Evil and Silent Hill, several other notable survival horror games emerged during this period, including:

  • Alone in the Dark (1992) – Developed by Infogrames, this game is often credited as the first survival horror game, featuring exploration, puzzle-solving, and a mix of supernatural and horror elements.
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997) – Though not strictly a survival horror game, this action-adventure game from Konami featured horror elements and a gothic setting, with players controlling vampire hunter Alucard as they explored Dracula’s castle.
  • Resident Evil 2 (1998) – The sequel to Resident Evil, this game further refined the survival horror formula, with improved graphics, a new cast of characters, and an expanded world to explore.
  • Fatal Frame (2001) – Developed by Tecmo, this game focused on a photographer battling malevolent spirits using an antique camera, and featured a unique gameplay mechanic where players had to manage film and battery supplies.

These games, among others, paved the way for the popularity of survival horror games in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with their emphasis on fear, atmosphere, and resource management.

The Evolution of Supernatural Horror Games

Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010)

Amnesia: The Dark Descent, developed by Frictional Games, marked a significant turning point in the evolution of supernatural horror games. Released in 2010, the game was a first-person survival horror experience that utilized a unique approach to gameplay mechanics. Instead of relying on combat or weapons, players were required to navigate through a series of dark and eerie environments while evading supernatural entities known as the “Old Ones.” The game’s focus on atmospheric tension and psychological horror elements, combined with its innovative use of sanity mechanics, set a new standard for supernatural horror games to come.

Outlast (2013)

In 2013, Red Barrels Studios introduced Outlast, a first-person survival horror game that continued the evolution of supernatural horror games. Outlast focused on a journalist who infiltrates a mysterious and foreboding asylum, only to discover that its patients possess supernatural abilities. The game’s unique selling point was its focus on stealth and evasion gameplay, forcing players to rely on their wits and resourcefulness to avoid encounters with the malevolent entities that inhabited the asylum. Outlast’s immersive atmosphere, chilling sound design, and unsettling narrative further cemented the popularity of supernatural horror games in the industry.

The Binding of Isaac (2011)

The Binding of Isaac, developed by Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl, is another notable addition to the evolution of supernatural horror games. Released in 2011, the game follows a young boy named Isaac as he navigates through a series of randomly generated levels filled with grotesque creatures and dark humor. The game’s randomly generated nature, combined with its permadeath mechanic, created a sense of unpredictability and challenge that appealed to players seeking a unique and unsettling gaming experience. The Binding of Isaac’s distinctive visual style, dark humor, and challenging gameplay mechanics have since become staples of the supernatural horror genre.

The Debate Over the First Horror Game

Contenders for the Title of First Horror Game

#1: The Curse of the Black Death (1987)

The Curse of the Black Death, released in 1987, is considered by some to be the first horror game. Developed by Horrorsoft Ltd. and published by Mythos Games, this text-based adventure game takes place in a plague-stricken medieval Europe. Players assume the role of a knight tasked with finding a cure for the Black Death. The game’s atmospheric descriptions and emphasis on survival horror elements make it a strong contender for the title of first horror game.

#2: Haunted House (1982)

Haunted House, released in 1982, is another game that has been suggested as the first horror game. Developed by Atari and designed by Steve Cartwright, Haunted House is a single-player, maze-based game in which players must navigate through a haunted house to reach the final goal. While not as overtly terrifying as some later horror games, Haunted House is considered significant due to its influence on the development of the genre.

#3: Maze of the King (1982)

Maze of the King, also released in 1982, is another contender for the title of first horror game. Developed by Coleco Industries and designed by Parker Brothers, this text-based adventure game follows the story of a knight attempting to rescue a princess from a monster-filled maze. While not as graphically advanced as later horror games, Maze of the King is notable for its emphasis on atmosphere and suspense, which have become staples of the horror game genre.

Analyzing the Criteria for a True Horror Game

When it comes to identifying the first horror game, there is much debate among industry experts and gamers alike. While some argue that the first horror game was Alice in 1976, others contend that the title should go to Halloween in 1978. In order to determine which game should be considered the first true horror game, it is necessary to establish a set of criteria to measure against.

Atmosphere and Suspense

One key aspect of a horror game is its ability to create a tense and eerie atmosphere that immerses the player in a world of fear. Both Alice and Halloween feature dark and foreboding environments that are designed to unsettle the player, but it is Halloween that truly excels in this area. With its haunting soundtrack and atmospheric lighting, Halloween creates a sense of dread that is unmatched by its predecessor.

Supernatural Elements

Another defining characteristic of a horror game is the presence of supernatural elements, such as ghosts, monsters, and other creatures that go bump in the night. While both Alice and Halloween feature supernatural elements, Halloween again comes out on top with its iconic image of the unstoppable masked killer. This terrifying figure has become synonymous with the horror genre and is a testament to the lasting impact of Halloween on the world of gaming.

Player Engagement and Fear

Finally, a true horror game must be able to engage the player and elicit a sense of fear and terror. In this regard, both Alice and Halloween have their strengths, but Halloween is once again the clear winner. With its innovative gameplay mechanics and ability to keep players on the edge of their seats, Halloween has remained a fan favorite for decades.

In conclusion, while Alice may have been the first game to incorporate horror elements, it is Halloween that is widely regarded as the first true horror game. With its chilling atmosphere, supernatural elements, and engaging gameplay, Halloween has left an indelible mark on the world of gaming and continues to influence the horror genre to this day.


1. What is considered the first horror game?

The first horror game is often considered to be “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,” which was released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64 console. While not specifically a horror game, the game features dark and eerie environments, as well as frightening enemies and bosses.

2. When was the first survival horror game released?

The first survival horror game was “Haunted House” released in 1982 for the Atari 2600 console. The game was developed by programmer Warren Robinett and was one of the first games to incorporate elements of horror and suspense.

3. What was the first horror game to use 3D graphics?

The first horror game to use 3D graphics was “Doom,” which was released in 1993 for PC. The game featured cutting-edge 3D graphics and allowed players to explore a demon-infested military base from a first-person perspective.

4. Who created the first horror game?

The first horror game was created by Warren Robinett, an American video game programmer. He developed the game “Haunted House” in 1982 for the Atari 2600 console.

5. What was the first horror game to be released on home consoles?

The first horror game to be released on home consoles was “House of Horror” for the Magnavox Odyssey, which was released in 1973. The game was one of the first video games to be released and featured a haunted house theme.


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