Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Supernatural horror games have been captivating gamers for decades, leaving them with a sense of fear, suspense, and adrenaline rush. But what exactly makes a game a horror game? Is it the blood-curdling screams, the creepy atmospheres, or the jump scares? In this article, we will delve into the elements that define supernatural horror games and what sets them apart from other genres. Get ready to unveil the dark essence of horror gaming as we explore the world of supernatural horror games.

What Makes a Game a Horror Game?

Atmosphere and Ambiance

The defining elements of supernatural horror games often lie in their ability to create a palpable atmosphere and ambiance that draws players into a world of dread and terror. Achieving this sense of dread requires careful consideration of various aspects of game design, including the use of sound and music, the employment of light and shadow, and the creation of a narrative that reinforces the game’s dark themes.

The Use of Sound and Music

Sound and music play a crucial role in establishing the atmosphere of a horror game. In many cases, the use of sound effects and music is used to create a sense of unease and tension, with eerie whispers, creaking floorboards, and haunting melodies all contributing to the game’s overall atmosphere. In some cases, the music is used to punctuate specific moments of horror, such as the sudden appearance of a monster or the discovery of a gruesome scene. By carefully orchestrating the use of sound and music, game designers can create a sense of dread that follows players throughout the game, making every movement and action feel like it could trigger a terrifying event.

The Employment of Light and Shadow

Light and shadow are also critical elements in creating the desired atmosphere of a horror game. Darkness and shadows can be used to create a sense of uncertainty and fear, as players are never quite sure what lies hidden in the shadows. This uncertainty is heightened by the use of flickering lights, which can create an unsettling atmosphere and make it difficult for players to see what is happening around them. Additionally, the use of light can be used to draw attention to specific areas or objects, creating a sense of anticipation and dread.

In summary, the atmosphere and ambiance of a supernatural horror game are critical in creating a sense of dread and terror. The use of sound and music, as well as the employment of light and shadow, can all contribute to a game’s overall atmosphere, making it a truly terrifying experience for players.

Supernatural Elements

Ghosts and Hauntings

Supernatural horror games often involve ghosts and hauntings as a central element in their narrative. Ghosts, in particular, have been a staple of horror stories for centuries, and their presence in video games adds a sense of eeriness and unpredictability to the gameplay. These apparitions can be used to create jump scares, manipulate the environment, or interact with the player in various ways, adding to the overall fear factor of the game. Hauntings, on the other hand, can create a more atmospheric and unsettling experience, with the player being stalked by malevolent spirits or being trapped in a haunted location.

Vampires and Lycanthropes

Another popular supernatural element in horror games are vampires and lycanthropes. These creatures are often portrayed as powerful and terrifying foes, capable of incredible feats of strength and agility. Vampires, in particular, have become a cultural icon, and their presence in horror games adds a sense of nostalgia and familiarity to the gameplay. Lycanthropes, on the other hand, are often depicted as savage and uncontrollable, making them a formidable enemy for the player to face.

Demons and Possession

Demons and possession are also common supernatural elements in horror games. Demons are often depicted as evil and malevolent beings, capable of immense power and manipulation. They can be used to create a sense of dread and hopelessness in the player, as they are often portrayed as unstoppable forces of evil. Possession, on the other hand, can create a sense of vulnerability and paranoia in the player, as they never know when or where they might be possessed. This element can also be used to create jump scares and unexpected plot twists, adding to the overall horror of the game.

Psychological Fear Factors

Psychological fear factors play a significant role in defining supernatural horror games. These elements are designed to trigger primal fears and anxieties within the player, creating a sense of unease and dread. Here are some of the key psychological fear factors that contribute to the horror experience in video games:

Paranoia and Isolation

Paranoia and isolation are two psychological fear factors that are commonly used in supernatural horror games. These elements create a sense of vulnerability and fear in the player, as they are forced to navigate through a hostile environment with limited resources and support. The isolation factor can be heightened by depriving the player of any form of communication with the outside world, making them feel completely alone and defenseless. This sense of isolation can be intensified by adding hostile creatures or enemies that lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce on the player at any moment.

Uncertainty and Ambiguity

Uncertainty and ambiguity are two psychological fear factors that create a sense of unease and apprehension in the player. These elements are often used to build tension and suspense, as the player is never quite sure what is lurking around the next corner. The uncertainty factor can be achieved by withholding information from the player, creating a sense of mystery and intrigue. Ambiguity, on the other hand, can be used to create a sense of confusion and disorientation, making it difficult for the player to distinguish between reality and illusion. This can lead to a breakdown in the player’s sense of trust, as they are no longer sure what to believe or who to trust.

Suspense and Tension

Suspense and tension are two psychological fear factors that are closely related to uncertainty and ambiguity. These elements are used to create a sense of anticipation and fear in the player, as they are constantly waiting for something to happen. Suspense can be achieved by creating a sense of danger or threat, while tension can be built by increasing the player’s heart rate and blood pressure. This can be done by using sound effects, music, and visual cues to create a sense of dread and foreboding. By using these psychological fear factors, supernatural horror games are able to create a terrifying and immersive experience that can leave players feeling both exhilarated and terrified.

Supernatural Horror Games: Subgenres and Examples

Survival Horror

Resident Evil Series

The Resident Evil series, created by Capcom, is a prominent example of survival horror games. This franchise, which began in 1996, has since spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, and remakes. The series has become synonymous with the survival horror genre, offering players a mix of suspense, exploration, and action-oriented gameplay.

Silent Hill Series

Another notable survival horror series is Silent Hill, created by Konami. Launched in 1999, the series has produced several mainline installments and spin-offs, with its latest entry being Silent Hill: Shattered Memories in 2009. Silent Hill is known for its psychological horror themes, intricate storytelling, and atmospheric environments that immerse players in a world of darkness and dread.

Cosmic Horror

Cosmic horror is a subgenre of supernatural horror games that focuses on the incomprehensible and unknowable aspects of the universe. It delves into the mysteries of the cosmos and the ancient, otherworldly forces that lie just beyond the veil of human understanding. This subgenre often features dark, Lovecraftian themes and is characterized by its sense of dread and helplessness.


  • Title: Bloodborne
  • Developer: FromSoftware
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
  • Release Date: March 24, 2015

Bloodborne is a third-person action game set in a Gothic, Lovecraftian world. Players assume the role of a Hunter, exploring the decrepit city of Yharnam and battling grotesque creatures known as “Bloodborne.” The game’s story revolves around the player’s search for the source of the city’s enigmatic epidemic, delving deeper into the cosmic horrors that lie beneath.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

  • Title: Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
  • Developer: Darkworks
  • Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox, Windows
  • Release Date: October 30, 2005

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a first-person horror game based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The game follows the story of a private investigator who is drawn into a dark and mysterious conspiracy, uncovering the truth behind the ancient, cosmic horrors that threaten humanity’s very existence.

Psychological Horror

Outlast Series

  • Developer: Red Barrels
  • Release Date: 2013 – Present
  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
  • Gameplay: First-person perspective, Survival horror
  • Plot: Players assume the role of investigative journalist, Miles Upshur, as he explores a remote, abandoned asylum and encounters its terrifying secrets.
  • Atmosphere: Tension-filled, claustrophobic, and oppressive environment that relies on sound design and subtle storytelling to create an unsettling experience.
  • Themes: Paranoia, isolation, mental illness, and the supernatural.

Until Dawn

  • Developer: Supermassive Games
  • Release Date: 2015
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4
  • Gameplay: Interactive drama, Adventure game
  • Plot: Eight teenagers, including the protagonist, find themselves trapped on a mountain with a killer and must survive until sunrise.
  • Atmosphere: Realistic and immersive, with strong emphasis on character development and decision-making.
  • Themes: Betrayal, fear, and the psychological toll of trauma.

In summary, the psychological horror subgenre of supernatural horror games relies on creating an oppressive atmosphere through tension, fear, and paranoia. The Outlast series and Until Dawn are two examples of games that utilize these elements effectively, immersing players in a realistic or supernatural setting and emphasizing character development and decision-making to create a psychologically terrifying experience.

Gothic Horror

Castlevania Series

The Castlevania series, developed by Konami, is widely regarded as a pioneer in the realm of gothic horror games. Since its debut in 1986, the series has established a distinctive identity that combines classic horror elements with fantastical themes. Players assume the role of vampire hunters, navigating eerie castles and battling supernatural beings, such as Dracula and his minions. The series’ atmosphere is heightened by its use of atmospheric music, unsettling sound effects, and intricate level design, which often involve hidden passages and cryptic puzzles. The Castlevania series is a prime example of how gothic horror elements can be seamlessly integrated into an engaging and immersive gaming experience.

Lamented Souls

Another noteworthy example of gothic horror in gaming is the Lamented Souls series. Developed by Frostborn Games, this series takes place in a dark and foreboding world, where players must navigate a series of haunted castles and crypts. The story follows a protagonist who has been murdered and must seek revenge against their killer, who has risen to power in the dark realm of the undead. The game’s setting is reminiscent of a classic gothic novel, with crumbling castles, twisted forests, and ancient crypts serving as the backdrop for a suspenseful and terrifying journey.

Lamented Souls distinguishes itself through its focus on exploration and discovery, with players uncovering clues and unraveling the mystery behind the protagonist’s murder. The series’ atmospheric sound design and visuals, coupled with its intricate puzzles and challenging combat, create a captivating and immersive experience that resonates with fans of the gothic horror genre. By combining classic horror themes with engaging gameplay mechanics, Lamented Souls demonstrates the enduring appeal of gothic horror in contemporary gaming.

Indie Horror Games

  • The Binding of Isaac
    • A dungeon crawler game developed by Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl.
    • Released in 2011, the game is known for its dark humor, twisted storyline, and challenging gameplay.
    • The player takes on the role of Isaac, a young boy who is on the run from his mother, who believes that God has ordered her to sacrifice him.
    • The game features randomly generated levels, a variety of enemies, and power-ups that players can use to gain an advantage over their foes.
    • The Binding of Isaac has received critical acclaim for its unique gameplay, dark humor, and replayability.
  • Little Nightmares
    • A puzzle-platformer game developed by Tarsier Studios and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment.
    • Released in 2017, the game is known for its eerie atmosphere, beautiful art style, and challenging puzzles.
    • The player takes on the role of a young boy named Six, who is trying to escape from a mysterious underwater facility known as “The Maw.”
    • The game features a variety of enemies, including grotesque creatures known as “The Janitor” and “The Hunter,” who will stop at nothing to capture Six.
    • Little Nightmares has received critical acclaim for its stunning visuals, suspenseful gameplay, and immersive atmosphere.

The Enduring Appeal of Supernatural Horror Games

The supernatural horror genre has been captivating gamers for decades, and its enduring appeal can be attributed to several key factors. One of the primary reasons for its popularity is the unique blend of horror and the supernatural, which allows for an expansive and imaginative storytelling experience.

Additionally, the genre offers a sense of escapism for players, providing a safe outlet for facing their fears and confronting the unknown. Supernatural horror games often evoke a sense of nostalgia for classic horror stories and movies, allowing players to engage with familiar themes and motifs in a new and exciting way.

Furthermore, the dynamic and immersive nature of video games enables players to experience the fear and tension that is often present in supernatural horror stories. The interactivity of games also allows for a more personalized and unique experience, as players can make choices that affect the outcome of the story and their own personal journey.

Overall, the enduring appeal of supernatural horror games lies in their ability to combine elements of horror, the supernatural, and immersive storytelling to create a unique and engaging gaming experience.

The Future of the Genre: Innovations and Trends

  • Innovative Storytelling Techniques
    • Interactive Storytelling: Games that allow players to shape the narrative through their choices, leading to different outcomes and multiple endings.
    • Branching Storylines: Games that present multiple paths for the player to explore, with each path leading to a unique conclusion.
    • Procedural Generation: Games that generate levels and content dynamically, creating a new experience for each player.
  • Emphasis on Psychological Horror: A shift towards games that focus on mental terror and psychological manipulation, rather than relying solely on gore and jump scares.
    • Psychological Thrillers: Games that explore themes of paranoia, identity, and madness, using atmospheric tension and subtle horror elements to unsettle players.
    • Mental Manipulation: Games that play with the player’s mind, using techniques such as Gaslighting, Mind Control, and Cognitive Manipulation to create a disorienting experience.
  • Virtual Reality and Immersive Experiences: The integration of VR technology in supernatural horror games, creating a more immersive and intense experience for players.
    • VR Horror Games: Games designed specifically for VR platforms, such as The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners and The Invisible Man.
    • VR Integration: Games that incorporate VR elements into their gameplay, such as Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and Alien: Isolation.
  • Social Horror and Multiplayer Experiences: The emergence of games that explore horror from a multiplayer perspective, creating a shared experience for players.
    • Online Multiplayer: Games that allow players to work together or compete against each other in a horror setting, such as Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th: The Game.
    • Shared Storytelling: Games that combine multiplayer elements with a narrative-driven experience, such as Until Dawn and Life is Strange.
  • Evolution of Classic Horror Themes: The revival and reinvention of classic horror themes, such as vampires, werewolves, and zombies, with a modern twist.
    • Reinvented Classics: Games that bring back iconic horror monsters and myths, such as Resident Evil Village and Vampyr.
    • New Interpretations: Games that put a fresh spin on classic horror tropes, such as Little Nightmares and The Last of Us Part II.

The Impact of Supernatural Horror Games on Popular Culture

The influence of supernatural horror games on popular culture is vast and multifaceted. These games have not only transcended their original medium but have also made a significant impact on other forms of media, including film, television, and literature. By exploring the various ways in which supernatural horror games have shaped popular culture, we can gain a deeper understanding of their lasting impact on our society.

One of the most notable ways in which supernatural horror games have influenced popular culture is through their inspiration of new horror franchises and films. Many successful horror movies, such as the “Conjuring” series and “The Ring,” have been inspired by popular supernatural horror games, incorporating their signature elements and mechanics into their narratives. Additionally, the success of these games has paved the way for the creation of new horror franchises, such as “Outlast” and “Until Dawn,” which have further expanded the supernatural horror genre in gaming and beyond.

Supernatural horror games have also had a profound impact on the broader gaming industry. These games have challenged traditional gaming conventions and have inspired innovation in game design, pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of storytelling, mechanics, and visuals. As a result, supernatural horror games have helped to establish gaming as a legitimate form of artistic expression, attracting a wider audience and broader critical acclaim.

Moreover, supernatural horror games have played a significant role in shaping our cultural imagination, reflecting and influencing our collective fears and anxieties. These games have provided a platform for exploring and engaging with the darker aspects of the human psyche, offering a safe space for individuals to confront their fears and anxieties in a controlled and manageable environment. In doing so, supernatural horror games have become a reflection of our collective consciousness, offering insight into the cultural, social, and psychological issues that shape our society.

Finally, supernatural horror games have also had a significant impact on the gaming community, fostering a sense of shared experience and community among players. These games have created a space for individuals to come together and share their experiences, creating a sense of camaraderie and shared identity. Additionally, the online communities surrounding supernatural horror games have become hubs for fan creativity, with players creating fan art, fan fiction, and other forms of fan-generated content that expand and enrich the game’s universe.

In conclusion, the impact of supernatural horror games on popular culture is significant and far-reaching. These games have inspired new franchises and films, influenced game design and innovation, shaped our cultural imagination, and fostered a sense of community among players. By examining this impact, we can gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which supernatural horror games have shaped our society and continue to inspire new forms of creative expression.


1. What are the common elements that define a horror game?

The common elements that define a horror game include a supernatural theme, fear-inducing gameplay, psychological terror, suspenseful atmosphere, and gore or violence.

2. What is the difference between horror and supernatural horror games?

Horror games are generally focused on creating a sense of fear and tension in the player, while supernatural horror games are focused on the supernatural elements and often involve paranormal creatures or entities.

3. What are some examples of popular supernatural horror games?

Some examples of popular supernatural horror games include Resident Evil, Silent Hill, The Last of Us, and The Witcher 3.

4. What makes a game scary?

A game can be scary due to various factors such as the use of sound effects, visuals, and storytelling to create a suspenseful and terrifying atmosphere. Additionally, the use of jump scares and unexpected events can also make a game scary.

5. What is the role of psychological terror in horror games?

Psychological terror in horror games plays a significant role in creating fear and tension in the player. It often involves creating a sense of unease and discomfort through the use of storytelling, atmosphere, and sound effects.

6. How does gore or violence contribute to the horror genre?

Gore or violence in horror games can contribute to the horror genre by creating a sense of realism and adding to the fear factor. However, it is important to note that some players may find it disturbing and not suitable for their taste.

7. Can a horror game be enjoyable without being scary?

Yes, a horror game can be enjoyable without being scary. Some players enjoy the storytelling, atmosphere, and gameplay of horror games without necessarily experiencing fear.

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