Science fiction is a genre that lends itself perfectly to horror. There’s something about the marriage between sci-fi and horror that induces the maximum possible level of fear and dread. Whether it’s the intense isolation of space or the possibility of encountering terrifying new species, you’re bound to find something within sci-fi horror that will leave you feeling slightly on edge or, most likely, even worse.
In the movie world, there are no shortages of titles within the genre – from the classics of Alien and Event Horizon, to the worthy recent additions of Annihilation and Life. Yet, the film industry isn’t the only form of media capable of successfully representing the genre. Here, we run through the 10 best sci-fi horror games ever made for your perusal. Did we miss your favourite science fiction horror game? Let us know in the comment section below.
10. STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl (2007)
STALKER Shadow of Chernobyl is a sci-fi horror game that combines aspects of the first-person shooter playstyle with open world exploration. In the game, you play as a character known as ‘The Marked One’, who is sent to explore ‘The Zone’ – the irradiated area surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster.
As you would expect from my sci-fi horror game located within a nuclear wasteland, you encounter many weird and not so wonderful creatures in the zone that you must eliminate using the variety of weapons at your disposal. As the game progresses, the story develops in interesting ways and you learn more about why these mutant creatures have come to be found in the area.
Perhaps the greatest attribute of Shadow of Chernobyl is its ability to create tension and atmosphere. The dynamic day and night cycle in the game presents two different experiences – both terrifying. Admittedly, the true scares come in the darker periods and the pace at which some of the inhabitants of the zone come at you can lead to some intense jump scares.
If there is one flaw of the game, it would be that there is no real incentive to explore the entirety of the open world, and following path of the storyline can feel quite linear in the context of the whole map. That being said, STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl is one of the better sci-fi horror games to come out of recent times and is well worth investigating for fans of the genre.
9. Phantaruk (2016)
Phantaruk is an indie space horror survival game that has everything you could ask for in a sci-fi horror game. Excessively large space station? Check. Lone wanderer stuck inside said space station? Check. A multitude of bone-chillingly freakish monsters? Check. Mysterious notes left in random locations to help unravel the plotline? Of course, check.
But not only does Phantaruk do the little things right, it is also adept at the difficult things. Namely, it has an ability to create the suspenseful, haunting atmosphere that is all too commonly lacking from horror games. The lack of a combat system may turn some people off the game, but this is actually one of its best features. Avoiding the creatures becomes so much more meaningful when you know that it is literally your only option for survival.
The stealth aspect adds to the element of horror, but perhaps the scariest feature of Phantaruk is its audio. Hearing the noises of the creatures before you see them keeps you on edge at all times and leads to some heated moments. Fleeing is also something the developers seem to have mastered. Once you’ve been spotted, you’ve got to run, and turning back can lead to your untimely end.
Despite a few issues (e.g. poorly synced subtitles, short game length), Phantaruk is a more than worthy addition to the sci-fi horror game genre, and it can even be found for a very modest price on the Steam store.
8. Observer (2017)
Regular readers of blog of games will know that we are huge fans of the cyberpunk genre. When you combine it with horror, you’ve got a recipe for success, and succeed is exactly what Blooper Team do with their Rutger Hauer led psychological sci-fi horror title, Observer.
Set in 2084 in Poland, you play as detective Lazarski as you traverse the rainy, neon-lit Krakówian environment. The nanophage has left the war-torn country in the hands of megacorporation Chiron, who assign Lazarski with missions that utilise his ability to hack into people’s minds. Indeed, cybernetics are a huge feature of Observer.
The game involves lots of exploring, analysing, and deciphering, as a number of clues slowly unravel the complexities of a world littered with surreal and atmospheric happenings. As you utilise Lazarski’s biological and electronic augmentations, you soon find yourself unlocking the memories of people that you wish you hadn’t, leading to a chilling finale that can only be played to understood.
Observer is a game that provides sci-fi and horror in a plotline that will grip you and stay with you for weeks. To read more about the game, check out our Observer review.
7. Doom 3 (2004)
When Doom 3 was released in 2004, the weight of expectation surrounding it polarised the immediate responses to the game. Yet, as time wore on, the game has become increasingly appreciated as a worthy sci-fi horror title and as one of the best additions to the classic Doom franchise.
Doom 3 is a lesson in how to combine immersion building with an impressive sound design and a level of blood and gore that will leave even the most hardcore horror fans with an uneasy tummy.
The game is so much more than just gory visuals and gruesome monsters, though. From the outset, Doom 3 transports you into the world of Mars City in a way that makes you care about the characters and prepares you for the ensuing chaos.
When it comes to the horror aspect, most of Doom 3’s fright is provided through jump scares. Indeed, you’ll have monsters coming at you from all directions and you won’t be prepared for them all. Luckily, you’ve got a wide array of guns to choose from, and selecting the right one is just part of the reason why this space horror game has such great replay value.
6. SCP – Containment Breach (2012)
SCP Containment Breach is an open source supernatural sci-fi horror based on the stories found on the SCP Foundation website. Players take on the role of Benjamin Oliver Walker, a former researcher attempting to escape an underground containment facility that is run by the SCP Foundation.
In truth, the plotline is not the game’s strongest feature, nor is it meant to be. The main pull for SCP Containment Breach is the use of randomly generated rooms in which hostile CPS pursue the player in order to stop you from escaping the facility after a containment breach leaves you in danger. No two runs are the same.
The simple goal of the game is to make it out of the facility alive, but of course things are not that easy. If you know anything about the SCP community, you’ll already know how freaky things can get.
5. F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin (2009)
The F.E.A.R. series is widely known for its ability to leave even the hardiest of people in danger of untimely piddling themselves through intense dread and anxiety, and Project Origin is probably the best game for this – or worse, depending on how you look at it.
The story revolves around an undead girl named Alma, who has the ability to wreak paranormal havoc with her mind. It carries on from the narrative of the previous instalment in the series but adds so much more in terms of gameplay.
The first thing you will notice is how good the game is it creating supernatural horror in unique ways – it makes it really stand out from other titles in the genre. Paranormal entities come at you in weird and unpredictable patterns that will keep your guard up and leave you feeling rather tense.
F.E.A.R. 2 not only delivers as an incredible sci-fi horror game, but also as a worthy first-person shooter. The mechanics are smooth, and the gunplay feels realistic. The level design came in for some criticism upon the game’s release, but it doesn’t detract from the horror elements that are experienced throughout. All in all, F.E.A.R. 2 is a deserved entry in this list of the best sci-fi horror games, and a game that you must try if you haven’t done so already.
4. Alien: Isolation (2014)
Alien: Isolation is set 15 years after the original movie and follows Amanda Ripley, daughter of the film’s protagonist Ellen. The game is quite possibly one of the most terrifying titles to have been released in the past decade.
It famously received negative reviews from both IGN and GameSpot, but one could easily deduce that both reviewers never actually played the game. Indeed, there are many who would suggest that Alien: Isolation should take the top spot in this list as the best sci-fi horror game ever.
it is rumoured that the developers modelled the horror elements on the Outlast series, and anyone who has played those games will know how intense the danger can feel. Isolation feels like a breath of fresh air for fans of the movie franchise, too – stumbling upon good games based on the film series is not exactly an easy task.
Simply defined, the game is a stealth space horror game in which the player has to avoid the alien using a variety of techniques. Most notably, you will have access to a motion tracker that allows you to monitor any incoming hostile creatures – this may sound comforting, but in many ways it keeps you perpetually on edge, and can leave you moving forward with extreme trepidation.
Admittedly, the start of the game is slightly monotonous and boring, but the game quickly transforms into one of the most terrifying sci-fi horror experiences ever made.
3. Dead Space (2008)
Any one of the Dead Space titles could have been included in this list, but as the instigator of the series, and the game that sets this incredible space horror franchise in motion, the first Dead Space game takes precedence over the others.
Playing as engineer Isaac Clarke, you are sent to investigate the USG Ishimura, a colonised spaceship that has suddenly ceased all contact in mysterious circumstances. The game plays as a third-person shooter, in which you must traverse the space station looking for clues as to what happened there. All the while, you are being chased and hunted by a multitude of alien species that seem to have limbs growing from every orifice.
One thing the game does expertly is to create a chilling atmosphere that has the perfect mix of intrigue and horror. Dead Space is a game that mixes horror and sci-fi like no other, and any fans of the genre must try it.
2. SOMA (2015)
Soma is a favourite here at Blog of Games, and is not only one of the best sci-fi horrors to have ever been released, but is also one of the best games ever – period. From the outset, you know it’s going to be good when you acknowledge the fact that it was made by the same developers as the Amnesia series.
In many ways, though, Soma supersedes expectations and has become a beacon of hope in the increasingly saturated horror genre. Despite some pacing issues encountered with some less than gripping puzzles, the horror element of Soma more than makes up for any of its shortcomings.
Indeed, the horror in Soma is more than just jump scares. Rather, it is the kind of terror that leaves you motionless in your seat with an inability to function. But it’s the combination of the well-crafted horror and the superbly written narrative that makes Soma so good.
Played from a first-person perspective, you take on the role of Simon who awakes with substantial memory loss and must try to figure out why he is at the bottom of the ocean in an abandoned underwater station. Without giving too much away, the story is simply something that needs to be played to be fully appreciated.
If you haven’t played it yet, you won’t be disappointed. Read more in our Soma review.
1. System Shock 2 (1999)
System Shock 2 is the oldest game in this list, but that shouldn’t put you off, it’s also the best. Admittedly, there are a few elements of the game that feel dated when playing in the present day, but System Shock 2 has the ability to retain its haunting atmosphere in a way that few other games do.
If you were to think of one sci-fi horror game that epitomises everything the genre should be, you would have to go for System Shock 2. It has everything – a compelling story, a dark and futuristic aesthetic, and solid first-person shooter mechanics.
The game begins as you awake in a cryo-chamber aboard the first-ever spaceship capable of faster-than-light travel. There were high hopes for the spaceship, which was deemed to be the future of space exploration for humankind. Yet, when you awaken, everyone is dead, and you need to find out why.
Fans of the series have reasons to be excited, too, as the long-awaited sequel to System Shock 2 is set to be made available at some point during 2020, though the global situation may throw a spanner in the works when it comes to the release date.
This space horror title is without doubt the best sci-fi horror game ever created, and if you want to read more about it check out our System Shock 2 review.
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