It is well documented that Japanese Horror (or J-horror) is among the most unique, psychologically intense and suspenseful forms of the genre. You only have to looks at films such as Ju-On, Dark Water, and Tetsuo to realise how expert the Japanese horror culture is.
Yet, J-horror does not limit itself to the medium of film. The video game industry is another medium that lends itself particularly well to the horror genre, and there have been some truly terrifying games to come out of Japan over the years. This review will avoid the Triple A titles such as the Resident Evil’s, Silent Hill’s, etc., not because we aren’t fans of these games (quite the opposite), but to focus on some of the more obscure J-horror games that fewer people will know. So, here is a list of the best Japanese horror games available to play right now.
5. Shadow Corridor
Shadow Corridor is a relatively obscure Japanese survival horror game with puzzle and exploration elements. The game is played from a first-person perspective and follows the player into an old Japanese house after the character trails an instinctive childhood memory whilst walking through an alley.
The aim of the game is to collect 5 items, or magatamas, whilst avoiding spiritual entities that look to chase you down as soon as you encounter them. Various items can be picked up in the game that help you along the way and there are multiple endings possible to playthrough.
As the name suggests, lighting plays a big part in the game and the first thing you notice when entering the house is how dark it is. You can light candles throughout the house to make your path clearer.
It is graphically impressive; it may not be the best game you have ever seen from a visual sense, but it is smooth, crisp, and generally a quite a beautiful game. The game is more reliant on its audio to build suspense and there are subtle sounds throughout the game that amplify the terror tenfold.
All in all, Shadow Corridor is a great game and, despite being short, does a great job of building tension through minimal lighting and haunting audio. This is certainly one of the best Japanese horror games to play and is completely free to try. To find out more, watch the video below or click here for the free download link.
4. Ikenie no Yoru (イケニエノヨル / Night of the Sacrifice)
Ikenie no Yoru is a Japanese horror game released in 2011 for the Nintendo Wii by game Developer Marvelous entertainment. The English translation of the game name is “night of the sacrifice”.
The game follows five different characters as they explore a haunted mansion. Three of the characters are playable, and they are played from a first-person perspective. The father of one of the game’s characters, Black, is the owner of the mansion, which is called Tsukuyomi Ravine. As you have no weapons in your arsenal, to avoid being attacked by ghosts, players must run away and hide from them.
The game plays nicely on the Wii console and there are some cool features that enhance the experience. The Wii remote can be used as a flashlight and also to take calls on your in-game phone. It is also possible for a second player to take part in the game with a separate remote, which enables them to freeze some of the enemies when you encounter them.
Overall, Ikenie no Yoru is an interesting Wii horror game in which the gameplay trumps the story. The plot is not bad, but it is very thin. Despite this, the first-person perspective and the Wii controller elements create a fun and immersive experience and make this one of the best Japanese horror games available. To find out more, watch the video below.
3. Kuchisake Onna (口裂け女 / Slit Mouth Woman)
Kuchisake Onna is a first-person Japanese horror game released in 2018 by game developer George Constantinou. The game is a nice blend of puzzle and stealth and makes a great addition to the indie-horror scene.
Kuchisake Onna is a mythical spirit entity that historically features in Japanese ghost stories. She was mutilated by her husband and returns as a serial killer to haunt the living. This game does not follow the story of the urban legend, however, but does use the spirit of Kuchisake Onna as the main enemy.
This J-horror title has crisp, smooth visuals and expertly uses lighting to create an atmosphere filled with dread. The sound, or lack of in most cases, is also another great feature of the game. The silence that follows you throughout most of your journey is deafening and makes the few noises that you do hear that little bit more terrifying – simply opening a door became a difficult experience for me.
Kuchisake Onna is a game that horror aficionados will certainly enjoy. The storytelling is compelling, the puzzles are satisfying, and the atmosphere is immersive and suspenseful. This is one of the best Japanese horror games available right now and, even better, you can download it from Steam for a very reasonable price. To find out more, watch the gameplay video below.
2. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly is a Japanese survival horror game released in 2003 by Temco for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. It is part of the Fatal Frame series and is known as Project Zero II in Europe.
The story follows Mio and Mayu Amakura as they search and explore a fictional, abandoned Japanese village by the name if Minakami. As they explore the town, they quickly realise that their lives are at threat due to the paranormal encounters they experience. The twin sisters are then possessed by village spirits and are targeted as sacrifices for an ancient ritual. To defeat the spirit enemies, players must take pictures of them with the Camera Obscura, an enchanted camera.
The game has two gameplay modes. Field mode allows players to directly control Mio and search for items and clues throughout the village. Viewfinder mode allows the player to use the Camera Obscura to take pictures of the spirits. The game is mostly spent in field mode controlling Mio, who is closely followed by her sister Mayu. Both characters have a health bar that you must avoid from getting diminished by enemy spirits.
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly is a work of art with a moving story that as, at times, quite brutal. Its unique and scary gameplay offer a different take on the genre and truly make this one of the best Japanese horror games ever made on any console. To find out more, check out the video below.
1. Forbidden Siren (サイレン Sairen)
Forbidden Siren, also known simply as Siren, is a Japanese survival horror game developed by SCE Japan Studio and Project Siren and originally released in 2003 for the PlayStation 2, before being re-released for the PlayStation 4 in 2016.
Forbidden Siren is set in the Japanese village of Hanuda, a place where the locals like to keep isolated and have strong religious beliefs. After a ritual is disturbed by an Earthquake near Hanuka, a deadly red sea turns people into Shibito, or corpse people. The story follows 10 survivors of the disaster, switching between each character as they simultaneously try to escape and figure out what happened.
Given the era of its release, the graphics are quite impressive. The atmosphere was dark, chilling, and suspenseful. The faces of the characters were made using photographs of people from different angles before being rendered into 3D character format. This was hit-and-miss, as was the voice acting (at least in the English-speaking version). But, for me, this just adds to the charm of the game.
The gameplay aspect feels secondary to the story in terms of importance to the game developers, but it still provides some very enjoyable puzzle sequences in which you have to avoid the Shibito. A unique feature to the gameplay was sightjacking, which allowed players to see and hear through the perspective of any nearby human or Shibito.
Forbidden Siren is not perfect, but it is an in-depth, challenging, and thoroughly enjoyable title that, for me, is one the best Japanese horror games ever made.
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Forbidden Siren tops our list of the best Japanese horror games. Watch a full playthrough of the game above and see if you agree!