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Horror genres in video games

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Posted 08-30-2009 at 09:35 AM by December Man
Updated 08-30-2009 at 09:41 AM by December Man

I was thinking about different horror game subgenres that started appearing after 2004. Previously, there were only survival horrors and other games with horror themes.

Nowadays there are three ways of presenting horror to players.

1. Action horror. Prime examples: The Suffering series, Clive Barker's Undying(probably the only game of this subgenre prior to 2004; correct me if I'm wrong).

The game is focused on action more than anything else; lacks(a bit more complex than "pull a lever") puzzles, backtracking and an inventory altogether, but still the horror themes are very strong. Personally I think The Suffering popularized this subgenre.

2. Action game with survival horror elements(action survival horror?). Prime example: Resident Evil 4.

The game is focused primarily on combat, although SH aspects are still present - puzzles(easy and in scarce quantity), (little)backtracking, inventory(most likely expandable and used to hold weapons than puzzle items), key searching.

3. Survival horror all the way. Prime examples: Silent Hill series, Fatal Frame series, Resident Evil series up until 4.

The game is focused on escaping from monsters, puzzle solving and exploration rather than combat. Large quantity of puzzles with varying difficulty(easy to quite hard), (un)healthy dose of backtracking, inventory full of puzzle items and keys aside small amounts of weapons and ammo.

There are some games that mix these aspects I listed and it seems they create even more subgenres(subsubgenres?).

Dead Space for example. It lacks puzzles, backtracking, it's primarily focused on combat, yet still retains an expandable inventory and key searching. Fortunately, I think I'm going a bit too deep with this and Dead Space is just incorporating very slight survival horror elements to a clear action horror.

As you can see, the horror genre expanded its influence onto more action oriented games and created something entirely new. Unfortunately, even though this pushed the genre towards mainstream, it made the pure survival horror games even more niche than they were. I sincerely hope SH "survives" the ordeal and we will see more of this type of game in the near future.

Useful horror links time:


It's a great source of horror game information. It has listed almost all of the horror games ever created, has interesting articles on the subject(like Japanese horror, character types in the games etc.) and a forum with, unfortunately, few people registered. It's being updated from time to time with new blog posts by the author, who not only decided to play ALL horror games(except the ones for PC), but also attends horror games conferences. So, if you're interested in this type of games, this site is a must.


ABC News report on scary video games.


Fatal Frame series site, which also contains the FF wikia.


Resident Evil wikia.


One of the major Silent Hill forums.


Silent Hill wikia.
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