A horror game is a video game genre centered on horror fiction and typically designed to scare the player. Unlike most other video game genres, which are classified by their gameplay, horror games are nearly always based on narrative or visual presentation, and use a variety of gameplay types.
The incorporation of general horror genre themes into video games came early on in the medium, with Haunted House for the Atari 2600 in 1982 one of the first such works. At time point, video game technology lacked the fidelity to carry the themes of horror in the technology and was instead wrapped more in game manuals and other presentation materials. Text adventure games like Mystery HouseThe Lurking Horror by Infocom in 1987 also incorporated horror elements through its textual descriptions of rooms. With more graphical capabilities, games should start to include horror-related imagery, often present in the licensed games based on horror films in the 1980s and 1990s such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and Friday the 13th, as well as games inspired by horror films such as Project Firestart inspired by the Alien films. Due to limitations of consoles and computers, these horror images were often limited to cutscenes rather than the animated spirits used in the action-based gameplay as to give the fidelity to the details of the horror scene. Alone in the Dark in 1992 was one of the first horror games to bring the game to a more immersive presentation, using crude 3D figures drawn atop a 2D pre-rendered background, so that players would control their character from a fixed camera angle. This gave the developers to create the necessary sense of tension throughout the adventure game. Alone in the Dark was a global success, and directly inspired the creation of the first Resident Evil game in 1996, for which Capcom coined the term "survival horror".
Historically, the classification of video games into genres ignores the narrative themes, which would include science fiction or fantasy games, instead preferring systems based on the style of gameplay or at times, types of game modes or by platform. Horror games is the only narrative-based classification that has generally not followed this pattern, with the narrative genre label used broadly for games designed to scare players. This broad association to the narrative theme of horror games leads to the lack of well-defined subgenres of horror games. Many gameplay-definmed genres have numerous games with horror themes, notably the Castlevaniaplatform game series uses monsters and creatures borrowed from numerous horror mythos. In such cases, these games are still categorized by their original gameplay genre, the horror aspect considered a literary aspect of the game. However, there are some specific areas in the broad horror game classification that have been identified as unique subgenres in horror.
Survival horror game
One of the best-defined and most common types of horror games are survival horror games. These games tend to focus on the survival of the player-character in a horror setting with limited resources, and thus tend to be more geared as an action game or action-adventure game. A common theme of these games is escape or survival from the equivalent of a zombie apocalypse, with weapons, ammunition, and armor limited. The Resident Evil series coined the term and serves as the prime example of such games. Other notable survival horror series include Clock Tower, Dead Space, Fatal Frame, Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, and Parasite Eve.
games are meant to scare the player through emotional, mental, or psychological states rather than through monsters or scares. The fear comes from "what is not seen, rather than what is". These games commonly rely on the player-character's unreliable perceptions or questionable sanity in order to develop the story. Through the use of unreliable narrators, such games may explore the fear of losing one's capacity to think rationally or even to recognize one's own identity. Psychological horror games may not depend as much on action compared with survival horror games, instead giving time for the player to explore and witness events. Phantasmagoria is considered one of the first such works of type, while the Silent Hill series, which is also based on survivor horror elements, is considered one of the defining psychological horror games. Such games may also take advantage of the video game medium to break the fourth wall and appear to affect the player's computer or console directly, such as with Eternal Darkness and Doki Doki Literature Club! Psychological horror games may still be tied to action-based genres; is a third-person shooter but with a psychological horror narrative inspired by works like Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now.
horror games are designed around moments aimed to immediately surprise or shock the player when they do not expect it. While jump scares may be elements in other horror games along with other gameplay aspects, jump scare horror games are generally limited to this type of gameplay mechanism. They are often aimed towards generating reactions from players, which have proven popular to watch over streaming playthroughs of games. Five Nights at Freddy's is considered one of the first main examples of this style of game.