Horror games provide a lot of enjoyment for various reasons. Some people enjoy the spooky or mysterious story, while others might want to immerse themselves in a macabre or foreboding atmosphere. For others, though, it’s the jump scares. While not every horror game needs to have jump scares to be creepy, some games implement them in creative or thrilling ways.
The best horror games walk a fine line of environmental tension-building blended with moments of in-your-face terror. Horror games need to have ebbs and flows in order to build up the fear and release it to avoid growing stale. The following games and subsequent jump scares are some of the very best in the horror genre.
Updated on October 5, 2023, by PJ Molloy: Video games are unique in that they can produce horror unlike any other form of entertainment. The immersive nature of gaming can lead to some of the most nightmarishly creepy atmospheres in the horror genre and produce a never-ending supply of frights that make you look over your shoulder for things that go bump in the night.
Jump scares are an effective tool in horror when used to enhance the suspense of a situation and can provide some of the scariest moments in video game history. If you’re looking for the best video game jump scares, prepare yourself for goosebump-inducing, bone-chilling frights.
17 P.T. – Look Behind You
It’s such a shame that P.T. never saw a full launch because the demo of the canceled Silent Hill title delivers one of the creepiest settings in gaming and psychological horror that never fails to make your skin crawl. The game has you walk down a seemingly never-ending hallway, but every time you turn the corner, a new spooky surprise either fleshes out the lore of this mysterious house or produces a fright scary enough to keep you up at night.
The most terrifying jump scare in the game happens when you walk past a radio that appears to be tuned to a news station. Nothing seems unusual until the signal grows staticky and the news anchor starts addressing you directly, uttering the horrifying words, “Look behind you.” When you turn around, a woman with skin as pale as death and rotten yellow teeth will jump out and tackle you to the floor.
16 Five Nights At Freddy’s Security Breach Ruin – Monty Pops Out Of The Tunnel
Five Nights At Freddy’s is the king of jump scares since every title in the series leans heavily on spooky decaying robots popping up and screaming in your face. There are plenty of memorable jump scares in the FNAF series, but one from Five Nights At Freddy’s Security Breach Ruin DLC stands out as the most frightening.
FNAF Ruin follows a girl named Cassie, who explores the decayed ruins of Freddy Fazbear’s Mega Pizzaplex in search of her missing friend Gregory. Filth and grime ooze from the walls and floors and the place is littered with half-dead animatronics with their mechanical insides spilling out of their rotting bodies.
When you come across a small tunnel and peek inside, the skeletal remains of Monty Gator shoot out from the darkness and grab you, gnashing its monstrous teeth. What a way to welcome you to Freddy’s.
15 Resident Evil 3 – Nemesis Jumps Through The Window
Out of all the Resident Evil games on PlayStation 1, the third installment is easily the scariest, thanks to the endlessly frightening monster Nemesis. This nine-foot-tall zombie mercilessly chases you throughout the entire game, showing up when you least expect it and pursuing you from room to room.
This guy has caused more nightmares to ’90s kids than any other video game monster, mainly due to his infamous jump scare. When Jill Valentine is exploring the zombie-infested Raccoon City Police Department, right when she thinks she escaped the danger, Nemesis suddenly bursts through a window and relentlessly chases her until she escapes the building.
This moment is so unexpected and horrifying that it cements Nemesis as one of the scariest video game monsters.
14 Neverending Nightmares – The Padded Cell Room
Neverending Nightmares is a highly underrated narrative-focused indie horror game that delves into the struggles of having depression and OCD. Neverending Nightmares takes place in a spooky, monochromatic world where you guide Thomas through increasingly disturbing moments as he seeks to figure out what happened to his beloved sister.
The best jump scare in the game happens in the hospital area. Thomas walks through bloodstained hallways, stealthily avoiding straightjacket patients who want nothing more than a taste of his blood. The place is littered with locked padded cells, each featuring a small gated window. If you make your way to one of these windows, you’ll be treated to a quick glance at a screaming patient right next to the door.
This moment gives the otherwise psychological horror experience a boost of adrenaline-pumping fright.
13 Blair Witch – The Stalking Specter
From acclaimed horror developers Bloober Team, Blair Witch tells the harrowing tale of a down-and-out cop, Ellis, who, along with his trusty dog, must find a missing boy named Peter. As the title implies, Peter has gone missing (or so we think) in the creepy woods that has made the Blair Witch property so infamous.
In the opening hours, after getting used to guiding Ellis through the woods in first-person, it’s clear Ellis isn’t alone. The darkness and stray moonlight create some eerie and ominous imagery in the woods. During one of the first nighttime segments, Ellis glances at a nearby tree with his flashlight only to get a horrifying glimpse of the stalking shadow specter that follows him throughout his journey.
12 Evil Inside – That Darned Clown
Evil Inside, for all intents and purposes, is a budget version of P.T. The game takes the idea of walking through a looping hallway and provides a creepy story, unnerving setting, and plenty of jump scares.
Any jump scares from the game could easily be considered the scariest; however, the clown jump scare takes the cake. After being greeted by an off-putting clown at the end of a hallway, he quickly disappears. Once you get comfortable with the idea of him being gone, you eventually make your way back down the corridor. At this point, the clown pops out of nowhere to chase you until he disappears again.
11 Dead Space 2 – Nice To Meet You, Necromorph
Dead Space 2 and its predecessor are two of the best sci-fi survival horror games. Dead Space 2 ups the ante with larger explorable locations and a boatload of scares from the downright terrifying Necromorphs. One such scare happens right at the start of the game, typically when you don’t expect one.
At the start of Dead Space 2, Isaac Clarke is in a medical ward wrapped in a straight jacket. Right before all heck breaks loose, he’s greeted by another survivor who seeks to help him escape the Necromorphs. Just when you think you’re safe, a Necromorph slices through the other character with plenty of bloody detail. This jump scare perfectly sets the stage for the terrifying journey to come.
10 Resident Evil – The Zombie Dogs
The famous original Resident Evil jump scare absolutely deserves to be considered one of the best since it helped set the tone for the series. The first Resident Evil has fixed camera angles with Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine moving through the same parts of Spencer Mansion over and over again.
One unremarkable hallway features a few large windows you had previously walked past. On a return trip through the hallway, two zombie dogs burst through the window to scare you silly and chase you. It was completely unexpected and terrifying at the time and still manages to be horrifying today.
9 Silent Hill 2 – The Crawler From Under The Van
Not all jump scares need to be big set-piece moments. Sometimes, the more subtle the lead-up to the scare is, the more effective it will be. One of Silent Hill 2’s earliest jump scares happens when James meanders through the eponymous town devoured by fog.
As James wanders through the streets past lamp posts and vehicles, the static of the radio clicks in, cranking up the tension level. When the radio finally turns on, a creepy crawler enemy emerges from under a van, making an otherworldly noise and ready to send James to meet his maker.
8 Condemned: Criminal Origins – The Locker
Condemned: Criminal Origins is criminally underrated as a top survival horror game. This Xbox 360 horror title was and still is downright terrifying as you explore abandoned buildings searching for a killer.
The game has subtle jump scares, with the criminals jumping out from the shadows. However, the infamous locker scare is enough to make anyone scream. During an otherwise routine investigative gameplay section, you open a locker and out jumps a very much still-alive person who was thought to be dead.
7 Outlast – Open The Door
There’s a reason why Outlast is consistently talked about as one of the scariest games of all time. Outlast features some truly horrifying gameplay moments with enough blood and gore to last you a lifetime. The game’s jump scares are made even worse, thanks to the nightmarish creatures you encounter.
Very early in the game, when Miles Upshur first enters Mount Massive Asylum, he walks down a hallway and opens a door. It turns out that he should have left that door closed because a bloodied hanging man swings back and forth, shouting as you run away, terrified.
6 The Evil Within 2 – Through The Glass
The Evil Within 2 is a survival horror game that isn’t talked about nearly enough. This game once again stars Sebastian Castellanos, this time seeking his wife and child through some of the series’ most disturbing environments and set-pieces.
One of the best jump scares in this spooky sequel happens when the multi-headed Guardian monster smashes through the glass to start a chase sequence with Sebastian. This freaky monster is made up of human torsos, heads, and limbs. Say hello to plenty of nightmares after this scene.
5 The Park – The Abandoned Booth
The Park, from developer Funcom, is a short, spooky amusement park-themed horror game where a distraught mother must track down her son, who ran off into the park during the cover of night. This isn’t a recipe for a scary time, right?
The Park is mostly a first-person walking simulator horror game. Once you first enter the amusement park at the start of the game, you explore some abandoned booths. It turns out that one of them isn’t empty. When you look inside, you are greeted by a monstrous surprise.
4 Layers Of Fear – Book Monster
A book monster might not sound all that frightening for a jump scare. However, you may be surprised. Layers of Fear is a horror game known for its mind-bending and surreal environmental shifts and twists as you explore the labyrinthian mansion.
At about the halfway point in the game, you encounter a room with a large oval painting above the fireplace. Upon closer inspection, you notice an arm reaching out. When you turn around in fear, a sentient monster made up of books stands towering above you before vanishing into thin air.
3 Fatal Frame – Your First Ghost
Even decades later, Fatal Frame is still one of the best horror games of all time. The reason this series is so beloved by the horror community is down to the Camera Obscura. This supernatural camera can take photos of ghosts to exorcise the evil entities in them.
The best jump scare in the game happens the very first time you see a ghost when looking through the Camera Obscura in first-person. Even though you know it’s coming, when the spirit appears right before you, ready to cause you harm, it’s enough to make your hair stand on end with a cold chill running down your spine.
2 Slender: The Arrival – The Scream
Slender Man needs no introduction at this point. Slender: The Arrival is a smaller horror title featuring the titular monster and plenty of other spooky aberrations to give you goosebumps.
One of the best yet most subtle jump scares happens as you explore the house in the woods near the very start of the game. You explore this recently abandoned home, searching for signs of a young girl who’s been taken by Slender Man. When you enter her room, you hear a loud, blood-curdling scream as you move to the window to look out into the vast darkness.
1 Infliction: Extended Cut – The Dark Basement
Infliction: Extended Cut is one of the greatest survival horror games ever. You play as a man who has brutally murdered his wife and family via some very evil and possibly demonic influence. This game features some of the best audio design in horror, which cranks up the scares every single time.
At one point in the game, you explore in the basement, looking for items from your wife. Just as you are about to head out, the lights shut out, and you hear a faint moan. As you prepare to run away, the ghost of your vengeful wife pops out at you to say hello in the scariest way possible. Good luck getting any sleep after that.
NEXT: The Best Horror Games On Steam