The Best Horror Games From The 90s

Highlights

  • Resident Evil kicked off the popularity of horror games in the 90s, with many imitators to follow. The term “survival horror” originated from the first Resident Evil game.
  • The 90s had a range of horror-themed games, including classics like House of the Dead 2 and Alone in the Dark. These games may not appeal to modern gamers, but those who appreciate their gameplay will enjoy them.
  • Resident Evil 2 and Silent Hill are considered some of the best horror games of all time. Both games offer unique experiences and memorable characters, making them must-plays for fans of the genre.

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Similar to fighting games, horror titles exploded in the 90s. There were several horror games earlier than that era, with 3D Monster Maze and Sweet Home being some of the early pioneers. Like what Capcom did with Street Fighter 2, Resident Evil kicked off the huge popularity of the genre with many imitators to follow.

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The term survival horror actually comes from the first Resident Evil, whenever you load a saved game. Many 90s horror titles might not appeal to modern gamers, but those able to appreciate how these old games work will really enjoy them.

Updated on October 20, 2023, by Dominic Allen: 90s horror did have more to offer than just what came after the big boom period with Resident Evil. That’s where many of them came from, but there were earlier horror games. This is especially true if you look at arcade and PC titles. It’s just that a lot of them don’t fit the traditional horror game mold because they’re more horror-themed than pure horror games.

10 House Of The Dead 2

Gary about to face off against Strength in House of the Dead 2.

The first House of the Dead is a classic arcade rail-shooter that still holds up, but the sequel is bigger and better. With six levels instead of the original’s four, more bosses, more branching paths, and amazing so-bad-it’s-good voice acting, House of the Dead 2 is the best of the franchise.

You can also play it on a variety of platforms, unlike the original. Plus, there’s an awesome variation of the title, Typing of the Dead, in which you swap your light gun for a keyboard. That version might be even more fun due to the added humor.

9 Blood

Blood 1997 player reloading a Shotgun surrounded by enemies, one of which is on fire

Some of the greatest 90s FPS games used the Build engine. The three best were Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, and Blood. Duke was a parody of action films, Shadow Warrior mocked Hong Kong and Japanese martial arts cinema, and Blood parodied horror movies.

The combat is absolutely incredible, with vicious enemies but an equal arsenal of weapons at your disposal. The fun factor in these Build engine games was off the charts, and Blood is no different. You also have amazing level design, with a ton of Easter eggs to find. Playing Blood today isn’t much of a hassle for an old PC exclusive, as the Blood Fresh Supply remaster is readily available on Steam.

8 Resident Evil 2

The first Licker Cutscene early on in Resident Evil 2.

Still to this day, many long-time Resident Evil fans consider the classic Resident Evil 2 one of the best in the series. It’s the perfect example of a great sequel, with it being bigger and better. The areas are more varied, and it offers four whole campaigns, more than the original game’s two.

All of them have different story moments and scenarios, which is great because the voice acting is much improved from the original. The late Paul Haddad as Leon and Alyson Court as Claire are still charming even now. RE2 classic is still worthwhile to play, even with the remake out.

7 Alone In The Dark

Emily Hartwood being attacked by a monster in the original Alone in the Dark.

The original Alone in the Dark is one of the most important horror games of all time. The tank controls that were used in the early days of survival horror came from this title. However, it’s more of an adventure game than traditional survival horror where you need to conserve supplies.

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It’s there, but the Sierra-style death traps make it feel much more like that genre. The more grounded Lovecraftian edge makes the original game stand out in comparison to the two PC sequels. Alone in the Dark 2 and 3 go really out of control in the narrative, and the first is much simpler and more effective because of it.

6 Splatterhouse 2

Splatterhouse 2 cover art with in-game image of hockeymasked character killing monsters.

Stepping out of the PS1 era and right into the Sega Genesis, Splatterhouse 2 is one of the standout early horror-themed games. Up there with titles like Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Akin to the original arcade game, Splatterhouse 2 is a sidescrolling horror-themed action game.

It’s a lot of gory fun, but like many games of the era, it’s pretty hard. With eight stages to beat, one more than the first game, it’s very unlikely you’ll finish this title on your first run. It’s definitely more enjoyable with save states, but regardless, it’s an excellent horror-themed game for that generation.

5 Resident Evil 3

Nemesis coming after Jill, standing near a deceased Brad Vickers, outside RCPD as the prompt to choose two options appears on-screen.

Resident Evil 3 is one of those games that didn’t get a whole lot of buzz at release but, over time, has been held in high regard. There’s only one campaign this time around, which sounds bad, but the game more than makes up for it. What makes RE3 stand out from the rest of the classic RE games is the randomization to it. Puzzles, enemy placements, and item placements are all randomized to a certain degree.

You can also pick story choices that affect the paths you’ll take. This makes the game much more replayable, which is needed since there’s only one campaign. It also offers one of the most iconic antagonists in all of horror gaming, Nemesis, who relentlessly hunts down Jill. RE3 is a must-play in the PS1 horror generation, no doubt.

4 Enemy Zero

Laura Lewis charging up her gun in Enemy Zero.

One of the standout horror exclusives for the Sega Saturn has to be Enemy Zero. The story can get really engrossing, but the gameplay might be a make or break for many. All monsters are invisible, and to kill them, you must listen to a chime audio cue. You must charge your gun and fire when the chime gets as loud as possible.

This should kill it. For many of you, this can be either tense as hell or very frustrating. Thankfully Enemy Zero offers two easier difficulties which will make the game far more enjoyable if you’re in the latter camp. It’s well worth playing the game for the story alone as it’s fantastic, especially for the time.

3 Parasite Eve

Near the beginning of Parasite Eve with Aya leaving the limo.

Square Enix’s cult-loved Parasite Eve series is sadly abandoned by its publisher. Still, the first game remains a PS1 favorite for many, and it’s easily the best in the series. The game’s based on a Japanese book of the same name. However, in a weird move, it’s actually a sequel, not an adaption.

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Parasite Eve is a horror RPG hybrid, and it plays quite well. Many see this era as the golden age of Square Enix, and when engaging in the combat system, it’s not hard to see why. With a great female protagonist, a distinct New York setting, and grotesque monsters, it’s a must-play horror title in this era.

2 Dino Crisis

A T-Rex busting through the glass in Dino Crisis

Directed by Shinji Mikami, co-creator of Resident Evil, Dino Crisis’ elevator pitch is RE but with dinosaurs. In reality, it feels a bit more unique than that. Dino Crisis has quite a lot of mechanical differences from Resident Evil. There are several more options for dealing with the dinosaurs rather than the standard kill or evade them.

There’s also more of a focus on puzzles with the various tools you have, and they can be a lot of fun. The game has a noticeable difficulty jump in the latter half. However, it’s welcome, as you will probably have become complacent by the halfway point. Dino Crisis has plenty of replay value with multiple paths, and although the last hour is lackluster, the total package is an excellent survival horror game.

1 Silent Hill

Harry about to go through this gate in the intro of Silent Hill 1.

It’s interesting looking back at the original Silent Hill game, especially how it was made. A Japanese team created Silent Hill, but the core influences for the title were American. The two biggest are the works of Stephen King and David Lynch. Silent Hill early on was actually a video game adaptation of The Mist, but along the way, the developers found out that simply wasn’t going to happen, so they made it an original work.

The first Silent Hill still holds up today largely due to excellent sound design and dated 3D graphics, which actually make it scarier. Seeing the disturbing imagery in this PS1 style has a certain quality that makes it scarier than modern graphics. Like Konami’s Metal Gear Solid, this game’s still effective.

NEXT: Silent Hill: Best Characters In The Series

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