Let’s be honest: space is scary.
If you’re not dealing with aliens, you’re navigating through huge emptiness, being cut off from society, and being crammed into spaceships, which is the perfect recipe for a nightmare.
So, it’s not surprising that sci-fi horror is a pretty common theme.
There are a lot of movies, like Alien and Event Horizon, that use this subgenre, but it has also been used in video games.
In fact, you could spend a few months playing nothing but sci-fi scary video games. But which of these scary science fiction events is the best?
Media has used how scary it is to be alone in space to create some of the best horror experiences ever.
This is very true when it comes to video games, where the fact that the player has some control also adds to the creepy feeling.
Trying to fight and run away from the many horrors in the depths of space can be very scary, and the following games do a great job of showing how lonely and scary the galaxy really is.
The city of Rapture, which is underwater, is a place that players can’t forget. As a spiritual sequel to System Shock, the first BioShock game was where this dark, dystopian 1960s world really shone.
The story’s main ideas come from well-known dystopian stories by authors like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley.
BioShock is all about sneaking around and making moral decisions.
At first, it might seem like a lot is happening, but you’ll get some game-changing powers and skills that will help you live among Rapture’s twisted enemies.
Carrion is more of a sci-fi horror game with a twist than anything else.
You play the part of a strange creature that has broken out of its cage and is killing everything that gets in its way.
The more you play this game, the more bloody it will get.
As you move through Carrion’s building, you have to figure out a lot of puzzles. At first, it’s easy to get by, but as you go further, it gets harder and harder.
If you get a little queasy when you see blood and guts, Carrion will definitely make you sick.
16. The Callisto Protocol
The Callisto Protocol was made by Glen Schofield, who was also one of the people behind Dead Space.
It reminds us of what makes sci-fi horror so popular. It didn’t get the best reviews when it came out, but it’s turned out to be a fun game over time.
You are put in a hard world full of animals out for blood, and you have to fight them with your bare hands. This keeps you on your toes.
Even though the story has some small flaws, it is still worth reading. In the end, The Callisto Protocol has a chance to be better because it was made with so much love and care.
15. Iron Lung
Iron Lung is the newest game on this list. It came out in March 2022, so I was hesitant to put it above so many other great games.
Even though I have some worries about recency bias, I’m sure that this game will be seen as a hidden gem of the genre in the future.
In Iron Lung, you drive a submarine through a bloody ocean on a strange moon. This game was made by the brilliant David Szymanski (DUSK, Gloomwood, The Music Machine).
Not only is it really scary, but it also has some sci-fi horror ideas that I’m not sure I’ve seen in many other projects in this field. It’s almost like Subnautica but even scary.
The only thing scarier than the feeling of being trapped that the game gives you is knowing that whatever you run into will be much scarier than anything you’ve been thinking.
It’s a very exciting game.
14. We Went Back
I almost put The Outer Wilds on this list, but it seems like a stretch to call it a horror game. The good news is that there is another time-loop sci-fi book that is definitely scary.
At the start of We Went Back, your character wakes up in a space station that seems to be empty.
When they find out that the space station isn’t nearly as empty as they thought, it makes an already scary situation even worse.
We Went Back is basically a hallway horror game (like P.T.) with some time-loop twists. Its dynamic settings, retro style, and great story make it stand out from a lot of other games.
Even though you can finish the game in less than an hour, a free, short, and original game these days is pretty much a miracle.
13. The Thing
It’s always a little sad to talk about The Thing, a video game that came out in 2002.
On the one hand, it’s one of the best horror games ever made into a video game, and it’s also a great sci-fi horror game.
On the other hand, you can’t play the game officially without all of the original equipment.
Back in the day, a lot of people missed out on this, and because of that, a lot of people will continue to miss out on it.
But The Thing is still a great example of this type of movie. The Thing keeps you on the edge of your seat even when things are quiet because it focuses on the anxiety in the movie it’s based on.
It turns out that in a sci-fi horror game, the only thing scarier than being alone is being surrounded by “allies” who could turn on you at any time.
As you might have guessed, we’ll talk about another sci-fi horror game a little later on this list that does a great job of capturing the fear of the first Alien movie.
But there’s only one sci-fi horror game that perfectly captures the fear of Aliens, and it’s not one of the many games that are officially based on one of the best movie titles ever made.
GTFO is basically a space-based team shooter like Rainbow Six Siege, with a little bit of Left 4 Dead thrown in.
As the name suggests, the most interesting thing about this game (at least for some) is how hard it is to win.
Some people will say that this game is “too hard,” but you have to remember that GTFO is one of the few games of its kind that doesn’t always measure success by how many monsters you kill.
You and your team should feel like heroes if you can just stay alive when an army of advanced monsters has circled you and wants to kill you.
11. Echo Night: Beyond
Surprisingly, there aren’t that many good games that mix space and the standard supernatural. Even if they did, I doubt that many of them would be as interesting as Echo Night: Beyond.
In Echo Night: Beyond, a newlywed pair crashes into a faraway space base on their way to their honeymoon spot.
What comes next is a weirdly wonderful science fiction story that focuses on freeing the ghosts that chase you instead of just killing them in battle.
Don’t get me wrong, though. The game is still very scary. In fact, your character could die of fear if you don’t keep an eye on their “heart meter.” Just keep an eye on your heart rate when you play this game.
10. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
Even though I just talked about this game when we talked about the most upsetting horror games ever made, I’ll take any chance to talk about this truly twisted sci-fi horror game from 1995.
I Have No Mouth is a sci-fi point-and-click action game in which you play as five wildly different characters.
Even though each character is different, they all have one thing in common: a supercomputer has captured them and is going to do cruel experiments on them for “pleasure” (of a sort) and study.
Some of the things you’ll see and do in this game are so horrible that I don’t want to talk about them in detail.
Still, this is without a doubt one of the best science fiction/horror games out there.
9. Doom 3
When Doom 3 came out, there was a lot of disagreement about what it was and what it wasn’t.
At the time, a lot of people who thought Doom 3 would be the next great shooter were surprised to find out that it was actually a slightly more methodical horror game that put more focus on mood and scares than on straight action.
Doom 3 is one of the best games in this type because it has all of these traits.
Even if you play a version of this game that lets you keep your flashlight on at all times (which is a nice improvement), there are still parts of Doom 3 that will make you feel uncomfortable.
Yes, Doom 3 is mostly a “jump scare” horror game, but many of its jump scares are set up very well by the game’s use of dark places, scary sounds, and other tricks with the environment.
This is a great example of how mood can make a scary game even scarier.
Blooper Team gets a lot of (often unfair) criticism for making what people think are predictable horror games.
But if you dig deeper into their past, you’ll find a number of games that show this studio just gets what makes modern games scary.
Observer shows that Blooper knows a lot about horror games, and I’d also say that it’s their most complex horror game to date.
In this cyborg horror game, you play as a detective who has to solve crimes by jumping into people’s brain implants.
If you don’t think that’s scary, you’ve probably never gone that deep into your own mind, let alone someone else’s.
This trippy horror game makes you pay a lot of attention to things that, from a psychological point of view, should have never left someone’s mind.
7. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
I’ve always been scared of movies like Threads and The Day After that take place during the Cold War and are about nuclear war.
Their wild ideas about how everything will end show that only the end of the world is the end of the world. Well, if you’re brave enough, Shadow of Chernobyl lets you play through one of those terrifying images.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a survival horror game that takes place in an alternate future where mercenaries search for strange riches in the contaminated area around Chornobyl.
The focus of the game is on survival. Even though there are some mutant monsters in this game, your biggest problems will be dealing with radiation and always not having enough supplies.
Even though this game is partly based on a real event, it gives a scary look at what life would be like after a nuclear war. We all hope it stays a story and doesn’t come true.
Arkane’s take on a scary sci-fi movie was, to say the least, memorable.
Fans were interested to see how the Arkane team, which is best known for the highly acclaimed Dishonored series, would handle a game in this genre.
And, of course, they were able to make a wonderful game.
Prey is not only a scary sci-fi game, but also one of the hardest first-person shooter games.
It’s a great title that combines all the standard elements of sci-fi horror into a beautiful package of cosmic terror.
But what makes it different from other scary science fiction games is that you have to rely on your survival skills more than anything else.
SOMA is known for being a scary walking game where you can easily get lost.
It’s about the scary idea of what it means to be human and how we want to find our sense of self in a world with so much chaos.
The only things that make SOMA not as good as it could be are the few tasks and the real feeling of horror.
Some things can give you chills, but everything is more about finding out what’s going on than anything else.
But putting the story together is a dark process that can’t be avoided.
Returnal has some shockingly good bullet-hell style gameplay and some amazing Metroidvania design ideas, but what makes it our 2021 GOTY is its truly shocking horror story.
Returnal is a rare sci-fi horror movie that does a great job of combining the fear of something close to home with the nightmare of being stuck in space.
Even though there aren’t many clear answers to this game’s most important questions, thinking about some of the story’s meanings will make you feel empty.
Even then, you won’t be able to resist going deeper into the rabbit hole of this game.
3. System Shock 2
There are a lot of great stories in the subgenre of science fiction called “evil computer hates people.” Even one of these games is already on this list.
Yet, System Shock 2 is thought to be the best example of this weirdly classic idea in video games for many reasons.
System Shock 2 has one of the best “atmospheres” in a video game. I don’t want to use the word “atmosphere” too much, but it’s true.
Almost every part of this game does a good job of making you feel like you’ve been moved to a space station full of scary sci-fi things that are almost supernatural.
The worst part about how easy it is to get lost in this game is that you’ll soon find a world where you definitely do not want to get lost.
The fact that this game is so good is almost unfair. Games that scare you this much shouldn’t be so fun.
2. Alien: Isolation
There have been some very good Alien games in the past, but for a long time, it seemed like the dream of a horror game that was as good as the original Alien was doomed to stay a dream.
That is, until Alien: Isolation came along and made that idea work so well that it was almost easy to forget that Isolation is a dream game.
In most Alien games, the Xenomorphs are just a part of the story. However, in Isolation, the Xenomorphs are an apex predator that is trapped in an unfamiliar setting.
One Xenomorph could be the main character in one of the weirdest games ever made. With so many Alien sequels and remakes, it’s easy to forget how scary the Xenomorphs are.
Isolation does a small trick by making that creature feel as scary (or scarier) than it did in 1979.
1. Dead Space
Some people think that Dead Space is the best survival horror game ever made.
Even though Resident Evil is the biggest name in a field full of all-time classics, Dead Space is one of the few survival horror games that combines action, exploration, and truly scary moments as well.
I guess that some of Dead Space’s basic ideas could have worked if it had been a zombie game like Resident Evil, but it’s the sci-fi parts that really make it stand out.
From the game’s setting to its tools and weapons, which are a mix of “blue-collar needs and advanced technology,” Dead Space looks at the many ways that the future will bring both new opportunities and the need to face things we haven’t even thought of yet.