Top Classic Horror Computer Games

While horror might be a mainstay for console games today, there was a time when a home video game system didn't have enough power to run the terrifying graphics needed to create a rich and frightening universe. So the place where the spooky classics went to get their fright on was on computers. From PC, Mac and even a few 8-bit models, the place to experience real terror was on the hard drive. The games that follow are the best and most groundbreaking fright-fest video games ever released. Just keep repeating to yourself, "it's only DOS," "it's only DOS."

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Packshot © Sierra

Sierra On-Line – 1995

Roberta Williams, co-founder of Sierra On-Line and writer/designer of the greatest computer games of all time, calls this her personal favorite, and rightly so as it remains the greatest horror game ever. The first to allow players control over a live-action character, the content took up so much space that it was played across seven CD-ROMS.

While on sabbatical at an ancient mansion, Adrienne Delaney unknowingly releases an evil demon. The mansion was once owned by a magician who originally summoned the demon. Now it is up to Adrienne to stop the madness.

Although surrounded by controversy due to violent and sexual content, Phantasmagoria went on to be Sierra On-Lines most successful and acclaimed title of 1995.

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Packshot © Mindscape

MindScape - 1986

Although not the most advanced horror game, this 8-bit point-and-click adventure paved the way to today's modern Survival Horror games, with inspirations to the early Silent Hill and Resident Evil series.

After a horrible car accident, the player regains consciousness and discover their little brother, who was traveling with them, is gone, having disappeared inside a mysterious mansion. As they journey the player solves puzzles and battles undead enemies. Soon you learn that secrets of the house and why it is possessed by such angry and vengeful spirits. If the player doesn't quickly find their brother and escape, they will be overcome by the sinister ghouls and become one of the undead themselves.

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Alone in the Dark

Packshot © Atari

Interplay - 1992

The first 3D Survival Horror Game brought the genre into a rich, full world that was not just taken advantage of visually, but also with the gameplay and puzzles.

Based on the works of HP Lovecraft, the game can take the role of Detective Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood, nice of the suicide victim Jeremy Hartwood, who recently hung himself in his Louisiana mansion. Both investigate the home and find that it is chock-full of monsters, all working for the mansions original owner, Ezechiel Pregzt, who needs the use of a living body so he can return from the grave.

Considered a groundbreaking achievement with rich and engaging gameplay, Alone in the Dark has seen numerous sequels but not a single re-release of the original.

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Packshot © Id Software

Id Software – 1993

Although not the original first-person-shooter, Doom is considered the most important.

As a Space Marine guarding a top-secret teleportation project that is actually a gateway to hell, when demons start pouring out, it's up to you to blow them all away.

Doom was a huge success partially because of its exciting gameplay but also in the ​way it was distributed. The first version wasn't released to retail stores, but instead as Shareware, allowing players to gain the first chapter for free either via download or through software clubs. This made Doom a staple in most gamer households. Since its initial release, Doom has become one of the most commonly ported video game releasing in one version or another for every major system.

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Packshot © ASC Games

ASC Games – 1998

Although old school for its time Sanitarium wowed players with creepy and engaging gameplay that messes with the players head as they never know what they are seeing is real or a delusion.

After surviving a near-fatal car accident, Max Laughton awakens in an ancient asylum with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Max must journey through the frightening institution and solve the mystery as he falls in and out of frightening hallucinations and flashbacks that piece together portions of his past. The real terror truly begins when Max (and the player) starts to question if any of it is real or just ramblings of his insane mind.

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Packshot © Gathering of Developers

Gathering of Developers – 1999

While computer horror games have been consistently improving and perfecting adventure and point-and-click style gameplay, console horror games were breaking off and taking a different direction, evolving out of Japan in a style made popular with the Resident Evil series. One of the first computer horror games to adopt this approach is Nocturne.

As a mysterious agent for, Spookhouse, a secret underground government division started by Teddy Roosevelt, you are dedicated to saving the world from the deadly thread of monster invasions. Battling vampires, zombies, Frankenstein mobsters, and loads of others, the game is jam-packed with action and frights, creating its own rich universe that spans across the globe.

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Packshot © Sierra

Sierra On-Line – 1995

Masters of the adventure games Sierra On-Line introduced this graphically stunning horror adventure following a teenager who takes a bet to spend the night at a haunted museum and soon finds himself fighting for his life against deadly spirits.

At the time of Shivers' creation, Sierra On-Line was going out of the box to improve graphics quality as shown in Phantasmagoria, which released earlier the same year as Nocturne. Instead of all-computer generated graphics or live-action, the graphics in Nocturne were all hand-crafted watercolor painted that had been computer enhanced, which created an amazing visual experience.

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The Beast Within - A Gabriel Knight Mystery

Packshot © Sierra

Sierra On-Line – 1995

A different approach to live action gameplay in a point-and-click adventure where players move the character to an area and interacting with objects with a click of the mouse. This approach doesn't take away from the engaging and spooky world and gameplay created for Gabriel Knight, the hapless mystery writer's second adventure.

Upon hearing the news of his uncle's death and inheritance of an ancient castle, Gabriel and his assistant Grace Nakimura must travel to a small town in Germany. No sooner do they arrive than the villagers beg Gabriel to solve the murder believe to have been committed by a werewolf.

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The 7th Guest

Packshot © Sierra

Virgin Games – 1993

Not only is the 7th Guest notable for being one of the first games to include embedded live-action sequences mixed with 3D computer graphics, but it is also the very first video game to release on CD-Rom, a new technology at the time.

A first-person adventure tells the tale of six guests invited to dinner at a mad, hermit-like toymaker's mansion; years after he spread a virus-like plague which killed all the children and captured their souls into his dolls. Now he needs one more to complete his plans. The guests now fight over the fate of the child, eventually killing one another off.

You take the role of one of the guests, Ego, and must solve the mystery behind the evil toymaker's plot and eventually rescue the child.