What Makes Something Scary Good?

Horror games are some of the most popular games on the market. Gamers want to be scared, and people want to watch them get scared.

Horror games spawned a form of video content that people love to watch and that is horror game reactions. Felix Kjellberg (a.k.a. PewDiePie) founded one of the highest grossing YouTube channels based on this. This allowed horror games to slowly fill in the market with their content. How do games do this though? What makes a game scary good?

There are two major factors in what makes horror games good:


The use of first person hands on action — actions as in what someone does rather than witnesses. Hands off action would be more akin to movies and television. Good games make you feel like what you do affects the outcome.

Outlast (which just released a scary sequel) almost punishes the player for not doing things or for doing certain things. Towards the beginning of the game when the player walks too close to an impaled man, they are greeted with the man trying to choke out a warning. This sequence allowed the game to scare the player while making the player feel like them walking that close was a punishment.

While jump-scares and player interaction make for a scary games, the atmosphere of a game really sells the horror. Even though it didn’t get it’s full release, P.T. was a terrifying experience because of it’s immersion. It used the same setting, a hallway, again and again but every time it was recycled something would change. The creepiness really added up and when the player got a scare it made it that much better.

Immersion and player interaction both add up to make a truly scary experience that no other medium has captured.


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