It’s a golden era for horror games. During Sony’s June State of Play presentation, fans learned that two highly anticipated games would be coming out within a four-month window: Resident Evil 4 and The Callisto Protocol. Earlier in May, Electronic Arts announced that a remake of Dead Space would also be released in that window. All of these games draw from the genre’s rich history; two are remakes, and The Callisto Protocol is made by some of the original team behind the first Dead Space. All three of these games are big-budget experiences that look genuinely terrifying, and it’s a great sign for a genre that hasn’t always gotten the attention and love it deserves — even as incredible indie games keep pushing the genre forward.
Of these forthcoming AAA horror games, The Callisto Protocol is due first, with a release date in December 2022. From the trailer alone, the game looks terrifying, with stark environments and interesting weapons, like a gravity gun called the Grip. Prisoner Jacob Lee is trapped in moon prison, and he’s now locked in with a bunch of humanoid-looking monsters called the biophage that bring Dead Space’s Necromorphs to mind. The game was originally planned to take place in the PUBG universe, but it’s since been reworked to be an entirely original story.
Dead Space arrives soon after in January 2023, and it looks like an upscaled and more detailed version of the original horror classic. Isaac Clarke is a ship systems engineer responding to a distress signal on the USG Ishimura. Unfortunately, the ship is now full of dead people and murderous Necromorphs, so Isaac needs to repurpose his industrial weaponry to sever their limbs and try and survive. The game is infamous for its scares, rounded out by some masterful sound and UI design. You see Isaac’s health bar through a tube on his back; when he’s injured, his ragged breath rattles in his helmet.
Last of the bunch, the Resident Evil 4 remake is planned for release on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X on March 24, 2023, and new VR content was also announced. We haven’t seen too much of the game, but the original is considered a classic for a reason. Leon S. Kennedy, no longer a fresh-faced rookie, is on a rescue mission for the president’s daughter in a remote European village, but things quickly spiral out of control when he encounters the murderous locals — and the conspiracy that links back to an old enemy.
The return of these classics is especially exciting, given the way the Resident Evil and Dead Space franchises briefly spun out of control in the early 2010s, slowly ditching the horror elements that made these games in favor of increasingly frantic and over-the-top action experiences. By 2015, the Dead Space franchise fell into dormancy, and Resident Evil dialed things back with 2017’s Resident Evil 7 and its 2021 follow-up, Village. Dead Space getting a proper remake feels like a mea culpa and an acknowledgement — yes, people actually like scary single-player campaigns. We’re a bunch of little freaks who love being hunted by gore-dripping monsters, not chasing those monsters down with a machine gun. Even older titles that were thought forgotten are making a return, as shown by Routine’s surprise appearance at Summer Game Fest.
There’s something for everyone right now, even outside of single-player experiences. Multiplayer horror games like Dread Hunger or Dead by Daylight are also incredibly popular, and while they don’t have the same gravitas and careful plotting as a single-player game, they’re a fun way to experience chills and thrills with friends. Even if you prefer cheesy pulp that puts spectacle up alongside scares, The Dark Pictures Anthology and The Quarry by Supermassive Games are designed to scratch that itch.
And if you’re tired of remakes or big-budget titles, there’s a wealth of fantastic indie horror games out there. Developers are creating small, memorable, and innovative games like Mirror Layers, which takes place in an apartment with a PC connected to other players giving hints, tips, and useful tools. Mundaun is a Swiss expedition that goes terribly wrong with memorable hand-drawn visuals. Nightslink has the player take the role of a courier going through an apartment, distributing mysterious recorded tapes to unhinged residents.
If you’re not sure where to find these smaller titles, the Horror Games Community account on Twitter is constantly flagging finds like these ones. The account is meant to be a celebration of all things horror, from big flagship titles to mysterious little gems. The account will post screenshots and concept art from older titles too, encouraging fans to discuss their favorites. If big-budget remakes wear you out, there’s a smorgasbord of smaller gems out there, ranging from the expression-manipulator game Who’s Lila? to Silt, a game that looks like Inside but a thalassophobe’s nightmare.
It’s nice to get scared sometimes; there’s something comforting about looking into the abyss in a controlled setting. Horror fans are in for a great year, but there’s also tons of recent material that’s worth a look. If anything, the biggest problem horror fans have is that there isn’t enough time for all these great games. Unless you’re a Silent Hill fan; in that case, please press F to pay respects.