After a particularly strong 2020 headlined by the likes of The Last of Us Part II and Resident Evil 3, 2021 was a bit lighter on horror games (sadly, the real world continued to be a bit of a nightmare). This year’s slate of horror games was, of course, dominated by Resident Evil Village, but we also got the surprisingly effective The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes, indie mind-bender Inscryption, and more. There’s still plenty to be scared of if you search the right darkened corners, so summon up your courage for Technovanguard’s Best Horror Games of 2021…
Check out Technovanguard’s other Best Games of 2021 lists: Fighters, Platformers, Strategy & Simulation, Shooters, Sports & Racing, and RPGs.
The latest from Daniel Mullins, creator of Pony Island and The Hex, Inscryption is yet another mind-bending attack on the player’s expectations. The game starts as a simple-enough roguelike card game against a mysterious opponent, but you’ll discover you can actually get up and explore the creepy cabin you’re playing in and soon enough, the game’s perspective, genre, and narrative being to shift in unexpected ways. Inscryption’s horror is very much of the psychological variety, but don’t worry, its eerie atmosphere and unpredictable narrative absolutely succeed in making a hand of cards properly spine-tingling.
In Sound Mind (7.5)
Indies that deal with the issue of mental health have become fairly common in recent years, but horror games like Silent Hill have been tackling the intricacies of the human mind for even longer. In Sound Mind may tread similar ground as some other indies with its story of a psychologist exploring twisted worlds inspired by his patients’ issues, but that doesn’t mean it can’t surprise. In Sound Mind isn’t subtle, but it delivers a unique atmosphere and keeps you on your toes throughout. Technovanguard’s Chris Wray found the game a bit heavy-handed at times, but compelling overall (I actually liked it a bit more than him)…
In Sound Mind is a surprisingly compelling title, offering an interesting story and strong horror experience. However, some aspects start to outlive their welcome – if only due to annoyance. Tackling a sensitive subject like mental health, In Sound Mind could have fallen flat if it wasn’t handled well, and while it can come across as heavy-handed at times, this is generally well done and worth experiencing.
Alan Wake Remastered (8.5)
For nearly a decade Alan Wake stood as one of the most acclaimed and beloved games that… not a lot of people actually played. Xbox exclusivity limited the original game’s reach, but Remedy finally brought their Stephen-King-inspired adventure to a wider audience this year with Alan Wake Remastered. Thankfully, the game’s well-wrought characters, creepy atmosphere, and gripping story all hold up. And hey, you’re going to want to make sure you’re primed before the even-more-horrific Alan Wake 2 arrives. Technovanguard’s Ule Lopez certainly enjoyed his time with the PS5 version of the game, even if the remastering was somewhat on the modest side…
Alan Wake Remastered is the perfect way for PlayStation 5 users to experience the story of Alan Wake. However, players looking for a refreshing experience might find themselves with a bit too much of the same thing that’s been seen in previous versions of the game. At the end of the day, I am recommending this game for what it is over what the remaster offers.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes (9)
Supermassive Games’ Dark Pictures Anthology have been getting better and better with each new entry, and they may have finally reached their true potential with this year’s House of Ashes. Featuring a more polished presentation, welcome new features like a free camera, and a gutsy story set during the Iraq War that actually takes its characters seriously, the game is more than just a throwaway horror quicky. Technovanguard’s Chris Wray certainly came away with chills…
The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes is easily the series’ best so far. There are clear improvements in gameplay, such as difficulty options and complete control over the camera. The writing also takes strides forward, with an excellent cast of characters, more realistic writing, and a satisfying narrative throughout. Add the already exceptional abilities of Supermassive Games at building atmosphere, and you have a recipe for a great game.
Resident Evil Village (9)
Resident Evil Village is also one of Technovanguard’s top action games of the year, but make no mistake, Capcom hasn’t forgotten the game’s horror roots. From the blood-soaked Hammer-horror-inspired halls of Lady Dimitrescu’s castle, to the shadowy haunted interior of House Beneviento, RE Village is packed with references to classic horror movies and stories. It also packs some of the best scares in the entire history of Resident Evil. As I’ve said, I’ve played almost every Resident Evil game and found Village to be one of the series’ best…
Resident Evil Village is a wild, thrilling ride across seemingly every horror genre and idea that happened to pass through the mad minds at Capcom. Not every aspect of the game is perfect, but its highs are very high and solid core mechanics and excellent presentation hold the grisly patchwork together. You may survive Resident Evil Village, but your thoughts will linger there long after you’ve escaped.
Still looking for some more scares? There were a number of other solid, if somewhat flawed, horror games released this year, including The Medium, Little Nightmares II, and Tormented Souls. There are also some games, like the PS5-exclusive Returnal, which boast some pretty strong creepy vibes, even if they maybe don’t qualify as full-on horror games.
So yeah, a bit of a slow year for horror, but with games like Dying Light 2, Ghostwire: Tokyo, The Callisto Protocol, and Scorn on the way in 2022, expect as many scares as you can handle in the near future. Any good horror games I missed? Don’t agree with the top five? Hit the comments and hash out your own horror favs and make sure to cast your ballot below.
Vote for your favorite Horror game of 2021!
Best Horror Game of 2021
- In Sound Mind
- Alan Wake Remastered
- The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes
- Resident Evil Village
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