10 best horror games that don’t look like horror games, to begin with

Of all the horror video game subgenres that exist, one of the most popular is deceptive horror. These types of horror games first try to convince gamers that they are just playing an innocent game where nothing bad is happening, but slowly the game is showing its true colors as a horror experience.

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Even though deceptive horror has grown in popularity in recent years, it’s a genre that existed long before the recent mainstream success, and it will likely continue for as long as horror exists. After all, there is nothing more terrifying than fear when you least expect it.


Irisu Syndrome!

A screenshot of a first end-of-game screen in Irisu Syndrome !.

Released in 2008, Irisu Syndrome! is a free RPG creation puzzle game where the player has to throw small white squares to knock shapes of the same color together to earn points. If the shapes hit the bottom of the screen before the player knocks them out, then the player will lose health and need to earn more points to get it back.

Even though the game appears to be a cute puzzle game starring a bunny anime girl, the player slowly discovers that the game is in fact about the possible murders of three students. Each time the player fails, new game files are added and others are changed, so the player will have to systematically check the game folder on their computer. Although this Japanese game has never been officially translated, there is an English translation by fans.


A gameplay screenshot from the platform horror game Eversion.

Another deceptive horror game released in 2008 is the puzzle platformer Eversion, inspired by retro Mario Games. The player controls a flower-like creature named Zee Tee that is on a journey to save the Princess from the Ghulibas. To cross the levels, Zee Tee has a special power that allows him to “switch” from one reality to another, and each reality has different properties.

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As the game starts out as a bright, colorful, and cheerful platformer, it slowly gets darker, duller, and more insidious as the player continues to move forward. Depending on whether the player gets all the gems or not, he will see one of the two endings.

Summer night

A screenshot from the horror game Summer Night.

Created by Airdorf Games, which is known to have created the pixel horror game series Faith: The Unholy Trinity, Summer Night is a retro style horror game inspired by Tiger Electronic LCD games. The game was made for the Dread X Collection, which was an Itch.io horror game where the creators had to create their own “TP ” in a week.

In this game, the player controls an unnamed protagonist as he runs through his garden, collects mushrooms and dodges the monkeys. But, this simple game turns out not to be so simple when scary things start happening like centipedes spurting out from the eye of the moon or a dark figure appearing in the background.


The player meets the farmer covered in blood in the Lost Moirai video game.

While there are many old lost video games out there, Moirai is a recent example of a game that gamers can no longer experience even if they want to. Developed by Chris Johnson and released in 2014, Moirai was a social experimentation horror game where the player controlled a farmer in a medieval type village. After the disappearance of a villager named Julia, the player goes to find her in a nearby cave.

Although the game seems like a normal retro-inspired experience at first, the player soon discovers that something darker is happening when they stumble upon another farmer in the cave who is covered in blood, and the player can choose to spare or kill the farmer. Later it is revealed that the farmer was another player who also participated in the game. Despite the cool concept, the game had to be taken down after pirates broke it.

The open day

A screenshot from the horror game The Open House.

Released in 2020, The open day is an Itch.io horror game where the player is supposed to be a tester of a new open house simulator from Northtree Real Estate. Using a point-and-click interface, the player explores one of the company’s available houses and the virtual agent comments on each of the rooms.

But, if the player finds three strange objects, they find themselves on a first-person horror adventure inside this seemingly innocuous house. While the player may not find their dream home, demons will certainly find the soul of their dreams.

Baldi’s Basics in Education and Learning

A screenshot of the start of the edutainment horror game Baldi's Basics.

Inspired by edutainment games of the 90s such as Sonic’s school, Baldi’s Basics in Education and Learning is a 2018 horror game created for the Meta Game Jam. In this game, the player goes to his school to collect seven notebooks, but he meets Baldi who forces him to answer math questions while getting the notebooks. Since Baldi easily loses his temper, the player must resolve the questions correctly or they will be in danger.

Eventually, the player encounters an impossible question, which inevitably drives Baldi mad. Now they must run away from him while finding the notebooks and avoiding Baldi’s other “friends”. After the success of this title, the creator worked on an improved version called Baldi’s Basics Plus.

Doki Doki Plus Literature Club!

Confidence Ending With Doki Doki Literature Club Plus

One of the best dating sims released in 2021 is the horror visual novel Doki Doki Plus Literature Club!, which is an HD reissue of the original 2017 Doki Doki Literature Club !. As in the original game, the player controls a high school protagonist who is invited to the literature club by their best friend.

Although the game initially looks like a regular dating sim where the player tries to date one of the characters, it is eventually revealed that one of the supporting characters, Monika, has fallen in love with the player and is trying to change the game as well as the player stays with it forever. In this new HD version, the game features new images, tracks and side stories for returning players to experience.

pony island

A screenshot from the game Pony Island

Before building the best-selling roguelike deck-building horror game Encryption, Daniel Mullins Developed The Metaphysical Horror Game 2016 pony island. Inspired by urban legends like Polybius, the player discovers an old arcade machine called pony island, which is in fact corrupted by Lucifer.

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To save both the player’s soul and the other souls trapped in the cabinet, the player will need to call in one of the trapped souls. In addition to playing the title the pony island, who is an endless runner, the player will also have to experience the internal programming of the arcade game to bypass the traps of Lucifer.

A date in the park

A screenshot from the point-and-click horror game A Date in the Park

Based on point-and-click adventure games from the 90s. A date in the park is a free horror short game about a man named Lou who has just moved to Lisbon, Portugal. Soon after moving there, he meets a woman named Catarina at a bar and quickly falls in love with her that night, and the two characters agree to meet at Catarina’s favorite park the next day.

But, once he arrives at the park, something is wrong and he cannot find Catarina. All of this is made particularly difficult because Lou doesn’t speak Portuguese, but he decides to wait for Catarina and ends up regretting it.

YOU and ME and HER: A love story

A screenshot from the horror visual novel YOU and ME and HER: A Love Story showing Shinichi talking to Aoi and Miyuki, who are his two loves.

Years before the release of Doki Doki Literature Club! in 2017, well-known Japanese developer Nitroplus released a horror dating sim titled YOU and ME and HER: A love story in 2013. The game follows a high school student named Shinichi who is frustrated with his current boring life, which is demonstrated by the fact that he doesn’t belong to any club despite his name for the romance club. But, after meeting a young girl named Aoi, her life changes.

Shinichi develops a friendship with Aoi and rekindles his relationship with his childhood friend Miyuki, which allows the player to romanticize Miyuki. After completing their route, the player can finally try to romance Aoi, but Miyuki doesn’t want to let the player go. contrary to Doki Doki Literature Club!focuses on how side characters are overlooked, this visual novel focuses on how players try multiple routes in a dating simulation.

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