Every once in a while I get in the mood to play some horror games, but I never want to spend a lot of money on them.
I spend a long time playing free horror games, and it’s surprising how many free horror games have been released on Steam. One thing to note is that a lot of these games are extremely short.
Because of this, I’m judging each game based on how good they are at scaring the people. Some are scarier than others, but you can be sure that all of them have either a creepy or horror atmosphere to them.
So, here are my picks for the best horror games on Steam.
10. the static speaks my name
I purposely put this one first so that you can skip it if you don’t like the topics this game covers. The entire game revolves around the theme of mental health and suicide, so if you don’t want to hear about that then please just skip to the next one on the list.
The static speaks my name is a story of a man on his last day alive. You wake up in the middle of the night and perform seemingly meaningless tasks, and over the course of this 20 minute game it becomes creepier and more disturbing.
You’ll quickly notice that the man has an obsession with a certain painting of 2 palm trees on an island. You see notes that he’s left himself around the house and you slowly unravel a sad but extremely dark story.
Honestly out of every game on this list, this one affected me the most. There aren’t any jump scares and it’s not an outright terrifying game, but it’s a psychological horror game that really sticks with you after you’ve finished it.
Again, if you aren’t comfortable with the themes I mentioned above, do not play this game.
9. September 1999
This game is what originally inspired me to make this list. September 1999 is a found footage style game that’s supposed to look like it’s being filmed with an old VHS camera. The graphics are nearly photorealistic, and the game looks pretty incredible while viewed through the camcorder.
Just so you know, this game is only 5 minutes and 30 seconds long. Some people have debated whether or not it’s actually a game since there are only 2 rooms and you can’t interact with anything.
September 1999 almost feels like a demo of a full game, but one thing you’ll quickly realize is how quickly it builds tension. I don’t think I’ve played a game before that built tension so quickly, and when it was done it stuck with me for a while.
It never explicitly gives you answers either. The player can take the information they see and use it to piece their own theories in their mind. Fear of the unknown is the scariest thing we deal with as humans, and September 1999 takes advantage of that.
8. Kraven Manor
If you enjoy games that are similar to Amnesia, then you’ll probably enjoy Kraven Manor. You immediately see the inspiration from Amnesia as soon as you boot up the game.
The basic idea of the game is that you need to explore an abandoned mansion to solve its mysteries and uncover its secrets. There’s about an hour of gameplay, so there’s a decent amount of content that’ll keep you occupied for a little bit.
I think the puzzle-style gameplay is extremely fun and very fitting to this type of horror game. Kraven Manor actually used to be a paid game, and even though it’s short I think it would have been worth buying before it went free-to-play.
7. Ultimate Custom Night
This is of course the free to play Five Nights at Freddy’s game that I think is actually pretty fun. I personally got tired of the Five Nights at Freddy’s games after the second or third one, but I can’t deny that these can jumpscare you really well.
In Ultimate Custom Night, you can choose any animatronic from the FNaF series to face off against you during the night. You can set the difficulty of each enemy, as well as add however many you want.
As you play the game, you’ll unlock new offices and new powerups to help you get through the night. Ultimate Custom Night lets you create whatever scenario you want, and it has a learning curve just like the other games in the series.
Even if you’re not a fan of the series, this free game is worth playing if you’re looking for some jumpscares.
6. Perfect Vermin
To be honest, I didn’t realize that this game was a horror game when I downloaded it. I thought it was a game similar to the destruction game Teardown, but it turned out to be much more than it looked like on the Steam store.
Perfect Vermin isn’t exactly a horror game, but rather a game that has a message conveyed in a creepy way. The basic idea of the game is to run around an office building destroying furniture and equipment in search of the vermin posing as equipment.
Over the course of the game, things slowly get more confusing and disturbing. Towards the end of this short 20 minute game, the meaning will be revealed to you, but not everything is completely explained.
Some of it is left to personal interpretation, but it definitely is a confusing game. Although it looks like a fun destruction game on the surface, it most definitely isn’t a lighthearted and cheery game.
5. Spooky’s Jumpscare Mansion
This is not to be confused with the newer HD version that cost $10, so make sure you download the original free edition.
Spooky’s Jumpscare Mansion is a dungeon crawler style maze game where you need to navigate through 1,000 rooms. Even though the game starts out with a cute art style, it slowly starts to become more creepy and more disturbing.
Periodically a spider or some other cute little creature will pop up, but as you proceed through the rooms they’ll turn into creepy images like distorted heads. Then, you’ll start to be pursued by monsters and the rooms become harder to get through.
Spooky’s Jumpscare Mansion slowly eases you into the horror, but the longer you play the more curious you are about what’s in the next room. It’ll take you probably around 4 hours to beat, and even though not a lot happens in the beginning you’ll most likely want to continue to the end of the game.
4. Minds Eyes
Mind’s Eyes is a pretty interesting game that does an awesome job building tension and scaring the player. It’s definitely not Outlast level scary and it’s rough around the edges, but if you’re looking for a game with good horror elements and some jumpscares.
I don’t know what it was about this game but I felt more nervous exploring this ominous house than I did with the others on this list. Maybe it was the low budget feel that made it scarier, but I started playing it late at night and it really gave me some great horror vibes.
There’s a common criticism in Steam reviews that there isn’t a lot of gameplay and that you just wander from room to room, and that’s partially true. However, it does horror very well and it was an enjoyable experience.
3. Alien Swarm
While it’s not the typical jumpscare style horror game, Alien Swarm weaves horror elements into an extremely underrated top down shooter. This not very well known source engine game can be played either singleplayer or multiplayer, and focuses on a group of space marines as they fight their way through alien hordes.
You fight with a squad of 4 players, each having their own weapons and skillsets. The best I can describe it is it’s like a top-down Left 4 Dead game but with aliens instead of zombies. It’s actually kind of surprising not more people have heard about it since it’s such a great free-to-play title.
2. SCP Secret Laboratory
While it’s not insanely scary, SCP Secret Lab is one of the best free games you can play on Steam. It’ll seem like utter chaos to you when you first start playing, but it’ll become more fun as you learn more about it.
I personally love the entire SCP universe which is creepy by itself, but a game about navigating a maze like corridor while creatures stalk you can be pretty terrifying sometimes. Some of the immersion is broken when you hear people blasting their earrape memes over the voice chat, but once you mute those people you can get back to enjoying the game.
SCP Secret Lab has a very active and vibrant community who constantly create mods for the game. There are new updates being added constantly and there are special holiday event updates
It’s much more fun to play with friends, but it’s a great experience either way.
1. We Went Back
We Went Back is my favorite entry on this list. It looks and feels a lot like Alien Isolation, since it takes place on moonbase. The game revolves around being stuck in a time loop as an alien creature attacks your base.
Because of the time loop, the entire moonbase distorts and becomes confusing to navigate. Along the way, you take pictures of various items that’ll help you solve the puzzle you need to escape.
Overall the game has a really interesting concept and some impressive graphics for being free. I really like the space setting and I think it really helps make it feel more immersive. We Went Back takes about an hour to beat, and it’s definitely worth trying out.
I did notice that the game lagged every once in a while, but besides that I didn’t have any major complaints with it. If you’re a fan of any sort of sci-fi horror, We Went Back is the best game for you.