There’s really never been a better time to be a horror gamer. From indie powerhouses like Puppet Combo to big licensed projects like Saber Interactive’s Evil Dead: The Game and Gun Interactive’s upcoming Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there are plenty of scary virtual experiences to choose from these days. However, a lot of gamers simply can’t keep up with all these high-profile releases eating up at their wallets.
That’s why we’ve come up with this list of six of the best free-to-play horror games, as you shouldn’t have to break the bank in order to enjoy some interactive chills. After all, there are plenty of quality scares to be had free of charge if you know where to look. We published a similar list back in 2019, but the world of videogames is constantly evolving, so you won’t find any repeated games here. That being said, I recommend that you check out that older article if these newer entries aren’t enough to satisfy your hunger for free horror games.
While this list is once again based on personal opinion, the games were selected according to their overall entertainment factor regardless of length or where they’re hosted. The only rule is that they have to be legally available free of charge (so be prepared for plenty of Itch.io links). As usual, don’t forget to comment below with your own personal favorites if you think we missed an important title.
Now, onto the list of some of the best Free Horror Games…
6. Death Forest
Japan’s infamous Aokigahara region (known colloquially as the “Suicide Forest”) is the stuff of nightmares, so it was only a matter of time before a Japan-based developer would use the legends surrounding the forest as the basis for a horror game. Created by Kazz, Death Forest sees players attempt to fix their motorbike while being stalked by four evil spirits in a lo-fi take on hide-and-seek.
While it’s spooky enough on its own, Death Forest is also notable for inspiring a series of low-budget horror films that are sure to please fans of B-grade J-horror (though they are notoriously hard to find through legal means). If you’re interested, you can download the full game over here!
5. Haunted PS1 Demo Disc (2020 & 2021)
Back in the 90s, demo discs were a bit like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates: you never knew what you were gonna get! There was a certain air of mystery behind these playable teaser anthologies, and that’s likely what inspired the Haunted PS1 Demo Disc, a yearly project that collects bite-sized horror experiences from a smorgasbord of talented developers.
From portable creepy dungeon crawlers to spooky Doom clones, I’d argue that there’s something here for everyone. In fact, some of these games have even spun-off into fully-fledged individual releases, so you know these demos are worth checking out. You can download the collection over at Itch.io, and remember to keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming Haunted PS1 Demo Disc 2022!
4. No Players Online
Another retro Itch.io title, this chilling homage to the early days of online gaming mostly relies on nostalgia to get its point across, but No Players Online also comes bundled with an unexpectedly emotional twist that makes it worth playing even if you’ve never experienced the eerie loneliness of an empty online game lobby.
To explain any further might spoil the surprise, so suffice to say that I recommend this brief digital experiment to any fan of minimalist storytelling and retro gaming aesthetics. I also think it’s worth checking out the title’s in-depth ARG elements, which provide some codes that can be used to unlock additional in-game content.
3. Friday 13th: Killer Puzzle
Cutesy 3D graphics and mind-melting puzzles aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind when one thinks of Jason Voorhees, but I’ll be the first to admit that Blue Wizard Digital’s Friday the 13th: Killer Puzzle is one of the best interactive incarnations of the franchise. Filled to the brim with unlockable goodies that are sure to please fans of the iconic slasher series, this murder simulator is incredibly fun if you can overlook the microtransactions that keep the game afloat.
Available for free on mobile app stores and Steam, Killer Puzzle was also one of the last Friday the 13th projects to be completed before the infamous lawsuit stopped the franchise dead in its tracks. For now, we can only hope that Blue Wizard Digital can give another slasher icon the Killer Puzzle treatment.
2. The House in the Woods
Originally developed over 48 hours for the first Haunted PS1 Wretched Weekend, Minigoliath’s The House in the Woods is an impressive first-person experiment that arguably does a better job of emulating The Blair Witch Project’s subtle scares than the film’s official videogame adaptations.
Placing players in a seemingly endless forest, this PSX-era throwback feels like playing through a low-polygon nightmare, and I mean that as a compliment. It probably won’t take you too long to beat, but the game has since been updated with additional scares and endings, so I’d recommend checking out the full version over here.
My personal favorite of this new generation of lo-fi horror experiences, Airdorf’s FAITH is a brief yet terrifying religious horror title inspired by a more primitive era of gaming. Featuring refreshingly simple gameplay and visuals, the title’s 8-bit aesthetics allow your imagination to fill in the creepy details as you unravel a cryptic tale of satanic panic and exorcisms gone wrong. The experience is also enhanced by a series of memorable rotoscoped cut-scenes that are sure to haunt your nightmares.
While you can name your own price (including $0) and download FAITH over at Airdorf’s Itch.io page, the title’s expanded sequel is also available for $1.00 or more, and I’m still anxiously awaiting the upcoming FAITH: The Unholy Trinity, which promises to conclude this horrific saga with a pixelized bang.
Just keep in mind that these games were most definitely not approved by the Vatican!