Anurag loves playing video games. His guides and listicles revolve around popular iOS, Android, PC, and console games.
There aren’t many horror role-playing video games out there today, and nobody knows the reason why. But, you can find a few horror RPGs that combine traditional role-playing elements with survival horror.
Some games keep the traditional RPG stuff intact and allow you to choose a character, craft weapons, explore a scary haunted house and fight creepy bosses. Here’s a rundown of some of the best horror role-playing games:
Combining survival horror with RPG, Koudelka presents a scary role-playing experience. The game tackles witchcraft, a subject very few games have embarked on. It revolves around three characters who begin investigating a series of mysterious murders in an eerie monastery. Fate brings them together to a haunted mansion, and it is up to their special skills and abilities that will help them survive a horrifying night.
Koudelka’s gameplay elements are very similar to old PlayStation Final Fantasy games. You control a set of polygonal characters, each with a unique ability and weapon choice. The game is exploration-based, so there are lots of things to search for before you fully understand the story. Combat is turn-based and has a grid system to help maneuver characters and tackle grotesque monsters, strange creatures, zombies and other scary entities.
The game also has plenty of inventory-based puzzles a la Resident Evil. Everything else sticks to traditional RPG. You can select weapons, create spells by combining various items and command a set of characters in tactical battles. While monsters are easy to defeat, it’s the scary boss levels that are really challenging. All in all, Koudelka is one of the rare horror-themed role playing games high on the scare meter.
2. Parasite Eve
Parasite Eve can’t be pigeonholed into any genre, but it has RPG elements infused into, which is why I have included this game in my list. The game has traces of survival horror, adventure and role-playing elements in it. Players step into the shoes of a sexy NYPD cop Aya Brea who is tasked to stop the mitochondrion menace that transforms livestock into scary zombies. The game’s immersive turn-based/real-time combat and dramatic plot sequences will surely keep you at the edge of your seat.
There are some really scary gameplay moments and plenty of surprises, but the game really does not allow players to explore Eve’s twisted world. While most RPGs are exploration-based, Parasite Eve is strictly linear. However, some RPG aspects such as combat and weapon-crafting compensate for the lack of exploration-based adventure.
Parasite Eve has top-notch visuals. The cinematic cute-scenes in-between combat or key dramatic twists are just mind-blowing. The 3D images depicting New York City is accurate and quite detailed. Deformed, creepy monsters can scare the daylights out of you. The way they charge at Aya Brea in between cut-scenes and combat can really be one of the scariest gameplay moments.
3. Sweet Home
Sweet Home is probably known more for its “the game that inspired Resident Evil” tag than anything else. The visuals are quite outdated when compared to today’s games, but the 8-bit gore fest can be very unsettling if played after dark. Even the 8-bit background score can be quite creepy if you play the game with your headphones on.
Created by Juzo Itami, who is also the director of the movie of the same name, Sweet Home combines gory survival horror with role-playing elements. The game revolves around the scary adventure of a documentary crew tasked to find a lost fresco of a murdered artist. The mansion they enter is rumored to be haunted. Things get creepy once ghostly encounters take place within the mansion.
The game is very similar to top-down RPGs of that era. You control five characters, each with unique abilities and skills. Battle takes place in turn-based strategy format. The game is exploration-based and so there are plenty of locations to go into. You can explore areas, unearth secrets, and collect items and weapons and battle against all types of horror movie monsters – from zombies and ghouls to deformed worms and scary werewolves.
There are also some inventory-based puzzles to solve – a key game aspect that influenced almost all Resident Evil games. Some gory, violent moments can really send chills down your spine. With all classic role-playing elements intact, Sweet Home is a perfect example of a horror RPG and is a treat to play.
4. Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Bloodlines is one of the rarest vampire themed horror role-playing games. It borrows key elements from White Wolf’s pen-and-paper role-playing game. The atmospheric RPG has plenty of creepy moments. In this game, you don’t play a Buffy. Instead you don the cape of a vampire by choosing a bloodsucker belonging to a distinct vampire clan. Vampire clans range from the stealthy, scary ones to, calm sophisticated types. Like a typical RPG, you can “level-up” your character by distributing stat skills and attributes earned while playing the game.
Vampire: Bloodlines has different endings and contains adult themes. The quests are very traditional, requiring players to complete objectives and quests. Combat is heavily dependent on character stats and abilities, so make sure you have a balanced character before you begin battle. You can switch to first-person/third-person to suit your combat style.
Weapons range from standard melee items like knives, daggers and swords to guns. There isn’t any particular strategy and can be an out-and-out gunplay for firearm-equipped characters. There are special powers to use, including powers that allow you to invoke spirits to help you in a battle. If you like vampire-themed games, then you must own Bloodlines.
5. Planescape: Torment
Planescape: Torment (PT) isn’t scary. It’s morbid and quite depressing. It’s like a bad dream being played in constant loop. The events that take place in the Planescape universe are strange and dark. The game has a very compelling plot and a unique setting.
Based on AD&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) rules, PT puts you into the shoes of an immortal being on the quest to uncover the secrets of his immortality. On his quest, the character meets several NPCs and engages in a long, interesting dialogue with them. While dialogue plays a key part in the game, there are instances where you can engage in combat with enemies. You can also be a bit stealthy in situations where combat is imminent.
The game’s stealth aspect can really get creepy with mindless zombies around and you being the only person stranded in a strange world filled with mutilated, decapitated corpses, trying to escape their wrath. PT has plenty of creepy and depressing moments. Some scenes can be quite gory too. The game wasn’t a major commercial success, but is known to be a cult favorite among RPG players. All in all, Planescape: Torment is a must-buy for its exceptional storyline and an unusual setting.
Alexis on August 30, 2017:
Sad to say that despite my love of horror games and RPG's, I have yet to play any of the games on this list.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on August 27, 2012:
@Trish303 Thank you!
Brenda from Springfield, MO on August 23, 2012:
I love creepy games, and this a grate list. Thank you.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on August 12, 2012:
@Dumask Thanks. Try Sweet Home. Outdated visuals, but is quite scary. Never knew 8-Bit horror can get so creepy.
dumask from Arizona on August 12, 2012:
I loved Parasite Eve. Would recommend the book that the game is based on and serves as a sequel to also. Always wanted to try Vampire the Masquerade
Anurag Ghosh (author) on August 05, 2012:
@ravenrage07 I've played Fatal Frame 2. Siren, will try. Thanks for your reco!
John Fox from Richmond, VA on August 05, 2012:
Another good one you should try is Siren. I don't know if you could call it Horror RPG but it was part of the Fatal Frame series.
Anurag Ghosh (author) on August 05, 2012:
Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on August 05, 2012:
Creeeepy but great! Nice hub. Really original stuff here, thanks. Voting up!