[Top 15] Best Japanese Horror Games We Love

Horror Games, Japanese Horror Games, The Evil Within, Silent Hill, Resident Evil
Do you have what it takes to brave the paranormal?

Japanese horror is a category of its own, with particular nuances that make you jump in the night. 

Japan has a record of producing major players in the horror genre, be it movies, games, manga, anime, or the like. With the production of multiple big-name game series, to be discussed later, and hit movies like the Ring, it is fair to say Japan can claim a position as one of the kings of horror.

Japanese horror has a tendency to be rooted in folk lore, urban myth, and mythology or religion, giving it that extra little bit of spice. The plots of these games tear at your heartstrings and widdle at your mind, with a story that leads you to become invested in the outcome. But, it isn’t only in the storytelling that these games excel. The ambiance is hair-raising and the jump scares are sure to get you looking behind your shoulder as you play. 

With all of that said, here are 15 games that will definitely be worth your time. 

15. Hanako

Hanako gameplay; watch the prologue for a trailer, after that you are in spoiler territory

Hanako, recently released in 2020, follows the story of three young girls who travel into a school after hours. Having heard a rumor about the curse of Hanako, they plan to curse a fellow classmate. However, everything goes horribly wrong and they find themselves laden to the curse. If they want to make it out alive, the three must reunite and work together to find their way out of the school and back to the safety of their homes. 

A horror story based on schools, rumors, and the curses of the dead could not be more Japanese in origin. There are plenty of school-based urban legends and folklore out there to support such a premise. Playing as one of the three girls, you will be tasked with puzzle-solving, using your surroundings to your advantage, and finding the other two girls. It is up to you to keep the three of you alive. Be sure to check every room carefully, because one slip up could spell doom. 

What’s Fun About Hanako: 

  • The game has some story behind it, but is more focused on puzzles, making it very interactive. 
  • There are fairly realistic mechanics that add to the difficulty and horror, such as a limit to how long you can run without a break
  • Multiple endings allow for increased replay potential and thus a fair amount of playtime
  • Most of the horror comes from atmosphere rather than urgency or jump scares, inviting a sense of the unknown
  • Very suspenseful and really gets your heart racing; low-lighting, echoing footsteps, screams, distant voices and sounds, creepy NPC ghosts, etc. 

14. Zero Escape: The Nonary Games

Zero Escape: The Nonary Games Trailer. 

Zero Escape: The Nonary Games might remind you of the popular movie franchise SAW. You find yourself locked in a room with a mysterious number painted on the door. On your wrist is a strange watch-like bracelet bearing the same number; you cannot get it off. Eventually, you discover there are others with you, from different rooms. The clock begins to tick down while you attempt to find an escape.

In order to complete the game, you go through a set of grueling tasks and challenges. The game functions as a visual novel, so focuses heavily on story. Every choice you make  impacts how the story unfolds, the overall outcome, and the other characters. Zero Escape is not a traditional style horror, with jump scares and monsters that induce nightmares. It is a psychological horror that plays on morality, diving deep into the darkness of the human psyche and what we are willing to do to survive.

What’s Fun About Zero Escape:

  • Laid-back as far as horror goes; enjoy the psychological and mystery styles of horror without having to worry about dying to horrible monsters every minute
  • Great storyline and character development
  • Compelling moral dilemmas 
  • Your choices have consequences, so there are multiple outcomes possible and you aren’t lead about by the game in a one story tells all fashion
  • Multiple outcomes means the game is highly replayable, allowing you to explore it in its entirety and providing tons of playtime

13. Mad Father 

Mad Father Trailer.

Mad Father is an indie style game that details the story of a young girl who awakens to a true nightmare within her own home. Awoken by a blood-curdling scream, Aya finds that her house is crawling with corpses, ghosts, and other terrifying creatures. In order to get to the bottom of what is going on, and find her father, she steals herself against the horrors and makes her way towards his lab in the basement. But what will she find hidden there?

Mad Father offers plenty of jump scares, though perhaps the camera angle (third-person) and style might make them less frightening. The game is a fantastic combination of horror, puzzle-solving, story-telling, and psychological elements. Your choices and decisions also impact the way the story unfolds, as with many Japanese horror games, leaving for personalization and a multitude of possibilities. 

What’s Fun About Mad Father: 

  • Very psychological; delves deeply into the characters, morality, and psychosis
  • Not overly “scary,” but definitely suspenseful and will keep you on the edge of your seat
  • Your choices impact the gameplay, leading to multiple endings; this increases replayability, as each play through will eventually turn into a different game
  • Heavily rooted in story-telling, with a very emotional and detailed plotline that encourages you to become invested in the characters and outcomes
  • Puzzle-based; you will need to sometimes avoid enemies and/or come up with creative solutions to get past them, figure out how to open doors, etc. 

12. The Witch’s House MV

The Witch's House MV Trailer. 

The Witch’s House is another indie style game that follows a young girl named Viola. Upon waking, she discovers a mansion. Curious, she goes inside, only to find that she’s trapped. Now, she must navigate through the haunted insides of a witch’s house to find an escape, or die trying. 

The game is played from a bird’s-eye view (3rd-person) and, as typical of an indie game, is in 16-bit graphics. As you explore the witch’s house, you will encounter creepy jumpscares alongside complex puzzles and riddles. With traps at almost every turn, including life or death choices, will you have what it takes to make it out alive?

What’s Fun About The Witch’s House MV:

  • An interesting story with a compelling twist at the end
  • Multiple endings that give meaning to your choices and increase playtime 
  • Very atmospheric with great sound queues and musical background
  • An unlockable difficulty mode after completion that has new story events and dialogue
  • Violence, gore, jump scares, and sudden deaths that punish every misstep 

11. Clock Tower 3

Clock Tower 3 Trailer.

The Clock Tower franchise is known as one of the driving forces in Japanese horror. The most recent in the series, Clock Tower 3, is considered by many to be the best in the series, despite deviating from the previous style of a point-and-click adventure-based horror. Clock Tower 3 is a survival horror game played from a third-person perspective. The story follows 14 year-old Alyssa as she attempts to make her way through the terrifying clock tower and the subordinates within. 

The majority of the game is played without a weapon and relies on your ability to avoid enemies or run past them. Despite some repetitive mechanics, and a general commercial failure, the game offers good presentation, atmosphere, and writing. The horror stems from the general inability to fight back and the resulting reliance on running away or solving puzzles. When it comes to quickly finding a solution, the pressure is on. 

What’s Fun About Clock Tower 3: 

  • Puzzles that keep your interest without being overly difficult
  • An interesting plot with very little fluff
  • The rewarding feeling of escaping an enemy that was right on your tail through quickly finding a solution 
  • The “Panic Mode” mechanic increases the stakes; this mode, activated when scared or attacked, makes Alyssa difficult to control, clumsy, unable to enter hiding spaces or stun enemies, the screen flash, and results in instant death if hit. 

10. Yomawari: Midnight Shadows

Yomwarai: Midnight Shadows Trailer. 

After a night of beautiful fireworks and a wonderful festival, two girls, Yui and Haru, are heading home when they are separated by a gruesome attacker. With only a flashlight to guide them, the two girls must brave the darkness and what lies within it to find one another again and safely make it back home. As they traverse through the once familiar town, they may unravel something even more terrifying. 

The game switches perspectives between the two girls, and you will play as both. Your decisions and actions as one girl, as well as the information discovered, will impact the story and possibilities for the other. Neither girl has a weapon, and you will not be fighting any enemies in this game.  Instead, the tactic is to sneak by them and think your way through each problem or situation. The scare factor for this game primarily lies in your inability to fight, the increased heartbeat of the girls as enemies approach, and the overall atmosphere the game provides. 

What’s Fun About Yomawari: Midnight Shadows

  • An emotional premise and story that encourages you to cheer and root for the two girls
  • Amazing and spooky atmosphere, with sound effects that are contrasted with a surprising lack of musical score, the lighting, the scenery, etc. 
  • Interesting puzzles to get to new areas or past enemies
  • A mysterious plot that keeps you invested in learning the truth behind what is happening, and an ending which will not disappoint
  • A unique, interesting, and beautiful artstyle

9. Corpse Party

Corpse Party Trailer. 

A group of friends perform what they thought was a friendly ritual, meant to bind all friends together forever. Little do they know, they have doomed themselves to another dimension, where they are separated inside an older version of their school, torn down after a series of grizzly incidents. In this alternate version of their school, they are tormented and haunted by the ghosts of other elementary aged students who threaten both their lives and their sanity. In order to make their escape, they must uncover the truth behind these murders and put the spirits of the children here to rest. 

Corpse Party is a survival horror that incorporates mystery and adventure elements to create an emotionally and psychologically riveting story. Each character is compellingly developed, and the choices you make with one impact the others, as well as the end results of the game, creating highly intricate gameplay. Equipped with a truly terrifying ambiance, jump scares at any corner, puzzles, mystery, and everything else you could ask from a horror, Corpse Party will not disappoint. 

What’s Fun About Corpse Party: 

  • The story is so well developed that it plays almost like a visual novel, with detailed character development and great dialogue alongside the overall narrative
  • While the game is certainly horrific, there are light moments to provide relief
  • A mix of all the best elements of horror games, with a good balance of jump scares, plot twists, decision-based results, misstep punishment, and much more
  • The multiple endings provide a lot of playtime; like seriously, a lot 
  • The ability to play as multiple characters offers a more interesting, complex, and intimate style of play; you get to know each one individually through playing them and have to pay more attention to your choices

8. Siren: Blood Curse

Siren: Blood Curse Trailer. 

In Siren: Blood Curse, an American TV crew visits the area where Hanunda Village used to stand, prior to its disappearance. Little does the crew know, they are about to relive the events that happened in 1976. The game follows the perspective of a large number of characters, more than just the crew. The main protagonist is brought there by a mysterious email, and encounters a young girl named Miyako, who simply wants to escape, a doctor named Seigo Saiga, and a strange amnesiac. Together, this group must find their way away from this haunted ground. 

The game is set in a variety of different areas that comprise the village, and is broken up into episodes. Each episode consists of parallel or intersecting chapters that follow each player character and unfolds in a series of cutscenes, missions, or a mix of the two. Most of the gameplay focuses on stealth, and whenever an enemy is near, your heartbeat will increase to alert you. The story progresses through missions, which must be completed while avoiding the shibito (the main enemies). The horror feel comes from the plot twists, the general story, and the atmosphere that is created through music, sound effects, and scenery. 

What’s Fun About Siren: Blood Curse: 

  • The heavy focus on stealth gameplay works similarly to puzzles, and in the instance that you are noticed the stakes are pretty high
  • The game uses both Japanese and English voice acting in order to keep accurate to the American characters vs. Japanese shibito, enhancing the atmosphere and immersion  
  • The story is well-woven, intricate, and in-depth due to the choice to follow each individual character per episode
  • You can use the eyesight of other characters, including shibito, in order to plan how to move stealthily, a unique feature, if you ask me

7. Shadow Corridor

Shadow Corridor Trailer. 

Shadow Corridor takes you through a city in Japan, down alleys, through temples, and into a Noh theater. You will have to walk, crawl, and run through very confined spaces as you make your way through the game. As you traverse the mazes that exist within this city and its buildings, exploring every nook and cranny, beware of what haunts you. 

The game uses a first person perspective with very limited vision as you go from alleyway to hallway to corridor, searching each room and open space for letters and clues. Utilizing limited space very well, the game encourages curiosity and fear as you wonder what could be around every corner or in each room. The only sound that accompanies you is that of your footsteps on the ground, a drawer opening, your lighter’s flame flickering, or the sound of bells. 

What’s Fun About This Game: 

  • Being trapped in an endless maze seems like it might get frustrating, but with rooms to explore and clues leading your way, it instead encourages curiosity and makes you yearn for more
  • The sound effects are executed perfectly to make every unexpected noise, i.e. the ones not caused by you, act as jump scares
  • The absolute silence of the game makes your ears strain for every little sound and your heart race at the thought of when one might be heard
  • Shadow Corridor intricately weaves in Japanese culture itself through the focus on Noh and Japanese landmarks and items; it feels inherently Japanese
  • The game plays on hidden fears and human psychology, as the fear is not coming from an enemy that consistently attacks, but primarily from the unknown and the fear of what we cannot see or understand

6. Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly

Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly Trailer. 

In Fatal Frame 2, you play as two twin girls named Mio and Mayu. Upon returning to a forest they visited as children, a crimson butterfly catches the attention of Mayu and leads them to a lost village populated only by ghosts and spirits. As the spirits begin to target Mayu, they must find their way out using an enchanted camera to defeat the spirits, or suffer the same fate as those who were there before them. 

Fatal Frame 2 is a survival-style horror game, where the goal is to make it out alive. You will mainly play as Mio, accompanied by Mayu. The story progresses through finding clues left from those before you. Properly maintaining, by finding film, and utilizing your camera is a major component of the game, since taking pictures is the only way to fend off ghosts and spirits. The horror is driven through a genuinely creepy storyline combined with the ambiance and atmosphere of the ghost village. 

What’s Fun About Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly

  • Puzzles and mystery elements that keep you on your toes
  • The suspense and atmosphere make your heart race, since each spirit defeated just buys more time for you to hunt for clues, and the next is just around the corner
  • The game encourages you to replay it, as it comes equipped with different endings, bonus content, mission modes, challenge modes, and other rewards, such as outfits. 
  • To further encourage multiple playthroughs, the game rewards you for each one, as after completing it the first time you keep all items and upgrades to use for the next playthrough

5. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil 7: Biolhazard Trailer. 

A big name in the horror industry, it should come as no surprise that at least one Resident Evil game makes its way onto this list, and in a top spot. The game begins with Ethan receiving a call from his wife, Mia, who is hopefully just missing and not dead. Following directions, Ethan finds himself at an abandoned farmhouse in Louisiana, owned by a family named the Bakers. Upon arriving, he begins his search for his wife, only to find that the Bakers aren’t all that they seem. Going in was easy, leaving is a different story. 

Resident Evil 7 deviates from other games in the series by relying on exploration and survival-based horror over action. You play as Ethan in the first-person perspective, and progress through the story by unlocking and searching different areas of the house and property. The goal is to find your wife and make it out alive, either by fighting your way through enemies or solving various puzzles. The atmosphere, particularly the looming threat of your enemies, provides the majority of the fear-factor. 

What’s Fun About Resident Evil 7: Biohazard:

  • The combat is more challenging than the other Resident Evil games, as you are equipped with a limited amount of supplies in terms of weaponry. 
  • Inventory management increases the difficulty and the complexity of the game, because you have to choose what to keep and what to forgo 
  • The story is very compelling, equipped with interesting twists
  • The atmosphere of the game (sound, music, and setting in particular) and the psychological elements stemming from the plot combine for a very engaging and immersive experience
  • There are multiple endings to the game, as well as different difficulty levels, increasing replay potential and giving your choices and combat ability more weight. 

4. Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2 Trailer. 

A horror games list would not be complete without the addition of Silent Hill. James travels to the monster-filled town of Silent Hill after he receives a letter from his wife, who died 3 years prior. Upon arriving, he discovers a number of runaway children, as well as a woman who resembles his wife. As he finds clues that lead him towards answers, everything becomes simultaneously more and less clear. 

In Silent Hill 2, you play as James in the third-person view. The game is a survival-based horror game that combines combat elements with intricate puzzles. As you solve puzzles and conquer enemies, clues are uncovered leading you through the game to the end. As for horror, the game combines riveting psychology and story-telling with a frightening and tense atmosphere that comes equipped with its fair share of jump scares and creepy monsters. 

What’s Fun About Silent Hill 2: 

  • The psychological horror leaves you with multiple twists and confuses your ability to figure out what is truly going on
  • The puzzles are very complex and interesting, never boring or overly tedious, and include riddles as well 
  • Multiple endings and difficulties give you the option for multiple playthroughs, increasing available playtime
  • The game encourages and rewards multiple playthroughs by awarding you with new weapons that are unlocked at completion 
  • The musical score and sound effects go above and beyond most games to create a truly immersive, emotional, and of course, frightful atmosphere

3. Resident Evil 2 Remake

Resident Evil 2 Remake Trailer. 

What kind of list would this be if it didn’t include the remastering of Resident Evil 2? The game is set in Raccoon City after a deadly zombie outbreak. The story follows Leon Kennedy, a rookie police officer, and Claire Redfield, a college student, after they are forced together by the onslaught of zombies. In order to survive, the two work together to make it through the city and attempt to get to the bottom of this devastating outbreak. 

Characterized by the action-based gameplay, tension-filled exploration, and puzzle solving that has defined the Resident Evil franchise, the Resident Evil 2 Remake fully earns its spot on a list of the best. This version takes all the bells and whistles of the earlier game, improves upon them, and adds a much deeper narrative on top of phenomenally realistic and detailed graphics. The game boasts 3 different campaigns; the standard story and one for each playable character. The game relies on scavenging for materials, solving puzzles to clear blocked or locked areas, and general zombie slaying (but be sure to conserve those resources). While potentially not as inherently “scary” as others on this list, Resident Evil 2 has a lot to offer in terms of setting the scene for a phenomenal zombie game. 

What’s Fun About Resident Evil 2 Remake: 

  • It combines the typical thrill of a zombie game with a survival horror for an experience that will keep you on the edge of your seat; face the hoard, explore dark corridors for loot, and solve puzzles to progress through areas
  • The game has no musical score, and relies very heavily on sound effects; every door you open, every sound you make, plays on your mind and makes you wonder whether you will unwittingly unleash a horde. 
  • The intricate lighting and  hyper-realistic visuals and scenery create a wonderfully jarring atmosphere for an immersive horror gaming experience
  • The different campaigns make for a significant amount of playtime and the story is not just long, but very well written, adding even more to the immersion
  • Inventory maintenance, making sure to board up weak areas, and the zombies being generally a bit difficult to hit and kill, add complexity to the gameplay

2. P.T.

P.T. Trailer/Sample Gameplay. 

You awake in a concrete-lined room with no memory of how you got here. As you walk down the hallway, you find that it continuously loops, redecorating itself every time. Eventually, you find a hostile female entity stalking you and quickly realize that one wrong step will lead you directly into her grasp. 

P.T. was originally an interactive teaser that  would demonstrate the atmosphere and gameplay intended for a new game in the Silent Hill franchise. The game deviates from that series by taking a first-person perspective and providing a heightened focus on atmosphere and environment. To progress through the game, you must examine each room to search for clues and uncover tools, such as a flashlight, to help you on your journey. Most of the horror and suspense comes from the expertly executed atmosphere, a trait that by now you should be attributing to Japanese horror as a genre. The atmosphere combines well with the psychological impact of being trapped in a confined space with no escape, and  stuck with an unknown being who wants to kill you to boot. 

What’s Fun About P.T.: 

  • There is a constant lingering horror; from being able to hear and know that the entity is around you, but you cannot combat her, and the frustrating futility of trying to find your way out of what appears to be an endless loop
  • The tension builds up as you go and increases your anxiety along with it
  • You must have a keen attention to detail to progress, as missing something that can help you or missing something that will harm you is equally detrimental 
  • A truly horrific and terrifying ambiance and atmosphere that is sure to give you nightmares
  • Perfectly executed jump scares

1. The Evil Within

The Evil Within Trailer. 

The Evil Within is turning into a great franchise, with 2 games currently released, and we can only hope a 3rd is on the way. Both games are major players in the horror game genre generally, and for good reason. The first follows detective Sebastian Castellanos and his team as they investigate the scene of a gruesome mass murder. While investigating, they are met with an unknown and very powerful force that slaughters his team members and knocks Sebastian unconscious. Upon waking, he has found himself transported into another realm where the dead roam and monstrous creatures lurk. He must find a way to navigate through this new world before him, unravel the mysteries it hides, and hopefully make it out alive. 

The game is played in a third-person perspective and follows Sebastian as he attempts to make his way through this new world. The story progresses through the telling of chapters. In each chapter, you must learn to use the environment to your advantage, scavenging for supplies at every chance you get. With limited supplies, you will have to decide when to run and when to fight, and every decision bears consequences beyond just life and death. The horror comes from the ambiance, the psychological effects of the unknown, the limited ability to fight back, the need to make split moment decisions that significantly impact the world and determine whether you live or die, and, of course, the occasional jump scare. 

What’s Fun About The Evil Within: 

  • It brings pure survival horror to a new level, with intricate decision making, scavenging, and skill-reliant, limited combat
  • Every action and decision you make actively changes the world itself, and the change is ongoing, altering locations, changing or creating new paths, and even teleporting you to a new location entirely
  • The gameplay is highly unique, particularly the complexity of items themselves; even healing items can have negative effects, and certain devices will allow you to turn enemies against each other.
  • Sebastian’s skills and abilities are upgradable, allowing you to customize him based on your capabilities and preferences as a player
  • The story is amazing and the visual and sound design is on point, with creepy music, startling sound effects, and truly horrifying creatures. 

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Born and raised in the mountains, I have dedicated my life to story-telling of vast and wide realms. I live to enjoy the worlds of others, through role-playing and video games.
Gamer Since: 2005
Favorite Genre: PVP
Top 3 Favorite Games:League of Legends, Dragon Age II, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

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