The 10 Best Open World Horror Games for the PC

Open World Horror Games
These flesh-hungry zombies from Dead Island: Definitive Edition don’t look too out of place in the tropical setting, so props to Techland.

You are in charge of the story, and whatever ending you get, or decide to prolong, it’s entirely inside of the player’s hands. The horror comes from different circumstances of unfortunate victims that you can either mercy kill or spare, and from the emptiness of the world. Atmosphere is everything with open world horror, and this list of the best excels in all of the above, creating unsettling and dark stories drenched with despair and emptiness.

 

10. Dead Island: Definitive Edition

DEAD ISLAND Definitive Edition Trailer

Taking place in the tropical resort of Banoi just off the Australian coast, Dead Island is an untraditional place for a horror game already. The waters are blue, the sands sparkle white, and the zombies are hungry and shambling. Wait, what?

That’s right. This horror game features an outbreak of a mysterious plague that infects nearly all but the four main characters. The rapper Sam B., the front hotel agent and secret spy for the Chinese government Xian Mei, a former football star named Logan Carter, and an ex police officer named Purna are spared from the mysterious illness which turns people into psychotic, flesh-hungry monsters. The entire island is overtaken save for a few other immune survivors, and the game picks up there.

What is most striking about this game is the visuals, and the improved AI and combat in the definitive edition. The four different character choices makes no playthrough feel the same, and the fact that you’ve got such a pretty setting with sparkling beaches amid the chaos of zombie outbreaks feel refreshing on the part of the usual dark and bleak, grey and brown toned atmosphere of zombie horde games. Diverse player characters also ensures that the dialogue you get while playing doesn’t feel generic either, and the storylines of each expand the world past just the survivors. The enclosed atmosphere of an island with no contact to the rest of the ‘outside’ world also makes you feel confined, but still open to explore.

This chainsaw is one of many weapons you can use to kill the undead.

Xian Mei, still in her work uniform, takes care of these two shambling, flesh-starved zombies.

9. Dying Light

Dying Light - E3 2014 Trailer

A mystery outbreak of a virus infects the town of Harran, and a special ops agent hired by the government is tasked with infiltrating the infected city and retrieving a sensitive document detailing its involvement in the outbreak. Kyle Crane, our main character, must outwit the aggressive undead and the warlords both in Dying Light.

Another zombie apocalypse grips the world in Dying Light. You fight to survive, craft weapons, defend your home, and save survivors in this open world horror game. What makes it however, is the addition of fun parkour in between the story-heavy plot and the free-roaming addition of shambling hordes of brain-hungry malformed zombies. What makes this horrific is the way that the camera is strapped to the main character’s head like a go-pro, and so you see each time that you don’t outsmart your enemies and get overwhelmed by the zombies with a hunger for your flesh.

The same production team behind Dead Island brings us Dying Light, but unlike its aforementioned game, the storyline is much more mature and weighted with the decisions the player makes. What makes this game interesting is the addition of a day and night cycle and a weather system as well. If you liked Dead Island but wanted a more in-depth look at the effects of sickness on the infected, you’ll absolutely love Dying Light.

These dune-buggies were modified to run over swarms of undead like this unlucky man who’s about to get hit.

Crane’s about to get into a fight with this special infected in the Following DLC.

 

Bonus! Upcoming open world horror titles!

Consider these something like honorable mentions, because these games are still in development and look promising for the open world horror genre.

3. Dead Matter

DEAD MATTER -- Official Gameplay Trailer

Taking place outside the United States, Dead Matter is a sandbox survival game which allows the player to focus on any aspect of survival they want. If you want to go out and create a community of the non-infected, you can do that. If you’d rather go alone in trying to preserve yourself, you can do that, too. If you just want to explore? That’s fine. It expands beyond just the city as well, and the crafting and customization seems refreshing. This release is scheduled for sometime in late May of this year.

If only every zombie horror game looked like this. This once bustling downtown is now filled with nothing but silence, and garbage.

This photo of the forest in development made me think it was real for about 3 minutes!

2. Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus - Cinematic Trailer

Taking place in a freezing climate, Metro Exodus is the kind of game that makes you want to play it underneath a big blanket. After a nuclear war has set the earth into a deep freeze, a man named Artyom must survive the freezing cold winter in Russia and fight off flesh-hungry monsters all at the same time. Monsters aren’t his only enemy, however - The game features hostile human enemies as well. This game is a continuation of “Metro: Last Light” and is scheduled for a full release in fall of this year.

The desolate landscape of a once populated Russia makes for a somber setting.

Winter has never been harsher.

1. State of Decay 2

STATE OF DECAY 2 Trailer (E3 2016)”

This sequel to State of Decay is multiplayer and explores the zombified world yet again. Not a whole lot is known about the plot or the story just yet, but the graphics aren’t bad and the writing of the previous team hopefully holds up from the original. This game was released the 22nd of May.

A survivor amidst the chaos. This abandoned house has been grafiti’d. Possibly a clue to a puzzle?

Headshot! This survivor fights off the undead while another possibly deals with a mutated infected.

8. The Forest

The Forest | Gameplay Trailer

An unfortunate accident leads to a dark secret in this first-person survival horror game. When a plane crash lands on a mysterious island leaving all but a man and his son dead, you would think that the primary goal is to survive until rescue, right? Well, think again - Because Eric Leblanc’s son is kidnapped from the get-go, and now he has to travel the island and unwravel its mystery to find out who did it, and why.

Cannibals and mutated monsters are what make this game a horror game. Exploring dark caves with little light and fear of the unknown gets the adrenaline pumping and for good reason. Survival is key, and ensuring that you don’t starve or dehydrate or get lost in the labyrinth below the island is just some of the challenge. It’s tense, the setting is eerie, and the soundtrack only adds to the lonesome feeling.

That is, until you start to play with friends. Survival is naturally better with others, and The Forest welcomes multiplayer and even encourages it. Then the horror is not defending yourself from the cannibals, but arguing about who gets the last drop of water…

A cannibal comes lurching out of the trees at Eric, who is only armed with a stick.

Ruins are now in the game too! If only we knew what had ruined them to begin with.

7. DESOLATE

DESOLATE - Gameplay Trailer

Unlike most of these horror games, the scares come from the supernatural and paranormal rather than the undead. DESOLATE takes place on the island of Granichny, where unethical experiments have been carried out. You play as a Volunteer tasked with gathering information on the world’s mutation - and surviving.

Since this game just came out, there’s not a whole lot to say about the plotline unless you decide to go through it yourself, which I highly encourage if you have a love of mysteries and the supernatural. It’s dark, it’s mysterious, and it’s great to play with all the lights off.

Where does this pathway go? There’s only one way to find out.

An abandoned airport with … something looming on the horizon.

6. State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition

State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition Trailer

Stealthy, horrific, and looming with flesh-hungry monsters, this remake of the original State of Decay leaves nothing to the imagination. Trumbull Valley is filled with the results of a zombie apocalypse and it’s up to the survivors to navigate what was once their home in order to survive.

Featuring four player characters again, (which I am starting to wonder is the fault of Left 4 Dead), State of Decay is full of tough decisions for each and unique gameplay for all of the ‘chapters’ of each player character to get through. The open aspect of the town you once lived in is sort of sadly sweet too, especially when you start mowing down the undead in all the creative ways you can think of.

And the shambling citizens turned monsters are not your only obstacle. There’s also a group of back-water hillbillies who are flourishing within the ruined state of Trumbull Valley, and the player character will get to learn quite a lot about them. The possibilities are endless, as long as you can survive.

A survivor takes down a small swarm of zombies just outside a now ruined diner.

These zombies fell right into this survivor’s traps! Now he’s posing while they all go down.

5. 7 Days To Die

7 Days To Die: Gameplay Trailer (E3 2016)"

 

World War 3 has left the entire planet in disrepair, and in the small city of Navezgane, Arizona, is full of people like the player character: Independent, and concerned with little but their own survival.

Taking place in the desert, this has the look of an old western but plays like an RPG combined with an FPS. Strategy is the key in 7 Days to Die, and every move you make and structure you build will reinforce how ready you are for the hordes of undead trying to crack your skull open and eat your brain.

So far this game is just a survival horror, but developers have hinted at the addition of a storyline somewhere down the line. The music makes you feel like you’re in a dying landscape and the tension of your decisions will leave you sweaty. 7 Days to Die is a great open world horror game because each item you pick up will have different effects on the oncoming horde. Planning, building, surviving, sacrificing citizens - The fate of Navezgane is in your hands.

The survivor blasts through his brain-hungry foes with a rifle in the ruins of a once prosperous Arizona town.

The desert backdrop with cacti and red cliffs makes for stunning environments, even when you’re clubbing zombies with a spiked bat!

4. Hunt: Showdown

Hunt: Showdown | Early Access Launch Trailer

This co-op game is Darksider’s predecessor in spirit, and it shows. This competitive game takes place in another desert, in which your enemies are …refreshingly, demons! Up to four players can take turns sneaking through the underbrush to slay their targets, and thinking of ways to creatively send demons to hell is half the fun as teasing your friends about it.

You earn bounties in Hunt: Showdown that will boost your skills, so getting the kill on these otherworldly entities is a must. Voice communication is also a feature of the game, and it combines strategy with grotesque settings and visually striking monsters. It’s a hunting game like … the title implies, but instead of deer, you’re killing things with a lot more teeth and a lot more hunger for your blood.

If you like to hunt with your friends, this is the game for you. If you want to hunt your friends … I can’t help you there.

These swamp demons are unaware of the snipers in the underbrush.

3. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Shadow of Chernobyl [Trailer]

If you ever wanted to explore the radioactive deadzone where the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl took place, look no further. You can explore the radiated area in S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Shadow of Chernobyl. The Zone as it is called is teeming with irradiated mutants, wildlife, hostile humans, and all sorts of other enemies.

Your main goal is to find a man named Strelok somewhere in The Zone and kill him while struggling with your amnesia and wondering who or what you are, exactly. The main character wakes up with no memory of himself or his surroundings, seeing only the acronym S.T.A.L.K.E.R. on his arm. Who is he? Why is he doing this? Who is Strelok, and what happened to make The Zone so hostile? This and various other questions will be answered during the duration of your playthrough.

Created by a Ukrainian development team, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Shadow of Chernobyl, is just as beautifully scary as it is dreadfully harrowing. The scariest aspect of this is that it could have actually happened to some degree, and the real life radiation OF Chernobyl itself is taken into account. The overpowered enemies in the beginning give you a sense of fear much like an old tv show, and your worry of radiation and starvation is also taken into account to create an intense survival horror game.

Walking through empty, hollow towns feels like an apocalyptic nightmare.

These men called the Duty Squad are here to help you get into Pripyat, which was affected the worst by the nuclear meltdown.

2. Vampyr

Vampyr - Story Trailer | PS4

Jonathan E. Reid, a doctor turned vampire, struggles to satiate his newfound hunger in Vampyr. You can track people down, learn their routes and kill them stealthily, or just go on a blood-thirsty rampage in this game.

Set during the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918, your main goal is to either kill and drink the blood of humans, or to spare their lives and help the humans around you come to terms with their well-hidden secrets. Combining a rich story with a large amount of non player characters to learn about, Vampyr is about the people of London more than it is Jonathan E. Reid.

You can take your targets out stealthily or craft weapons to bash their heads in with - It all depends on if you want to develop your vampiric powers or go the old fashioned route with killing in broad daylight, though I don’t recommend the latter. Every decision the player makes reflects in the NPCS around them, so it doesn’t go unacknowledged when someone mysteriously dies in the night after being visited by the good doctor. If you go through the game without killing a single innocent … You’ll get a special ending, or so I’ve heard.

This clinic has seen better days. Early medicine is one of the scarier features in this game, I think.

Reid’s newfound vampiric powers rip through the body of an unsuspecting victim.

1. Metro 2033

Metro 2033 - Launch Trailer

Based Dmitry Glukhovsky’s novel by the same name, Metro 2033 takes place in a world after the nuclear war where most citizens live underground. Survivors in Moscow have relocated to the Metro system in order to keep themselves safe. Artyom - The main character - leaves his home to find the underground and persuade the officials to help his hometown.

This game is eerie because of the low lighting setting, and because of the sprawling underground. You also get the option to fight mutated animals, scour for glowing mushrooms, or kill Nazi soldiers. The world above is still at war, after all! The tension in Metro 2033 comes from the mysterious hallucinations you get from people only known as The Dark Ones, but also from the mutated animals aboveground. Nazi forces also fight Communist forces, and there’s also bands of roaming mutants to be aware of.

Of course, you’re pulling the shots here. You can choose to help people or abandon them on your journey to find help for Exhibition. You can choose to lend hands to your fellow humans, or make their lives more miserable. Your karma system, so to speak, depends on the dialogue and gameplay choices you make. Is Artyom the hero of Russia? Or the monster? That’s for you to decide.

Artyom encounters the bioluminescent plants in the underground alongside a helper.

The ruins of Moscow is a sobering image. Artyom has to be extra careful up here, or else he’ll end up dead, or worse.

If you liked this article, consider these next:

More on this topic:
When you cross Hello Kitty and a love for pixel sandbox games with eldritch horror genres, you get me.
Gamer Since: 2005
Favorite Genre: RPG
Top 3 Favorite Games:Alice: Madness Returns, Dragon Age: Origins, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
This article makes me feel: