Many gamers have happy and nostalgic memories related to games on the original PlayStation. He brought some really spectacular titles to the scene. Looking back objectively, though, it’s hard not to admit there’s something scary about PS1-era graphics.
Even in games that were meant to be lightweight, you could see things weren’t right. The weirdness of the early 3D visuals, the short render distances shrouding everything in a haze, and the rather liminal environments brought on by hardware limitations give the titles an uncanny edge when you come back to them. This is probably why the aesthetic has become a popular visual style for modern horror titles. The new developers are eager to pick up where the original Silent Hill left off.
10/10 The fridge is red
Prepare for grainy visuals, surreal nightmares, heartbreak, and a fridge that never seems far away. Smack dab in the middle of grungy, low-fidelity visuals is The Fridge is Red, an anthology horror based on a game about an evil device that eats people.
The game doesn’t bombard you with monsters or murderers, but instead places you in distorted hellscapes that strike a little too familiarly. Have you ever been lost in a hospital or stuck in an elevator? Have you ever had a bad dream where you need to go somewhere, but the world seems to be trying to stop you? The Fridge Is Red captures these sentiments.
9/10 blood washing
In the gruesome survival horror Bloodwash, you have to go to a 24-hour laundromat in the middle of the night. A city at night is already quite destabilizing. A city at night with a serial killer on the loose, rendered firmly in Valley Weird 90s 3D, is something else entirely.
You can interact with some of the colorful characters you’re likely to find in an all-night retail area, read magazines, and potentially get murdered. How convenient to have it all in one place.
8/10 The convenience store
Cities at night are unsettling. Working alone is destabilizing. The PS1 visuals are unsettling. All of these elements combine to ruin your day at Japanese indie horror The Convenience Store. You play as a hapless minimum-wage worker struggling with the graveyard shift in the only lighted area of a large dark urban sprawl. You have tasks to complete and a boss to avoid.
Soon though, the mundane worries descend into more supernatural terror as things start to happen, even when you seem like the only person around. Just when you thought working in retail couldn’t get any worse.
7/10 house of murder
Unapologetically inspired by an ’80s slasher movie, Murder House is a disturbing horror game about a killer Easter Bunny, but it’s a lot scarier than it looks.
The story crosses paths with two different protagonists, starting with a sports mule boy trapped in a mall after closing, and moving on to a young intern visiting a supposedly haunted house with a news crew. Either way, you’re hiding from the costumed killer who will be actively looking for you. If you’re keeping an eye out, there’s even an appearance from popular YouTuber Jacksepticeye.
6/10 The Caregiver
The horror that plagues people in their work comes up quite often in the PS1 horror genre. This particular game follows a job not often covered: welfare. You play the role of a paid caretaker, sent to an old man’s house. The squalid house and the client’s apparent negligence become immediately apparent.
The addition of very real issues already increases your discomfort and unease even before the supernatural aspects begin. As you explore the house things only get worse and you will discover some of the house’s horrifying secrets.
5/10 the pale
It’s hard to think of a more isolated job than a lighthouse keeper. The Pale puts you in the shoes of a new recruit to this lifestyle, a man named Arthur. He is deposited on an isolated island, ready to replace the sick former guardian.
When switching the lighthouse back on, he accidentally releases a huge chain anchored deep under the waters near the island. The next day, bodies begin washing up on the shore. The build-up of tension and the use of visual storytelling nail the atmosphere of this solitary demo.
4/10 Haunted PS1 Demo Disc 2021
It was once a simpler time; much of the hype for a game was generated by bite-sized demos packaged on discs that came free with PlayStation magazines. These collections continue in that spirit, with various smaller developers showcasing potential demos for larger projects, all in the PS1 visual style.
The 2021 edition puts you in a spooky museum, with the game’s training exhibits to visit. You can expect to explore a strange trailer park, visit a dying MMO game, and try to escape a spooky house against the clock.
3/10 No one lives under the lighthouse
Lighthouses are a popular place for terrible and supernatural things to happen in games. No-One Lives Under The Lighthouse puts you in the shoes of a new guardian on a remote island. You wait for an assistant to arrive, but until then you are alone. At least you thought you were all alone.
It soon becomes clear that something eldritch is out there, leaving black spots on the island and killing the local birds. Worse still, it starts stalking you outside, with a disorienting camera swing to the monster’s point of view as it gains on you. But you’re a professional, so the light still comes on every night. They clearly chose the right person for the job.
While some games use the older aesthetic purely for its unsettling nature, some games are love letters to games of the era. Alisa is an example. With pre-rendered backgrounds, FMVs, and even the dreaded tank controls intact, the game looks almost exactly like the old survival horror.
You play as the titular Alisa, who wakes up in a strange house of hostile, bustling dolls. You wrestle with puzzles, shoot stray enemies, and make deals with an NPC who’s just a puppet on someone’s hand. It’s not an easy game, although it’s probably another game faithful to the source material.
1/10 Happy’s Humble Burger Farm
Working in fast food can feel dystopian at times, but it could always be worse. As a new employee at Happy’s Humble Burger Farm, you begin by having a chip implanted in your brain that affects your perception and ensures compliance. It’s not even the worst of what the world has in store for you.
As you play, you work your shifts in the slightly surreal burger place. You have to prepare the food for the customers while trying to avoid or block the violent hallucinations that pop up out of nowhere and try not to think too much about why all the pets keep moving around. It only gets weirder from there.
Next: Best 2D horror games