Every horror story has its own unique way of scaring the audience. Video games are no different and while there are plenty of titles that emphasize psychological terror, several also imbue it with action. Let’s take a look at 15 of the best action horror titles here.

Dead Space

Dead Space

The sequels may have leaned further into the “action” but Visceral Games’ first title in the Dead Space series will always remain its most significant. In one fell swoop, it combined excellent shooting mechanics, a strong narrative and stellar Metroidvania level design with abject terror. It’s not easy to compete with Silent Hill or Resident Evil when creating an atmosphere of dread but Dead Space pulled it off while delivering its own unique hooks like limb targeting, stasis and so on.

Days Gone

Sony Bend’s open world zombie survival title is an intriguing beast. The story of Deacon St. John and his attempts to survive the vast landscapes of Oregon while searching for his wife Sarah makes for an interesting descent into madness. And while many of the open world tropes are here, it’s fun massacring hordes of zombies as they swarm over each other to kill Deacon. Despite its initial issues, Days Gone has turned out well and provides some great action.

Dying Light

Dubbed “Mirror’s Edge with zombies” back in the day, Dying Light has evolved into a fun hybrid of action RPG, loot and zombie survival. Despite the base game’s lackluster story, the open world offers a multitude of different challenges to complete, weapons to craft and awesome ways to kill the Infected (or run from them when the Volatiles come calling). Co-op play, events and new DLC have also helped keep the experience fresh.

Dead Island

While not quite the emotional ride that it’s infamous cinematic trailer promised, Dead Island can still be pretty fun. The campaign offers four playable characters as they struggle to escape the zombie-infested isle of Banoi and understand the virus that’s overtaken it. With a focus on melee combat and stamina management, it offered some fairly tense moments (especially when going up against the special zombies).

Dead Rising

Dead Rising

The sequels were good in their own right (fourth game notwithstanding) but the original Dead Rising is still the best. Follow photojournalist Frank West as he ventures to the undead-infested Willamette Parkview Mall, completing Case Files and taking pictures over a 72 hour period to learn more about the sudden zombie outbreak. Your weapon? Everything. Take down zombies with hammers, firearms, frying pans or even Mega Man’s Megabuster (at least, a toy version), racking up immense kill counts. Despite its humorous elements, Dead Rising is perhaps the best Dawn of the Dead-esque adaptation till date.

The Evil Within

the evil within 1

The Evil Within 2 often gets more praise for its improved visuals and story, but in terms of balancing survival horror with the action, the first game is still worth a look. The story sees police detective Sebastian Castellanos thrown into a nightmarish world full of decrepit buildings and monsters – with many, like Laura, still being terrifying. Gunplay is also handled well, even if some situations can be a little rough and the camera angles somewhat frustrating. All in all, it’s a good introduction to the universe and provides its own share of unique thrills.

Resident Evil 4

The blueprint for over-the-shoulder shooters, Resident Evil 4 blew everyone away with its awesome set pieces, fun combat and stellar level design. As Leon S. Kennedy, players must investigate a strange cult and rescue the US president’s daughter, Ashley. New enemies are introduced courtesy of the Las Plagas parasite and while there’s plenty of ammo to go around, Resident Evil 4 balances it with some terrifying encounters, like the Regenerators, the U-3 boss fight and so on.

Condemned: Criminal Origins

An underrated horror series, Condemned: Criminal Origins placed a heavier emphasis on brutal melee combat instead of gun play. As SCU investigator Ethan Thomas, you investigate crime scenes in pursuit of a serial killer named the Match Maker. Overtime, however, horrific visions begin to haunt Ethan and manifest at various times. Most foes are deranged and can ambush the player, leading to tense moments venturing through abandoned locations, listening for the faintest sound of life.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

STALKER Call of Pripyat_02

Some horror titles thrust you right into the action but the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series is a slower, more methodical experience. In Call of Pripyat, the player ventures to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, roaming the landscape and dealing with bandits, mutants and fellow Stalkers. There are also Emissions, major psychic energy blowouts that can kill if you don’t find shelter or take meds. The shooting is more tactical, and one must manage their health and equipment in order to survive the wasteland. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the feeling of isolation coupled with the unpredictable nature of the world is great.

Zombie Army 4: Dead War

The Zombie Menace continues to thrive in Zombie Army 4: Dead War and it’s up to the Survivor Brigade to stop it. New threats emerge like the Zombie Tank and Zombie Shark as players venture to an infested zoo and canals to slaughter hordes of the undead. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to dismantle the dead like elemental weapons and unique perks while the over-the-top X-Ray Kills provide an even stronger exclamation point to the action.

Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2 was the gold standard for four player co-op horde shooters. It bolsters the already excellent roster of weapons with new additions, introduces new Special Infected to further diversify the action and provides fun new maps and objectives. And regardless of how many times they happen, you’ll always feel a special kind of terror when alerting the horde or angering a Witch.

Resident Evil 2 (2019)

resident evil 2

After the more action-heavy nature of Resident Evil 5 and 6, Capcom returned to a more terrifying formula with the series, first with Resident Evil 7: biohazard and then with 2019’s Resident Evil 2. The static camera angles were replaced with over-the-shoulder aiming while Mr. X evolved into a more prominent pursuer, encouraging the player to be on alert at almost all times. However, moments like walking down the darkened hallways, listening for the undead and doing your best to evade them, still remained. In terms of evolving the formula while still maintaining its horror focus, Resident Evil 2 was a huge success.

The Last of Us

The gameplay in The Last of Us does a good job of mixing survival and stealth elements with third-person shooting, whether it’s trying to outsmart bandits or carefully navigate past Clickers. The narrative is the true standout though, showcasing the grimmer aspects of society and its people following the Cordyceps outbreak. As the bond between Joel and Ellie developed, the world unravels its various horrors with the bittersweet moments only reinforcing the sad state of it all.

Metro: Last Light Redux

Last Light continues Artyom’s story as he explores the Metro, gets caught up in an insidious plot involving the Red Line and battles all kinds of mutated beasts. The dark atmosphere of the metro’s tunnels, coupled with hallucinations and having to manage one’s ammo and filters while facing waves of mutants, still provides a harrowing experience. For even more thrills, opt for Ranger Hardcore, which makes ammo more scarce and makes everything, including Artyom, die in a single shot.

State of Decay 2

State of Decay 2

Even after numerous updates, the core gameplay of State of Decay 2 remains fun. After completing the opening prologue, you can choose between several different maps, each with their own unique layouts and environments. From there, you build up a colony, rescuing survivors, scavenging resources, taking down zombies and destroying Plague Hearts, slowly taking back the land. As a co-op experience, it can be quite enjoyable and the Juggernaut Edition collects all of the previously released content together while adding its own new features to the mix.