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Horror games are intended to frighten players in some manner. This can be through jump scares, graphics, ambience, setting, lighting, music, gameplay and more. When combined well, these result in a game which has the elements needed to either outright scare players or to set them on edge and make them uncomfortable with their in-game surroundings.
For online horror games, they still use all of the elements to create a horror atmosphere. There usually isn't a much of a difference and if there is, this is down to the gameplay itself.
Commonly asked questions about horror games
Are all games with horror elements a horror game?
A lot of modern games take elements from different genres for their game even if it's a different genre. A great example for this is the recently released Doom Eternal which is a FPS but also has platforming sections included without it being classed as one.
Plus, some games are hybrids! A great example of this for horror is Five Night's at Freddy's as it's clearly a horror game and also a point-and-click game which is it's own genre.
Are horror games a type of action games?
Yes actually, horror is a subtype of the action genre! More specifically, they come from action-adventure games that covers games like Assassin's Creed and Grand Theft Auto.
There are only a handful of game genres and these also have subgenres which then also have subgenres. Most games aren't thought about in terms of what the original genre they're attached to so knowing this isn't very important. The MOBA genre is a type of Strategy game but we don't call them strategy games after all, we just call them MOBA's now.
Are horror games pure horror?
A horror game usually has elements from other game genres in them but they aren't a survival horror game. In some cases, the horror might not be the main element of a game which is the case in Little Nightmares.
“Horror” tends to refer to the atmosphere and setting more than what the gameplay is. This is why Little Nightmares is listed as a puzzle-platformer horror game. It also explains why Five Night's at Freddy's is a Point-and-click horror game! There are also horror games which aren't specifically included as they're labelled as something else all together. Other games such as Telltale's Walking Dead series aren't even thought of as a horror game since the main focus is on the gameplay style.
What's a survival horror game?
Survival horror games are usually more 'active' in terms of the player needing to move around to new locations to complete different objectives and levels. In this type of horror game, players need to go find items or people and complete goals to unlock new parts of the map to progress through the game. There is usually some kind of health bar, stamina bar and other might be added as well such as batteries for flashlights.
In general, the player is vulnerable and unarmed. There is also usually inventory management involved as well for managing ammo, health and more.
What's a psychological horror game?
These are a specific type of horror game which aren't too common as they are a 'new; type of horror game. The aim is not to scare players through jump scares but through the atmosphere and psychological means instead. So they tend to focus more on images or situations designed to disturb players or to unease them. This is not something that usually comes up in online horror games.
What about online horror games?
These are typically survival horror games though sometimes the horror is an added element for another game type. Some co-op games can have horror elements in them such as We Were Here Too, multiplayer shooter games can include them and even MMORPGs. Most games like Dead by Daylight or The Forest are easy to label as survival horror games. Not all games are this easy to label though! We Were Here Too is a co-op puzzle games that has some horror elements and parts to it but that's not classed as a horror game.