The only rose-tinted glasses we’re after have been stained red with blood. Horror video games are in the middle of a retro revival, and we're ready to feast on their fears. Inspired by the blocky, grainy experience of the PS1 era, indie developers have been creating a new yet unmistakably old wave of retro-themed horror games. Whether you’re into survival horror and fiendish puzzles or just long for the lost days of being scared witless by murky visuals on a small screen, here are some of the best new horror games with PS1-style visuals that you can play today.
Modern retro-themed horror games
Available on: PC, Switch, PlayStation, Xbox
If you’re a fan of classic survival horror games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil, don’t miss Signalis. Ingenious and unsettling fixed perspectives, inventory management, and puzzles – all the hallmarks of the survival horror golden era are present. But where Signalis truly excels is in its world and narrative.
The sci-fi plot follows a technician android who, after her ship crash lands on an unknown world, enters an unsettling facility to search for her missing companion. The tale which unfolds is far from so straightforward, digging its roots painfully into the foundations of concepts like memory, identity, and love. A complex, brilliantly wrought story packed within an unmistakably classic gaming package.
Available on: PC, Switch, PS4
The Tartarus Key squeezes mysteries aplenty into its old-school-inspired tale of psychological horror. Puzzles are at the heart of the experiences, which sees protagonist Alex Young awaken in a strange, trap-laden mansion. Alex isn’t the only one locked within the building’s walls, but it’s up to you whether she’ll work with the other captives or leave them to face an unpleasant end.
Tartarus Key is thick with atmosphere, but its gameplay favors “puzzles and plot instead of combat or chase sequences.” So if you’re keen to get scared without high-skill input requirements, consider booking a visit to this malicious mansion.
Available on: PC, Switch
The modern revival of retro-horror has led to a glorious (and often gorey) glut of micro-horror experiences. Among them, Iron Horror is a uniquely singular take on the genre. In it, you’re the sole pilot of a small submarine exploring an alien ocean of blood.
Navigating the cramped space, you’ll need to learn the craft’s controls as you attempt to navigate the murky depths – a world visible only through grainy camera images you have to manually trigger. It’s an an oppressive, claustrophobic experience that’ll have your imagination spiraling as to the source of the many sounds scraping across and humming through your hull.
Available on: PC
Set in a fantasy version of the 1920s, Alisa follows an elite military agent who awakens in a victorian mansion. Not a bad place for breakfast normally, but this particular mansion is stuffed to the brim with mechanized and murderous doll creatures. Dolls and horror are a more iconic combo than slasher flicks and final girls, but there's something about the PS1-era visuals that makes their disjointed motions all the more creepy. Alisa is definitely one for experienced, old-school survival horror fans. If you're new to the genre, be prepared to grapple with controls, severely limited resources, and strict saving options.
Available on: PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
The Easter bunny is out to get you. A laughable idea, right up until Murder House’s serial-killing villain raises his long-eared head and sends you into a panic. The plot of this survival horror title is straight from a B-movie slasher flick: a local news crew turn up to a long-dead murderer’s house only to discover that – oh no! – he’s still alive and has sadistic plans for their imminent future.
Just like its budget horror inspirations, Murder House flits between goofy humor, genuine terror, and blood-bathed gore throughout. Specifically designed to evoke the PS1-era aesthetic and featuring classic survival horror tank controls, it’s a novel, nostalgic blast best enjoyed with a friend or two watching along to share in the scares together.
Haunted PS1 Demo Disc
Available on: PC
Unsure of the exact PS1 horror experience you’re after? Check out the Haunted PS1 Demo Disc 2021. This free itch.io bundle packs in 25 miniature indie horror titles from numerous creators. The tone, genre, and quality of the included games various significantly, but all of them aim to evoke the feeling of games from the mid to late 1990s, and many will do a brilliant job raising the hairs on your neck while at it.
Demo available on: PC, PS5
The best news for fans of retro survival horror is that this revival period isn't over yet. From the team behind Tangle Tower, Crow County is an upcoming game which pairs a Final Fantasy 7 aesthetic with survival horror mechanics. From the trailer alone, it's a compelling and uncomfortable combination. The setup sees a young girl heading into an abandoned theme park – a guaranteed recipe for a bad time if ever we heard one. Searching for the park's lost owner, protagonist Mara finds herself caught in a fark darker and more dangerous journey than expected. There's no release date yet for Crow County, but you can download a demo to try on Steam and PS5.
Add an extra splash of horror to your own game space with HyperX's 3D-printed spooky keycaps! If you're after more scares, then check out our list of the best new horror games in 2023. Enjoyed any other PS1-inspired retro horror games? Share them with us so we can scratch that spooky itch in the back of our skulls. We really should see a doctor about that…