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6 of the Greatest Action Horror Games of All Time

There comes a time in every horror gamer’s life where they get bored of slow burn terror and start to yearn for some proper action. Screw this noise, they say; I just wanna funk some slip up! (Or something very close to that, at any rate.) So ditch that wimpy flashlight, you unarmed protagonists, and kick those obtuse logic puzzles to the curb; it’s time to get some real firepower!  

Action horror can be a hard genre to define compared to survival horror. While traditional survival horror has some very obvious hallmarks – limited resources, linear campaigns and a strong emphasis on narrative – working out what separates action horror from straight up action can be a bit hazy. As a workaround, this list considers a game action horror if it consistently applies horror in both its narrative and execution. For example, while something like 2016’s Doom has many horror elements – gore, demons, a hostile environment, etc – there’s no real attempt to scare the player. Equally, while games like Bioshock and Metro 2033 have large sections dedicated to creeping the player out, their overarching stories are more speculative fiction or sci fi than horror.  

The above definition may be a bit of a rough distinction, but hey, time’s a wastin’ here and trigger fingers are itching – let’s just get on with it already! Without further ado, here’s six of the most pulse-pounding, head-bustin’, ass-kicking action horror games ever to have graced our screens. 

6. The Suffering

Busting out of its cell at number six is this awesome little action horror from the early aughts. Developed by Surreal Software, The Suffering puts players in control of Torque, a mute, musclebound inmate sitting on death row inside the notorious Abbot State Penitentiary on the remote Carnate Island. When a mysterious cataclysm unleashes a tide of hellish and homicidal monsters, Torque is forced to confront both inner and outer demons in the most literal sense possible. While not the most well-known entry on this list, it’s still an absolute blast to shoot, burn, bludgeon and blast your way through Carnate’s horde of grisly and creatively designed malefactors. Despite its age, you can still play The Suffering and its sequel courtesy of GOG.com. 

5.Dead Space 2

The original Dead Space seemed to flirt between survival horror and action horror, while Dead Space 3… well, the less said about that game the better, frankly. But Dead Space 2’s main campaign holds up as an enjoyable entry into the annals of action horror games, doubling down on its predecessor’s signature dismemberment system with more guns, more upgrades and more enemies. While the cinematic moments could get a bit annoying and the multiplayer was forgettable, Isaac Clarke’s journey through the Necromorph-infested Sprawl still offers just the right mix of well-paced peaks and troughs to deliver a solid overall package. Plus, the javelin gun is a thing of goddamn beauty. 

4. Darkwatch

High Moon Studios’ Darkwatch is best described as Gothic Wild West Halo with vampires and the undead. Putting you in the spurred boots of outlaw-turned-neckbiter Jericho Cross, this 2005 horror action shooter remains an must-play for action horror fans. Tight controls, a range of awesome vampire powers and weapons (it’s got a freakin’ four-barreled shotgun for Chrissakes!) and a variety of challenging ghouls and ghosts to re-kill earn Darkwatch a spot on this list. A console-exclusive for the PS2 and Xbox, it remains a crying shame that the game still hasn’t been updated for modern hardware.  

3. Left 4 Dead

The only multiplayer game on this list, Left 4 Dead (and Left 4 Dead 2, for that matter) is one of the best examples of a game that manages to near-perfectly recreate its subject matter in its gameplay mechanics. Matches of Left 4 Dead aren’t just fun to play; they also nail that sense of actually being in a classic zombie survival film. Even if you replaced the zombies with mutants, aliens or cuddly stuffed toys, Left 4 Dead would still feel like the zombie apocalypse. Add to this a cool alternative mode that lets you play as one of the special infected, and you end up with a game that even Francis would be hard pressed to hate on. 

2. F.E.A.R.

There’d be a lynching if this title wasn’t featured on this list. Take a bucket of John Woo’s best action scenes, add a dollop of The Matrix and a smattering of The Ring and you end up with F.E.A.R. The guns, the explosions, the slo-mo; Monolith Productions’ 2005 FPS remains a glorious ballet of death and destruction to this day. Taking control of Point Man, the game sees you facing off against waves of heavily armed clone soldiers and the psychic influence of the sinister little girl Alma. With responsive A.I. and gloriously destructible environments, there’s a reason why F.E.A.R. still sends a shiver of excitement down players’ spines. 

1. Resident Evil 4

Stranger, stranger; now that’s a weapon! Resident Evil 4 just can’t be beat when it comes to combining combat with creep-factor. Not merely a great action horror title, Leon Kennedy’s mission to save Ashley Graham from the grips of the Los Illuminados cult is regularly heralded as one of the greatest games of all time period. With an epic campaign, tons of extra content and mechanics that continue to influence game design to this day, Resident Evil 4 more than earns its place at the top of this list.  

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