When it comes to horror in video games, everyone thinks of the same few titles. Whether it be Resident Evil, Silent Hill, or the many others that followed in their footsteps, they all have one thing in common: They are all real-time and action-based. There’s something about that intensity – of having to react quickly, while being hunted – that sadly just can not be replicated using the more tactical/turn-based approach.
This doesn’t, however, mean there are no fantastic turn-based horror games! They just have to take a different route to evoking that sense of dread the players are looking for. The goal of this list is to present some of the most interesting examples of the, rather unusual – but definitely innovative, style.
Whether they deal with the occult, the supernatural or the demonic, each title on this list is a true horror – even if they do not rely on the usual jump scares the gamers are used to. So, for those that like to have a bit of a fright to their tactical and strategic gameplay, this list should definitely make you jump with joy. Because finding 10 turn-based horror games is harder than trying to kill Freddy in a dream.
Black Book is a dark adventure RPG based on Slavic mythology. It begins with Vasilisa, a soon-to-be witch, abandoning her dark pursuits in order to marry her beloved. That dream, however, is shattered when she finds her betrothed dead, under mysterious circumstances. Unable to deal with the event, Vasilisa sets out to find the Black Book – a demonic artifact powerful enough to grant any wish to those that uncover all its seven seals.
Black Book is an example of a horror title, that doesn’t need to rely on jump scares in order to create a gloomy atmosphere. Its story about a young woman who gives her life to serve the dark forces is truly haunting. It’s also a very solid card-based combat game, with players exploring and learning about Slavic traditions.
World of Horror
This title is a 1-bit love letter to horror legends like Lovecraft and Junji Ito. In World of Horror, the Old Gods have reawakened, haunting a dying world in some of the most classic settings like hospitals, classrooms and more, that anyone familiar with the Japanese horror can’t help but love.
World of Horror is grotesquely scary and possibly the closest title on this list to a classical horror game, in a turn-based format. While still in Early Access, the game has been getting rave reviews. It looks like those that’ve played it, have walked away loving it, with nightmares inbound. Read our preview
While World of Horror is almost senselessly disturbing – Inscryption‘s style of dread is the complete opposite. It could be seen as a sort of psychological horror. From the mechanical standpoint, the developers describe it as a deck-building roguelike with Escape Room type puzzles; think Saw meets Slay the Spire. Not literally, but figuratively, as you try to escape a cabin in the woods by playing cards.
Inscryption is already getting lots of love from gamers, and it’s easy to see why. The game mixes the fear of being trapped in an unknown place with the addictive gameplay of a roguelite. Not to mention that players will need to find clues and items to aid in their escape. All-in-all, it’s a surprisingly good combination of a horror and a deckbuilder.
Tainted Grail: Conquest
Similarly to Black Book, Tainted Grail is a dark adventure deckbuilder. However, unlike the Slavic lore of the former game, Tainted Grail takes place in a world of Arthurian myths. Players will explore its ever-changing maps, fight gruesome and disturbing enemies, and hopefully learn what happened to the cursed island of Avalon.
Tainted Grail isn’t the type of horror that’s likely to give you nightmares. It does, however, contain plenty of terrifying monsters, and has strong gothic vibes. The best type of horror, in my opinion. Not only that, but the game has proven so popular that an Elder Scrolls looking version is now being made.
Darkest Dungeon is a challenging turn-based roguelike where players lead a team of flawed heroes through twisted forests, ruined crypts and other terrifying places. The unimaginable horrors that lurk in these areas are not the only threat the party must face. There are also diseases, stress and the ever encroaching darkness they must overcome, to survive the Darkest Dungeon.
Darkest Dungeon isn’t for the faint-hearted. There’s more to it than just fighting disturbing enemies. The players will have to deal with the other challenges the characters may be facing – which may result in weakness or, worse, death.
This wouldn’t be a true list of horror games, without one title in it with all the classic monsters. Luckily, there is one game, that includes the familiar characters – including Satan himself. In fact, the Devil is the main character, with a host of dark minions to do his bidding. The goal is to take revenge on the hunters, that dared to weaken him.
Rogue Lords is a classic roguelike, with a twist. Playing as the Devil gives an incredible advantage, especially when using the Devil Mode. Plus, who doesn’t want a team consisting of Dracula, The Headless Horseman, Bloody Mary and more. Check out our review
A traditional turn-based tactical game – that is also a horror, is possibly the rarest combination. In a weird way, it’s also, quite likely, the perfect combination. What other genre pits the players against unfathomable odds, sweating in fear at losing their characters? Lightbulb Crew must have had this exact idea, as their game – Othercide is the perfect mix of the two genres.
Othercide is a tactical turn-based roguelike, that looks like Fire Emblem but with horror elements. Can you lead your daughters to save humanity, even if this means sacrificing one to save another? Othercide will have players dealing with hard decisions and the horror of the Dread creatures. Check out our review
Mary Skelter Nightmares
Mary Skelter Nightmares is the perfect game, if you like twisted fairy tales, anime, JRPGs and horror. Following Jack – a hero from the famous fairy tale, players will need to enter a twisted dungeon. Several blood maidens, who are based on traditional characters like Snow White and Red Riding Hood, will help them on their way. However, if players hope to survive the journey, they’ll still need to use their wits. As well as blood magic, of course.
Mary Skelter is a classic anime dungeon crawler, with all the antics players enjoy from the genre, like anime girls, but with more horror and blood.
OMORI is another psychological horror with mature themes that may not be suitable for everyone. Some might even be unable to make it through the whole game. For those that can, they will find a strange world that isn’t as it seems – with colorful, yet disturbing characters.
While OMORI has been praised by those who have played it, it’s still recommended to take caution, as it deals with heavy themes like suicide, depression, and more. OMORI may be more of a visual novel than a traditional turn-based game, but it still has enough turn-based moments to earn the tag.
Arkham Horror: Mother’s Embrace
Arkham Horror is a video game adaptation of the popular board game of the same name. Think of it as a murder investigation game – with turn-based battles. Arkham Horror is possibly the least turn-based title on this list, but it is one, nonetheless – it’s just combined with a point-and-click style.
Arkham Horror is set in a Lovecraftian world of Cthulhu mythos. Players will take control of one of twelve characters, all from the board game, and solve occultist-type murders in many locations, including Asylums and Universities. Check out our review
While turn-based horrors are rare, the ten games featured here aren’t the only ones. There are, in fact, many more available. And if you go further back, there are even more turn-based horror games that can be played; sadly, they aren’t legally playable on current systems or a PC. For those that still have those systems, make sure to look into it; some of those are considered classics.