Licensed games used to get a lot of flack for their shoddy production value and rushed development cycles, but that doesn’t mean they were all bad. Sometimes, passionate developers and the clever use of beloved IPs can be enough to overcome limited budgets and impossible deadlines, resulting in quite a few hidden gems even in the gaming industry’s least-favorite releases.
That’s why we’ve decided to compile this list ranking 10 of the best licensed horror games, as there’s a lot of fun to be had with some of these interactive adaptations of our favorite horror franchises. They might not all be masterpieces, but I believe they’re all worth revisiting for one reason or another, in spite of their licensed origins.
Naturally, we’ll be omitting licensed character DLC for games like Mortal Kombat and Dead by Daylight, and we’ll also limit our selection to one game per horror franchise. In any case, don’t forget to share your own favorites with us in the comments below.
Now, onto the list!
10. Jaws Unleashed
No matter how much I love the game, Appaloosa Interactive’s Jaws Unleashed is by no means a 10/10. The visuals are muddled and the controls can be confusing, but where else are you going to find a game where you can casually chew through beach-goers on your way to fight a giant Kraken?
Like GTA had a steroid-infused baby with Ecco the Dolphin, Jaws Unleashed may have more in common with the film’s increasingly ridiculous sequels, but there’s a lot of fun to be had prowling the mysterious waters surrounding Amity Island. There’s nothing like sneaking up on unsuspecting swimmers for a midnight snack, especially when that iconic John Williams score kicks in.
9. Parasite Eve
While there was a Parasite Eve film in 1997, SquareSoft’s 1998 game is actually a sequel to Hideaki Sena’s original novel, once again pitting humanity against an ancient Mitochondria-based entity as monsters are unleashed in New York City.
Mixing survival-horror thrills with turn-based RPG elements, Parasite Eve is a unique take on bio-weapons and mutations, and one of the stand-out titles of the PS1-era. While there was a sequel and an eventual spinoff on the PSP, this is one series that I’d love to see make a comeback in the near future!
8. Evil Dead Regeneration
There have been several Evil Dead games over the years, from a traditional survival-horror title on the original Playstation to the upcoming Left-4-Dead-inspired Evil Dead: The Game, but so far, I’d have to say that 2005’s Evil Dead Regeneration is my favorite of the bunch.
Once again featuring the ever-lovable Bruce Campbell as our favorite Deadite-slaying badass (and Ted Raimi as his diminutive half-Deadite companion Sam), Cranky Pants Games’ take on the Evil Dead franchise is a surprisingly fun hack ‘n’ slash with a wicked sense of humor.
Due to the self-contained nature of the franchise’s traps and locations, I would never have expected an interactive adaptation of Saw to work as well as the movies. Of course, I was proven wrong by Zombie Studios’ underrated Saw. Working as a companion piece to the then-ongoing mythology of the original films, this 2009 title puts players in the shoes of series favorite Detective David Tapp as he traverses a deadly insane asylum.
The controls can be clunky and the graphics aren’t all that impressive, but there’s a lot of love for the source material here (James Wan and Leigh Whannell were both brought in to help with the story and traps), and there’s nothing like the looming threat of a horrific death to make you want to solve puzzles as quickly as possible. If you can stomach the appropriately gnarly gore, I’d recommend this one to any fan of the films or Survival Horror in general.
6. Blair Witch
Having already crafted the mind-bending Layers of Fear series, it’s no surprise that Bloober Team would be the ones to tackle this adaptation of one of horror’s most iconic films. It’s not the first game to recreate the Black Hills forest, but it’s definitely the most faithful to the look and feel of the movies, complete with a functioning in-game camcorder and a rich backstory.
Blair Witch has its issues, both in narrative and gameplay, but once you reach the final hours of the game and enter certain a familiar cabin, you’ll realize why Bloober was the perfect studio to bring the world of The Blair Witch Project to life.
5. Telltale’s The Walking Dead
Telltale Games is now just a sad memory, but they left behind an admirable legacy of adventure titles that helped to reinvigorate the genre. My favorite of these (and perhaps the most infamous) is their unique take on Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. Adapting the world and atmosphere of the comics rather than any particular story, Telltale’s first season of The Walking Dead remains one of the best examples of emotionally-driven interactive storytelling, and I feel like every gamer should try it out at least once.
This iteration of The Walking Dead may be more slower-paced than what some players are used to, but the excellent storytelling proves that it’s possible to make a genuinely thrilling game without resorting to exaggerated action or silly gimmicks.
4. The Thing
A criminally underplayed gem, this 2002 classic somehow manages to game-ify all the best elements of Carpenter’s classic film while also serving as an action-packed sequel (complete with a surprise cameo towards the end of the experience).
Never knowing if your companions are friends or foes and constantly having to manage resources with unique squad skills, this paranoid adventure is one of the best horror titles of the sixth console generation, and a love-letter to one of the best horror films of all time.
3. Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie
Peter Jackson’s King Kong may be a monster movie, but despite the director’s splatter-movie pedigree, it’s definitely not a horror film. The movie’s tie-in videogame, however, is as far removed from a summer blockbuster as you could possibly get. Putting players in the vulnerable shoes of a hapless screenwriter trapped on a primitive island where nearly every lifeform is out to get you, the game excels at making players aware that they are not welcome on Skull Island.
There are a few fun segments where you play as Kong himself, but the general lack of an HUD, limited ammo and terrifying monster designs make this a truly horrific experience, especially when you’re being pursued by unkillable dinosaurs. Even if you’re not a fan of the film, I highly recommend checking this one out if you’re up for a terrifying first-person adventure in dinosaur-infested jungles.
2. Friday the 13th
Crowdfunded back in 2016, Illfonic’s Friday the 13th is a passion project made by fans for fans. While the end product is just as janky as the low-budget scary movies that it’s trying to emulate, I know that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this interactive love-letter to Jason Voorhees.
When it works, the game manages to successfully condense the best parts of a Slasher flick into a single online match, making for a rewarding and addictive experience. While it’s a shame that the infamous lawsuit kept us from seeing new and exciting updates/DLC, there’s still a lot to enjoy in this rare instance of an online title that left us wanting more.
1. Alien Isolation
I don’t think any other licensed horror title has ever captured the spirit of its source material like Creative Assembly’s Alien Isolation. Borrowing the original film’s premise of a “haunted house in space” and turning it into an interactive thrill-ride, Isolation remains a shining example of what passionate developers can do when given the proper time and resources.
I’ll never forget how I wandered the eerie corridors of Sevastopol, dreading my next encounter with the titular Xenomorph and becoming increasingly more paranoid whenever I saw a leak dripping down from the ceiling. Whether you’re a fan of the franchise or not, I think every horror fan should experience this nonstop thrill-ride at least once.