This topic is inspired by Windsor local Sebastian Gaspar Woods who, earlier this year, won Best Short Script at the Underground Indie Film Festival for his horror/romance ghost story ‘Hold Me Close’.
As of 2020, what do you consider the best horror games?
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A lot of new horror-themed board games have been released since we last talked about this.
This isn’t our first time discussing horror-themed board games. Two years ago, I came up with eleven games I thought would be great for a terror-filled game night for my article: Horror Board Game Suggestions for your Themed Game Night. We also discussed these games and a few more in Episode 14 of Tabletop Bellhop Live, Gastly Game Nights.
What’s even more shocking than the games themselves, is the number of great creepy and horror-filled games that have come out since I first published that article. It’s been a great couple of years for horror and Halloween themed games.
Today I’m going to feature even more terrible tabletop games and there is actually very little overlap with our previous list.
What are Some of the best Horror Themed Board Games?
Below is a list of some of the best horror board games that I’ve personally played and enjoyed. These games aren’t in any particular order and the first one on the list may be just as good as the last. As usual for one of these game recommendation lists, I tried to choose a variety of different game types and weights. I’ve got spooky games on the list for new gamers and experienced pros as well as games that both adults and children should enjoy.
One thing I don’t want to get into here is what defines a horror game. That’s something that is definitely up for debate. For this list I went with games with an overall Horror, Creepy or Spooky theme, mixing spoopy Halloween fun with games based on horror movies and games meant to actually invoke feelings of fright.
After the main list, I will be featuring a number of honourable mentions. These are some games I haven’t played myself, or games I didn’t like but I know other people have found great joy in, as well as one of my favourites that no one is going to be able to find a copy of.
Jaws – Now I don’t want to get into the entire “Is Jaws a horror movie?” debate here. What I do want to say is that the debate simple doesn’t matter, as, either way, this is an excellent one vs. many board game. Jaws is split over two acts. In the first act, the characters are hunting the shark on the beaches of Amity Island. In the second act, the tides turn and the hunters become the hunted. This is a great example of just how good a licenced game can be and a great example of tying the theme of a license to the mechanics.
For more information on this great licenced board game check out my Jaws the board game review. For other great licenced board games check out my article, “What Makes for a Good Licenced Board Game and 14 of the Best”.
Horrified – Speaking of Prospero Hall, another big hit of theirs from last year is Horrified the board game featuring the classic Universal Monsters. This is a cooperative game where players are trying to save the city from one or more classic movie monsters. Face off against Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and his bride, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and more.
Since Horrified came out this game has become my go-to cooperative game and a great gateway game for hooking new players on hobby board games. The variety of monsters is great for both replayability and for adjusting the difficulty level to the group you are playing with.
Learn more about this game in my full Horrified game review.
Nyctophobia The Hunted – Nyctophobia is the most unique game on this list. It was created by designer Cathrine Stippell, who grew up playing games with her blind uncle and wanted to make a game where all of the players would be on the same playing field as him.
Nyctophobia is a one vs many game where one player plays a hunter trying to catch the hunted who are lost in the woods and played by the other players. The thing here is that only the hunter can see the board, all of the other players wear blackout glasses and must move around the board using only their sense of touch and through talking to the other players to communicate where they are and what they sense. Nyctophobia presents a board gaming experience like no other.
EXIT The Haunted Roller Coaster – Besides being the perfect gateway to the EXIT series of an escape room in a box games, the theme of the Haunted Roller Coaster is perfect for a Halloween game night. This puzzle based game features that perfect mix of spooky and silly with a mix of ghosts, zombies and creepy crawlies.
While there are other EXIT games with horror themes this is the most accessible of them and the one that I think fits the Halloween theme the best. You can learn more about this particular gateway EXIT game in my EXIT The Haunted Roller Coaster review.
Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion – Right now this Scooby-Doo themed puzzle game is my strongest recommendation on this list if you have a family with kids and are looking for something to do on Halloween.
This Coded Chronicles game is a fantastic combination of puzzle-based escape room game and murder mystery. My family absolutely loved this game and my kids keep asking me when there will be another mystery game like this that we can play together. I really can’t recommend Scooby-Doo! Escape from the Haunted Mansion strongly enough for families and even if you don’t have kids I think there’s a lot to enjoy in this box.
Check out my full review for more information on how the Coded Chronicles system works.
Mansion of Madness Second Edition – This mythos themed game from Fantasy Flight Games is perfect for all of you Cthulhu and Elder God fans. Mansions of Madness uses app integration to allow the players to investigate and solve a mythos based puzzle by exploring the mansion room by room trying to discover what’s happening and how to stop it.
Due to the app, every game is unique and you never know what to expect. One game you will be battling cultists the next you need to find all of the pieces of the ritual and cast the spell before the portal in the attic destroys the universe. This is one of the best combinations of board game and app enhanced gameplay that I’ve personally seen.
Dead Man’s Cabal – If you want a game with a very unique theme look no further than Dead Man’s Cabal. In this game you play necromancers going to a dance party. Of course, necromancers have no friends so you are going to have to resurrect some guests to bring with you. What better theme for a Halloween party featuring some tabletop games?
There are some really interesting mechanics in this euro game and it features some great creepy components like different coloured skulls used for summoning the dead and bones for currency. Just be sure you read over the rules for final scoring a few times before playing since, as noted in my Dead Man’s Cabal review, the end game scoring is a bit opaque.
Legendary Encounters an ALIEN Deck-Building Game – Unlike the Marvel Legendary games, also from Upper Deck, Legendary Encounters ALIEN is a fully cooperative deck builder. In this game based on the ALIEN movies, you play through the original series of movies with each scenario being more difficult than the last.
What I find the most interesting about this game is how it manages to invoke real feelings of tension with the way the adversary track works and how the aliens on it stay hidden until discovered or revealed. This one is going to require a lot of teamwork and does a great job of capturing the feel of the ALIEN universe.
For a look at a different take on the ALIEN universe check out my review of The ALIEN The Roleplaying Game Starter Set.
Tragedy Looper – This anime-inspired one vs many game is very unique and a bit hard to describe. One player, the Moderator, runs the game while the other players try to prevent a murder. The unique twist here is that there is time travel involved.
Players move from location to location and interact with various characters until someone dies. Then the game resets and the players try again, now knowing who will die and trying to do something to prevent that from happening. If they don’t do the right thing the person dies again and time resets.
Tragedy Looper is more of a puzzle to be solved than a mystery and requires a lot of attention to detail on the part of the person running the game. It’s not easy to learn but there’s nothing else quite like it on the market.
Ghost Stories – This is a fast and furious Wuxia based cooperative game. The players play chi warriors trying to protect their village from an ancient Oni. They do this by battling ghosts, working together and using the various abilities of the townsfolk to defeat their foes.
This up to four-player game from Antoine Bauza is notorious for its difficulty level. Ghost Stories is one of the hardest to beat cooperative games out there, but it’s oh so rewarding once you finally beat it. With variable board layouts, enemy spawning through card play, and a number of potential different final bosses to face, this game also has near-infinite replayability.
Sorcerer – This two-player duelling card game has some of the most twisted and dark artwork I’ve ever seen in a game. The theme is that two twisted and corrupted mystical beings are battling over Victorian London. They will send out and equip their minions and battle over three fronts. The first player who destroys two of the three locations in London wins.
This game features a unique deck mashing mechanic where players will select three different decks, a character deck, a domain deck and a lineage deck then mash these together to form their play deck. This is one of the best two-player duelling card games I’ve ever played and the theme and artwork really fit the Halloween season.
Learn more about this mash-up of board game and card game in my Sorcerer review.
Cthulhu Death May Die – This is another big box Cthulhu game filled with miniatures, much like Mansion of Madness. However, the gameplay between these two games couldn’t be much more different. Death May Die is a two-fisted dice chucking mythos game, where you play through set scenarios while your investigators will first try to make a Great Old One corporeal and then kick its butt.
As you can read in my Cthulhu Death May Die review, this game has a very different feel from most mythos based games, which I found very refreshing. I do still wish it had more campaign elements though.
Shaky Manor – I wanted to make sure I had something on this list for younger kids and that’s where Shaky Manor comes in. This unique game from Blue Orange Games features a segmented cardboard tray with each segment being a different room in a manor. Into the rooms are tossed a number of small components, such as an eyeball, a witch meeple and a plastic spider. A card is flipped up and the goal of the game is for the players to shake the manor so that they end up with the right objects in the right room.
This is a silly, quick, fun game that pretty much anyone of any age can enjoy. However, it is particularly great for pre-schoolers as there is no reading required.
Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters – I’m going to finish off with another kid-friendly game, and that’s my favourite kids game of all time — Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters. In this cooperative game, the players play kids rushing into a haunted house in order to find and escape with eight gems. They need to do this before ghosts turn into haunts and overrun the house. Players will need to work together, figuring out which gems to grab first, and balance grabbing gems with fighting back the encroaching ghosts.
I’ve yet to find anyone who didn’t have fun playing this game, child or adult.
Honourable Mentions, great horror-themed games that didn’t quite make the cut:
Zombicide – The Zombicide series of games are highly popular, overproduced, miniature filled, games from CMON. There are a lot of people who love this series and that’s why I’m listing it as an honourable mention.
I’ve tried a couple of the Zombicide games, Invader and Black Plague, and found them to be quite fun but a bit repetitive. The main thing I found missing was any actual campaign play featuring story progression or character improvement.
The Shining: Escape from the Overlook Hotel – The Shining is the second game in the Coded Chronicles series (the first game in the series is Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion, which came up on the list earlier). Based on how much we enjoyed the original Coded Chronicles game I expect to also enjoy The Shining. The only reason it’s not on the main list is that we haven’t had a chance to actually play it yet.
Arkham Horror The Card Game – This game came up on almost every best horror game list I could find while researching today’s topic. This is a cooperative living card game from Fantasy Flight Games. I haven’t actually tried this one myself, so didn’t feel comfortable putting it on the main list without having personally played it, but plenty of people seem to dig it.
Warhammer Chaos in the Old World – This Warhammer themed game is one that I have played. Chaos in the Old World is a very asymmetric game where each player plays one of the different gods of Chaos who are doing horrible things to the Warhammer world. The goal for each player is completely different depending on which god you play. The reason this one isn’t on the main list is due to the fact no one is going to be able to find a copy for a price any sane person would pay since Fantasy Flight lost the Warhammer licence a number of years back.
King of Tokyo Halloween – My final recommendation isn’t a game itself but rather a way to add a Halloween theme to an existing game. The King of Tokyo Halloween expansion not only gives you two new spooky characters for your games of King of Tokyo but also a set of orange and black dice.
There you have my list of what I think are the best horror games out there. Which of these games is your favourite to play at this time of year? If your favourite is not on the list, I would love to hear about it in the comments.