The 10 Scariest Games In Horror History Ranked

Trends in horror tend to ebb and flow in popularity, and one of the hottest subgenres at the moment is survival horror. Using easily understood elements of seemingly innocent games, survival horror skyrockets the stakes to deadly levels, and exposes the monstrous nature that is capable within some human beings in the process. Playing for fun is no longer enough when the result is life or death, and considering audiences are likely familiar with the gameplay themselves, it's hard to watch one of these films and not imagine how you, the viewer, would play the game in similar circumstances. In honor of this growing trend, we've assembled a list of ten of the absolute scariest games in horror history. Ready? Set? Let's play.

As The Gods Will - Japanese Children's Games

Long before "Squid Game" showed up and terrorized audiences across the globe by transforming popular children's games into a battle to the death, there was Takashi Miike's 2014 horror movie, "As The Gods Will." A high school student named Shun Takahata loves playing violent video games as an escape from the monotony of the real world, but soon finds himself and his classmates forced into a deadly game of Daruma-san ga koronda, commonly known as "Red Light, Green Light" in other parts of the world. Shun is the inevitable winner of the game, pressing the button on the back of the Daruma Doll which leads to the deaths of his classmates.

From then on, Shun is joined by other survivors and continually forced to play games of skill and luck to avoid an incredibly graphic fate orchestrated by deities. They play "Maneki Neko," where they are forced to dress as mice while throwing a bell into a hoop attached to the collar of a giant cat, all while trying not to be eaten or crushed; the Kagome Kagome guessing game which results in telekinetic deaths if they guess incorrectly; a game of truth with a giant polar bear; and a game of "Kick the Can" led by a Matryoshka doll. Takashi Miike is one of the most prolific directors in cinema history, and his reputation for crafting beautifully grotesque thrillers like "Audition" and "Ichi the Killer" is firmly intact with "As The Gods Will."

Cry_Wolf - Cry Wolf

The goal of the game "Cry_Wolf" is to stay hidden and stay alive. In the words of the game's greatest mastermind, Dodger, "It's a lying game." The object is to avoid suspicion, manipulate your friends, and eliminate your enemies. Essentially, "Cry_Wolf" is the card game "Mafia" but with a sinister twist. The film's game is interesting enough, but where "Cry_Wolf" really thrived was the cross-promotional Flash-based interactive game version of "Cry_Wolf" that could be played by anyone with an AOL Instant Messenger account. If you're one of the millions of people who play the popular game "Among Us," know that it is a more advanced version of the virtual game of "Cry_Wolf."

"Cry_Wolf" the movie features a gaggle of prep school kids who frequently sneak out to play the game in their campus chapel, and send out a mass email warning students of a killer as a prank. But when real-life murder and mayhem begin picking them off one by one, they quickly realize that their game of lying and emotional warfare makes everyone a suspect as well as a potential victim lying in wait. It's a clever slasher film from the aughts that doesn't get enough love, boasting absolutely killer performances from Lindy Booth and Jared Padalecki.

Circle - Process Of Elimination

Loosely inspired by the 1957 drama "12 Angry Men," the psychological thriller "Circle" shows 50 people who wake up in a darkened room, only to discover that one of them is killed every two minutes — or if they attempt to leave their spot in the circle. After deaths occur at random, the group discovers that they can control which person is selected to die, and are forced to determine whose life is most valuable among the remaining survivors. Blocs of allies quickly emerge based on personal and political values, addressing the current era of social unrest in the most extreme possible circumstances.

With the threat of death constantly looming, the stakes never let up, but the true horror is not in the graphic demise of the players, but in hearing the way other humans value or devalue their fellow community members. Racism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, and just about every other form of bigotry are brought to light as people express their true feelings about those different from themselves, and it's a stark reminder of how little we sincerely know about the value systems of those we walk among every single day.

Saw - Escape Puzzles

When James Wan and Leigh Whannell arrived on the scene with their psychological thriller "Saw," they likely couldn't have anticipated the web of puzzles, survival games, and nightmare-inducing traps that would be spun over the course of eight sequels. John Kramer, also known as "The Jigsaw Killer," endured a life of tragedy before being diagnosed with terminal cancer, sinking him into a deep depression. John eventually tried to end his life by driving off a cliff, and miraculously managed to survive the crash. It was as he pulled a piece of jagged metal from his flesh that he realized his newfound appreciation of life came at the cost of coming face to face with his own mortality, and decided that he would spend the remainder of his life "testing" the will to live of others in an attempt to convince them to value their lives.

Of course, rather than just help people find a good therapist or offer a listening ear, Jigsaw developed elaborate traps that often required players to inflict harm upon themselves or others in order to make it out alive. The series has developed a plethora of devastating games, with some of the most famous including The Reverse Bear Trap, The Freezer Room, The Rack, The Angel Trap, The Syringe Pit, and The Silence Circle. "Would you like to play a game?"

Cube - Escape Rooms

Inspired by "The Twilight Zone" episode titled "Five Characters in Search of an Exit," the Canadian science-fiction survival horror film "Cube" has developed a cult following since its debut in 1997, and was a fundamental inspiration for the current wave of survival horror and the popularity of escape rooms. With no recollection of how they wound up there, a group of strangers awake in a labyrinthian prison of cubic cells, many of which are booby-trapped to kill them. A cop, a doctor, a math genius, an escape master, an autistic savant, and an architect are all forced to work together to solve the mystery of the Cube's puzzles, and hopefully, make it out alive. The film is a fascinating examination of human nature and the instinctive human urge for survival compared to our learned empathy. As their travels through the Cube linger on, some of the players slowly lose their grasp on humanity, descending into a selfish sense of madness that very well could lead to their demise.

Would You Rather/Cheap Thrills - This Or That Challenges

Based on the party game of the same name, the horror film "Would You Rather?" centers on a young woman named Iris played by Brittany Snow who is invited to a dinner party where she willingly partakes in life-threatening games to help her sick younger brother secure a donor after he contracts leukemia. All of the players invited to the Lambrick Foundation's dinner are in a financial bind and realize quickly that winning the prize money at the end of the game comes at the cost of the rest of the players dying. The evening is spent with the player choosing between one option or another, frequently tricked into believing the more horrific option was the safe bet. Jeffrey Combs stars as host Shepard Lambrick, a playful homage to his role in the 1999 remake of "House on Haunted Hill."

Debuting around the same time, E.L. Katz directed Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, David Koechner, and Sara Paxton starring "Cheap Thrills," where two former friends are invited by rich weirdos to compete in a series of challenges for large sums of money. Things start out easy enough with tasks like "punch the bar bouncer in the face" or "take a shot of alcohol the fastest," but the games soon escalate into self-mutilation, drug use, criminal activity, and deadly stakes. Both "Would You Rather?" and "Cheap Thrills" were born out of the ashes of the 2008 recession, and show the lengths people are willing to go to for financial stability in a country devastated by greed and capitalism.

Ready Or Not - Hide And Seek

When Samara Weaving's Grace met her husband Alex Le Domas (Mark O'Brien), she felt she had it made. A former foster child, Grace spent most of her life struggling to make ends meet, only to fall in love with a man from one of the wealthiest families in the world. Already feeling out of place, Grace hopes that participating in the family's tradition of a post-wedding game night would be her ticket to securing their approval. Grace pulls a card and it's determined the family is to play "Hide and Seek" throughout their mysterious mansion.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Grace, the game is part of a generations-long deal with "Mr. Le Bail," an echo for Belial. Grace not only needs to stay hidden to win the game, but to also stay alive, as the family is using the game as a way to hunt her for sport and sacrifice her to Le Bail in exchange for their family's continued good fortune. While many Le Domas marriages have been destroyed in the past by the game, Grace isn't willing to lay down and die. She instead decides to play for her survival, forcing the Le Domas family to play their toughest game yet.

Hellraiser - The Lament Configuration

One of horror's greatest franchises centers on a deadly game, despite not being about the actual gameplay. Clive Barker's "Hellraiser" series involves the key to the gates of hell existing within a puzzle box known as The Lament Configuration. The configuration serves as an enticing Rubik's Cube, but one that unleashes sadomasochistic Cenobite demons from another realm to unleash a reign of demented terror. The true horror of the puzzle box is that what is unlocked is based on whoever solves it, with each player receiving what they deserve. The Lament Configuration is an all-knowing judgment of character, as those of pure hearts tend not to mess with its grisly game in the first place. Each solution of the puzzle creates a bridge that allows beings a passageway across the Schism, as the inhabitants of other realms are able to interact. It's never made clear exactly if the realm is its own specific dimension of pain and suffering, or merely the truth of the Christian understanding of Hell. Regardless, this is one puzzle box you should probably leave alone, or else endure the wrath of Pinhead.

Funny Games - Psychological Torture For Funsies

Michael Haneke's "Funny Games" is a film so nice he filmed it twice. The Austrian-made original first debuted in 2007 but developed a rebirth in popularity after Haneke directed the American shot-for-shot remake a decade later starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, and Brady Corbet. The Farber family arrives at their summer holiday home only two meet two young, polite, and well-groomed men named Peter and Paul. The duo are instantly charming and win over the Farber family, their sweet smiles harboring the truth of their intentions. Later in the day, Peter and Paul terrorize and hold the Farber family hostage, forcing them to participate in a series of torturous games for their amusement. The games themselves don't follow any particular rules despite Paul's insistence that they're all constantly breaking them, and are usually just commands that the family obeys their every word. "Funny Games" is a psychological power trip of manipulation and coercion, with two game masters who we fear will continue playing long after the credits roll.

Battle Royale - Last One Standing

Freshman year of high school may feel like an absolute bloodbath, but in "Battle Royale," the feeling is literal. In Kinji Fukasaku's Japanese masterpiece, dozens of students are shipped off to a remote island with a map, provisions, and an assortment of weapons. The goal? Kill or be killed. The students are all strapped into a tracking collar rigged to explode if they break any of the rules in the game, forcing them all into a truly terrifying social experiment. The film is considered to be one of the best of the entire aughts, and the film's title has become synonymous with the growing subgenre of survival thrillers where groups of people are ordered to kill one another until one survivor remains. Without "Battle Royale," there wouldn't be nearly as many survival horror films to enjoy. "Battle Royale" is extremely violent and not for the faint of heart, but easily the best horror film centered around playing a game.

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