The masters of horror, Japanese companies like Capcom and Konami have become famous over the years for their ability to time and time again deliver incredible survival horror titles with increasingly engaging characters and stories. Most major franchises that served as inspiration for many other titles, such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, all come from Japan.
There’s something quite special about Japanese horror games, which uses a different kind of strategy to create helplessness and fear in the player, even when they’re armed. While it’s difficult to say what exactly that IT factor is, there’s no denying the quality of these games. Here are the absolute top of the top of Japanese horror, straight from Metacritic. Note that the rankings for a title are taken for their highest ranked release, regardless of platform.
10 Resident Evil 5 – 84
Starting off at the bottom of the list is Resident Evil 5, which drastically changed how a Resident Evil survivor horror game could be experienced. Although the fifth installment of the series wasn’t spiritually anything new or outstanding, and was in fact considered more of an action FPS game rather than a horror game, it made its mark with one specific feature.
Players could actually experience the game from a co-op perspective, which would use split screen technology. It was definitely nice to have that as an option, even if the story of Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar fighting against the Las Plagas parasite isn’t that strong compared to some earlier games. It earned itself a score of 84 on Metacritic.
9 Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly Director’s Cut – 84
The Fatal Frame franchise is undoubtedly one of the most unique survival horror game series due to how it ingeniously incorporated a combat mechanic using a ghost-capturing camera. Haunted by terrifying, hostile spirits of the dead, each game arms the player with the Camera Obscura as they traverse a dark mansion or dream-like environment.
The second game of the series, Crimson Butterfly, is the story of twin sisters who end up lost in a village deep in the forest after following after a glowing red butterfly. The game includes a ton of Japanese folklore and religion, making it particularly interesting and rich. And of course, it’s one of the few games to this date that makes ghosts actually terrifying. With that, it ranks at 84 on Metacritic.
8 Silent Hill 3 – 85
Another fantastic series that has left its mark in both good and bad in the horror genre is Silent Hill. Its third installment is a sequel to the very first in the series, with the daughter of Harry, Heather, returning to Silent Hill as she awakens from a terrible dream at a shopping mall.
Silent Hill 3 is an excellent psychological horror title, which includes challenging puzzles, nightmarish yet symbolic enemies and locations, as well as complex characters that leave the player feeling helpless in the face of whatever haunts them. It’s a game that relies on slowly developing dread and disgust, rather than mere jump scares. It ranks at 85 on Metacritic.
7 Dead Rising – 85
Not all horror games leave the player feeling helpless or positively freaked out. Some, like Dead Rising, the very first game in a series of similar titles, give the player a bunch of tools to fight back at full force. Dead Rising is a classic zombie survival horror game with elements of a beat ’em up, which pits the main character Frank West against an horde of undead.
The game isn’t just about killing as many zombies as possible, however. Frank’s task is to survive a given time, while ensuring he can save those who are still alive. With a staggering number of 250 different items that can be used to kill zombies, the game definitively empowers you. Dead Rising has earned a decent score of 85 on Metacritic.
6 Resident Evil 7: Biohazard – 86
Nothing scared people quite like Mia’s surprise transformation in the brutal Resident Evil 7: Biohazard back in 2017. Witnessing the shift in Ethan Winter’s wife right before our eyes was definitely something that’s going to be tattooed in the back of our minds for a very long time, just like the cannibalistic family Ethan first visits.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard sought to make a return to something more survival horror oriented and leave its FPS phase it had started developing since Resident Evil 5 behind. It succeeded in it, creating a total sense of fear and despair in the player and making it one of the scariest game of its time. With that, it’s a shame it only ranks 86 on Metacritic.
5 Silent Hill – 86
The game that started it all and skyrocketed the franchise into near immediate success, the original Silent Hill might look like it has lived its better days, but it’s a classic no fan of survival horror should ignore. It first introduced players to the town of Silent Hill, corrupted by strange monsters.
Harry’s quest to find his lost daughter Cheryl arms him with a few basic weapons, but overall the player is at the total mercy of Silent Hill’s beasts. That fine line between empowerment and fear is being tread here with such care that the game’s success can’t be denied. Its rank, 86 on Metacritic, is well-deserved but could be higher if it were ever remade.
4 Silent Hill 2 – 89
Although the first Silent Hill was without a question the most important game in the series, there’s something incredibly special about Silent Hill 2. Not only were the graphics a mile away from the first game, but it also introduced a brand new protagonist and a compelling, disturbing story.
James Sunderland arrives to Silent Hill upon receiving a letter from his dead wife. To find her, he needs to reach a hotel they first visited when coming to Silent Hill, but to get there he needs to confront his past, present and his future in the form of gruesome creatures. The symbolism and dread in this game is so deep that it’s hard not to love, hence it’s high score of 89 on Metacritic.
3 Resident Evil – 91
Despite the age old debate of Silent Hill versus Resident Evil, the scoring on Metacritic seems to put the franchise on top of that of Silent Hill. This makes sense, given how far the game has come from its very first game that placed the player in a dreadful mansion full of infected zombie-like beings.
It’s a classic horror game where the player is trapped within an area and must survive with limited resources (and those classic, tight camera angles). Resident Evil really defined what survival horror meant, and where that line between an action FPS and horror game really was. They managed to tread it with care, earning the original game a score of 91 on Metacritic.
2 Resident Evil 2 Remake – 93
Usually, remakes aren’t a good idea. They tend to take away something valuable from the original game, that special nostalgia value which just can’t be restored through any means. At least, that seemed to be the general belief until Capcom dropped the Resident Evil 2 Remake and made fans go crazy.
Without straying too much from the original experience, the Remake returns to the story of Leon and Claire, between which you can choose at the beginning of the game. Although some gameplay elements were changed such as the removal of tank controls and difficult, fixed camera angles, as well as the addition of autosaves, it still managed to bring back that nostalgic feel without failure. No wonder it made it to a score of 93 on Metacritic.
1 Resident Evil 4 – 96
The fourth installment of the Resident Evil franchise was a surprising success, bringing back Leon as the fan-favorite main character. Tasked with the rescue of Ashely Graham, he once again finds himself facing the infected. This time, however, gameplay mechanics were drastically changed, and it marked a step away from the original feel of the franchise.
Despite that, Resident Evil 4 feels surprisingly good. Perhaps because it finally empowered the player in a really meaningful way, it was exciting for fans to experience the game as a stronger and cooler Leon. With the FPS aspect of this game so strong, it’s no surprise it ranks at 96 on Metacritic.
NEXT: 10 Best Survival Horror Games For People Who Scare Easily
Tea lover and video game obsessed writing enthusiast with her very own Overwatch team, Anastasia writes about games that leave an impression on her and make her come back time and time again.
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