10 Nightmarish Japanese Horror Video Games

Japan is known for having the ideal settings that make horror video games really scary. From eerie shrines, to abandoned schools, from cursed villages, to haunted toilets, there are plenty of chances to have nightmares afterwards.

10 Nightmarish Japanese Horror Video Games

Horror is one of the most popular genres among gamers. Phasmophobia, Alien Isolation, and The Dark Pictures Anthology are only a few of those everyone keeps talking about. However, horror games set in Japan—or including Japanese elements—are a huge hit and definitely give a run for their money compared to Western horror. Here are 10 nightmarish Japanese horror video games you certainly won’t forget.

YOMAWARI: MIDNIGHT SHADOWS

Horror games involving school girls are always a hit, and Yomawari: Midnight Shadows was one I immediately thought of while planning for this list.

After going to a late summer fireworks festival together in the mountains, two friends get lost on the way back home. When they let go of each other’s hands, they get separated. Mustering up their courage, the two girls—Haru and Yui—explore an ominous night town (which is completely different during daytime) where something is always lurking in the shadows.

Yomawari: Midnight Shadows – Gameplay Trailer | PS4, PS Vita

The cool thing is that you get to play as both, but be careful, the actions, decisions and information you get from playing as one will impact the story of the other.

Don’t let the adorable appearance of the two girls fool you, though. This game is pretty terrifying, and not only because of the horrific monsters chasing these two. The story tackles a very sensitive topic that will leave you completely shaken.

MAD FATHER

In the remake of the original horror-adventure game, you play as 11-year-old girl Aya Drevis and have to uncover the secrets of a bizarre incident that befalls the Drevis residence, where maniacal experiments are conducted night after night.

Explore every inch of the terrifyingly mad mansion while you are chased by mutilated creatures and other frightening beings.

Mad Father Remake Switch Trailer

Besides the jumpscares and the various disgusting secrets you discover as the story advances, the shocking plot twist will genuinely give you nightmares. I played the original game several years ago and I still can’t forget the eerie way Aya was being called while running for her life. If you’ve played this game, you certainly know what I’m referring to.

MISAO

As a nightmarish Japanese horror video game, Misao is another one worth mentioning. Help Aki unravel the mystery behind her classmate Misao’s disappearance. Japanese schools are known for being catalysts to supernatural phenomena, and this school is no different.

Be prepared to get terrorised by evil spirits… and a mad scientist with a chainsaw! I can assure you the pixel art doesn’t make the bad guys less scary.

Misao: Definitive Edition Coming Soon Trailer

Will you also connect the dots of the rumors stating Misao and Mad Father are supposedly linked to each other?

SHADOW CORRIDOR

Taking inspiration from its Japanese roots, Shadow Corridor is set in a world based on traditional locales. The game features a variety of maps which are randomly generated for every playthrough.

As beautiful as they look, traditional Japanese houses always have something that gives you goosebumps, especially if they’re abandoned or explored at night.

Shadow Corridor - Launch Trailer - Nintendo Switch

Not only Shadow Corridor is frightening because you basically have to sneak around multiple corridors without getting caught by all the different ghosts, but the constant state of unknown will have your heart pounding like crazy.

Oh, and a little word of advice… If you’re browsing the official website to know more about the game, make sure you turn the Spooky Mode off. It’ll save you from getting a heart attack.

HANAKO| 花子さん

Speaking of nightmarish Japanese video games, Hanako | 花子さん offers plenty of opportunities to not get any sleep for a while.

Haven’t people learned by now that sneaking into a—Japanese—school at night leads to death and despair? I guess the three 5th graders that entered their school way past their curfew to curse a fellow student with the ritual of Hanako didn’t get the memo.

Beware of haunted toilets

Beware of haunted toilets

Image credit to: 多趣味のつらつらブログ

Don’t disturb a ghost in the toilet if you don’t want them to come out of there and beat you to death. Playing as one of the students, you must find the others and survive the horrors Hanako—rightfully—puts you through.

It’s okay, I’ll hold it until I get home.

REIKO’S FRAGMENTS

What can be better at scarring you for life than a horror video game played in VR? Nothing is more petrifying than feeling like you’re genuinely being chased by a vengeful spirit. In Reiko’s Fragments—a FPS/VR vs Crowd game—you must escape a haunted house, a vengeful ghost and even worse, your friends playing as spirits who have full control over the house you’re trying to escape.

Reiko's Fragments Official Trailer

Remember when I mentioned Japanese traditional houses and their somewhat creepy factor? Japanese shrines are equally eerie, and with the shrine map—available as a free update—you’ll have to wander trying to not get caught by the priestess that haunts the area.

I’m sure you’ll know what to do the next time you have a get-together with your friends.

IKAI

Speaking of shrines, Ikai is another perfect game to add to this list of nightmarish Japanese horror video games.

Drawing inspiration from Japanese folklore, Ikai is a first-person psychological horror game where you must live the horror by the hand of its defining yokais and submerge into the superstitions of the past driven by a unique story and exploration.

Ikai - Launch Trailer | PS5, PS4

What makes the game really scary, in my opinion, is that constant feeling of pressure as you play. Time is NOT on your side, so you must solve puzzles and defeat each yokai as quickly as possible before they get you. You must have a clear mind—and a firm hand—if you want to survive.

I’ll go back and keep practicing my Kanji before I attempt to solve this mystery, thank you.

CORPSE PARTY

Following the footsteps of Mad Father and Misao, Corpse Party is another game that went through a major update/revision.

A group of friends unknowingly perform an occult ritual that traps them in an otherworldly elementary school. Here, the vengeful spirits of young children threaten their lives and their sanity, and the only hope of survival is to uncover the chilling details behind the murders of those trapped before them…

Corpse Party (2021) - Official Launch Trailer

Considering it contains intense violence, blood, gore, suggestive content, and strong language, Corpse Party is not for the faint-hearted. It’s not even just a pixel art game, but a cross between point-and-click adventure and battleless RPG, and the choices you have to make will greatly affect the course of the story and its characters’ fates.

Yeah, the lives of these students are definitely not depending on your actions, don’t worry.

RE:TURN ONE WAY TRIP

Re:Turn – One Way Trip tells the terrifying story of five college friends on a post-graduation vacation. This might be their last trip together before adulthood swallows them whole. Unfortunately for them, a far more sinister force has found them and hungers for their souls.

Re:Turn - One Way Trip Launch Trailer

If you’re on a trip with your friends and they suddenly vanish, and you find yourself drawn to a creepy, abandoned train, you’d definitely run for your life, right? NOPE. The sensible thing is to discover what secrets—and horrors—this train leaves to learn.

Don’t mind the severed hand you just found , it’s no big deal…

FATAL FRAME

I’m ending this list of nightmarish Japanese horror video games with a franchise. Fatal Frame is a popular survival horror series that takes inspiration from the developers’ own spiritual experiences and popular Japanese horror films.

Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly - 2004 Trailer [High Quality]

Although each game has its own story—does anyone remember Fatal Frame Crimson Butterfly?—they all share a very important aspect: the camera obscura used to take photos of the evil spirits. However, it’s not that simple, as capturing a ghost on film takes precision and good timing.

I’m sure the photography course I took in high school will come handy.

And there you have it, 10 nightmarish Japanese horror video games definitely worth playing. Have you played any of these games? Do you have others you thought could have made the list? Let us know in the comments!

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