From books and movies to toys and games, horror has always been a popular genre. There’s just something about experiencing fear in an otherwise safe setting that keeps people coming back. Maybe, it’s the rollercoaster of emotions it puts us through. Maybe, it’s the sudden adrenaline rush of jump scares and shocking twists. Maybe, it’s the thrill of anticipating the unknown and unexpected that keeps us in constant suspense.
Whatever it is exactly, those same elements have made horror board games such a fun activity. Using spine-chilling themes, haunting atmospheres, and unpredictable twists, these tabletop games manage to turn the otherwise prosaic series of dice rolls, card draws, and board movements into a thrilling horror experience.
Is playing horror board games as spooky as watching a horror movie? Not really. The presence of live-action visuals do a lot to heighten the emotional effects of horror movies, while board games have to rely more heavily on static imagery and players’ imaginations. Plus, we usually play board games interactively with friends, so you don’t quite get as immersed in the tension as you would when you’re completely focused with what’s happening onscreen. Still, horror board games can make for some genuinely terrifying moments and it’s quite a treat to experience those with some of your favorite people.
These are the best horror board games to bring chills and thrills to your next game night.
The Bloody Inn
We love the weird premise of this horror board game: you belong to a family of innkeepers who rob and murder your guests for money. It’s creepy as heck, especially in its 1831 Peyrebeille, France setting. The creepiness doesn’t end there, either, as your family eventually gets too greedy and fight among each other, with the game essentially playing out as different family members trying to outdo each other by making the most money from collecting rent, robbing your renters, and, eventually, even killing them. Each family member, which represents one player, gets control of specific rooms in the inn, with the option to hire henchmen to help carry out your crimes. Oh yeah, killing a guest adds complication to your game, by the way, since there are policemen who regularly rent out rooms in the inn. As such, you will need to get rid of any dead body, requiring you to build an annex to serve as your personal burial site.
Made by Ravensburger, this game is an absolute treat for people who grew up on Universal Studios’ roster of classic monsters, as you, basically, work together with other players to keep those movie monsters from running amuck in your town. In the game, you get to go up against Dracula, Frankenstein and his bride, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Each player takes on a character with their own strengths and weaknesses, making it important to work together to overcome the iconic monsters’ nefarious attacks.
Chances are, you’ve heard of Restoration Games’ UnMatched series, which puts up to four iconic characters in a single board game to battle each other to the death. Each character gets their own deck of cards that define their unique fighting style, along with their strengths, weakess, and other quirks. It’s a fun concept and a hoot to play, which is why they have so many entries in the series. Even better, you can pit characters from one UnMatched series to another for even more dueling options.
With Cobble and Fog, the outfit brings some serious spooky characters to the franchise, creating a board game that’s a clear mix between horror and action. In the game, you get Jekyll and Hyde, Dracula, the Invisible Man, and Sherlock Holmes, so you get three classic monsters and a gothic detective to bring some really dark and gloomy atmosphere to the popular tabletop skirmish.
Quite possibly the most popular horror game of all time, this haunted house simulator is a true classic you have to play, if you haven’t already. It starts out as a cooperative game, with players exploring a haunted house together while picking up various items and clues. At some point, a player will chance upon the game-changing secret that will turn them into the villain, betraying the rest of the unwitting group, with every turn creating more and more tension up until a haunting is triggered. The game is currently on its 3rd edition, which sees plenty of improvements, such as backstories for each character, more streamlined gameplay, better haunts, and just an overall more coherent ruleset. In case you’ve already played through Betrayal, you can level up with the newer Betrayal Legacy, which takes the base game and stretches it out over a 13-chapter story that takes multiple decades.
If you like zombie apocalypse scenarios, you’ll love this horror game, which feels a bit like The Walking Dead TV show. In the game, each player controls a faction of characters that are part of the same colony during the zombie apocalypse. That means, you’ll work together to keep the undead at bay while surviving the harsh cold world you find yourselves in. With people being people, though, conflicts arise because each player also has their own hidden goal, which they’ll need to pursue behind the back of other colony members. Basically, it’s a cooperative game with some backstabbing along the way to spice things up. Games can end with multiple winners, too, so cooperation is still greatly rewarded, but, of course, backstabbing is just so much fun, so you can’t really trust anyone.
This is a great horror game for bigger groups, as it allows for up to eight players to team up on a global expedition to investigate and hold back the ancient evil that’s been stirring around the world. You will have to battle brutal monsters, solve baffling mysteries, and keep four ancient beings from destroying the world, making it quite the gargantuan pursuit that will take you to your limits. Each player have their own specific skills, requiring you to really work together to overcome the challenges at each stop, with plenty of tension throughout as you race to finish each quest before the ancient evil is able to awake.
The game above, Eldritch Horror, is actually based on an older game called Arkham Horror, which played, pretty much, the same way without the globetrotting aspect of the gameplay. A couple years back, they brought back Arkham Horror as a card game with the same basic premise: you’re an investigator in Arkham, Massachusetts looking to put a stop to a sinister menace that threatens the entire world. In the game, you explore a variety of eerie settings in the area, where you encounter monsters, find clues, and complete various quests. Since this is a card game, you can build your own deck centered around your particular character’s special abilities, with plenty of options available, so it can be a bit overwhelming for newer players. It’s worth learning, though, as it offers a really vibrant and dynamic gameplay experience that you can play solo or with a group of up to four players.
Looking for something different to play on game night? Well, this horror game will definitely make for a change of pace. In case you’re curious, nyctophobia means fear of the dark. As such, up to four players take on the game wearing blackout glasses, so they can’t actually see the game board. In the game, those four players assume the role of prey, with each of them trying to find their way out of a pitch dark forest (hence, the blackout glasses) while a fifth player lurks behind trying to kill them. The surviving victims must use their tactile senses the feel the board’s 3D layout while communicating with each other as they navigate their way to safety, hopefully, before the bloodthirsty predator is able to finish them all.
Now on its 2nd edition, this horror board game takes place in the same universe as Eldritch Horror, so it gets the same Lovecraftian vibes. However, the gameplay is all about dungeon crawling through haunted mansions, where you enter different rooms to discover new secrets, solve puzzles, battle monsters, and trigger horrific events. Make sure to get the 2nd edition, by the way, as the original required one player to be a dungeon master. In the updated edition, that role has been moved to a companion app, which now controls all the monsters and events, so all the players can work cooperatively at conquering the evil that plague each location they enter.
What’s even more terrifying than a zombie apocalypse in modern times? A zombie apocalypse in medieval times and that’s exactly the setting for this horror board game. It’s a cooperative adventure that pits up to six players not just against random zombies you encounter, but hordes and hordes of them being controlled by evil necromancers. Because of the medieval setting, you don’t just get to play with zombies, you also get wizards, knights, paladins, and even dragons, making for a game that’s a good cross of horror and fantasy in one. There are also tons of expansions that add new elements to the game, including characters straight out of popular franchises.