4 horror games that actually make meaningful use of jump scares

I have a love-hate relationship with jump scares. On the one hand, I know they’re a key part of the experience, found in even the best horror games. But when they’re not actually integral to gameplay, they can quickly get tiresome and annoying.

The following are four horror games that use jump scares to actually convey meaning or gameplay mechanics. They only throw jump scares at the player when they actually mean something, and for the most part they are unscripted, which makes the horror that much more organic and integral to the experience.

Alien: Isolation

Alien: Isolation is downright terrifying. and not just because it has the iconic Xenomorph. This particular Xenomorph has an AI that acts so uncannily like the Xenomorph from the movies that you’ll often feel like you are actually being hunted. For an AI this advanced, jump scares are kind of mandatory, because they indicate when you’ve screwed up. And trust me, against this creature, you will screw up.

Alien Isolation horror games

Alien: Isolation is scary, but it’s also fair, because its jump scares serve as warnings to adjust your tactics. When you die, it’s usually your fault for not paying attention.


This game has plenty of jump scares, but Outlast finds ways to meaningfully integrate them into the story.  It also has antagonists similar to those in Alien: Isolation in terms of AI. You can’t take on these killers directly, so you really need to know when they’re lurking and when they’re actually threatening you.

Outlast really puts the tension into its players, and they need to be stealthy to elude the killers. There’s both scripted and unscripted jump scares in Outlast, and they are both integral to the game.


Resident Evil 3 remake

The Nemesis of the Resident Evil 3 Remake is a lot scarier than in his first PlayStation days. Unlike the first PlayStation game where he shows up in scripted encounters, the Nemesis in this remake is AI-driven, much like the Xenomorph in Alien: Isolation.

Considering how much of a threat the Nemesis is, you really need to know when he’s around – especially when he blasts through a wall like the Kool-Aid Man. Sadly, in the second half of Resident Evil 3 Remake, the Nemesis ceases to be AI-controlled and instead becomes scripted, which takes away most of the unpredictability.

Resident Evil 3


Subnautica starts out like an average  Minecraft-style survival game.  Make no mistake, however, this game has horror elements, and there will be times where you will be scared out of your pants.

This usually happens when you’re up against creatures you can’t take on immediately, and especially those Reaper Leviathans. Oh, those things… you do not want to take them lightly. While you can kill them, they definitely do not go down without a significant fight. They reinforce the fact that you’re on an alien world, and they’re just one of the perils you’ll encounter for just being there.


There are plenty more games that make creative use of their jump scares. We would love to hear about your experience with some of these, and other horror games down in the comments.

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Phillip Miner

Phillip has over a decade of experience writing about video games. Yes, over a decade! He's been on publications ranging from the Escapist to local papers and beyond.
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