Alan Wake 2 raised the bar for horror games in 2023, even in a year full of fantastic entries

Character walking through a park with a flare
(Image credit: Remedy Entertainment)

It’s not hard to fall in love with Alan Wake 2. Its dark forests, adrenaline-filled fights, and thrilling storylines captured my attention right away and held it without fault for over 20 hours. At times, it felt like I was binge-watching my favorite television show, impossible as it was to put down.

If I had a penny for every time one of Alan Wake 2’s narrative twists made me jump out of my seat and point toward the screen at a mind-bending plot point or explanation, then I’d have enough money to buy the survival horror game all over again. Without wanting to spoil the fun too much, one such instance in which I lost it happened just after the magnificent summoning ritual on the beaches of Bright Fall’s infamous lake. After freeing Wake from the depths of The Dark Place, the loop was fulfilled, and the end of act one, where he strangely appeared on the shore out of nowhere, suddenly made sense. It may not seem like much, but I adore narrative loops, especially when they connect dots that you didn’t know needed connecting. 

Watching Alan Wake 2 reach such incredible heights with its story while managing to retain a terrifying atmosphere that kept me constantly looking over my shoulder was a joy. Even with some tough competition, Alan Wake 2 still managed to come out on top in the horror game scene this year. 

Spoilt for choice 

Character walking through a pond

(Image credit: Merge Games)

Horror game fans, such as myself, have been spoilt for choice this year thanks to various top-tier releases. The Resident Evil 4 remake and Dead Space remake provided fans of the franchises with incredibly polished new versions of thrilling and iconic stories, while Amnesia: The Bunker scared me so badly that I uninstalled the psychological horror game immediately after finishing. 

A recent favorite here at TechRadar Gaming (TRG) has been Lethal Company

While the Resident Evil 4 remake may not have been as scary as some of the other contenders this year, it certainly delivered an enjoyable and refined experience that built on all the best bits from the original game. Initially, Leon Kennedy, as well as the villains Salazar and Saddler, felt comically dramatic, and while this is great fun, it can, at times, kill the mood. However, the remake managed to make the villains more ominous, removing Salazar’s ability to cyber bully you while also keeping the horror game’s iconic and unique personality. 

On the other hand, Amnesia: The Bunker managed to come out of the gate swinging, being one of the most, if not the most, terrifying games I’ve ever played. The unnerving tension, dark corridors, and startling audio design made sure that I felt as if the monster was always right over my shoulder. It was so bad that while I was playing it, I had to listen to lo-fi music on Spotify just to calm me down. 

We’ve also seen some amazing indie horror games released this year. A recent favorite here at TechRadar Gaming (TRG) has been Lethal Company. Despite still being in early access multiplayer horror game sees players explore alien moons in search of scrap so they can meet quotas. It is hilarious, compulsive, and terrifying, everything you could want for a multiplayer horror experience. There was also the amazing entry of Bramble: The Mountain King, a grim adventure horror game that drops players into Nordic folklore and fables. This gory title was everything you could want from a horror game.

However, despite all these terrific games, Alan Wake 2 still manages to come out on top, largely thanks to its ability to spin several plates simultaneously. 

Reigning champ 

Character walking through a forest

(Image credit: Remedy Entertainment)

Alan Wake 2’s greatest strength is that it doesn’t rely on one fantastic feature but instead deploys many simultaneously, becoming one of the most well-rounded horror games I’ve ever played. Many horrors can fall into the trap of heavily relying on intense scares. These carry the experience at the expense of other factors that are equally important, like narrative and action. Luckily, developers Remedy made sure that Alan Wake 2 was full of thrilling stories, intense fights, horrific scares, and polished mechanics to create a fulsome, multi-faceted experience. 

However, this isn’t to say that Alan Wake 2 can’t be as scary as other horror games. The jumpscares of various characters, like the evil Scratch, popping up on the screen at odd times were gut-wrenchingly terrifying. There were also horrifying visions of cultists and shadow-like figures that chased you around empty streets and dark forests. Getting chased is my worst nightmare, so needless to say, I played more of Alan Wake 2 with my eyes closed than I’d like to admit...

If you’re a fan of horror games and haven’t tried Alan Wake 2 yet, then I can’t recommend it more - and even if you’re not a fan of horror games, it’s still one of the best video games to come out of 2023 so has to be experienced. Alternatively, if you have played it and are looking for another way to terrify yourself, then don’t worry; there have been so many great releases this year that you won’t run out of ways to absolutely terrify yourself. 

For more ways to scare yourself silly, check out the best indie horror games as well as the best zombie games that are available to play right now. 

Elie Gould
Features Writer

Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications. 

Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.