How to Make a Horror Game in Unity 3D

NSDG | Aug 1, 2019 | 0 Comments

Horror Games come in many shapes and forms: from a post-apocalyptic virus outbreak survival games (Resident Evil Series) to a more futuristic, unknown alien creature hunts humans (Alien: Isolation). However, both of the games mentioned above have one thing in common: both keep the players on edge the whole time they're playing it, and the storyline keeps the players interested on how the thing will play out.

Resident Evil

Resident Evil 1  Screenshot

The first game from Resident Evil series, which was released back in 1996 set the bar for the future of horror genre. The main plot of the games is a battle against humans who were infected by the T-Virus which turned them into zombies. Each game from the series follows the protagonist who tries to escape the infected area by any means possible, while encountering other survivors on their way.

First 3 games used a fixed camera point of view, unlike first person or third person views, the fixed camera view cannot be controlled by the player, and it changes depending on which area the player in. Each area has its own camera view.

Later games employed the camera views mentioned above (third person and first person in the latest game).

Almost all the games from the series follow the same formula: put the player in the small space area, face-to-face with the enemy (zombies in this case) with a limited amount of resources (ammo) with a choice to either fight or flee the enemy. In some cases fleeing the enemy is not an option, in which case the player have to fight, not only a zombies but other mutated monsters.

The games usually end with a player surviving and escaping the infected area, but the battle is far from over which paves the way for the sequels.

Alien: Isolation

Alien Isolation Screenshot

The main protagonist arrives with a team to a space station only to find it damaged and its communication offline. Due to some circumstances, the main protagonist is separated from the rest of the team and finds that the ship is infested with a smart and very dangerous alien creatures, which hunt down the humans and use them as a host to produce more of their own kind, with the host inevitably dying after the incubation period is over.

But alien is not the only enemy that protagonist have to face, it’s later revealed that due to malfunction in the system, the androids that supposed to help the crew, are now instructed to slaughter the remaining survivors.

Alien Isolation Android Screenshot

The game accentuates on the evasion instead of directly fighting the enemies, as the player is highly outnumbered and outpowered by the aliens and the androids.

The game ends with the main protagonist destroying the space station and then having one last battle against the last alien creature on the escape ship.

The Horror Formula

Many horror games follow the same formula: the player is put in the tight and enclosed space with the enemies that are greatly outnumber or outpower the player. Basically make the odds stacked against the player but still give the player the tools needed to make it through the situation they’re in.

When it comes to game levels, the colors are mostly bleak and darkish, the player must already feel tense just by being in that environment. Make the player believe that they are there and the encounter with enemy is inevitable.

The items, that are available for the self-defense of the player must not be too overpowered but at the same time provide enough protection to make it through the level.

Basically the balance is required between hopelessness and the power, so the players feel tense enough but still know that whatever obstacle there will be, they can make through it.

Prototyping the Game in Unity 3D

Unity 3D possess a great versatility when it comes to what type of game can me made there. And before starting to make a game, it’s preferable to make a prototype just to test out your idea to make sure it’s worth pursuing.

Even if you are not very skilled with Unity there are many resources available online to simplify the prototyping process.

One place where you can find a ready-to-use models and textures is Unity’s Asset Store. It contains thousands 3D models, scripts, textures that will simplify the prototyping process.

Define the main protagonist

You can pick the main protagonist to be either male or female, depending on your story line, you can even have a multiple protagonists, but for the sake of simplicity we will focus on just one.

Since we are talking about prototyping, you don’t have to worry about the originality just yet, so you can use Asset Store to find the models you need to use in your prototype.

Example for a protagonist: Post apocalyptic survival character

Price: Free

Post apocalyptic survival character

Define the main enemy

Main enemy (or enemies) are the entities that the main protagonist will have to fight or flee from. It could be anything for a hordes of zombies to a one extremely smart but a scary creature.

Example for the enemy: Mutant2

Price: Free

Mutant Alien

Define the game level

Depending on your protagonist and the enemy, the level could be anything from a tight and enclosed space, such as hospital, to a more open world settings such as a city streets or a dark forest.

Just make sure the player have just enough space to be able flee from the enemy if needed, or the other way around, to have no way out but to fight the enemy.

Picking the right level style have a big impact on the player immersion.

Example for the game level: Hospital Horror Pack

Price: Free

Abandoned Hospital Pack

Get to work

As you can see above, the Unity’s Asset Store have a lot of free resources to help you simplify the prototyping process and once you have a prototype ready and the idea tested, it’s time to get to work and start making a full game.

Depending on your set of skills you might not be able to do all the work yourself (3D modeling, programming, level design, audio). For this you have various solutions, either ask for help from a like-minded developers from around the world or learn all the aspects yourself.

Find a like-minded developers

Unity have recently launched a platform called Unity connect which you can use to post a job or task for other developers to do. But be prepared that it usually requires to pay the developers hourly or per project so only use this approach if you have a budget for your game.

Link to Unity Connect:

Learn the game development yourself

Now, this approach would probably take a lot longer, especially if you are a novice developer, but fortunately there are many resources online that will help you great deal when learning all the aspects of game development.

Unity itself offers a complete courses that will help you learn game development from A to Z.

One of such courses is Swords and Shovels and it teaches all the aspects when it comes to creating a game in Unity 3D, from art and design to programming and audio.


Now you have all the info to create a horror game, that will hopefully win the love of the gamers and give you a satisfaction of producing a game that is loved by the public.

Also feel free to browse this blog or use a search feature if you have any question. We could have an article that will help to answer some of your questions.