What are the best horror anime of all time? I think we can all agree that everyone loves a good old scare. In fact, horror is one of the most universally beloved genres in media. But, when you combine it with the endless visual possibilities of animation, few stories are as terrifying as a well-crafted horror anime.
Horror anime pushes the boundaries of what is possible and often outshines typical live-action horror movies in terms of gore, psychological distress, and vile anime villains. It’s a medium not afraid to use art to realise our deepest and darkest fears or scare the pants off of anyone who dares watch it. If you are brave enough to dive into the twisted world of this sub-genre, you have come to the right place.
In this list, we go through the scariest anime series and anime movies for all you horror aficionados. From haunted high schools to body-contorting demons, we have left no terrifying anime stone unturned. So buckle up and get ready for some nightmares; here are our top picks for the best horror anime of all time.
What are the best horror anime of all time?
- Perfect Blue
- Wicked City
- Hell Girl
- Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories
- Parasyte -The Maxim
- Death Note
- Deadman Wonderland
Perfect Blue (1997)
What happens when you can’t even trust your own reflection? Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Satoshi Kon, Perfect Blue is the ultimate psychological horror anime that will leave you questioning reality and your very identity. Following the young and beautiful Idol, Mima Kirigoe’s transition from singing to professional acting, viewers are pulled into a mind-bending mystery.
Throughout the anime movie, we see the young woman face off against a stalker and seemingly a version of herself who is out for her blood. Reality and fantasy are expertly blended here as Mima struggles to piece together the truth from the state of her fragile psyche before it is too late.
Full of tension, and eerie imagery Perfect Blue firmly stands as one of the most memorable horror anime you can find.
Based on Yukito Ayatsuji’s novel of the same name, Another is one of the best-known horror anime series and is generally the first go-to for any fans looking to dive into the sub-genre. And trust us, its popularity as a top scary choice is wholly justified thanks to its unsettling plot and graphic deaths.
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Telling the story of the anime character Kōichi Sakakibara who transfers to Yomiyama Middle School, Another throws viewers into a sinister mystery as we see Sakakibara’s classmates begin dropping like flies around him. Besides its enthralling plot that holds one of the best twist endings in media, Another also has some of the most iconic death scenes in anime (shoutout to deadly umbrellas).
With its intuitive writing and violent imagery to keep all of us gorehounds happy, there is little to complain about here. In short, Another is a horror anime that ticks all the right terrifying boxes.
Sorry, Studio Ghibli fans, we aren’t talking so much about princesses here we’re talking about grim tales and eerie ghosts. Mononoke is an anime that centres around a mysterious man called the ‘Medicine Seller’ who seeks out and destroys revengeful spirits called Mononoke, who latch onto troubled humans.
A spin-off of another horror anime, Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, Mononoke is structured as a collection of individual stories. Each encounter the Medicine Seller faces plays out like a tense murder mystery that focuses on the characters’ reactions, and dives into the nightmarish surrealism of their psyches.
Besides its clever writing, Mononoke also looks stunning with its designs and 17th-century Japanese hand-painted aesthetics. The striking images and ever-moving art also propel the feeling that you are watching a nightmare — making the horror of those afflicted with Mononoke linger in your mind even after the series comes to an end.
Get ready to feel numb because few horror anime are as nihilistic as the supernatural series Shiki. Set in 1990, Shiki is a series about a village where an epidemic breaks loose after a mysterious family moves in. Too bad this illness is pretty much an incurable case of vampirism.
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Here is a slow-burn anime that builds terror through its scary art style and underlying commentary on what happens to your morals when facing the threat of death. How far will you go to survive, and who are truly the monsters at the end of the day?
The core conflict of Shiki arises from the question of who has the right to exist in the face of necessary self-preservation. This plot thread leads to gory murder and mass violence which will shake you to your core as you witness the blunt horror of what humanity is truly capable of.
Wicked City (1987)
The directorial debut of Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the mind behind legendary anime such as Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D, Wicked City, is a bonafide spooky classic. Its premise is pretty simple. The human world and the demon dimension called the Black World secretly co-exist, and it is up to Renzaburō Taki to ensure that a peace treaty gets signed.
However, not everyone is on board the ‘peace train’, and Taki must soon face some of the creepiest designed demons you will ever see in film, period. This horror anime is the perfect display of the grotesque – in the most effective and stomach-turning way.
From fast-paced action scenes to sexually charged and explicit body horror, Wicked City is guaranteed to keep you up at night. However, if you are opposed to tentacles, it may just scar you too, so be warned.
Hell Girl (2005-2006)
Revenge has never looked so good, and humanity has never seemed as sinister as it is here in the horror anime Hell Girl. A collection of one-shot stories that are depressingly detailed in describing how nasty people can genuinely be.
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Throughout its three seasons, we see individuals tormented by another person to the point that they gain access to a mysterious online service called “Hell Correspondence”. This website, much like its name suggests, will let its user have the option to send those who wronged them to hell. But they will have to sacrifice their soul in return.
Although the show may seem repetitive in its formula, it is strangely rooted in reality showing scenes of bullying, isolation, and how pain can twist a person into a literal soulless husk of a human being. If that isn’t scary, then I don’t know what is.
Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories (2013-present)
One of the most rewatchable and digestible horror anime on our list, Yamishibai: Japanese Ghost Stories, is the perfect pick for a quick horror fix. With each episode only spanning around four minutes long, the series is a short collection of stories based on Japanese folklore and urban legends.
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The animation is made to mimic the kamishibai method of storytelling, which is essentially street theatre where a narrator would tell a story while flipping through illustrated boards. This style gives the impression that watching Yamishibai is similar to a child listening to a bedtime story as if you are flipping through the pages of a book.
However, this book just happens to be filled with terrifying illustrations and creepy stories filled with monsters, killers, and ghosts. For long-time horror fans, Yamishibai feels nostalgic, harking back to urban legends from our childhood while also being spooky enough to feel fresh and offer a quick scare.
Parasyte -The Maxim (2014-2015)
If you haven’t noticed already, we here at The Digital Fix love us some body horror, so unsurprisingly, Kenichi Shimizu’s science fiction anime made it into our top picks.
Shinichi Izumi is your typical high school student until a flesh alien parasitic creature tries to take over his brain. Luckily our young protagonist stops the alien, who instead gains control of his hand. Entering a symbiotic relationship, the two go off to kill other deadly ‘parasytes’ before more innocent humans fall victim to their murderous ways.
Parasyte: The Maxim is delightfully violent and fast-paced, but also offers a great narrative payoff as we see Izumi’s character development throughout the series. Intertwined with gore and alien encounters, the young man goes on a complex and existential journey that will make you question the nature of violence, and who are genuinely the parasites in this world.
Death Note (2006-2007)
Being the horror anime that was the gateway into the spooky sub-genre for many of us, you know that we had to put Death Note on our list. Full of murder, Death Gods, and mind games, this anime is packed with tons of psychological horror tropes that will leave you gasping in shock and grasping the edge of your seat in suspense.
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Light Yagami finds a Death Note, a book held by Death Gods (Shinigami) that causes people to die when their names are written down on it. Deciding to use the book to target criminals, Light becomes a supernatural vigilante who is slowly consumed by his twisted morals.
Although Death Note is light on gore and heavy in its thriller series subplot, it’s an anime that unpacks nihilism and shows the unravelling of sanity in the face of ultimate power — and really, what is more terrifying than the breaking of the human mind?
Deadman Wonderland (2011)
Based on the manga series of the same name, Deadman Wonderland is an anime that is just plain fun. This horror anime will be right up your street if you love blood splatters, gore, and action-packed thrills.
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A seemingly ordinary student called Ganata finds himself framed for a massacre and sentenced to death row. He is placed in a prison that doubles as a deadly amusement park where he must fight to survive and clear his name – a feasible feat once he develops the ability to control his blood and wield it as a weapon.
As we mentioned above, the action in this horror anime is its main selling point. Sometimes you just want to tune out and enjoy the carnage in front of your very eyes. There is also some commentary on exploitative judicial systems to keep you thinking here – but, let’s be honest, we stay with this anime for the blood bullets above all else.
This anthology features three shorts animated by Studio 4 and Madhouse, and a wealth of talent from Studio Ghibli and across the anime spectrum. The first instalment, the glorious haunted spaceship parable Mansion, tends to get a lot of the attention, due in part to being directed by Kōji Morimoto and written by Satoshi Kon.
But after that, you’ve got a dramatisation of a true-life medical mystery and a look at the generational cost of war. The imagery is consistently brilliant, driving home the psychological writing that seems fine-tuned to needle into your subconscious.
For more great choices, check out our lists of the best Netflix anime, and best romance anime, as well as our ranking of the Studio Ghibli movies. Have a look at our guide to all the new anime coming out too.