Nioh 2

Nioh 2 is a horror game. Okay? Look, I get it: You’d probably consider Nioh 2 a Soulslike or an action-RPG before you even think of it as scary — and sure, you’d be partially right. But there’s definitely a case to be made for filing Team Ninja’s highly challenging action role-playing adventure game under horror.

Here are five reasons Nioh 2 qualifies as a horror game.

The Demons You Encounter Are Scary as Heck

Nioh 2 Yokai

The thing about Soulslikes is that every enemy encounter — even those against standard grunt baddies that look malnourished and sickly — can be your last. In Nioh 2, you’ll face off against a few human foes, but it’s the demonic creatures, spirits, and yokai you’re put up against that are legitimately horrifying to behold.

The Ippon-Datara, for example, is a massive mix of monster and blacksmith. It hops around on one leg and swings its hammer wildly. Then there’s the Oni-bi, which straight-up looks like a floating Satan head. Oh, and the Nurikabe is a bizarre yokai that basically lives in walls — or takes their forms — and peers at you with its fiery, red eyes.

Beyond their horrific appearances, though, a lot of the creatures in Nioh 2 have creepy back stories. The lanky-yet-bloated Gaki, for instance, was apparently human in a previous life. It was then sentenced to living its afterlife as a goblin-like being to pay for it sins. The Mezuki boss also has a strange theoretical origin. The gargantuan, horse-headed, human-bodied creature seems to be the product of dead soldiers and horses, who were fused together with pure hatred and resurrected to unleash their wrath and unsettled revenge on the world.

It’s Essentially Japanese Folklore Horror

Nioh 2 Graphics

The original Nioh was loosely based on historical events. Nioh 2 takes even more liberties with its depiction of 1500s era Japan,  but you’ll visit actual historical landmarks during the course of your adventure. This adds a sense of realism to the game. That realism is coupled with grotesque demons and magical forces to make the story feel like an old Japanese folktale.

The thing about folklore, though, is that it’s often quite horrific. Not to mention, old legends sometimes bleed into real stories, making things even creepier. And given the types of demons you encounter and all of the haunted locales you visit here, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Nioh 2 plays out a lot like a folkloric horror story that some folks would tell their kids before bed — straight-up nightmare fuel!

It’s Legit Scary Not Knowing What’s Lurking Around the Corner

Nioh 2 Boss Battle

The jump scare is a tried-and-true way to give someone a super-quick jolt of terror. While Nioh 2 doesn’t necessarily utilize the traditional jump scare in a way similar to a series like Layers of Fear — moments of silence, followed by a loud noise and something popping out on the screen — it definitely surprises you with hidden enemies. You can be walking to your next objective, minding your business, and out will come a blade-wielding soldier or large yokai.

Even if nothing jumps out to attack you, though, just knowing that there’s a possibility that it can happen gives an everlasting sense of dread. Combat in Nioh 2 is exciting, yes, but the tension that builds leading up to any encounter is also quite powerful and effective.

Nioh 2 Is Visually Unsettling

Nioh 2 Demon

If it wasn’t already obvious, the enemies in Nioh 2 are visually scary. Beyond that, though, the game does an excellent job of using its aesthetics to create ravaged, nightmarish wastelands and war-torn villages. It’s just plain creepy walking through a small area with burning houses and thinking of what led to such dismay.

Also, it has to be said (again): Those yokai are hideous!

The Sound Design Is Creepy and Unnerving

Nioh 2 Mezuki Boss Fight

Like many other Soulslikes, the bulk of Nioh 2 utilizes minimalistic, droning themes as you explore its stages. It’s somber and moody as heck. This sound design fits perfectly with the bleak pictures the game paints.

In addition to the harrowing music, you can also interact with the bodies of the dead, which sometimes allows you to hear that character’s final words. It’s saddening, to be quite honest, and hearing as dead NPCs beg for their lives and utter their final words is definitely chilling.

So, Yeah, Nioh 2 Is a Horror Game

Nioh 2 Mumyo NPC

It may not be traditionally scary like a psychological, supernatural, or survival horror game, but Nioh 2 is high on tension and grotesque imagery. Thus it qualifies as a horror game. It may be an action-RPG first, but it certainly doesn’t skimp on the sheer terror it provides the player.

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