Gothic Horror

gothic horror in video games

Gothic Horror (often referred to as gothic fiction) is a western writing genre, originating in the late 18th century, which had a profound impact on popculture.

Gothic horror explores themes of death, the supernatural, crime, horror and romance, usually set in locations with gothic/medieval architecture (or modern architecture in a gothic style), which is where the term for the genre gets the “Gothic” from. Gothic Horror is a sub-genre of romanticism.

key ideas/tropes of Gothic Horror

  • horror, as in themes of death, suffering, gore, the grotesk, body horror, murder
  • locations are defined by gothic architecture, other medieval architecture or architecture in a gothic/medieval style
  • western locations, such as Europe and the USA
  • christian religious themes and iconography

Gothic Horror Today

Due to the fact that this kind of novel became rather popular during their time and the fact that the characters and stories of those novels are in the public domain, they frequently find their way into modern media. Popular characters who originated in gothic horror novels include Victor Frankenstein and his Monster, Count Dracula, Nosferatu (a reworking of Dracula to avoid copyright problems), Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and others.

For modern popculture those characters have been popularized in big parts by the early 20th century monster movie craze, mainly circling around the Universal Monster movies, German Expressionism, as well as through pulp fiction novels, which have been the hotbed for the modern superhero genre.

joker is gothic horror character

The gothic horror genre goes beyond written works, as film, comic, game and tv constantly expand on the roaster of characters and creatures interacting with the public domain characters of the novels and the related archetypes and themes from gothic fiction writing.

The Gothic aesthetic – as found in Halloween decoration, goth youth culture, goth rock – derived from Gothic Horror based popculture is also a big factor why this kind of fiction stays relevant and keeps on expanding.

Gothic Versus Neo-Gothic Architecture

As mentioned, having the horror play out in front of western medieval scenery is a key characteristic of Gothic Horror. But we are no limited to telling stories only in medieval times. Depending on when and where the story takes place, we might set the scenes up in medieval buildings which endured over centuries or just the ruins of them.

And we might see locations based on so called neo-gothic architecture (also called gothic revival) where the style of medieval architecture is imitated and remixed in later centuries or even in modern times. …or even in the distant future, which is referred to as Gothic Sci-Fi.

caspar david friedrich ruins

Gothic Horror in Games

The landscape of Gothic Fiction in games is vast. Medieval buildings filled with disturbing creatures and characters are quite popular, and so are games based on the related public domain figures. Here is a sampling:

adjacent genres / subgenres

Gothic Horror is part of the following genre families:

  • lovecraftian horror
  • survival horror
  • noir
  • german expressionism
  • masked vigilante
  • low fantasy
  • gothic sci-fi
  • surrealism
  • western folklore
  • romanticism
  • christian mythology and iconography

Additional reading:

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