Just as manga is unlike any other form of storytelling, horror manga is unlike all the other horror stories you've ever seen or heard.
A great horror novel can set a creepy tone and have you feeling dread, but the graphic world of horror manga can fill you with terror and nightmares—and more than that, horror manga is also known for being poignant and philosophical.
With its unique style, horror manga is proof that we can be scared in so many different ways: chilled, terrified, unsettled, frozen stiff with fear, freaked out, and quietly unnerved.
If you want to experience all of that for yourself, here are the best horror manga that made our skin truly crawl.
10. I Am a Hero (Kenjo Hanazawa)
I Am a Hero isn't just another entry in the zombie apocalypse trend. It's more sophisticated than your run-of-the-mill flesh-eating story, yet it still has the core elements of any great zombie horror.
We meet Hideo, who is a straight-up loser even if he sees himself as more of a heroic loser. Regardless, here's the truth of the matter: he's survived when others have become breakfast for zombies.
In this respect, there's a subtle sense of humor at play as I Am a Hero plays on society's idea of what a "hero" is. Normally, his character archetype would be monster food in the first five minutes, but now he takes center stage. A wonderful and creepy story.
9. Dragon Head (Minetaro Mochizuki)
For anyone who loves horrifying post-apocalyptic imaginations of the world, then Dragon Head is the manga for you.
After a tunnel train crash, a group of survivors are forced to reach the surface by crawling through the wreckage. However, earthquakes strike and make that task even harder—and it's only a matter of time before things take a turn for the sinister.
While horror manga is no stranger to post-apocalyptic depictions of the world, Dragon Head is a uniquely terrifying read.
8. Shiver (Junji Ito)
This won't be the last time you see Junji Ito on this list! He's had a long career writing manga, and Shiver represents one of his best works.
Shiver is an anthology series of stories, bundled into one horrific tome, with each each story delving into different themes that make you shiver. They're all equally terrifying.
If you're looking to get into horror manga, Shiver is a great entry point. It provides a plethora of harrowing motifs and chilling conclusions that'll leave you wanting more.
7. Blood on the Tracks (Shuzo Ohimi)
The muted horror of Blood on the Tracks is what makes it so damn unsettling. With its understated approach, it convinces you that this is something that could've really happened.
Seiichi is a shy high schooler who has an overprotective mother. While on a family trip up on the mountains, his cousin jokingly pushes him at the edge, which his mother doesn't find funny.
Later, Seiichi witnesses his mother push his cousin off the mountain, which lands him in a comatose state. As the sole witness of the incident, he's forced to reconcile his perception of his mother with the darker one he's seen when she becomes too protective.
6. The Drifting Classroom (Kazuo Umezu)
The Drifting Classroom is so influential, it can truly claim that all contemporary horror manga is—in one way or another—inspired by its iconic post-apocalyptic story.
Set within a high school, The Drifting Classroom follows a series of events that transpire after a supernatural earthquake ends up teleporting the school into a dystopian future—one filled with giant creatures, dangerous new diseases, and madness.
Considering it was first released back in 1972, The Drifting Classroom is easily one of the most influential horror manga of all time.
5. Doubt (Yoshiki Tonogai)
Doubt is one of those rare horror manga that manages to deliver both fun and psychological horror as we're forced to ponder philosophically-heavy questions about society and the human condition.
But, again, I must repeat: Doubt is fun! It centers on a mobile game similar to Werewolf or Mafia where players need to suss out the wolf among them. But the game turns real when one of them actually dies.
It's the way that Tonogai approaches the ideas beneath the material that makes Doubt an absolute classic of horror manga.
4. Hideout (Masasumi Kakizaki)
Hideout is about the human descent into insanity.
The story follows a middle-aged couple as they're grieving the loss of their son. While vacationing on a stunning, secluded island, a storm whips itself up into a frenzy and forces the couple to retreat into a cave.
However, their hideout gradually becomes a darkly foreboding place where malicious and deranged thoughts are allowed to fester. What will happen before the sun comes up?
3. Goth (Otsuichi)
Goth ranks as one of the best horror manga of all time with its tone and story that are both extremely psychologically disturbing.
Why so disturbing, you ask? Well, it centers on two high school teenagers who are deeply fascinated by murder. Not just the simple act of killing—we're talking all forms of physical violence and torture.
While the subject matter is unsettling, Kendi Oiwa's illustrations bring the harrowing material to life in all its horrifying glory.
2. Parasyte (Hitoshi Iwaaki)
Hitoshi Iwaaki is the brilliant mind behind so many great manga, but the volumes that make up Parasyte represented the best work that this legendary manga artist has to offer.
The story follows Shinichi, a young man who develops a new medical condition: he becomes infected by an alien parasite.
However, Shinichi is in luck! While everyone else gets their brains infected and turns into zombie-like hosts, Shinichi's parasite infects his hand. He can control everything else, but his hand is no longer his own.
Parasyte is a thrilling and spine-tingling horror manga that's so good it was turned into an anime series. But the manga is still worth reading!
1. Uzumaki (Junji Ito)
With Junji Ito universally regarded as the king of horror manga, and with Uzumaki often recognized as his best work, it was a no-brainer when it came to selecting the best horror manga ever written.
The Japanese word uzumaki translates into English as spiral.
Spirals may not be scary on their own, but Ito paints the spiral as a horrifying curse that has haunted a small Japanese town for years—and the way he does it makes it downright petrifying.
In the mist-enshrouded village of Uzumaki, a young couple witnesses their friends, neighbors, and relatives lose themselves to the curse of the spiral. Paranoia grows into obsession, which slowly turns fatal in a multitude of sick and twisted ways.
Junji Ito's imagination is what elevates Uzumaki into an all-time classic of horror manga. It tops our list of best horror manga and it's one that every manga fan should read at least once.