Horror is a topic that always has been attractive to us, be it in the form of a novel, movie or video games. Feeling afraid, anxious, and helpless, etc., are states of mind that by logic we should avoid but yet we seek them, probably because in the haven of fiction we can experience all these emotions without danger.
As far as games go, everyone who is well-versed on the topic knows games like Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil or Silent Hill and how these franchises had been declining over the last decade, mainly because of a shift in gameplay to more action-combat oriented experiences. After that many of us believed the horror genre was dead as big companies put out less and fewer horror games but then something happened. As indie developers got more exposure, they realized there was a market for those kinds of games that big companies had forsaken; horror was most definitely one of them.
In this article, I will list some of my favorite indie horror games. Given that horror can take many forms, every reader will have their personal picks, so I encourage everyone to comment their go-to indie horror games, as well as their opinions on the games listed here.
We have all had a nightmare so vivid, so real that we are sure, even if just for one second of two after waking up, that what we just experienced was real. “It Moves” deals with this notion. The game tells us a story of a boy who shared a bunk bed with his brother but when the brother gets his own room, the nights our protagonist’s faces, become terrifying. He is transformed into a nightmare world, which in the same vein of dreams and nightmares, seems to make no logical sense. In the first nightmare, you start in a forest and end up in a cave. There is even a stage about water, I won’t spoil it for you but let us just say it will make you develop a fear of water even if you’ve never had it before. And after each night a dark creature starts to materialize near his bed when he is awake, becoming more and more real each time.
There are some screamers in the game but nothing too exaggerated, so players, who are fed up with screamers will appreciate this approach. Most of the creepy vibe is achieved through the excellent ambient sound. As far as gameplay goes, this game is more of an exploration experience. There are puzzles here and there to spice things up.
“It Moves” is a short game, with playtime of about an hour but being a free game, it is more than a fair trade for those looking for a simple yet fulfilling horror experience.
The Last Door (Season 1)
As I stated before, there are many types of horror and the following game offers a more Gothic influenced approach that surely the fans of the genre will come to love. It is a tale heavily influenced by Lovecraft, in which our main characters face horrible forces with a power beyond human understanding as he struggles to find the truth.
The game opens up with a man hanging himself due to the horrors he has witnessed and the terrible things he has done. We learn that his name is Anthony Beechworth. Then we go to our protagonist Jeremiah Devitt receiving a letter from Anthony. We learn that Anthony is a long-time friend of Devitt. The letter received by Devitt only contains a phrase written in Latin “Videte ne quis sciat” upon reading it he instantly knows something terrible has happened to his friend, so he takes a train to Sussex, where the Beechworth manor is located. This is how our descent into darkness begins
The gameplay system of The Last door is primarily a point and click adventure, meaning we will have to find clues and objects which will allow us to progress in the story and unveil the mysteries of the plot. You will have to complete tasks like finding a key, use a piece of meat to distract wild animals, finding a sharp object that will allow us to cut through some material previously preventing you from entering a room, etc.
Once again this is a pixel art game meaning there is no facial expression and not many details but the developers manage to do a great job conveying the sense of fear in our protagonist thanks to his movements and the superb music and sound effects present. The Last Door is quite a gory game. In the first few minutes of our adventure, we can see crows feeding off a dead animal, a cat without eyes, and crows tearing apart a human body (yes, the developers surely love Edgar Allan Poe).
All in all, The Last Door is, like the previous game an exploration experience, but the puzzles here are much more challenging and the story is more disturbing and gripping. A must play for fans of Lovecraft, Poe and classic horror story aficionados in general.
Since Outlast was released people seem to have a really big craving for first-person horror games. Of course, there were examples of games applying a first person perspective long before Outlast but it was definitely that game which proved to the mainstream that the formula could work really well. From that point on various indie developers have tried to do first person horror, some with more success than others.
Mirror Layers is by far the most experimental game of the article, the catch of the game can be a little confusing at first, so pay attention. When you start the game and go to the help option, it lets you know that special folders on your PC will be created. If you are like me you will be left fairly confused about what that means, then you start playing and discover that you have a PC in the game, from here you can open the directories that were just created on your real PC. If you type help, it will take you to a Facebook page in which everyone who is playing can post the files that they have gotten while playing. For example, if you found key number two, you can go to the page upload there for the people who need that file to progress and you can also download a file previously uploaded by other players which will give you at the object you need to progress your own game, a very clever concept.
As far as gameplay goes, it is fairly simple, you start in a normal house, but when you get close to a particular mirror, you get transported into a sort of nightmare version of the same house, like a dark reflection of reality. You will need to solve all the puzzles the game has in store for you, all the while you try to avoid a mysterious creature who wanders around this dark version of the house. You will need the file previously mentioned to obtain keys and tapes and those will give you the necessary information to overcome the puzzles and end the nightmare. This is a game which is not as impressive as the others as far as the horror sense by itself but the twists about the files and objects gives it a very special plus.
We can safely assume that it is thanks to indie games like these and the support the consumers have given to the indie titles, that big companies are now going back to the roots of horror in games like Resident Evil 7 and finally stepping away from action-oriented gameplay. With no shadow of a doubt, it is important for consumers to support the Indies so we can keep seeing changes from bigger developers in the future.
These are my three picks for indie horror games but there is quite a lot more available. So I encourage the readers once again to comment on their favorite ones and their take on the games I have chosen here.