It’s a fool’s thought to assume that all worthwhile horror tiles are crafted by top-notch, big named development teams. Quite often, it’s those well-funded crews that drop thoughtless plots and inane experiences. Sometimes, it winds up being the smaller companies and one-man teams that terrify us the most.
As we close in on Halloween, you’ll need a selection of games to immerse yourself in. For horrifying experiences not from those AAA development teams, consider diving into any of these nine indie horror titles. They have the substance to give you the chills and keep you on edge this most eerie of evenings.
It may be an obvious choice to many, but to leave Outlast off of this kind of list would be borderline criminal. In the cramped hallways and decrepit underbelly of Mount Massive Asylum, investigative journalist Miles Upshur moves throughout the darkness, guided only by the night vision of his camera. Players maneuver Upshur through the asylum, which has since been reclaimed by the crazies and the deranged once imprisoned within.
Outlast intermingles supernatural horror into the very horrifying human elements. Every twist and turn, every dimly lit hall, and every pile of bodies holds a surprise that you’d rather avoid. Outlast was Red Barrels’ seminal work, which spawned a DLC pack and an equally terrifying sequel.
Thanks to Kickstarter and Steam Greenlight, we have the opportunity to play through this delightfully creepy game set within an otherwise typical home. However, the centuries-old abode houses an assortment of secrets that breed the horrors that Dwayne Anderson must survive through. A place of murder and bloodshed, the imprints of these horrifying deeds come to life as specters and paranormal apparitions – but these aren’t your friendly ghosts.
The restless spirits have it out for Anderson, who works to uncover the grisly events that haunt the home’s past. Visage is an incredibly atmospheric game that will make most players uncomfortable with being alone in their own homes. Every creek will have you peering around corners, anticipating some ghastly fiend to be staring right back at you.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
In the belly of the Prussian Brennenburg Castle, amnesiac Daniel has more to face than just his memory loss. The castle’s cavernous halls house persistent creatures that stalk the shadows in search of prey. Amnesia: The Dark Descent utilizes light as a scarce but important primary mechanic. When Daniel is covered in darkness, his sanity threatens to break. Step out into the light, and he’ll sacrifice being seen by the monsters of Brennenburg in favor of a stable mental state.
Amnesia gives players no weapons and requires them to run and hide in order to survive this tale of terror, darting in and out of shadows to remain hidden. One wrong move and Daniel will become a feast for the humanoid Gatherers that pursue him throughout the castle.
Doki Doki Literature Club!
One look at the bright packaging and colorful advertising for Doki Doki Literature Club and you would never guess it fits into the horror genre at all. In fact, it does take a little bit before you feel the weight of Doki Doki’s more unsettling side. Amidst a story that initially seems fitting for a family-friendly animated series is a disturbing adventure that aims to toy with your psyche.
Admittedly, Doki Doki is more a visual novel than a video game, but those that enjoy a more passive experience will be delighted by the subtle horrors brought to life by Team Salvato. After joining the titular literature club, players build relationships, share stories, and have their sanity threatened by the strange experience. Doki Doki is easy to breeze through and makes for a fun intermission between more outwardly horrifying video games.
What happens when a developer finds the ambition to mingle multiple gameplay styles and genres into one experience? You could have a recipe for disaster, but No Code succeeded with a four-part digital experience that’s part text-based adventure, puzzler, point-and-click game, and first-person explorer. In Stories Untold, Players unravel four unique tales in a narrative-driven adventure that spans multiple environments.
Stories Untold is a love letter to the 80s, with a synth-wave soundtrack and overall aesthetic that fits right into the decade. Joe McKellan (Alien: Isolation) headlines the Glasgow-based development team and helped to craft an atmospheric psychological horror title that’s sure to keep you at the edge of your seat.
Little Nightmares utilizes a unique art style and twisted character design to deliver a game that sticks with you long after the credits roll. As Six, players are trapped within The Maw, pursued by the resident horrors that live inside. Clay-faced butchers, a long-armed janitor, overweight and gluttonous guests, and a mysterious slender woman with a disturbing power are just a sampling of the cretins Six must escape from while navigating The Maw.
The dim and gloomy environments lend to the unease of Little Nightmares while a haunting soundtrack sets the tone. Before tormenting Six with a variety of ways to die, the developers at Tarsia Studios delighted players with in-game assets and DLC for the LittleBigPlanet series. Having found a home in giving players a fright, Tarsia will return in 2020 with a followup to Six’s terrifying journey in Little Nightmares 2.
There is something about old, dilapidated buildings and a rainstorm that sets the mood for Halloween night. Throw in the terrifying spirit of a young girl and you have yourself the makings for a spooky evening. Pacify has you joining the Paranormal Activity Helpers, Incorporated in single-player, co-op, or PvP modes. While the single-player experience offers the most thrills, the co-op mode lets you explore the 100-year-old home in search of paranormal evidence.
Along the way, you’ll happen upon the young ghost that’s tethered between good and evil. When she makes the switch to evil, players must find a way to pacify her before she claims the lives of the PAH team. In both the single-player and co-op experiences, you’ll collect evidence to progress through the house. The PvP mode is a bit more competitive and has you vying for a full-time position with PAH. The result is a chaotic mad dash, all while trying to avoid being turned into a doll.
Strange? Yes. Great Halloween fun? You bet!