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5 Haunting Indie Games to Play on Halloween Night

Why watch a movie on Halloween when you could play the best horror games that indie developers have to offer?

The age of indie titles is upon us, and if the horror genre as it exists today is of any indication, the timing couldn't have been better. Indie developers are doing most of the heavy lifting these days when it comes to innovative and, most importantly, terrifying horror games.

And it shows -- nearly every popular horror title today is the product of talented, ever-blossoming indie studios. With so many great choices on the market, we've cherry-picked a very special few which are guaranteed to make your Halloween night even more haunting. Be warned: These five indie horror games will likely shave a few hours off of your sleep schedule.

5. Claire (2016)

Imagine a choose-your-own-adventure, 2D side-scrolling Silent Hill game, and you'll probably think of something like Claire. Psychological terror and ever-shifting environments create a wonderfully crafted horror experience that caters to fans of traditional survival-horror fare with its puzzle-solving, area maps, and emergent storytelling.

Claire amounts to a success for indie developer Hailstorm Games at creating a better Silent Hill-like game than the series itself has produced in several years. Whereas Silent Hill began to suffer when its focus shifted from pensive, psychological horror to fast-paced action, Claire takes the opposite approach by leaving the player defenseless from the various monstrosities found within. Peppered throughout are some vaguely Dark Souls-ian elements, namely encounters with crestfallen weirdos who serve to enhance the plot and atmosphere.

Though Claire tops out at a few hours (and that's a liberal estimate), it is a surprisingly deep thriller that is easy on the wallet and perfect for some casual Halloween gaming. If you're in the mood for a quick horror fix and an early bed time, you won't be disappointed here.

4. Slender: The Eight Pages (2012)

It's rare to watch a mythical figure akin to Bigfoot and La Chupacabra rise to prominence before your very eyes -- and that's what makes the legend of Slender Man truly remarkable. Appearing first in a post on the Something Awful forums, Slender Man became an instant phenomenon, with internet-goers across the world expanding his lore and "validating" real life sightings. The figure's influence grew rapidly in a matter of years, even compelling two young Wisconsin girls to lure an unsuspecting "friend" into the woods, where they attempted to murder her. When questioned about the incident after their arrest, the attackers admitted that they had attempted to appease Slender Man.

Slender: The Eight Pages, released by indie studio Parsec Productions in 2012, capitalized on the ghastly lore of Slender Man to the fullest extent, situating players in a dark forest with nothing but a flashlight as they are stalked by the titular creep. The goal is to explore the forest and the abandoned facilities within in the search for cryptic pages, all of which have something creepy drawn or written on them. As more pages are amassed, Slender Man stalks the player more aggressively, and soon, the heat is on...

Every corner is suspect in Slender, and looking over your own shoulder is never advised. Before you've discovered any pages, you might catch a glimpse of Slender Man with the rays of your flashlight as he watches you from a distance, only to disappear at a second glace. By the time you've gathered a few pages, Slender Man follows closely, appearing around the corner when you least expect it.

Then again, the horror of Slender is best when you do expect Slender Man to appear suddenly before you. The feeling of being stalked helplessly by a terrifying monster is heart-pounding and very intense, and no number of jump-scares could ever match the terror you will experience during this short, simple game. 

3. Among the Sleep (2014)

Childhood is scary -- period. When you're three feet tall and clueless about your surroundings, every bump in the night is an omen, and every shadow in the closet wants to snatch you up and take you away. Krillbite Studio captured this sensitive and universal fear in Among the Sleep, a disturbing journey into the imagination of a troubled and fearful toddler.

Among the Sleep is a surreal, suspenseful experience throughout each of its four hours, peppered with notable moments of sheer terror that I still can't shake. In a world where kitchen counters look like mountains and coats in the closet look like monsters, tension is omnipresent. The environments take their shape from the child's imagination, which creates a warped, unpredictable reality in which anything can happen.

While the experience is almost too short, Among the Sleep is commendable for achieving exactly what it set out to do, which is to create a new landscape for the horror genre and inject it with some real imagination. It accomplishes both of these feats with great success, and maintains a cogent narrative all the while. If you're looking for a great horror experience that won't take all night to complete, this game fits the bill. Oh, and it will scare the shit out of you repeatedly.

2. Inside (2015)

While there may be some debate about Inside's place (or lack thereof) in the horror genre, there is still no doubt that the world of Limbo's successor is deadly, oppressive, and fear-inducing every step of the way. I wrote about Inside a few weeks ago and mentioned that the hallmark of suspense in any medium is uncertainty. For Inside, Playdead Studios captures this element and amplifies it to heart-pounding extremes. There were countless moments during the game in which I felt hopelessly doomed, only to escape death by the skin of my teeth.

Atmosphere is this game's greatest strength, and it uses it with cutting precision to immerse the player into the cold, bleak world. Mastery in this department serves to intensify the many panicked and dreadful moments that players will encounter, especially where snarling dogs and violent explosions are involved. Virtually everything and everyone wants to kill you at all times, requiring the player to be on guard constantly as they navigate the fatal universe of Inside

Rather than referring to Inside as an incredible horror game, it's probably fairer to refer to it as an incredible game with substantial horror elements attached to it. Horror is not the primary theme, but it looms forebodingly, striking the player during moments of helplessness and panic. This is a game that should be played at any time, but if you've never experienced the horror that Inside has to offer, Halloween is a perfect opportunity.

1. Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010)

Due to its success, it's easy to forget that Amnesia: The Dark Descent was developed by a fledgling indie developer -- Fractional Games -- based in Helsingborg, Sweden. Following the conceptually-similar Penumbra series of titles, Fractional Games delivered a new level of sophistication and polish to their unique brand of survival-horror with Amnesia. The world took notice in a big way, with the game now receiving top choice in a staggering number of "Best Horror Game" lists.

And you bet your asses that its reputation is well-deserved. Amnesia is one of those games that gets under your skin and stays there. Armed with little more than a lantern and scant oil supplies, the player must navigate a mysterious mansion with all manners of horror lurking within. Battle takes place not between the player and the aforementioned horrors, but between the player and his or her own sanity as reality shifts and wavers, leaving nothing sure in the mind except the terrible darkness which surrounds everything.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a game to play in doses -- it is far too stressful to experience the constant twists, turns, and genuine freak-outs for long periods of time. For veterans of the horror genre, however, this is one indie title that can (and should) be finished in a Halloween gaming marathon. 

Do you agree with our picks? What's your favorite horror game to play on Halloween? Let us know in the comments!

Published Oct. 29th 2016

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