Every year October rolls around, and every year there's a new surge of horror movies, haunted houses, and "creepy" decorations. And while all of these are staples of an industry, they are far from the only way to fulfill that odd, almost contradictory urge to be scared, because the video game industry has its own subculture of horrific games.
But, much like the large blockbuster horror titles that hit the silver screen every year, we all know about the Dead Space's, Five Nights at Freddy's, Amnesia's, and Resident Evil's of the game industry. That's why I'm bringing you 6 indie titles that might usually fall under the radar. Some are atmospheric, some are action-packed, but they all have their own unique spark that makes them worth checking out.
Header obtained from Nick Kenrick via Flickr.
"LOSE YOUR MIND. EAT YOUR CREW. DIE."
This is Sunless Sea's tagline and it really sets the tone for the entire game. In Sunless Sea, you command a ship as you explore a vast sea searching for loot and anything else your heart could desire from the open waters while also fighting everything from sentient icebergs to sharks the size of your vessel.
As you play through the game, find new locations, and acquire new missions, text blurbs will pop up on the screen as excerpts from a ship log detailing your adventures, as haunting as they may be.
2nd October, 1889 "Starvation walked the ship. We were merciful: our knives were sharp.
Sunless Sea is available on Steam for $18.99.
Space Beast Terror Fright, or SBTF, sounds like the devs randomly threw a bunch of words at the wall and used what stuck to name their game.
With that out of the way, SBTF is perhaps the most action-oriented title on this whole list. Being a rogue-like, arcade style FPS with permadeath, that boasts its difficulty it is easy to say that this is not for the faint of heart. However, SBTF's love affair with the dimly lit hallways of a destroyed space station, a la Aliens or Dead Space, is what really earns it a place on this list. In fact, one of the only pieces of equipment you have from the onset is a motion tracker seemingly ripped out of the Aliens mythos.
It is worth noting that SBTF is still in Early Access. Moreover, it offers multiplayer support for co-op play and there are some that swear that this is the intended way to play the game. With that being said, SBTF is available on Steam for $14.99. It's only available for PC.
Lydia is a game that is as hard to write about because of its brevity as its difficult subject matter. With a short runtime-- most people seem to have spent about 1-2 hours with the game-- and a small price tag-- $4.99-- there's not a ton to see or a lot to write about that doesn't immediately get into spoiler territory.
That being said, Lydia is a story-driven adventure game that has you playing as a young girl dealing with the substance abuse of the adults in her life. In fact, it is based on the developer's own experiences with this subject matter, making it a particularly heart-wrenching journey. The game uses a lot of metaphorical imagery of distant places and "boogeymen" to help express the difficulty of coping with these problems as a child.
Its creepy atmosphere alone earns Lydia a place on this list, but for me, it's the mundane horror found in the everyday ways that humans and completely destroy themselves and their families that really makes this title so gut-wrenching and ultimately effective at delivering its mix of message and horror.
Lydia is available on Steam for $4.99.
Fran Bow is perhaps the most infamous title on this list thanks to it winning a couple of Indie Game of the Year awards back in 2015 and its subsequent feature on Markiplier's channel, which netted around 30 million total views.
Fran Bow is a traditional point and click adventure that tasks you with solving puzzles as you slowly unravel the story of a little girl who found her parents dismembered. One of the game's real strengths is the way that it ties its story and gameplay together. For instance, many of the puzzles are directly tied to the story and game world. Moreover, self-administering your own medicine opens up new outlets to explore the world, which is perhaps one of the darkest mechanics in recent memory.
There are actually several parallels between Lydia and Fran Bow. Both star young girls that are scarred by the horrifying events of their childhood and both explore those through psychological elements. However, Lydia is more strongly grounded in real life experiences, while Fran Bow draws from a Tim Burton-esque storytelling tradition.
Fran Bow is available on Steam for $14.99.
Year Walk is another atmospheric puzzle game. However, its concentration on Swedish legends as well as the Swedish vision quest known as a year walk is what sets this game apart from the pack.
With a combination of cryptic puzzles and creative solutions, which require you to use all sorts of various inputs and sensory info to solve puzzles, Year Walk remains thought-provoking throughout. The included encyclopedia that details many different Swedish myths and creatures also helps add a sense of life to this creepy game.
Year Walk is available on iOS for $3.99 along with a companion encyclopedia app. However, it was also re-released on Steam for both PC and Mac for $5.99. The increased price tag does include revamped visuals, a map, new locations and associated puzzles, and a hint system all of which help make this the definitive edition. The map does help cut down on backtracking to a degree, which is definitely appreciable, but either version is worth your time.
While Scanner Sombre is technically an exploration driven game with story and puzzle elements, not completely unlike several of the other entries on this list, it truly tests your ability to rationalize your location in a 3D environment. This is thanks to the main mechanic: you play in a completely pitch black environment with only your lidar gun to light the way with a spectrum of rainbow colored dots. (You should really watch the trailer if you want to get how this works.)
This can, especially at first, be somewhat disorienting, but as your mind adjusts it allows you to better concentrate on your journey. Along the way, a tale of miners and ancient rituals is also unveiled, but shhh! I've already said too much.
Scanner Sombre is available on Steam for $9.99. It is also compatible with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
And there we have it, with Scanner Sombre I present the last of the 6 unique indie titles. Some test your brains, some test your reflex skills. Some educate, some nauseate. There's something here for every type of gamer, of course, that is assuming you don't mind haunting experiences with graphic imagery.