Five Nights at Freddy’s is the Necessary Evil of Horror Games

Five Nights at Freddy's is like McDonalds, they're the fast food of horror games, unhealthy to consume all the time and reminds you of alternatives.

Five Nights a Freddy’s as series that has become quite polarizing, since the creator, Scott Cawthon doesn’t seem to know how to take a break. Since the initial release date of August 8 2014, dear old Scott has released six games under the Five Nights a Freddy’s umbrella, including a spin-off RPG in a very short span of time.  

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This has undoubtedly caused some backlash against it, and understandably so; he flooded the market too quickly with the merchandise, the games, the book, and now the movie. The games are nearly inescapable; they’re like My Little Pony or Undertale, no matter where you go, it’ll be there in some capacity.

What if I were to tell you that the malignant force of Five Nights a Freddy’s was necessary for this new renaissance of indie horror games we are getting? A necessary evil, if you will. 

Allow me to explain: when you think of runaway indie games successes, Five Nights a Freddy’s isn’t the only game that comes to mind. Amnesia the Dark Descent and Outlast are also waiting in the wings. The difference being that they haven’t had a multitude of sequels. Amnesia had Machine of Pigs, and Outlast just released the demo for its sequel after being in development for a while.

Which is a double edged sword for the genre since there wasn’t as many recognizable and notable titles for the mainstream audience to immediately identify as horror they’d play.

Not that there weren’t any good releases in the interim, there were, but not enough to gain the much needed attention to the smaller game scene.  See, horror as a genre of media is already very niche, a lot of people don’t like horror because they’re under the misconception of what horror can be rather than what it is. Horror is one of the few genres that named after an emotion and that emotion is what horror is.

Horror is a feeling, unlike any other. Silent Hill was considered a masterwork of horror, and Silent Hill 2 even more so, because it embraced that feeling and ran with it. If there’s one thing I can say about Five Nights a Freddy’s, the atmosphere is oozing and dripping with that feeling.

It’s the exact reason why horror is so niche, because not everyone wants to feel the feelings that horror brings with them. Existential dread and high anxiety aren’t exactly great selling points of the general populace. We deal with enough strife in our own lives, and revisiting some possibly unwanted emotions isn’t something people like to do freely.

It’s why you’ll only see good mainstream horror games once in a blue moon in recent years. Because games make you experience these emotions much more viscerally since you’re the one playing as the character going through these things. Even with the fantastic RPG maker horror games or other indie horror games out there, there’s a strong chance you haven’t heard of them unless you’re made aware of them by a youtuber or you deliberately look for games like that.

Well, Five Night’s at Freddy’s has transitioned horror games back into the mainstream, because it just keeps releasing games over a short period of time. Just like those horror films that are released every year that has a bunch of idiots get murdered. It’s the slasher genre just without the late 1970’s/early 1980s backlash against sex and marijuana usage. Let’s all be thankful that Five Nights at Freddy’s only message is to stay aware of your surroundings and don’t murder children, because if it wasn’t this would be a whole different kind of article

With the backlash against Five Nights at Freddy’s, it’s started an almost hilarious trend in that some journalists will write about how this game they’re covering “puts other jumpscare-fests to shame”, or some people will bemoan the Repetitive jump scares on steam forums and how some journalists will tell you how horror games are “Dead” because of the FNaF games and only Outlast 2 will save us.

Wait, didn’t Outlast have a jumpscares?

There it is.

What’s funny is that games like Layers of Fear, Never Mind, Soma and even my number 3 on my best games of 2015 you’ve never heard of list, Stasis, owe a lot to Five Nights at Freddy’s. Why? Because they market themselves as not being Five Nights at Freddy’s.

With horror still being in the public consciousness, people are actively looking for alternatives to Five Nights at Freddy’s which means indie horror titles are getting more of a chance to shine now than they ever have, for the sheer reason that they aren’t Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Think of how you talk to your friends about horror games. Do you talk about jumpscares now a lot more than you used to? Well there’s a reason for that, it’s because of Five Nights at Freddy’s. It has invaded the popular consciousnesses and now has created this stigma against itself that benefits every game in the genre. Since it’s not Five Nights at Freddy’s then that means it’s probably good, so I’ll give it a try. It’s also helped pave the way for newer concepts that you wouldn’t have normally seen outside of an RPG maker horror games, like the game Spooky’s House of Jumpscares.

Somehow, Five Nights at Freddy’s managed to become gaming’s equivalent of Friday the 13th, a horror game with a million sequels and yet no real end in sight. We think there will be an ending and then surprise, there’s another game lurking on the horizon.

Even if you’re sick to death of Five Nights at Freddy’s, allow me to give you a thought. Five Nights at Freddy’s is like McDonalds; there are a whole lot of them, they’re cheap and easy to make and they may not always be the best, but there’s always something you’ll probably like about it, even if it’s just one single thing. Do you want to know what the best thing about that is? You start to appreciate other restaurants a lot more after eating there, and decide to diversify your meals a little with different indie horror games.

Besides, everyone knows that eating nothing but fast food isn’t healthy and isn’t the pinnacle of cuisine, just like Five Nights at Freddy’s isn’t the pinnacle of indie horror. It’s just a necessary evil for us consumers to appreciate something else for once.

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Angelina Bonilla
Angelina Bonilla, also known as Red Angel, is a writer with a Bachelor's degree in Humanities, as well as a passion for various other topics such as life sciences and psychology. Video games have been a big part of her life since childhood and she writes about them with the same passion that she writes about books.