December 30, 2013 7:00 AM | Anthony Swinnich
Horror games have the potential to affect us in ways other genres have yet to discover. Beating a boss might make you feel some sense of triumph, but it pales in comparison to the sheer terror and panic a genuinely scary game can evoke. Fight or flight is based on basic instinct, and this style of game proves flight to feel quite effective, even if it ultimately isn't.
There were quite a few horror games out there this year from indie developers. But a few stood out more than others. Here are the ten horror games that left us shaking in our boots.
"There are no weapons, but there are...things that stalk you. As in the previous Amnesia game, you must avoid, hide from, or run from them. The behavior of these things feels more realistic than the adversaries in the previous game, which makes these sequences even more terrifying. And if pigs creep you out, like they do me, then get ready for nightmares."
One of the nice things about Doorways is that you aren't just exploring the common horror game trope of residence or forest, though those do have their place in the game. Doorways elaborate and mysterious cave system is a wonderful change of pace and fantastic hub world. It feels a bit more Lovecraftian in its brand of horror, and the inclusion of puzzles reflects this. Consider it a thinking-man's horror game.
Haunted Memories is a Slender game, but is thickly atmospheric. The forest you're tasked with exploring is dark and suffocating. It's also pretty scary that there's some sort of supernatural force stalking you and that you never know when it's going to show up. It might also be worth mentioning that the game is free to play as well, and the second episode is due in January.
Exploring a gigantic, abandoned orphanage at night, alone, in the dark, during a windy fall night would be a tense affair by itself, but when you factor in the fact that there are talking ghosts and talking portraits to deal with, you have a game that's pretty damn unnerving. You may want to set the spirits of the deceased free by taking their belongings to their headstones, but you may end up too frightened to do so.
"The Game Kitchen's crowdfunded, episodic, pay-what-you-want and excellently pixelated horror adventure has made it to its third episode: The Four Witnesses. Set for the most part in the slums of Victorian London, it's a truly atmospheric installment to the saga of pretty fearless philosophy professor Jeremy Devitt, with the point-and-click adventures of whom you can catch up with by playing the first two chapters; the first one's free, you know."
"Your goal is to figure out how everything can work together to survive your stay in the cabin. That is to say, without spoiling the game solutions, most items will need to be used to get other items to stop the relentless menace who haunts you. It definitely has a few, not-so-cheap jump moments built in."
Imagine yourself stuck late at the office. You're working on a project. When suddenly, things start to get weird. You hear noises. Cabinets open by themselves. A ghostly apparition is trying to steal your soul. How do you escape the office? Through computers and popping balloons with pens, that's how. Just don't get caught outside of a hiding place... she'll find you otherwise.
Outlast may very well be the template from which horror games are built from in the future. Your inability to fight puts you solely in the flight category, and flight you will. The sheer terror I experienced while playing Outlast is something I haven't ever felt from a game prior. Wandering around in the dark, helpless and alone, trying to find your way out while avoiding and hiding from mutant inmates is the pinnacle of fright.
"It's a traditional point'n'click adventure with a simplified interface. Just left click to interact and right click to examine something. Hover your mouse cursor at the top of the screen to reveal your inventory. There's a bit of running back and forth, but for the most part the interaction and puzzle solving is satisfying and immersive. Raze's script is wonderful and eerie, and the whole production is elevated by the fantastic pixel art from adventure game maestro Ben Chandler. Also important to the mood and immersion is the unnerving musical score by Jack de Quidt and the stellar voice acting."
"Suzy and Freedom is a harrowing ride, from the disarming opening where you fly a radio-controlled plane and collect stars, to the chilling final moments when the world seems to literally collapse around Suzy and her murderous cohorts to the beating of a tell-tale heart. The game makes excellent use of minimal sound effects like this to ramp up the tension. During the pre-murder scene, a ticking clock seems to count down to doom."
Other notable horror games
- Babysitter Bloodbath (formerly Halloween)
- The Consuming Shadow
- The Drowning
- Forever Lost
- Montague's Mount
- Papa Sangre II
- Slender: The Arrival
- The Train
- White Noise
- Year Walk
[This list was compiled and its contents comprised with help from Agustín Cordes and the Indie Games staff]