Fall has descended upon the land, which means it’s time to crack out your Harambe costume, gather up as much candy as possible, and nestle down by the candlelight with some spooky games. To help you get into the mood this Halloween, we’ve collected thirteen of the creepiest free indie games around, so all you have to worry about is holding in those screams of terror.
1916 visits the scene of one of humanity’s greatest horrors, World War 1. Nestled deep inside the deluged trenches of the German frontline, you play as a soldier desperately looking for a way out. Hidden somewhere in the sunken maze of passageways is a ladder, and finding it almost certainly spells freedom. The only thing that stands between you and safety is a pack of dinosaurs. Raptors, to be precise, and they can run faster than you. Battered, bruised, and likely shellshocked from the fighting, you must do what it takes to make it back home, even if that includes ripping off the limbs of your fallen comrades to use as bait against your pursuers. There’s no room for the squeamish or faint of heart in this marathon of life and death.
Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion is a lie. It hides, almost in plain sight, under the guise of something altogether more benign. It knows how to play with your preconceptions of the horror genre and, when you’re at your most relaxed, it strikes, usually with something not even remotely frightening like a chibi ice cream face on a cardboard cutout. This is just the beginning though. A clever ploy, used to set you up for an even greater fall later on. I mean, what kind of person gets scared by cute cups of coffee and ice cream people, right? Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the game reaches into its bag of tricks and starts to unleash real terrors that want to hunt you down. Don’t expect to see just one or two types of nasty things chasing you either, as the whole gang of popular spooks have come along, including animatronic sentient animals, Grudge-like clicking ghost girls, and there’s even a cameo from the happy mask salesman from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.
The Bad Dream series is a collection of six point & click adventures, each one spinning a different macabre tale which rarely ends well for everyone involved. The games do a great job luring you into their twisted worldscapes, thanks in part to the seemingly innocent visual style which looks suspiciously similar to a children’s bedtime story, although instead of ending with everyone going to bed, it ends with you losing all of your fingers whilst boiling a fishbone broth in an abandoned bakery whilst a crazed butcher roams the streets outside. If the jump scares and dark corridor simulators aren’t for you, the Bad Dream stories offer a slower paced adventure full of ambient horror for you to sink into.
On the surface, The Night That Speaks doesn’t look like much with it’s overwhelmingly monochrome GameBoy-inspired palette and simplistic controls. Don’t let that lull you into thinking this is anything but scary though, as there’s plenty to be afraid of lingering just beyond the murky shadows surrounding you. Upon waking up in a graveyard, alone and confused, you decide the best course of action is to enter the nearby archway and venture deep into a labyrinth of tunnels underground. As it happens, these tunnels play host to a number of wandering unspeakables, and your only form of defense is to project your sheer willpower towards them to drive them back, if only for a few seconds. Did I mention you manifest your willpower in the form of a middle finger? I guess even eldritch horrors are sensitive to insults now and again.
9. White Day
White Day is the embodiment of a ghost story told across the embers of a campfire. The game, seemingly abandoned by it’s creators due to poor sales in Korea, was discovered years later and translated into English by fans. Today, White Day exists in the distant corners of the internet, spreading from person to person by word of mouth. But don’t worry, it probably won’t put curse on you if you play it*.
In the game, you play as a young student on the eve of White Day (the Korean version of Valentine’s Day) where it is customary to give your crush a gift. Your plan to sneak into your school at night to hide your gift in your crush’s desk quickly turns sour though, as you discover that the building was built on top of an old Korean military camp during the war, and now you’re trapped inside until morning. As if it were ripped straight out of the soul of Asian cinema itself, White Day brings the best of the best when it comes to horrible sights and sounds, and you’ll encounter more than your fair share of creepy ghost maidens and contorted flesh creatures before you reach the end. If you reach the end.
*Not guaranteed. RIP you.
8. Port Of Call
Port Of Call plonks you on a mysterious vessel sailing through foggy waters. The crew are nowhere to be found, except for the old captain at the helm who quickly drafts you into his service as the ticket collector for the trip. As you make your rounds through the ship’s unsettling list of passengers, the true nature of your journey will become abundantly clear. With no memories of your former life, you must complete the tasks the captain asks of you, whilst trying to find your own answers to questions like “Who am I?”; and “Why are there creepy shadow children whispering in this empty room?”.
If you’ve ever been caught in the dark with nothing but a lighter to guide your way, then you’ll know exactly why Shutter is on this list. Home alone, a woman finds herself awoken at night by the sound of her phone vibrating. After answering a suspiciously ominous call from some intangible whispers and a bit of crying, the lights go out and bad things start happening. Unfortunately, the only light source of heroine has to hand is the flash on her camera. With each shot briefly illuminating the darkness around her, she must attempt to navigate the twisting corridors of her apartment complex and beyond. Don’t worry though, because she’s far from alone in the dark.
Obsession is one of the less common evils touched on by the horror genre, so it’s refreshing (and a little morbid) to see how The Static Speaks My Name approaches the subject. Fixated on a single painting, a solitary man barricades himself inside his house and begins to study the piece of art over and over, slowly disconnecting from the real world in the process. To say any more than that would spoil the experience, but It won’t take you very long to reach the game’s conclusion. Deciphering the events that unfold however will likely take you much, much longer.
The Daily Cthonicle casts you into the stressful role of editor in chief at a local newspaper. As editor, you will be expected to manage a number of high profile projects on a daily basis whilst working to tight deadlines under pressure. Oh, and you’ll also be expected to investigate and uncover occult conspiracies too. Escaped mummies, forgotten gods, and everything else that goes bump in the night awaits your staff of writers as they scour the dark alleyways of the town. There’s a fairly deep micromanagement system with RPG elements working behind the scenes in The Daily Cthonicle, and if you’re looking for something spooky that won’t induce a cardiac episode, then this is the game for you. Make sure you do the tutorial first though, or you’ll regret it.
Daily Cthonicle: Editors Edition contains extra content and can be purchased on Steam.
Like many other short horror games, Lurking started life as a student project. However, it breaks away from the traditional mold of dark corridors and out-of-focus pursuers by completely removing the sense of sight as you know it. Instead you navigate the pitch-black hallways of the game using echolocation, where each source of sound produces a ripple that stretches outwards, highlighting the contours of your surroundings for a brief period. To make matters worse, there’s an escaped prisoner on the loose, and they have a keen sense of hearing that can pick up even the slightest sound in the darkness.
The best (or perhaps most terrifying) thing about Lurking is that it’s meant to be played with a microphone, which picks up on your own personal squeals and screams, and projects them as sounds in the game. This amplifies the terror tenfold, as hiding from your stalker becomes more intense when you’re struggling to calm your own physical breathing in the face of certain death.
A sequel, called Stifled, is currently in development.
Animal Village is a top down shooter made during the pixel horror game jam last month. You play as one of the creatures of animal village, a peaceful settlement where absolutely nothing bad has ever happened and everybody gets along. At least, that’s what they want you to think. In reality, the village is hiding a terrible secret, and you set off into the ominous pit located at the center of the village in search of answers. On the whole, Animal Village feels like somebody spliced together The Binding of Isaac’s gameplay with every possible creepypasta based on the Animal Crossing games. Just what did happen to all of the humans anyway?
The Last Door is an episodic game that attempts to condense the macabre, unsettling nature of Edgar Allen Poe into a point and click adventure. After receiving a letter from an old friend, you rush to his estate out in the countryside, only to discover that an ill fate has befallen his household and the only way to get some answers is to descend into the madness within. It’s difficult to say more without revealing too much about what makes this game special, but if you’re looking for an intriguing tale of Lovecraftian terror this Halloween, you can’t go wrong with The Last Door.
A collector’s edition, as well as the second season are available to purchase here.
There’s nothing creepier than a cabin in the the woods, especially when that cabin has links to witchcraft. If the Blair Witch films taught us anything, it’s that creepy forests and witches should be avoided whenever possible. Unfortunately that’s not an option for the young protagonist of The Witch’s House, a deceptively scary game built with the RPG maker engine that is desperate to see you die over and over again. Corridors shift and change on a whim, and there’s plenty of opportunities to lose a limb of two as you debate whether you really should lend the chef a “hand”.
(Hint: You shouldn’t.)