Games to Get Your Fright On (2017)
Like last year I decided to put together a list of horror games to recommend for people to play. There are not too many entries this year as my back log of games has built up nicely, which means I have not played as many horror games as I have wanted to. The games this year are also all adventure games. No action horror games for this year. Again these are just personal choices I have decided to recommend, not some sort objective list of horror games everyone should play. The games are listed in no particular order.
Fran Bow is the most stylized game on this list. It is a more traditional point and click adventure game. You play as Fran, a ten year old girl, who is dealing with the mental fallout of seeing her parents murdered. Fran is determined to escape the asylum she is in and get back home. She is provided a drug that when consumed transforms the environment around her, usually for the worst. This transformation of the environment allows you to access areas/things you couldn’t access before and is what most of the puzzle design is structured around. The game offers up plenty of disturbing imagery and leaves off with a pretty ambiguous ending that will leave you questioning a lot of things.
Conarium is the latest Lovecraftian game from Zoetrope Interactive. Heavily influenced by At the Mountains of Madness, you awake in an arctic base with a bit of amnesia. As you explore trying to figure out where everyone else has disappeared to, you discover more about the experiments taking place and your part in them. The imagery and atmosphere of this game is really what the game is about. It also prioritizes narrative experience over complex gameplay mechanics. It’s a first person adventure game with simpler puzzles. Lovecraft can be hard to do in games but I thought this game did a decent job. I did a review of Conarium earlier this year. Head over and check it out if you want to know a little bit more about the game (there are spoilers).
Layers of Fear
Layers of Fear came out last year and got a bit of coverage as one of the “scariest” titles out there. I don’t know about scariest but it does have a good amount of jump scares and the atmosphere of the game creates a good fearful tension as you play. You play as an aging artist returning home to finish his final piece. The game is a bit of a walking simulator with a few puzzles strewn about, some of them optional. Much of the game is walking around dreamlike or surreal environments of your home. What I really like about this game is some of the game design. The way the game plays with physical space while you play is fantastic is something I would like to see show up in other horror titles. There are multiple endings dependent on different paths you take or whether or not you look at certain things. There is a decent amount of exploration in this game if you don’t mind the walking simulator aspect.
Observer is a game done by the same people who did Layers of Fear. It is billed as a cyberpunk horror and it lives up to that description. It is more of a traditional first person adventure game and less of a walking simulator that Layers of Fear was. There is more interactivity and better puzzle design. I really really liked the puzzles in this game. Their design felt unique and utilized the atmosphere of the game really well. The premise is that you play as a detective that can enter people’s minds and access their memories. Most of the horror comes from the memoryscapes you experience. For the moment this game feels like a unique one out there and highly recommend it. This is another game I did a review on earlier this year (again spoilers).
This game will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is very minimalist when it comes to gameplay. The only reason I am including it on the list is because of the first story you play. Untold Stories is an episodic game with four stories bound together by a narrative thread revealed in the final story. Each story has its own horror elements but it’s the first story, The House Abandon, which really blew me away. It’s hard to describe. You are someone who has come home and you start playing an old text adventure game and then everything starts bleeding together. The game narratives, reality, it all just bleeds together. It is a horror experience I have not experienced in any other game. Go play this game.