Indie Horror: Scares on a Tight Budget
Indie horror has exploded in the past 10 years. Grizzled gamers most familiar with the Triple-A classics of horror have started to seek out more blood for their buck. From roots in the ’80s and ’90s, horror and gaming have always been a lucrative match.
Resident Evil brought a fear of being attacked in the dark by flesh-eating fiends, while Silent Hill brought a chill in the air and an unparalleled sense of isolation. Their memory sticks out in the mind of gamers as they continue to this day. However, horror since that time period has evolved. These franchises, among others, have held strong, but there is a sub-culture growing within the gaming space. A culture of independent gaming that fosters creatively fascinating ideas of what horror should be.
Today, I am diving into horror games that are uniquely independent and stand out from the crop of Triple-A’s we have to come to expect.
Fran Bow – Killmonday Games
A dark fantasy set in the 1940s, Fran Bow follows the story of a 10-year-old girl trying to figure out who she is as a person. The game’s hook is in the setting and the way in which the setting comes into play. Fran is living inside a mental institution and it is up to her to get free of its shackles and find her missing cat. Throughout the journey, Fran experiences hallucinations that show a darker reality than she would normally perceive. Pills taken in the game affect this perception of the world and highlight an intriguing idea about mental illness.
Accuracy-wise, Fran Bow is not so much a statement on reality, but it is a skewed idea of a worst-case scenario situation with mental health. This form of fantasy is over-the-top in the sense of how it interprets mental health; this does not stop it from being uniquely enticing in what it does. The puzzles on offer are difficult and, at times, frustrating, and harken back to a time of point-and-click adventures. This is one for those with a strong tolerance for grisly details and a keen mind for puzzle-solving.
Simulacra – Kaigan Games OU
Open-world exploration is a common feature of the horror genre: massive spaces in which to entice the player into discovering the true depths of depravity that the game has to offer. The world that the developer defines is within the scope of however grand or small they wish it be. Meaning, the openness of a world within a game is within the parameters of how they choose to make it.
A unique experience in this case is Simulacra, a disturbing world entirely captured in a mobile phone. Simulacra is an unfolding mystery, as you unravel the details of a missing person’s phone by exploring every part of their apps, messages and social media. You have limitless scope of everything in their device. This takes a nice spin on the concept of horror by minimising the elements of terror into one singular interactive menu. Highly clever in its execution and a really tense experience makes this a must-try.
2DARK – Gloomywood
Mystery and malice personified. 2DARK is a gruesome 2D detective game where you go up against grotesque creatures seeking to unravel your sanity and your skin. The goal is to rescue the children that have been taken from the town of Gloomywood.
2DARK hits all the marks for atmosphere and tonal unease from the get-go. Limiting the player’s field of vision is a common trope of horror games, but it is not often explored in a 2D environment. It lends a new layer of fear to a relatively bleak world as-is. Incorporated in the fold is stealth mechanics, that beckon you to avoid the demons that prowl the night instead of taking them head-on. A jump-inducing affair that is not for the weary of heart, 2DARK is an especially grim game that pulls no punches with the terror it brings. If the stunning artwork doesn’t entice you, the crisp and tension-building gameplay will.
Nevermind – Flying Mollusk
Our minds are always working to process the world around us. Psychologically speaking, the idea of fright and scaring ourselves is a thrill-seeking need to unwind the mysteries of the unknown. Indie horror games prey upon this need and use techniques to unsettle and amaze the player. However, none have done it quite so well as the Flying Mollusk-produced Nevermind.
We all are accustomed to stressful situations in our life at one point or another. Nevermind’s goal is to test the boundaries of our contentedness in a situation that we are not prepared for. Known as a biofeedback game, It works upon VR in order to immerse you in the experience, and it monitors your feelings with its unique consumer technology. The selling point is that the less calm you are, the harder the game will be. Controlling your emotions in anxiety-inducing situations is the challenge of the game. The surreal world presented offers a glimpse inside our own minds and how we operate when at our most vulnerable. You will not get another experience like this one.
These four diamonds-in-the-rough of the indie horror variety are sure to give a scare this Halloween. Be sure to keep the lights off and make sure you have a friend nearby, as you never know if the terrors of the night might come knocking at your door.
We are looking for new writers! If you are interested in joining the Word of the Nerd team, click here to fill out an application