Essential Indie Horror Titles

| |

By Josh Nichols on October 5th, 2021

Share

Horror games hold a unique place with how it can grip players and keep them wide-eyed on the edge of their seats. Player agency (or a lack there of in some cases) helps make the genre even more immersive and intense than other experiences since the controls are in your hands to determine what comes next. At the end of the night though, every scary story is just that: a scary story.

But the suspension of disbelief can be carried to deeper depths with the immersion provided by video games. This can make even some of the lesser chilling moments feel more agonizing than some of the best scares from other media. A dimly lit campfire or dusty copy of The Shining will always invite scares but few things compare to actually feeling like you’re right there.

Indie Scares

Indie horror games can often be the most daring titles in terms of scares and storytelling too. Triple-A titles know how to make players reach for the lights and covers, but the artistic freedom and ability to operate outside of player expectations make it much easier for indie horror titles to thrill when it comes to dragging chills up and down your spine.

Here are some of the most essential indie horror titles for the Halloween season or whenever you’re looking for a good chill. Many of the listed titles are only available on PC thanks to how easy platforms like itch.io make it for smaller creators, but there are several scares for console players here as well.

Oxenfree

Oxenfree is the easiest game to recommend. The game features a story that’s largely accessible and appropriate for most audiences. It explores some intense and emotional topics, including death and what it means to truly live, but developer Night School Studio managed to balance the game’s tension perfectly. Oxenfree’s characters are some of the most human I’ve witnessed in a video game, especially Alex, the lead character. Her unforgettable journey is one you can’t miss. It’s available on everything and has low system requirements so it might even run on your old laptop from school.

Available for: PC (via Steam, Epic Game Store, and itch.io), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, iOS, and Android

Yuppie Psycho

Yuppie Psycho follows Brian Pasternack, a young man trying to survive and make it another day in a dystopian 90s society. He’s starting work at one of the largest companies in the world: Sintracorp. He hopes to succeed and climb the ladder but he quickly learns this job is much different than what he originally thought.

Yuppie Psycho is not for everyone but it should delight its audience with its unique blend of comedy and horror.

Available for: PC (via Steam) and Nintendo Switch

Darkwood

Darkwood is different than a lot of other horror titles but it’s quite capable of providing its own flavor of tension and terror. Presented from a top-down perspective, Darkwood challenges players by asking them to survive in the face of darkness. During the day, players are tasked with exploring and scavenging before things take a dark turn, demanding that players make touch decisions in order to survive the nightmares that surround them at every turn.

Available for: PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X

Kraven Manor

Kraven Manor puts you in an immersive mystery filled with secrets and puzzles. Interactive environments and mysterious rooms make the experience an easy recommendation, as there isn’t a lot mechanically demanded of the player. It’s also free to play, which means you have nothing to lose. Like many of the titles on this list, has very low system requirements, so get out your old laptop out again if you usually only play on console platforms.

Available for: PC (via Steam)

You are Jeff Bezos

You are Jeff Bezos is one of the scariest games on this list. It’s a text-based adventure game that turns you into one of the richest people in human history and then asks what you would do next.

Don’t worry though. It’s also kind of inspiring. It’s a reminder of a better world that remains within reach or whatever. The title is free but you can donate a few bucks to the developer, which is the cool thing to do. Indie games can only exist with indie developers and food is expensive.

Available for: PC (via itch.io)

Outlast

Outlast is too spooky for me but you should give it a try if you haven’t yet. It’s a first-person survival horror game that follows an investigative journalist looking for the truth inside the walls of Mount Massive Asylum. This game took the world by storm, but if you haven’t checked it out, now is as good a time as any with the game’s wide availability.

Available for: PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X

Little Nightmares

Little Nightmares is so artistic and beautiful. I don’t know what I love more about it: the art direction and graphics or the gameplay itself. Thankfully developer Tarsier Studios didn’t make us choose; Little Nightmares is a captivating sight from start to finish and filled with adventure and tension.

Little Nightmares is a 2.5D platformer with environmental puzzles and storytelling. It’s very much a game that believes in showing rather than telling, and that’s something that always works really well for horror and the macabre.

Available for: PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X

The Land of Pain

The Land of Pain is a sinister and horrific tale but not in the traditional sense. It’s a Lovecraftian horror adventure that forces you to survive while fending off a dark and disturbing evil. The Land of Pain features puzzles and an unwinding, ancient mystery that takes place across a few solid hours of gameplay.

Available for: PC (via Steam)

Anatomy

Anatomy puts players in a house with a few simple tasks. Explore, collect cassette tapes, study the environment, and uh, well, you’ll see. Anatomy does have distorted/flashing images along with some strong body horror elements, but it packs a lot of tension into a short amount of time if you’re willing to take the plunge.

Available for: PC (via itch.io)

Slender: The Eight Pages

Slender: The Eight Pages / Slender: The Arrival

The original Slender, known as Slender: The Eight Pages, was a spooky smash-hit when it was first released. The paid re-imagining came out a few years later, introducing some changes, including more story content and levels.

The original experience remains iconic for several reasons but the simple premise certainly made it easy to share with family, friends, and others online, which helped the game spread across early 2010s social media, especially YouTube.

The original Slender isn’t available anymore, at least not officially, but you can witness The Eight Pages through Let’s Plays to see how it was all those years ago. There are also countless Slender clones on itch.io that attempt to recapture the original, low-poly magic of the original.

Slender: The Arrival

Available for: PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X

It might be hard to cram every single game you wanna play into a single spooky season. Consider adding everything you want to play to a list so you have something scary when you need it. Or you can just play horror games all year long. That’s what all the cool kids are doing… I think.

As technology continues to evolve and become widely available to more creators, we should continue to see indie influence and releases shape the landscape. I’m always going to love playing games like Resident Evil 4, Silent Hill 2, and Resident Evil 2 (2019), but I doubt anything will ever compare to the horrific and hollow echoes that have burned throughout my mind for weeks after experiencing some of the indie titles above. These games are just a small selection of what’s out there, and no doubt we’ll have more games on the way for you to check out.

Josh really likes video games. Horror is their favorite but they also like other stuff.

Previous

After a Decade, I Finally Beat Kirby Super Star Ultra’s Arena Mode

Indie Itch Vol. 5

Next