Slender pretty much invented the 21st century viral game. Everyone was playing Slender when it first crept up on us in 2012, and if you weren’t playing it it was because you had watched someone else play it and worried for your own sanity in their shoes. The minimalist threat and heart pounding tension proved too much for many, with sites across the industry citing it as a revolution in survival horror mechanics.
In case you haven’t been hanging out in the woods in the middle of the night for the last 7 years, Slender: The Eight Pages tells a folklore tale of a terrifying suited demon collecting the souls of children in the shadowy depths of the forest. Good job you’ve been sent out to retrieve 8 scraps of paper strewn across the landscape as the moon shines overhead! From the now classic static effect of Slender growing too close to the blood curdling moment his face fills the screen, you’ll never shake the feeling you’re being hunted after a mosey through this woodland.
Have you ever seen Supermarket Sweep? I’ll Take You To Tomato Town feels a lot like that but without the giant inflatable bonus prizes. A grocery store doesn’t immediately jump out as the most engaging backdrop for a video game, but often it’s the most everyday settings that hook us in the most.
Scurrying through the aisles of this particular supermarket is a conquest full of hilarity. You must grab all your shopping before the timer runs out, no matter how much primary coloured mess you cause in the process. It sits firmly in the canon of quickly produced, vividly brightly coloured chaos simulations but I’ll Take You To Tomato Town carries enough charm to make each playthrough feel like an accomplishment.
48. WORLD OF HORROR
There’s something about graphics that look like they’ve come straight off a floppy disk. It’s a charm that goes beyond retro and begins taking on its own meaning in each context. In the case of WORLD OF HORROR, the black and white lines reflect their influences; the classic manga of Junji Ito.
It’s also a nostalgia trip back into the hard drive of an Apple II, with an almost text-based narrative set against distinctive 1-bit artwork. Investigate the mysteries that surround your sleepy Japanese seaside town as you attempt to save the world from evil forces at work and meet some townsfolk while you’re at it.
A wise cat called The Judge tells a baseball player known only as The Batter how to purify the world of evil by defeating ghostly spectres across four zones. Yeah, that sentence feels just a strange to write as it was to play. OFF is the fever dream-like creation of Belgian developers Unproductive Fun Time. The RPG has grown famous online, however, after its masterful storytelling techniques and hauntingly stylised became a Tumblr hit.
Your journey through The Nothingness map all the way to The Room is full of questions of morality, more than a few twists and turns, and all the traditional RPG mechanics you could ask for. Particularly interesting is the role of The Puppeteer throughout the game, that is, the role of the player. Regularly acknowledged by inhabitants of the game world, the player’s function of overseeing control is recognised throughout the experience, the autonomy of which is directly challenged by The Judge in the game’s final moments, yielding multiple endings.
46. Lieve Oma
Fancy a virtual walk in the woods that will have you reaching for the tissues and dialling your Grandma’s phone number? We all do. Thankfully, Lieve Oma is here to slowly rock you back to an autumnal world of rose-scented hand cream and woolly scarves. A relaxing narrative experience set against a blissful piano track, players take a walk through the forest with their Grandma, engaging in conversation that starts light but gradually begins to open up into something more personal.
The ebb and flow of a nurturing Grandmother gently caressing information and emotion out of her troubled Grandaughter is a startlingly powerful experience, with much of the narrative exposition taking place in your own gradually evolving replies to her questions. Lieve Oma, literally translated as Dear Grandma, is a delicate nod to the strengths of our relationships and the fragility of our time remaining with our loved ones. See, I told you you’d need those tissues.
The life of a paranormal investigator for hire is a tough one. It’s even tougher when it turns out there are actual ghostly entities to fight. Much of your day is usually spent plugging in trusty Paranormal Detectors or fixing a homeowner’s faulty antennae but when you’re suddenly confronted with a real demon to deal with, your evening gets a little more tied up. Overcursed is a 2D platform puzzler from Pientro Ferrantel and Florent Juchniewicz guaranteed to make you chuckle.
The puzzles themselves start slow but build into fairly complex brain teasers over the course of this fateful night, which is impressive considering the game’s 48 hour production time. The charming pixel aesthetic of Overcursed makes every spooky encounter adorable with a protagonist that seems to reimagine Spelunky 2’s protagonist as a ghostbuster extraordinaire but with slightly more five o’clock shadow.
Golf games. You either love ’em or you hate ’em. Wonderputt is the free golf game for both sides of this spectrum. It’s so fantastically creative there’s no opportunity to be left bored by the ‘sport’ of pushing a ball into a hole with a stick (can you tell I’m not exactly ecstatic about golf games). Set mostly across a single 3D shape, different courses spring up in the most surprising of ways, each leading on from the one before.
It’s a strangely addictive set up where anticipation for the next challenge stems not only from the gameplay itself but also from the satisfying animations that unveil the next section of the course. Each block of the Wonderputt course is built upon, torn down, and completely altered to create course after course of gameplay full of imagination and childlike awe. It’s easy to see how much time can be sunk into Wonderputt, and with extension abilities past the initial playthrough, those quick clicks may soon turn into full days at the golf course.
You might know Scott Cawthorn from a little game called Five Nights At Freddy’s, but you might not have heard of his earlier game The Desolate Hope. An ode to ’80s sci-fi, players will pore over the detail and grit of the art style as well as the intricacies of the narrative at work here. Set on an abandoned space station created to research humanity’s likelihood of survival outside of Earth, The Desolate Hope features a cast of machines slowly being corrupted by a mysterious virus and the sole robot keeping them functional, a coffee pot.
Of course it’s a coffee pot. Name any other machine so integral to the daily functioning of so many workers. As you follow this little coffee pot’s journey, you’ll enter a kaleidoscope of video game genres. From RPG turn-based boss battles to frenetic platforming, top-down dungeon crawling to point and click mysteries, The Desolate Hope packs a lot of gaming’s rich history into its cable-covered walls. A sequel to Cawthorn’s previous, and equally jolly sounding, The Desolate Room, this action-packed experience is so much more than the sum of its parts.
If every time I was stuck at a train station my experience mirrored that of Off-Peak, I would be stark raving mad by the end of it. Through 30 minutes of exploring the ins and outs of this bizarre train station, players will uncover more questions than answers and certainly more nightmares than peaceful commuter naps.
Stranded in a grandiose station concourse, your only real goal is to dig deep into the weirdness of your surroundings to attempt to uncover some sort of meaning. Sometimes you feel like you’ve made progress; you soon learn that music plays a large role in the creation and execution of this title. Other times you feel like you might just be connecting dots for the sake of it. Curious passengers watch you from behind strange sunglasses, remaining stock still throughout the eery process, ramen noodles come with free poetic allusions to musical compositions, and disturbing art lines blacked out walls, all to the hypnotic tones of Archie Pelago.
When a game lists “multiple opportunities to travel through the gastrointestinal tract of an animal” as one of its features, you know you’re in for a weird time. But, hey, you’re this far into the list, so weird games aren’t exactly going to scare you away. Sprout is a hand-drawn puzzle game telling the story of a small acorn longing to join its fellow Oak trees on the other side of the game map. To get there, it must learn the mysterious ways of the flora and fauna it encounters before finally blossoming into the great oak it was always supposed to be.
The character and heartwarming simplicity of Sprout is what brings it to our list. It’s a pure tale of adventure and belonging with a blindingly sunny disposition. Developer Jeff Nusz created the game in Flash, but Mindful Mammoth have rebuilt the experience in Unity to ensure it remains intact for future seeds.