Let’s get spooky.
We all love a good scare every now and then, some of us more than others. For those of us who love a spooky tale or heart jolting misadventure in the dark, the indies have all your darkest dreams covered. From survival horror to just plain creepy walking simulators, horror games have been coming up with new ways to scare us for decades, and indies are leading the way in new brands of terror. We’re counting down our picks of the best indie horror games around, and they’re not for the faint-hearted.
50. You Are Jeff Bezos
Let’s kick things off with something truly terrifying, something so fear-inducing you may struggle to continue on through this lengthy list of spooky indie games. Imagine – if you were Jeff Bezos. You know, the billionaire who owns Amazon. Now, I know what you’re thinking: that’s not that scary though, but being a billionaire in a broken world is surely about the scariest thing you can be, if you have a conscience that is.
This strange and offbeat text adventure is a horror in the gross reality it confronts you with when handling the finances of the powerful elite. It shines the light of parody in the frighteningly backwards system we inhabit and ushers you in to take part in the spectacle. The most terrifying thing of all about this game is that Jeff Bezos actually exists and he chooses not to pursue any of the options present in this redemption tale.
49. Kraven Manor
Kraven Manor isn’t the most famous title on this list. Neither is its developer the most prolific. But this is a game that’s been called the best horror game of all time from all corners of the internet. Taking place within the titular haunted castle, Kraven Manor takes players on a series of puzzles, exploration challenges, and torch-lit jump scares, but be wary of the statues.
It’s a trope that’s rarely deployed with the delicate touch it requires, but the statue that follows you around the manor only moves when you’re not looking. It’s an ever-present sense of dread that stalks you with every uncertain step, and when that creepy mannequin does show up, you’ll be wishing you left that old manor alone.
48. The Land of Pain
As you can probably tell from the title, Land of Pain is not exactly a brightly lit tourist spot where you can catch some sun and have a little fun. In fact, it’s more of a Lovecraftian horror revolving around a dark and mysterious wood with an arcane and evil aura.
This slick first-person adventure propels you into a dark and occult world where you’ll have to learn to survive. Explore a vast wilderness of puzzles and unrelenting enemies who will do anything to stop you from uncovering the truth. Without an arsenal of guns at your disposal, you’ll have to think on your feet to evade the shadows that are waiting to pounce at your first wrong move. Use the environment to your advantage, or, failing that, just run away a lot, that might work.
There’s a reason paranormal investigation shows creep us out so much. Switch off the lights, shine some night vision cameras, and flit some torches around a shadowy room and you’ve got an ordinary space transformed into a mysterious and dangerous realm. This is exactly how Anatomy achieves such high levels of terror in every second of its short play through.
You find yourself in a home, a simple everyday dwelling turned into a blood pumping arena of terror just through the flick of a switch and the creeping unease of uncanny recognition. As you scour your surroundings of clues in the form of cassette tapes, your own imagination starts to lift the veil on the horrors that await.
With multiple endings and a host of twists and turns we won’t spoil anything here, but rest assured there’s a dark story here to take grip. Anatomy plays with the shadows, the glimpses of horror we think we catch in the corner of our eyes before desperately trying to rationalise in the dark.
46. We Happy Few
A hallucinogen that takes over the consciousness of the inhabitants of Wellington Wells, replacing their ability to think and act independently with obscene happiness is running riot in an alternative mid-1960s. Paranoia infiltrates the streets of We Happy Few, but its inhabitants are blissfully unaware of it. Developed by Compulsion Games, this first person action survival game takes players through a psychological trio of protagonists.
Choose to guide Arthur Hastings, Sally Boyle or Ollie Starkey through these troubled streets, collecting and crafting weapons and skills to take on the city and escape unharmed. Each story intersects the others at intriguing points, with distinct narrative voices underpinning all the action. It’s suitably creepy and far more troubling than it appears at the outset.
45. DAYMARE 1998
Taking inspiration from classic survival horrors of the late ’90s, DAYMARE 1998 thrusts you into the heart of a secret research facility following a potentially deadly incident involving a chemical weapon of some kind. If this is all sounding very Resident Evil-y that’s because it is, the game draws quite liberally from the legendary series as the franchise itself drew from classic zombie films.
Stepping into the shoes of an elite soldier, helicopter pilot or forest ranger you’ll embark on your quest to uncover the truth in a small town teeming with mutated citizens. Just like the classics, there’s a number of interwoven puzzles among the tense action and narrative mystery to unravel.
Of course, obeying the laws of historic survival horrors means resources are scarce so you’re going to have to think on your feet to survive. If you’ve got some love for those timeless horrors then DAYMARE 1998 is happy to transport you back to a simpler time. Time to hide under the quilt like it’s 1999.
Where Among The Sleep plays with a hyper reality of everyday life to scare its infant protagonist, Bonbon takes the terrifying imagination of a child as it’s core scare mechanic. And what spurs more imagination in a child and more terror in a creeper out adult more than toys.
As you interact with the strange empty British 80s home around you, it’s the suggested innocent of the toys you find that becomes the game’s defining factor. The short experience jumbles imagined terror with a deeply uncomfortable reality with plenty of twists and turns to make you wet your nappy.
Fact is often scarier than fiction. It’s even more terrifying when it’s in an interactive medium. Kholat exemplifies this fear. Built around the story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, IMGN.PRO’s survival experience drops players in the snowy mountains and tasks them with gathering information on the horrific events of your environment’s past.
With the evils of the mountain closing in, Kholat makes for an undeniably claustrophobic horror experience directly at odds with its terrifyingly sprawling setting. There’s nothing scarier than a horror story with more than a grain of truth, and now you can play it all the way through.
42. Slender: The Eight Pages
It would be morally wrong to write a list of the best horror games and not include Slender: The Eight Pages. The internet spoke back in the early 2010s and since then the little flash game that could has become so synonymous with interactive horror it’s almost symbolic.
If you haven’t been forced in front of a computer screen by your peers and told to find the letters before, Slender: The Eight Pages is a survival horror inspired by the digital Slenderman folklore. You’re being chased through a pixelated forest of deep blacks and grainy trees.
It’s not an ideal situation to begin with, but add in the need to locate and collect scraps of information about your assailant and the ever-present fear of spinning round to come face to err… non-face is enough to keep your hand shaking just above the mouse. When the white noise begins, run.
I don’t think anyone would argue that public transport is a nightmare but Off-Peak takes that ominous sense of dread at a busy commute a little further. Stranded in a futuristic train station styled in the fashion of a cathedral or other religiously significant building you find yourself searching for a ticket to town.
Explore this surreal and strange environment uncovering its secrets to the background of a hypnotising soundtrack. Chat with the bizarre strangers you met in this unsettling place and try to reveal the fate of artists and musicians that inhabit the station.
It’s a first-person adventure whose scares are firmly rooted in the uncanny valley and the unnerving sense of the surreal. It’s also free, so go download it now and book yourself a one-way ticket to Creepsville.