Hello children, it’s that time of the year again where everything gets a bit spookier. The ghouls come out from hiding. The vampires and werewolves get to feast on mortals. The ghosts wail in the wind. Is this then not the perfect time to stay indoors and at least pretend to be safe? Maybe play some horror games to fit the Halloween mood? Sure, there are your usual suspects to play – Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Amnesia, etc. – but why not mix it up this year and play something more underground? These are some obscure, short and cheap games to play during this October.
HORNS OF FEAR
We start with the game that inspired me to make this list: Horns of Fear. The game follows the story of Jim Sonrimor. A paranormal journalist who is having some marital problems. He then gets a phone call to go check out a haunted mansion and well… yeah, it is super haunted.
I would say though that this game definitely leans towards the more goofy side of horror. There’s a constant barrage of jump scares throughout the game, but it gets a bit silly at the times (At one point an old woman is running at you, flailing her arms and screaming, but then she is all like “Oh you startled me”). The dialogue is written in a way that is off-putting but also hilarious. In particular with how blasé Jim is about all the horrifying events happening around him. There is a particular bit of dialogue where he comes face to face with the main monster and he merely comments dryly “Oh wow, that was strange.” People in this world do not seem to really care about the horrors around them (Probably have an immunity from playing too many horror games themselves).
The gameplay is focused exclusively on solving puzzles. The puzzles are well-designed – they are difficult enough that you feel like THE ULTIMATE SMARTY PANTS when you solve them, but not too difficult that you need to have a second screen open to a guide all the time. The puzzle variety is excellent as well with a myriad of tasks presented for you to solve using some creepy items in some even more creepy situations. These range from looking at a human giving birth to bull children, doll head arrangements, clocks, the “Black Paintings” and tentacles. There is also a “shift” near the end of the game that really makes the game memorable. It really turns the game on its head and it brings up some interesting questions. What exactly am I talking about? Well, guess you will have to play the game and find out yourself. It is pretty cheap and you can beat in less than two hours so why not join Jim in his haunted house escapades.
Okay, this is a weird one. I have just beaten this game and I am still confused about what actually happened. In Paratopic you jump around the stories of three different people. One is trying to smuggle VHS tapes across the border and gets caught. Another attempts to murder a man in the back of a diner. The last one is gently strolling around a forest taking pictures of birds. They all stumble on something that they should have left alone.
Initially, the most striking part of this game is the art style. The game has intentionally been made to emulate PlayStation 1 era 3D graphics. To be frank, it is ugly, however, what this does is help create the strange and surreal mood of the game. This is a game where you are not really sure what is real. This is made most obvious with the driving portions. As you drive into the twilight with your radio playing in the background, the items next to you change or just disappear. You are in this constant state of tension.
While on the surface Paratopic may seem to be short of genuinely terrifying moments, it does not feel that way when you’re playing it. Every moment of the game is dripping with dread. Talking to other people is just slightly off. Whether it be the topics being discussed, such as treating VHS tapes as an addictive substance, or the voice acting that is close to sounding like real words but is mostly a garbled mess. The strange sound effects and music that is layered on top of the game. The jarring cuts between characters and times. It makes it feel like a fever dream where you just cannot truly wrap your head around what is going on. Paratropic is short, which is good as it allows you to play through it a few times and maybe piece together this puzzle that might not have a solution.
SECRET WORLD LEGENDS
Let’s mix it up a bit from weird short indie horror games and talk about the complete opposite of that. Secret World Legends is a horror based MMO that follows the story of you! You are chosen to be a soldier of Gaia and help right a world that has fallen into chaos. You have a lot of work to do.
While not really a horror game in a traditional sense SWL deserves a spot on this list anyway. Firstly because it takes every single horror trope and setting and throws it into one giant world. We have zombies, wendigoes, Lovecraft, mummies, ghosts, Japanese ghosts – they have even added in a South Africa section. So now we can experience relatable horrors like driving next to a taxi on the freeway.
The game’s strongest suit is its story and atmosphere. While most of the quests do boil down to standard MMO affair of “Go to a place and kill X creatures”, at least the reasoning behind it is compelling with likeable characters and a coffin load of quirky, weird, horrifying moments. The lower player base also allows you to keep a sense of isolation as you wander throughout the game’s decimated worlds.
The gameplay follows your usual MMO tropes. Lots of clicking and a hot bar for your various abilities. It is serviceable to fun but not the game’s strongest aspect. One thing that does set it apart from other games is an emphasis on Investigation Quests. Now, these bad boys are fantastic. They focus on puzzle solving and brain power rather than how well you can mash the left mouse button. Just a warning though, unlike “Horns of Fear” these are indeed the kind of puzzles that you need a second screen for. You might even need a third screen to be safe. The solutions are not as easy as pressing symbols in the correct order. You have to translate Latin, find Bible verses, watch YouTube videos, look up NPCs lives on the game’s wiki and even know the duration of the “Safety Dance” song.
While it does have common MMO trapping the atmosphere, story and mind-boggling puzzles do set it apart enough to make it a compelling spooky MMO to play with friends. There is also a Halloween event going on where you can get costumes to dress up. It is easily the most thematic game on this list. Originally coming out as a traditional subscription based MMO it has been free to play for a while now, so all you will be losing is time. Not that we have much of that left anyway.
Speaking of free games, how about another one?! This wouldn’t be a list of obscure horror games without some random RPG Maker title. Ib follows the story of well, Ib, as she gets trapped inside an art gallery. At first, it isn’t haunted but then those pesky paintings start coming to life and begin to act all weird. Also, everyone else in the gallery has gone missing. Oh dear! Ib then goes on to follow the instructions of a mysterious figure who writes on the walls in the red paint. This leads to her jumping into a surreal paint world where danger lurks around ever corner. Especially the edges. Do not forget to watch out for the edges!
For a game made in RPG Maker, the creators really stretched the limits of making low-quality pixels scary. While none of the scares got me quivering, I thought they were quite inventive – most of them involving the paintings moving in some way. The game is supposed to be horror but it can also be quite silly such as a painting sticking its tongue out at you. It also spits at you which does damage so be careful of that.
Like all good horror games, we are once again confronted with plentiful problematic puzzles to solve (Why is it that when confronted with unexplainable terror we always have to figure out which colour button to press as well?) and these are the best parts of the game. Compared to the head-scratching challenges found in other games on this list, Ib’s puzzles are relatively simple and you will solve them quickly but they will still require you to flex those brain muscles. This keeps things enjoyable because you do not get bogged down racking your brain for the answer. You figure it out, feel smart, and move on. It also gives the game a brisk pace which eventually turns into “just one more puzzle.” The game’s story is no slouch as well. The main focus being on escaping the horrible, but pretty, paint world, but there is also the mystery of who exactly trapped you in here. So many secrets for you to find as the Mona Lisa chases you around!
THE CAT LADY
This game starts with the main character killing herself. It then proceeds to get darker from there. “The Cat Lady” follows the story of Susan Ashworth after her successful suicide attempt. She enters into the afterlife and is confronted by an entity known as The Queen of Maggots. The Queen coerces Susan to become a sort-of assassin for her. She must kill five people who have been deemed parasites, literally individuals that are more monster now than human. Susan is then brought back to life and cannot die until she has completed her macabre quest.
Out of all the games on this list, this is the darkest one. The game is filled with macabre dark imagery, such as Susan having to stab a giant beating heart in the middle of a hospital and forcing a heap of gunk to leak out. There is also the exploration of depression which is prevalent through all aspects of the game. Susan’s depression is one that is quite accurate and heartbreaking. There is something harrowing about watching someone trying to hold it all together but just giving up and sobbing in bed until they fall asleep. Her depression is not helped with having to deal with the murderous parasites that always seem to find her. Honestly though, it is hard to figure out which is Susan’s greatest threat.
The gameplay is more in line with a classic point-and-click game with puzzle solving that sees you wandering around the area trying to find specific items to slot into specific places. Usually, this is within close proximity of a serial killer.
While there are heavy themes the game can be quite light. In particular, Susan’s no-nonsense attitude that only older women can possess and her interactions with the character of Mitzi. “The Cat Lady” is my favourite game from this list due to its story about struggling with mental health. It is something that at times is more horrible than simple gross imagery. Can Susan overcome it though?
There you go, if you were desperate to find some horror games to play this October I have given you five choices to bide your time with. Nothing wrong with the classics but horror is all about exploring the unknown. You have taken the first step into a world you never truly knew. The world of really cheap and under the radar horror games. Think you are brave enough?
Last Updated: October 17, 2018