It’s that time of year again. The leaves are turning, the sun is setting earlier, and Halloween is just around the corner! There’s no better time to play and enjoy some late-night horror games. The game industry has survival horror, psychological horror, and everything in between.
While there are some incredible triple-AAA horror titles out there, there is nothing quite like a tightly-crafted indie horror game. These games are labors of love that manage to be just as scary as the big games while having a lower price tag. In this article, we’ll be ranking our top 10 best indie horror games!
Top 10 Best Indie Horror Games, Ranked from Good to Best
Let’s jump right into our ranking of the 10 best indie horror games!
Let’s start off our list with something short and simple. Arbitrary Metric’s Paratopic is a surreal horror game released back in 2018. The game can easily be beaten in less than an hour, but what you experience in that time is really amazing. Its story is unique in that instead of having one clear, linear story to tell, it breaks it up into several smaller chunks where you play as several different characters.
You’ll play the game out of order and try to piece together just what exactly is unfolding. It’s hard to get into the story without spoiling it too much, so I’ll just say that it’s the kind of game that you should really experience for yourself. The gameplay is pretty similar to a first-person adventure game, with a variety of different tasks for you to do.
The game stands out with its PS1-style graphics. This old-school, retro look has become increasingly popular for indie horror games in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. The aesthetic really adds to the horror atmosphere, making everything look run-down and creepy. The design of the characters and the monster in the game complements this style perfectly. Overall, it’s a very great-looking horror game.
Doki Doki Literature Club
Next up on our list of the best indie horror games, we have the psychological horror game Doki Doki Literature Club! This is a pretty popular psychological horror game made by Team Salvato back in 2017. It has the art style and gameplay of your traditional anime visual novel/dating sim, but as you continue playing the game, things start to get…weird. Before you know it, a once-wholesome dating sim turns into a dark, very bloody horror game.
The moment-to-moment gameplay is a little bit boring, in my opinion. You’ll spend a lot of time reading text and engaging with characters, as well as completing a few mini-games. While I personally don’t like that kind of stuff, you’ll likely really love this game if you like visual novels. The gameplay stays pretty similar from beginning to end — the only difference is the drastic shift in the game’s tone.
I would consider this game a must-play if you love psychological horror. The characters are all well-written, and the game does a fantastic job of getting you sucked into the narrative and invested in the people you meet. While the visual novel approach may turn some players away, the gripping narrative and subverted expectations make it well worth the experience.
Bendy and the Ink Machine
Next on our ranking, we have Bendy and the Ink Machine! This is a five-episode indie horror game that was built by Kindly Beast. In the game, you play as a man named Henry who is invited to revisit an animation studio he co-founded with an old friend many years ago.
Once you arrive to the dreary, abandoned studio, you quickly discover that the drawings of old cartoon characters have come to life! You quickly end up trapped inside the studio and will need to find a way to get out alive. Along the way, you’ll meet a variety of interesting characters inspired by old American cartoons from the 1930s and 40s.
Gameplay-wise, it’s pretty similar to a traditional first-person horror game. You will run and hide from monsters, solve puzzles, collect items, etc. The art style of the game is really well done and unique. It’s designed to look like an old hand-drawn cartoon, which really sells the atmosphere and premise of the game. Overall, it’s a fun and enjoyable experience that will give you lots and lots of things to be scared of.
Next up on our list of the top 10 best indie horror games, we have a game called Mundaun! It’s made by Hidden Fields and published by MWM Interactive. This is a unique psychological horror with combat that takes place on the European mountainside. You play as a young man on a journey to his grandfather’s homestead after receiving a strange letter claiming that he has died in a barn fire.
Upon arriving, you quickly realize that things aren’t as they seem. The game’s setting is incredibly rich and vibrant with folklore. As you progress through the game, you’ll come across some incredibly unique monsters that I’ve never seen in other games. The mystery surrounding the main antagonist and what happened to your grandfather is very well-written and intriguing.
The gameplay reminds me of a survival horror in some respects. You get a pitchfork and (eventually) a rifle as a weapon. These tools are your only defenses against the creatures of the night. You’ll also do things like solve puzzles, engage in dialogue with NPCs, and explore a detailed world. Combine this world space with its unique hand-drawn art style, and you’ll fall in love with how eerily creepy this game’s atmosphere is!
Little Nightmares II
For spot number six on our list, let’s talk about Little Nightmares II by Tarsier Studios. This 2D platformer game looks like it was modeled after a Tim Burton movie. The game follows a strange boy with a paper bag over his head as he navigates through a purgatory-like world while avoiding strange and terrifying monsters.
The game has no dialogue, and is told entirely through the actions of our characters and the levels that you traverse. This is a direct sequel to the first Little Nightmares game, but you can still enjoy it without having played the first. While both are amazing, I personally thought the sequel’s story was even better than the first one.
As previously mentioned, this is a platformer game that also has some puzzles in it. You will navigate through a 2.5D world as you try to discover its secrets and stay out of harm’s way. The controls can be fairly frustrating if you are playing on a mouse and keyboard, so I recommend using a controller if you can. There are plenty of chase scenes in this game, so if that’s something you enjoy in your horror games, you should definitely consider picking this one up.
Halfway down our list of the best indie horror games, we have Poppy Playtime by MOB Games! This is a puzzle-horror game that shocked the gaming community back in 2021 for its well-made puzzles and incredibly terrifying gameplay. I should warn you, only the first two chapters of the game are available at the time of writing, so it isn’t really a finished game.
The story is what you would expect from a lot of horror games. You arrive at an abandoned toy factory only to be trapped inside by a freakish monstrosity (a science experiment gone wrong) with no way out. This time, however, you’re dealing with living toys. It’s basically Toy Story if it were a horror film. The designs on all the monsters are pretty creepy and look especially terrifying among the dark environments you explore.
The chase scenes make for some of the most spine-tingling horrors you can find in these types of games. When you’re not busy running for dear life, you’ll be using a special set of retractable hands to solve a variety of different puzzles. My favorite thing about this game is the setting. It’s so cool seeing all of these kid-friendly indoor play areas set inside of a spooky horror game.
Five Nights at Freddy’s
Coming up at spot number four, it’s Scott Cawthon’s hit game Five Nights At Freddy’s! This game quickly became incredibly popular when it launched back in Summer 2014. In it, you play as a security guard tasked with working the night shift at a pizza place where the animatronics come to life at night. It’s an intense, heart-pounding game that still scares me years after trying it for the first time.
To be clear, this is a survival horror game. You are given loads of cameras to monitor the location of each animatronic, and you must close the appropriate doors and use the lights at the right time to keep them at bay. Using all of your equipment drains the power, which is in a short supply. Once it runs out, you’re essentially a sitting duck. The game is known for its sudden and loud jump scares (which are the best or worst part, depending on who you ask).
I really like the premise of this game. I remember going to Chuck E. Cheese as a kid and getting creeped out by the robots that would play music up on stage. It’s perfect that someone decided to take that childhood fear and turn it into a horror game. Seeing moving animatronics at a kid’s pizza place at night is very creepy. The character designs are all pretty great too, and they’ve aged well.
Cry of Fear
Taking spot number three on our ranking, it’s the free-to-play 2013 game Cry of Fear by Team Psykskallar! This is a survival horror game in which you play as a young man named Simon. He is lost in a city in Sweden during what seems to be some kind of apocalypse. As you explore the game, you’ll dive further and further into insanity as you discover just what is really going on.
The game is really, really terrifying. This is mainly due to its overabundance of jump scares, which you can find around nearly every corner. This constant barrage of jump scares keeps you on edge, as you’re always suspecting something new to pop out and scare you. Its story is incredibly well done, and it tackles serious topics such as mental health (trigger warnings abound).
Gameplay-wise, you’re given a wide variety of different weapons to use. You get access to melee weapons, pistols, shotguns, and even an assault rifle. The shooting feels pretty clunky and outdated, but I feel that adds to the survival horror, as it makes the game much tenser. There is huge diversity in the enemies you’ll encounter, all of which are incredibly well-designed and horrifying to look at!
Night in the Woods
For our second-place pick, we have one of my favorite games of all time — Night in the Woods! This is a 2017 game made by Infinite Fall. This game is pretty different from all the other ones you’ll find on this list. It is a psychological horror, but it’s not full of non-stop frights like all the other ones. It ranks so highly because it’s a really, really good game — if we were judging these games based on pure scare factor, I admit I’d rank it a little lower.
In the game, you play as a young college girl named Mae, who is returning to her small hometown after dropping out of college. The girl reconnects with her old friends, and through the game, you’ll slowly uncover a shocking conspiracy. Night In The Woods is one of the best psychological horror games I’ve ever played. The characters are so well written and likable, and the game really gets you attached to them before things start to get scary.
It is a 2D platformer game where you’ll engage in dialogue with NPCs and complete lots and lots of mini-games. Most of the game is very story focused, so its gameplay is pretty simple. You’ll explore the small town of Possum Springs as you hang out with friends and family. If you love slow burner games that take a while to get scary but get really intense when they do, then this is the perfect game for you.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
And last on our list of the top 10 best indie horror games, we have one of the most iconic horror games of all time: Amnesia: The Dark Descent! This is a classic game which released way back in the year 2010 thanks to development by Frictional Games. In the game, you play as a man who wakes up in a strange, dark, foreboding castle. You have amnesia, and all you know is that you must find and kill a man named Alexander.
The atmosphere is very well-made, and it’s incredibly unsettling to play through. You’ll explore dark, dusty corridors, spooky underground torture chambers, and much more as you solve a variety of difficult puzzles and try to survive the many creatures you’ll encounter.
If you’ve ever played a game where you have to run from a monster and hide in the dark, then chances are this game will feel familiar to you. This is the game that really popularized that type of horror experience. While you’re busy doing that, you’ll also need to manage your sanity bar, which can go down if you stay in the dark for too long or get hit too many times! This game is without a doubt a must-play, and it’s the perfect game to immerse yourself in this Halloween.
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