Indie horror games are always a special experience. The smaller staff and smaller scale game mean the developers have to be creative with how they use their assets, but in exchange, they get far more creative liberty than larger studios which need to worry about making a profit on games. For horror games, this creative freedom allows a wide variety of twisted playgrounds to come to life.
To help you find the right nightmarish wonderland to suit your tastes, we’ve made this list of the best indie horror games you can sink your teeth into.
Too scared to play horror games? That’s alright. Here are the best YouTube videos to watch horror games.
Created by the indie company Kinetic Games, Phasmophobia has become one of the most popular horror games to play in recent times. Its claim to fame is its unique multiplayer and stand-out premise.
You (and up to three friends) take on the roles of paranormal investigators and your job is to figure out what exactly is haunting each of the locations in the game. Players will enter a haunted location and divvy up the traditional paranormal investigation tools like EMFs to get the job done. Based on the ghost’s reaction to those tools, you’ll narrow down possible monsters until there’s only one answer left.
What makes each game of Phasmophobia an unforgettable experience is the sheer amount of panic and chaos that happens in each game. The in-game voice chat allows players to interact with the ghost (like calling it names). However, this can also lead to the paranormal creature murdering you or your friends.
2. The Mortuary Assistant
The Mortuary Assistant forces you to come face-to-face (literally) with its scares. As the title suggests, you’ll play a mortician with the task of preparing bodies for burial. But there’s a small twist – one of the bodies is the host to a demon that’s haunting you. As you prepare each body, you’ll have to figure out which body is possessed and ritualistically cremate it to send the spooky asshole back to hell. It’s also interesting to see how The Mortuary Assistant introduces its players to an abbreviated version of the procedures actual morticians use for preparing a body for a funeral.
But the scares in Mortuary Assistant are the main attraction. This game throws a mixture of jump scares, hidden creeps, and disturbing audio to keep you guessing when the next fright happens. These scares are randomized and will be different from playthrough to playthrough, even more so than having enormous spiders appearing on your screen.
3. Paranormal HK
Paranormal HK follows a film crew as they try to uncover the urban myths that surround Hong Kong. Once they start filming, however, they find themselves embroiled in a web of Chinese urban myths and legends.
The beauty of Paranormal HK lies in how well made its gorgeous, claustrophobic, environment is. Each level recreates the cramped atmosphere of Hong Kong’s infrastructure while emphasizing the spiritual and paranormal aspects of Chinese culture. The environmental design strikes a close enough chord with actual locations in Hong Kong that it sets the stage for all of the horror elements used over the course of the game.
All of the horror elements are further enhanced by the amazing sound design. Players will notice that they’ll primarily only hear their own footsteps and the maddening clicks, whispers, and chittering of the monsters hunting you. When the unsettling silence is periodically replaced with music, it brings a new level of emphasis to the horrifying spirits chasing after you.
4. Closing Shift
I’d be remiss if Chilla’s Art wasn’t mentioned at some point in this list. Chilla’s Art is an indie developer based out of Japan known for making short, budget-friendly, but incredible horror games. Each one has the player taking on some form of mundane day job that slowly descends into a terrifying horror story.
Closing Shift is one of Chilla’s best works if you don’t mind making coffee. You play as a barista who is simply trying to do their job, clock out, and enjoy life. But as they work, a strange man continues to follow them. They’ll take pictures of you, cut the power to your coffee shop, and lurk just out of eyesight. The scares are far tamer than in other games, but the tense atmosphere of being stalked is what makes this a stellar horror game.
5. The Bathhouse
Chilla’s Art’s newest game, The Bathhouse, was released on September 30th, 2011. Players start out as a bathhouse employee trying to make ends meet. However, as more paranormal occurrences happen, you’ll dig deeper into the odd occurrences surrounding the bathhouse itself.
Similar to Chilla’s Art’s other games, the mundane routine of your job is what makes each scare stand out. The Bathhouse is no exception to this. Players will be working through their day job as a bathhouse attendant and solving all of the puzzles that come with it. These puzzles and your job are what keeps the Bathhouse an interactive experience since each day and each solved puzzle will bring you closer to the truth of what’s happening in this town.
Over the course of the game, you’ll also encounter a cast of colorful characters. Some will be a temporary break from the scares by adding comedic levity to the game, while others will help you reach the best possible ending.
Visage mimics P.T.’s original style of wandering around an innocuous home while supernatural events occur around you, but Visage expands on the original mechanics and turns it into a full-fledged game.
Visage follows Dwayne Andersen after he murders his family and commits suicide. From there, you’ll play through four chapters that explore the stories of the tormented souls in the house Dwayne committed his crimes. The fourth chapter has you explore Dwayne’s past and his final resolution.
The puzzles are an engaging experience to complete, each one having you interact with the environment in novel ways to explore the secrets waiting for you in the house. Along the way, each chapter has a monster chase after you and, if they catch you, will murder you in gruesome in-your-face ways. When paired with the wonderful sound design, Visage will send chills down your spine by letting you hear your impending doom first before it appears.
7. SCP: Secret Files
At the low price of $15, this game is a steal. You’re realistically paying for five different indie horror games in one title.
Based on the popular SCP archives, SCP: Secret Files takes the horror genre ideas from the popular wiki and turns a select few of them into a full-fledged interactive experience. What makes this special, however, is just how distinct they’ve made each experience to be. Every SCP has a different art style, mechanics, controls, and style of horror. One SCP experience will play like P.T. while another will be an 8-bit horror RPG.
Connecting each of these stories together is your point of view character – Karl, who’s new to his job at the SCP foundation. Each time Karl logs into his computer to learn about a new SCP is when the game will shift to the test subject’s point of view.
This game is a refreshing change of pace from other horror games and it demonstrates just how creative the indie horror genre can be.
Instead of running through claustrophobic corridors and hiding in closets or under beds to stay alive, MEGA has players scurrying around the wide open streets of an abandoned city. Hunting after the player are skyscraper-sized monsters.
The player’s goal is to find the six activation keys hidden around the map. Once all of them are gathered together, they’ll activate a secret weapon that may be able to defeat the massive kaiju. To avoid the monster’s gaze, players have to make as little noise as possible as they search through the city. A limited stamina bar and the heavy usage of fog around the city makes each crossing through open terrain now becomes white-knuckled experience as you hope the monster doesn’t catch sight of you.
If you’re in the mood for some good old fashioned jump scares with friends then Devour is the game you’re looking for. Devour doesn’t do anything particularly special – players will work together to finish an objective, the monster will hunt the players down, and you can dodge the monster by hiding in closets and under the bed.
Where Devour truly stands on its own two feet is in how it never takes itself seriously while you play it. Your characters are quirky cultists with a plethora of hilarious costumes and strange rituals (like grabbing a bunch of rats and electrocuting them).
The monsters in comparison feel like serious threats that are more than happy to kill you with a loud jump scare – leaving you crumpled on the floor dying or dragging you into their lair. If Phasmophobia is a paranormal investigation with your best pals, then Devour is a very strange party that has gone very very wrong in the most horrifying ways possible.
10. Five Nights At Freddies 1 and 2
Five Nights at Freddy’s has left an indelible impression on the horror genre. By using simple mechanics and a terrifying premise, the Five Nights franchise shows how you don’t need a triple AAA studio to turn your game into a top of the line scare machine.
The original Five Nights At Freddy’s has players trying to stay alive through each night at the namesake restaurant. Each night, the animatronics come to life and try to murder the security guard (in this case, that’s you). To stay alive, the player must watch their security cams and slam the door closed when it’s safe to do so. Closing the doors too often will drain all of the power left in the building and a grisly end awaits you after that.
Five Nights At Freddy’s 2 is worthy of a mention here because it adds a new dimension to the formula by elegantly removing all of the doors you used in the previous game. In order to keep yourself alive, you have to don a mask or manage a flashlight in order to keep the murderous machines at bay. You should also check out some of the best horror video games based on movies.