We are truly living in the Golden Age of indie horror games right now, and I for one welcome it wholeheartedly! With the wide variety in graphics from pixels to PS1 style and beyond, there’s most likely something out there to pique your interest. Plus, for someone like me with a bare-bones laptop, it’s also a nice change of pace from the graphic intensive, big budget, open-world 50+ hour games. Sometimes I just want a singular experience that can be completed in a few hours (or less) and not break the bank while doing so.
With that in mind, here are a few games made by solo devs, or small teams, that really captured my interest in the last few months.
The Devil Haunts Me & PARANOIHELL
With a distinct pixel style and satisfying combat, I became an instant fan of lum’s games. The Devil Haunts Me starts as a survival game, collecting water and food, chopping down trees. I found myself really enjoying the gameplay loop of venturing a little bit further into the woods, gathering materials, and returning home. The horror elements (including a giant head that flies around) were creepy and compellingly captured in pixel style.
PARANOIHELL brings all that and more, with a longer campaign, even creepier enemies, and a fun (but never annoying) weapon durability system. One of my favorite features is also the most simple: a zoom out function. Spotting a monster coming my way, and deciding whether it’s better to fight, or hide in a dumpster. The screeching noise of an approaching threat had me on edge! One of the few games in recent memory that right after beating, I went back in to try to get the other endings. I am looking forward to whatever lum puts out next!
View From Below
Have you ever bought a game purely based on the combat looking kind of cool and then, “Whoops! I’m invested in this story”? That’s me with View From Below, a “dark, emotional Turn Based RPG” from dev, Jack Astral. Ash, our protagonist, is going through some mourning and Teen Stuff when he gets transported to a weird world full of demons and cultists out to kill him.
Combat involves patterned button presses and dodging enemy attacks in a style reminiscent of Undertale, but don’t let that dissuade you from checking this out, I think it stands well on its own. Sprinkled with some puzzles that don’t get too difficult, and a decent game length. I played it for about 10 hours and I know I didn’t even see everything the game has to offer, as there’s a New Game+ with harder bosses additional lore as well.
A Place, Forbidden
Creepy, seemingly endless Cosmic Horror library? Don’t mind if I do! Initially released as part of the Haunted PS1 Demo Disc and expanded for a Steam release, the atmosphere in this, and the subtle (at the start) changing of the library’s layout had me hooked. While there’s not much going on in the puzzle department (mainly relying on keeping your eyes peeled for clues) it’s a fairly straightforward playthrough and you can get through the whole thing in less than an hour.
My Hole Is A Mouth Of Dirt
“I do as he sayeth, even when I don’t like it. For I am but a vessel to God, that’s what I was made for.”
Blind faith in a higher power, even when the tasks set out for you are…Unsavory is one of the main aspects of this short game. The ethereal soundtrack, eerie labyrinthine tunnels with strange teeth objects make this a standout experience. With a playtime of less than an hour, it’s a great self-contained narrative.
We even discussed the game in a recent edition of We’re Just Playing earlier this year.
no one lives under the lighthouse
The Lighthouse: The Movie: The Game is definitely how this initially comes across and that’s not a bad thing. There’s a lot of plot similarities if you’ve seen that film, but there’s a bit more twists and turns that make it unique. The PS1 aesthetic is perfect here, with dithering and blockiness that add to the terrors. Multiple endings add a bit of replayability to this as well. The only downside is a kind of difficult to navigate tunnel segment, but otherwise a great experience.
no one lives under the lighthouse is 4.99 on Steam
The least spooky entry on this list, but probably some of the most fun I’ve had lately. Think Pokemon Snap but in an abandoned Wildlife Park with some truly silly and out there critter designs with equally fitting names like the Schlog, Dubbel or Gnapho. Place your best photos in a scrapbook, collect stamps to upgrade your camera, and other items you’ll find along the way. You can 100% this in a few hours and if you’re anything like me, it’ll be worth the ride!
Penko Park is 12.99 on Steam
The Horror of Salazar House
Released under PuppetCombo‘s Torture Star Video publishing label, Salazar House is a Virtual Boy style Italian Giallo Point and Click in an old haunted house. That feels like a mouthful, but it’s a fairly simplistic game. Sometimes less is more, and it’s definitely the case here. The point and click overlay and two-tone colour palette make this one stand out among the crowd. Haunted, pixelated faces of the residents are top notch as well.