This last weekend, we spent many many hours visiting and revisiting some horrific indie titles. From the famous to the infamous, we bring you a list of indie-horror video games that are still going strong in 2022!
Indie Horror. To us, this genre of video gaming deserves as much to be gatekept as it does to swoon to the surface of mainstream media. Over the years, a few titles (such as the FNAF franchise and The Forest) have managed to chart and hold rank, and some of them deliver astounding playthroughs even today. We thought we’d hand-select some video games out of the immensely prestigious lot that exists.
Our particular interests lie, however, in games that don’t rely on combat to induce a sense of horror, or carry the narrative forward. There is an exquisite line that non-combat horror games trudge, making it so that both skilled and new-to-the-controls players can get the entire experience. Within this realm of gameplay, we played through the ones you will find in the list, some for the first time, and some all over again, to list out why each of these titles is a must-play.
If you haven’t played these yet, here’s a sales pitch for a lifetime. And if you have, prepare to be tempted for a replay!
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!
Don’t let the cutesy title and even cuter in-game aesthetics fool you! ‘Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!’ dropped during June 2021, as a follow up expansion-of-sorts to the original 2017 ‘Doki Doki Literature Club‘ (DDLC) game. Now, before we (very lightly) go over the subject matter DDLC revolves around, we need to shine a spotlight on the man behind this project – Dan Salvato.
Former Super Smash Bros. modder and creator of FrankerFaceZ (a twitch enhancement suite) Salvato created DDLC with the intent to scare players without the typical in-your-face horror tropes. The game took Salvato two years to complete and release, and was created on the Ren’Py Visual Novel Engine – a platform that allows users to create custom interactive stories – along with external artists Satchely and Velinquent for characters and in-game backgrounds.
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As far as the DDLC game is concerned, players are in for a wild ride! You play as ‘MC’ (main character), who joins an afterschool Literature Club consisting of four “incredibly cute girls”, who might or might not be the reason you partake in this club. The initial gameplay follows MC as he writes up poems daily, picking words to impress one of the three (available) girls. Now, when you arrive at a playable weekend, things really take a turn. We won’t, and can’t possibly, spoil DDLC, except to say that it is the kind of story that is guaranteed to haunt you.
We’ve mentioned ‘Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!’ instead of it’s original, DDLC without the ‘Plus!’ for a reason! The Original DDLC is available for free download for the PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch if you want to dip your feet a little, but we definitely recommend getting DDLC Plus! instead. The game is packed with secrets and hidden items that will keep you busy for weeks, if not months. And to think all of this came from just one mind!
Get DDLC Plus! from the official website HERE
Martha Is Dead
Extremely visual and fairly new to the scene itself, ‘Martha Is Dead‘ is a title we will talk about for years to come. Developed by independent Italian studio, LKA, and published by Wired Productions, ‘Martha Is Dead’ (MID) tells the tale of Giulia, who finds her twin sister dead, going on to uncover the truth behind this tragedy. The game is set in 1944 Italy during WWII, with Giulia and Martha being the daughters of a German Army General, Erich K.
The star of MID’s gameplay is its photography feature, which has players go through the narrative while finding, taking and developing photographs with authentic vintage cameras. You are treated with pristine-quality 3D graphics and smooth controls, putting MID within the walking simulator category, but with a twist.
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Early on, one horror upon another unfolds in-game, throwing players into a scurry to discover the truth behind Martha’s death. The game has received criticism for its unforgiving ‘corpse horror’, known amongst those that are yet to play it as “that game where you wear your sister’s face.” But take our word for it, MID is many things, and you need to experience these yourselves before you come to a conclusion. What you will find is a gritty, saddening take on real-life tragedies, trauma and mental health.
Get ‘Martha Is Dead’ on the official Wired Productions website HERE
Another ‘cute’ video game that hides the horror in the fantasical, ‘Little Misfortune‘ is STILL one of our all-time favorite indie horror titles. We’ve lost count of how many times we’ve recommended ‘Little Misfortune’ for its point-and-click mechanics and what-in-the-world storyline. ‘Little Misfortune’ is brought to us by the studio behind ‘Fran Bow‘, a similar but in-no-way-same video game that also has point-and-click mechanics.
The studio, Killmonday Games, has been dabbling with ‘child-perceived horror’ since the release and reception of ‘Fran Bow’, blending violence and supernatural horrors and portraying them from a “childlike viewpoint”. We’ve listed ‘Fran Bow’ right below this because if you haven’t played any of Killmonday’s titles, we think ‘Little Misfortune’ is the ideal pitch to get you hooked!
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You play as an 8 year old Misfortune Ramirez Hernandez, who lives with her parents in a fictional town in Sweden. The game starts by getting players familiar with basic point-and-click actions in little Misfortune’s bedroom, before you head out for a quest to find “Eternal Happiness.” We won’t say more than this, and while there aren’t any glaring jump scares or visually-disturbing sequences, the horror in ‘Little Misfortune’ is the story that you play through, which will leave you feeling deeply unsettled and (if you unlock an alternate ending) painfully bittersweet.
Get ‘Little Misfortune’ on the official Killmonday Games website HERE
‘Fran Bow.’ There is no game that does it like this Killmonday title, although some may have come close. You play as title character, Fran Bow, on a point-and-click adventure that plays carefully between the lines of what is real and what isn’t. Fran is a 10 year old girl who witnesses the murders of both her parents in the year 1944 and is cast into a mental asylum after being found in woods nearby.
This event separates Fran from Mr. Midnight, her gentlemanly cat and only friend, which puts Fran to the task of being reunited with him. It is easy to get caught up with the events of Fran Bow, but wide-eyed players will find more than a few gruesome truths and horrifying lessons as they play through. ‘Fran Bow’ is amongst the original titles that harnessed the horrors of a childish mind and the realities of trauma, making for eight-odd hours of pure surrealistic chaos.
Aside from it’s point-and-click and mini-puzzle mechanics, ‘Fran Bow’ also comes with an interesting added mechanic that drives its narrative. Early-on in the game, when players are admitted into the asylum as Fran Bow, they receive a jar of red pills. When consumed, the pills transport Fran into an ‘alternate universe’, one that is much darker than its otherwise-visible counterpart. This premise becomes the crux of gameplay in ‘Fran Bow’, and also makes for a truly consuming experience. Keep the weekend aside for this one, because there aren’t enough ‘explained’ videos in the world.
Get Fran Bow on the game’s official website HERE
A comment under the trailer for ‘Cooking Companions‘ states, “What in the Doki Doki h*ll?” and we agree. ‘Cooking Companions’ follows the eerie story of five strangers stuck in a cabin in the woods. Makes for your typical horror setting, correct? ‘Cooking Companions’ also boasts a similar art and playthrough style as that of DDLC, with themes dark enough to compare.
The game was a Kickstarter project by Deer Dream Studios that debuted during October 2021, following a successful campaign that began approximately one year prior. Since its release, ‘Cooking Companions’ has attracted and appeased a variety of players, garnering positive reviews from across the globe. While DDLC may have paved the way for visual novel-style story telling with a specific art style, ‘Cooking Companions’ walks it head-on, adding to the limited number of titles in this beloved style.
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Talking vegetables, ominous dreams and you and four other increasingly hungry strangers. Your goals in-game will be to cook for and build your relationship with your companions, but be warned! ‘Cooking Companions’, straight off the bat, leaves enough detail and evidence to have you carefully charting your next set of decisions. We could spoil this with one word, but we’d rather you go headfirst and figure out what that word is instead. Gruesome, horrifying and packed with lore, ‘Cooking Companions’ will keep you company for a good number of weeks before you restart your search for some more visual novels!
Get Cooking Companions on Steam HERE
Each of these five titles come packed with unique gameplay and twisted storytelling, some paired with grotesque visuals, others with cutesy ones – leaving us unsure of which is more unsettling. But we’re looking forward to knowing what you think! Go ahead, dive in. Something tells us it’ll be hard picking a favorite!