Indie horror games have the unique opportunity to indulge the bizarre and take tremendous risks, which is perfect for the genre. Horror games benefit from a visceral experience, and it takes a little more these days to truly get under your skin.
This could range from deeply psychological and emotional experiences to comedic adventures. Indie horror titles continue to expand and innovate. So, this list will focus on horror that was intended to create genuine tension this year. Titles will be selected for their novelty, mechanics, atmosphere, and other crucial aspects of the horror experience.
9. The Voidness
Although this one could feel a little gimmicky for some, the gameplay justifies its quirks in creative ways. The environment limits your senses and punishes you for slight mistakes, which is sure to rattle you. There are also enough fresh enemies and upgrades to make scanning feel more like discovery than a chore.
Much of this game’s tension is hinged on sound, which triggers mysterious enemies. With the sci-fi setting, there are many fun and unusual obstacles that test your stealth skills. Also, the microphone integration is measured rather than overdone, and it’s nice the devs made this an optional feature.
Homebody was a surprise turn of content for Game Grumps, and a satisfying trip down memory lane. While it may be full of nostalgia for classic slashers, and even other indie horror games, this is never at the expense of proper gameplay or storytelling.
The puzzles are naturally incorporated and well-balanced, without too many frustrating leaps in logic. This goes a long way in adding tension, because it adds pressure without disrupting the overall pace of the game.
This is less of a traditional game in the horror genre, and more psychological in nature due to the ghostly subject matter. However, it’s still effectively creepy thanks to the surreal imagery and atmosphere. The camera mechanic is an excellent form of interaction.
This adds new layers to the 2D world, and like so many paranormal films, implies there is more you cannot see. Eventually, your eyes may very well play tricks on you. But the narrative itself is also worthwhile, rewarding your patience.
Dolls and puppets are naturally upsetting, and this popular indie really understands how to effectively transform your wholesome childhood memories into a great scare. The story has a great hook, and eventually explores some of the most inventive ways to disturb innocent member berries in all the best ways.
It carefully balances survival horror, puzzles, and a healthy dose of action. This is an all-rounder with mass appeal and terrific pacing. Despite the adventure tone, there are still some pretty terrifying moments.
This obligatory selection was a massive hit for good reason. Dredge has a very novel setting, accompanied by compelling mythology. The game cleverly uses lore to build a sense of impending doom. The mysteries awaiting the night create some real suspense.
It understands how to wield the unnatural for genuine jumps, too. There’s a constant sense of vulnerability and creative strangeness that wanders through Lovecraftian territory.
4. Sons Of The Forest
The previous installment made a big impression with its overwhelming sense of unforgiving desperation. The sequel plays quite differently, neatly distancing itself. Sons Of The Forest avoids redundancy and finds its own incredible stride. It’s almost like the Alien and Aliens relationship of indie horror games.
Even in early access, the combat shines, with intense action sequences and a surprising new variety of weapons. The enemy design and behavior remain as startling and effective as ever. There are also many solid quality of life improvements, and stunning new visuals that make it all more immersive.
This moody hit cleverly makes the most of its Lovecraftian premise. The level design is outstanding, focusing on creepy imagery that could very well make you uneasy. After all, the self-serious tone openly tackles some interesting, personal themes that are very easy to connect with.
This balances out all of the surreal adventures, which function very well as a metroidvania, regardless of theme. While there are many Lovecraft-inspired games abound, this standout from developer Plot Twist successfully combines and repurposes all the concepts fans could hope for.
2. Ad Infinitum
War has always been a popular setting for horror. This indie gem aims to challenge your mind more than your reflexes. It includes even more fantasy than Amnesia: The Bunker, with monsters that represent the past and existential threats.
Ad Infinitum boldly delves into more sensitive themes, including both PTSD and important relationships. It may very well convince you to reflect on legacy, guilt, and other serious concerns. However, there’s still plenty of action and adventure to make these larger themes digestible. The game wisely chose to be entertaining, first and foremost.
1. Amnesia: The Bunker
Frictional Games’ latest installment in the Amnesia series isn’t interested in exploring the profound very much, but it is an exceptional survival experience. Besides the constant threat of low resources and darkness, the broader mystery is tactile and effective.
The sound design is a highlight and very intimidating. It ensures that you become alert and on edge even when you aren’t in immediate danger. It’s possibly the best game with a stalking villain since Alien: Isolation. It has incredible urgency and a claustrophobic atmosphere that feels smothering.
There were plenty of worthwhile indie horror games this year, and even more are yet to come. But the indie devs themselves always deserve to be celebrated. Let us know what other indie games deserve to be on the list!