Three Indie Horror Titles You Should Play
HorrorScope is a recurring feature exploring the horror genre in gaming and drawing attention to its elements, its tropes, and its lesser-known but still scary titles.
To kick off our series on lesser-known but thoroughly awesome horror games, I thought we could revisit three titles we played earlier this year, reviewed, and very much enjoyed — without totally rewriting our coverage of them. These are three indie titles that largely came out of nowhere, and all of them are exciting and frightening for different reasons.
All three titles have something in common, though: They all leave their protagonists largely alone in a world to deal with what is happening around them. Each puts players in a deeply atmospheric world, often with a stylized look and feel, and a menacing dread in pursuit. Sometimes the menace is real; sometimes it is only imagined. But all three inject fear into the brain with differing, but effective, methods.
Slender: The Eight Pages
Much has been made of Slender: The Eight Pages since it originally appeared on the scene a few months ago. Created by Mark J. Hadley under the name of his development studio, Parsec Productions, the game was originally just a way for Hadley to learn to use the Unity Engine. But though it had simple, humble beginnings, Slender might be the scariest horror game to come out this year. It’s incredibly effective.
I wrote something about what makes Slender work so well back when I first played it back in July. The game uses helplessness to drive its terror. You play an unnamed protagonist in first-person mode, trapped in a park and searching for eight notebook pages tacked to walls in different locations. The map is a giant circle with a number of landmarks, including rusty propane tanks, a park bathroom-like building that’s all tiled hallways, a tunnel, a giant tree, and a few other things. The brilliance of the game is that the notes aren’t always in the same places, so you always need to hunt them.
And then there’s The Enemy — Slenderman. I won’t discuss the creature too much here, but despite the fact that Hadley’s model is pretty simple, it’s still a frightening visage. Slenderman has the ability to teleport around the map and as you progress through the game, he becomes more aggressive. Your goal is to keep clear of him, but once he spots you, he’s always pursuing you. What’s more, looking at him actually kills you, more or less. So while you always need to be keeping an eye out for him, you don’t actually want to see him.
A playthrough of Slender: The Eight Pages will take maybe 15 minutes, but the game is monumentally creepy, expertly using atmosphere and (more importantly) sound design to build an incredible, weighty dread in the player. It also helps that the game is 98 percent pitch darkness and your only means of navigating it comes from a single, weak flashlight — and your only means of survival are to run like hell.