Horror takes many forms, especially in the realm of video games. Sometimes it's creeping, gnawing dread (Silent Hill) or startling fright (Outlast). The Evil Within certainly has its own style of horror--body horror--which Ashley talks about in our review. "Gore is the name of the game here, where sacrifices tied up in bags give way to monsters that rip off their own heads. You never forget what a dangerous, awful place you're trapped in, and you could even call it beautiful in that deranged way people do before they start laughing maniacally."
Eventually, however, this head-popping adventure will come to a close. And when that happens, where will find your next scare? Fear not, because I've got a collection of lesser-known, but equally-unsettling games that'll fray the nerves of any would-be adventurer. They may be lighter on the action compared to The Evil Within, but each one is just as creepy in its own special way.
Five Nights at Freddy's
Five Nights at Freddy's reaffirms the universal truth that children's animatronics are absolutely terrifying. These mechanical horrors have been terrorizing unsuspecting parents for generations with their dead, soulless eyes and herky-jerky movements. And in this game, it's your job to watch them. All night. Alone. As the nighttime security guard at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza--an intentional Chuck E. Cheese's homage--you must keep an eye on the animatronics as they roam around the restaurant. What, you didn't know they do that?
If the loveable Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie the Bunny, or any other automatons reach your security booth, they'll kill you. Your defenses are the security cameras and booth doors--but each only has a limited amount of battery life. You also can't watch the cameras AND the doors all at once, so you're constantly switching viewpoints to see if something is either coming to kill you or is going to kill you. It's a frantic, stressful game with a very startling finale if (when) you screw up.
Lone Survivor has something you don't see often enough in games: an unreliable narrator. The character you control is caught up in a horrible situation, and in trying to make the best of it, he has started to go a little crazy. He sees things that you--the player--know can't possibly be real. He talks to strange people that likely don't exist. And he is completely open to eating whatever sorts of pills or rotting meat you find lying around. All this he does without question or concern, but it forces you to wonder if anything happening around you is real.
The details surrounding your character's predicament are hazy at best. You're the last person left alive (maybe) and you're trying to eke out an existence inside some monster-infested apartment building. The monsters definitely want to kill you, but the real issue is finding enough food to eat to stay alive. Eventually, you're forced to find a way out of the apartment and escape this horrible city assuming this isn't all in your head.
SCP Containment Breach
The SCP Foundation is a clandestine organization dedicated to the security, containment, and protection of supernatural entities and objects. It houses thousands of such items, often with very specific guidelines for their containment, and attempts to analyze them. These items include a tall humanoid that kills anyone who views its face, a zombie virus, and a sheet of music that compels viewers to finish it with their own blood.
SCP Containment Breach is a free, fan-made, first-person survival game set during a--wait for it--containment breach at one of the SCP facilities. Your goal is to either survive and find the exit, or try and figure out what caused the breach. Your main form of defense: blinking. Several creatures in the game, such as the humanoid mentioned above, require some sort of eye contact--or lack thereof--to remain docile. And if that doesn't work, panicking and running away screaming is also a valid option.
Among the Sleep
Some games rely more on fear of the unknown to convey their scares rather than, say, throwing a creepy safe-for-a-head dude in your way to beat you to a pulp. Among the Sleep is one such game, which is a good thing because if it did throw a safe-for-a-head dude your way, it would absolutely beat you to a pulp because you are a toddler. That's right: a teeny, tiny, two-year toddler whose best friend is a teddy bear that you can hug.
And hug you shall as the two of you explore a haunting dream world together. Along the way there will be plenty of shadowy monsters to hide from and puzzles to solve, though neither task ever feels too challenging. It's much more of a creepy game, rather than an outright terrifying one, than most in this feature. If you're looking for something light on the jump scares, consider Among the Sleep.
"All I remember at that point was finding myself alone." This is Home's opening line, and it is appropriately vague. Home is a game of ambiguity. It takes about an hour-and-a-half to finish, but at the end you may have more questions than when you started. Who are you? Where are you? Why is your leg injured? Such questions are a common companion as you explore the game's 2D world. And as you replay Home, those questions keep getting replaced with new ones.
Along the way, you are sure to encounter plenty of mundane objects and items, to which the game offers a simple choice. An example: "You find a photo of a couple on the ground. There's no reason for you to hold onto it. Do you take it?" Either choice has no immediate repercussion, but perhaps picking up that photo is the difference between life and death. Or maybe it's just a photo. Maybe the gun is just a gun, or the man is just a man. Home is a puzzle, but you may never have all the pieces.
Do you ever get that feeling where you're talking to someone about a dream you had, and you realize you sound like a crazy person? "Oh yeah," you blather on, "there was all this weird Aztec imagery on the floor, and then I stepped through a door with neon lights and saw all these crazy colorful eyeball creatures." Yume Nikki is steeped in such exotic imagery. It's an oddly haunting game, lacking much in the way of dialog, combat, or even a plot. You play as a young girl, and explore her dreams. What you encounter there is left to your own interpretation.
There are 12 dreams (nightmares?) to experience, and together they instill a distinct feeling of dread and foreboding. Though there are no enemies, your inability to fight conveys a feeling of helplessness. To compound this, the moody, industrial soundtrack hints that this is somehow a hostile or unwelcoming place. It's certainly not for everyone, but if you give yourself up to exploring Yume Nikki's bizarre world, and the desire to figure out what it all means, it can engage your imagination in ways most other games can only dream about.
There was a hole here...
To be honest, I love horror games but am too easily rattled to finish them. Usually I have to let someone else take the reins for a while and just watch. If you all have any suggestions that didn't make it on this list, let me know in the comments. I'm always looking for more horror games, even if they freak me out.