Looking for something spooky to play on Halloween, but too broke to pick something up from that big Steam sale or one of those thematic indie bundles? As Parsec Productions proved with the freeware phenomenon Slender, you don’t need to spend a cent to scare yourself silly.
But while Slender is all well and horrifying, there’s plenty more where that came from. In fact, the indie games community has got you covered with plenty of excellent freeware horror games that you can go download and play right now, and we’ve picked five standout examples for New Gamer Nation’s horror week. So grab a blanket, plug in your headphones, turn out the lights, and dig into the candy you bought for yourself, then check out these five great free horror games that scared the pants off of me.
Did I say five games? I’m actually going to cheat and give you six. First up, we have a pair of games that definitely take a bit of influence from the modern indie horror classic that is Amnesia. Both Erie and The Briefcase were built as proof of concepts and unleashed upon the general public. Erie is a fairly new release, billed as a sneaky romp through an abandoned underground facility where you play as a Red Cross worker. Apparently a nuclear facility has broken down, and several citizens have vanished from the Lake Erie area. But what’s making all those noises? Also, a broken facility doesn’t really explain all the dead cats.
The Briefcase, on the other hand, is a lesser known game, and a super short affair that can be wrapped up in ten minutes. Get the briefcase and get out. What could possibly go wrong?
Both games provide short variations on the Amnesia formula and are designed to be played through in one sitting. The Briefcase is definitely more polished, but is also a tenth of the size of the much rougher Erie. If FPS horror is your thing, these are both definitely worth checking out. A pity neither protagonist remembers to pack his flashlight, though.
This one is an oldie, but a goodie, from Zaratustra Productions. Though a moderately improved paid version is available on Steam, complete with updated graphics and achievements, the classic version is still perfectly enjoyable and available totally free of charge. In this neat little indie platformer, you play as a cute little flower on his way to save the princess from adorably cheerful little gumdrops. With eight levels and plenty of gems to collect, Eversion should keep you busy with hopping and bopping for a little while.
But wait, this doesn’t look very scary. I must have added it to this list by mistake. Oh well…
Though thematically similar to Slender and Erie, 1916 – Der Unbekannte Krieg takes place entirely in the trenches of World War 1. You are a German soldier trying to escape the literal maze built into the battlefield by finding a hidden ladder. Of course, you’re certainly not alone in the trenches. With poison gas and hidden stalkers to contend with, finding the tools to reach the ladder won’t be easy. Even better, the game brilliantly sets the mood with a grainy black-and-white filter that looks like it was lifted right out of an old timey propaganda film reel. Billed as a “first person avoider” horror that showcases the atrocities of war, 1916 manages to be an exceedingly creepy experience with a surprisingly scary antagonist, tense chases, creepy stealth, and some disgusting scavenging.
You can download a standalone version of 1916 – Der Unbekannte Krieg via the official site for Mac and PC, or you can try a Unity based browser version at the same site.
The first three entries are all fairly short, so let’s move on to a meatier experience in an entirely new genre and perspective. The One Night trilogy consists of three survival horror games, each crafted in the immortal RPG Maker engine. But how can a game that looks like a JRPG be truly scary? Well, despite the graphics, the games still manage to be terrifying through freaky visuals and creepy sound design. It’s clear that the creators of One Night have an intense love for the classic Playstation survival horror games Resident Evil and Silent Hill, and thus, have crafted a loving tribute with the best elements of each. Plus, with three installments, each clocking in at about four hours, there’s quite a bit of horror packed into each title.
You can download all three games in the series via RPGMaker.net, with links to each entry summed up in this handy forum thread.
I struggled a bit with which game to place in the fifth slot, but ultimately, I had to go with the very minimalist Ludum Dare entry from Mr. Slender Creator himself, Mark Hadley. In Where am I?, you must travel through a series of perfectly square rooms, each with a seemingly random number of doors in the cardinal directions. Though things are very straightforward at first, not everything is as it seems. The deeper you go into the maze, the freakier things get. Indeed, I almost think it’s even scarier than Slender, for one very simple reason: in Slender, you know exactly who is after you, and you’re pretty aware of his abilities. However, in the dark rooms of Where am I?, you have no clue what’s in store.
You can play the game right in your browser on Hadley’s website, if you dare.
Happy Halloween, folks. Pleasant dreams!