Top 10 Indie Horror Games – Decade’s Best
The last decade saw a powerful rise of indie horror games. Arguably, as indie horror games pushed boundaries and formats, they started shining even brighter than triple-A equivalents. At the beginning of the decade, indie horrors games contribute heavily to early let’s play Youtubers gaining popularity, and even now, keep them on top. It’s hard but we’re going to try and list the Top 10 Indie Horror Games of this last decade.
While there are many, many indie horror games (one could even say there’s an over-saturation of them), we’ve chosen ten from the last decade to spotlight.
1. Amnesia: The Dark Descent
The indie horror boom could be attributed to this grandaddy of indie horror. Amnesia started off the decade in 2010. Not only was the base game horrific on its own, but the game also has a custom story mode. Amnesia “Custom Stories” grew in popularity, giving players endless hours of horror and creativity.
2. Five Nights At Freddy’s
The FNaF franchise has become a beast of an influence on indie horror, sparking multiple spin-offs and fan games, such as the spine-tingling Joy of Creation. We’re going to lump all FNaF games into one slot (there’s, what, 10 games now? Is anyone still counting?), but break down a few of the best.
From a storytelling standpoint, nothing quite beats the first Five Nights at Freddy’s game. On the surface, it was just a jump scare machine, at least, until people started looking closer. Piecing together the missing children, smelly animatronic suits, and newspaper clippings, a darker story was revealed. Nothing quite says “horror” like a child murderer.
If you didn’t think it could get scarier, this year FNaF entered virtual reality. Ever wanted to get up close and personal to the bite of ‘87? You’re in luck! Help Wanted will scare your pants off in VR.
3. The Forest
The Forest started as perhaps, unintentionally, the funniest horror game of recent years. While the horror is genuine – the game is full of mutant, cannibalistic natives – The Forest was beautifully broken in Steam Early Access. Broken textures, wonky physics, and mostly naked natives in the uncanny valley made for great let’s plays. Myself, I’d rather that The Forest never work out all its bugs and be as floppy as Goat Simulator forever.
4. Doki Doki Literature Club
The horror game no one was expecting: Doki Doki Literature Club. What at first seems like an innocent dating sim set in a high school quickly turns into a nightmare. A cutesy game with the tag “psychological horror,” Doki Doki throws you into a meta left turn. This game isn’t a sim where you choose your date, she chooses YOU! Only you. Only Monika. Just Monika. Just Monika.
5. Layers of Fear
If you were looking for a perfect example of balancing jump scares, haunting story, spooky music, and disturbingly beautiful visuals, Layers of Fear would be that game. The jump scares are perfectly timed to show how you, as the player, are slowly losing your mind. Every step you take brings you closer to the darkness in your own mind. The game as a whole is strangely beautiful as well. You play as an artist, after all!
6. SCP Containment Breach
SCP is an open-source game indie game chock full of an assortment of demented monsters. Around every corner is a new and deadly creature ready to destroy you. Like a mimic, not every item you come across is as innocent as it seems. Whatever you do, don’t take more than two candy!
7. Welcome to the Game
With technology becoming more intelligent and invasive all the time, Welcome to the Game, and its sequel, tap into that fear of the anonymous and dark side of the internet. Viruses, stalkers, and a threat of kidnapping; they are all modern fears. A fearsome monster can scare you in your wildest dreams, sure, but the threats of Welcome to the Game are very real, very possible horrors. Human trafficking, black market exchanges, underground cults. Are you sure it’s just a game?
We’ve talked a lot about psychological horror a lot so far, but SOMA has them all beat. For those that haven’t made it at least halfway through the game, SPOILER WARNING. SOMA explores the frightening concept of what it means to be human. What does it mean to be alive? The line is blurred heavily in SOMA. You play as an artificial intelligence scanned from a formerly living person. You are that person, just in a mechanical body. But are you really?
9. Bendy and the Ink Machine
Imagine turning that friendly and familiar Mickey Mouse into a twisted, mutant monster. That’s Bendy and the Ink Machine. What makes this game stand out is the unique, cartoony style, proving once more that you don’t need photorealistic graphics to scare someone. All a horror game truly needs is that ambiance – that apprehension of what’s waiting for you just out of sight.
You could probably play Outlast and not realize it’s an indie game. It has a big budget, triple-A feel, with disturbingly realistic graphics and creepy story. It’s one of those horror games that doesn’t give you a “fight or flight” choice. The only option, if you want to survive, is to run.
Last but not least, here are some honorable mentions that did not make the final list:
Dana is a published urban fantasy author and writing industry speaker. When she’s not writing novels, she enjoys playing video games and writing gaming articles. A little bit zany, a little all over the place, mostly just happy to be here.