The top 10 indie horror games of the 2010s (so far)



The best indie horror of the ’10s — ready and willing to scare.

Video games are a unique media – they give us the means to become personally invested in stories and characters in a way that movies and books do not because we have direct control over their outcomes. Horror games, then, are especially unique because they can also make us deeply afraid to continue on, to even see what those outcomes may be in a powerful, entirely personal, and unreplaceable way. And, while fans may be aware of horror giants like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and The Evil Within, there’s a whole world of indie horror games out there that provide the right amount of both practical and existential spooks and scares worth checking out. Here’s some of the best that you can go out and play right now without fear of needing to hunt down overpriced game cartridges or drag out your old consoles:

10. World of Horror (2018-2019)

Windows

Technically only a demo right now (although a very robust one), World of Horror made waves when it was released on Itch.io for its unique, 1980s dot matrix aesthetic and Junji Ito inspired vibes and storylines which can end in numerous, always tense and supernaturally scary, ways. The game is far from abandoned, with the creator offering little tidbits of news — including word of a Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4 port — and updates frequently, and there is no better time than now to try it out.

 

9. Sylvio (2015)

Windows, Mac OS, Playstation 4, Xbox One

Following an audio recordist named Juliette Waters who records and interacts with the voices of the dead in various ways and must survive a long, dreary night doing just that, Sylvio is a masterclass in atmospheric horror. What it lacks in compelling gameplay mechanics (some of the movement and controls here are unwieldy) it more than makes up for with unique audio and video tricks, a heavily Twin Peaks and Silent Hill inspired atmosphere, and authentic, surreal scares.

 

8. Soma (2015)

Windows, Mac OS, Playstation 4, Xbox One

Soma, Frictional Games’ follow-up to the lauded Amnesia series, is an existentially dreadful delight. Opting for a sci-fi aesthetic rather than Amnesia’s gothic, the game follows Simon Jarrett as he uncovers the dark secrets of a mysterious underwater research facility, PATHOS-II, in the near future. It’s a story full of surprising twists and turns executed by great writing, voice acting, and symbolic weight in perfect balance with its more practical scares and monsters – heightened by the deemphasized combat Frictional games are known for.

 

7. Detention (2017)

Windows, Mac OS, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch

Detention, developed by the Taiwanese studio Red Candle Games and set in a period of martial law in Taiwan in the 1960s known as the “White Terror”, is not what it seems. Initially a by-the-numbers 2D horror/puzzle game about two kids trapped in a vaguely threatening abandoned school, the story and visuals quickly melt away to reveal a deeper story about guilt, censorship, and death all wrapped up in a truly terrifying surreal and dismal package.

 

6. Darkwood (2017)

Windows, Mac OS

Darkwood is unlike most other games on this list, and indeed, unlike most other horror games in general. A top-down survival horror game set in a nondescript soviet forest setting beset by a horrible shadow that brings rot and malaise, the story and mechanics here are top notch. You’ll meet and trade stories and products with strange, cloaked fox-men, fortify what little purchase you can find, and hope you make it through the increasingly dark nights all to great effect.

 

5. Doki Doki Literature Club (2017)

Windows, Mac OS

Doki Doki Literature Club needs no introduction. Probably the most well-known game here aside from our #1 and #2, this one made huge waves last year for its graphic content (sexual and violent) and for its narrative, fourth wall breaking, tricks all taking place under the guise of an otherwise unassuming anime-cliché visual dating novel. While the effect of everything that’s happening here may wear off for repeat playthroughs or when you know to expect a trick at all, the first time through is entirely unforgettable…and horrible.

 

4. Lone Survivor (2012)

Windows, Mac OS, Playstation 3/4/Vita, Wii U

One of the most successful video game translations of form ever, Lone Survivor takes everything that was good about Silent Hill in 3D and translates it near perfectly into a fun, abstract, difficult but rewarding 2D horror journey. And while it wears it inspirations on its sleeves pretty heavily, Survivor is a fantastically weird, scary and tense game with its own interesting mechanics, themes and story all its own, too. Especially so, as the protagonist’s view, and interaction with the world, increasingly implies that he may not be seeing everything as it really is.

 

3. The Forest (2018)

Windows, Playstation 4

Although The Forest is primarily a survival game (in the same vein as ARK or The Long Winter), what sets it apart is its antagonists: horrible, seemingly inhuman cannibals, and their homes: dark, impenetrable and foreboding caves. As with all survival games, you can build up a familiarity with the mechanics here, getting pretty good at a routine of making food, finding water, and building shelter – but, the cannibals remain a constant, terrifying presence and wading into their territory, lighter or torch in hand alone is always tense and unsettling. It’s an unconquerable, de-powering, and off-putting feeling that sets The Forest apart from other survival games, and earns it a place among some real horror greats.

 

2. Inside (2016)

Windows, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, iOS

Inside is a beautiful, dark, and poetic story. It’s also terrifying. Maybe not in the same traditional sense as many of the other games on this list, but certainly so in a sense all its own. Following a young boy through a lonely, seemingly righteous, journey in a dystopic future, Inside sets itself apart with a clever set of mechanics, puzzles, and visuals that offer challenge and reward for the player in equal measure. However, what it does best is slowly tease out a larger, truly scary story that is wide open to interpretation (and has been interpreted in may ways) about loneliness, disassociation, industrialization, war, and maybe more in a unsettling, but beautifully honed, aesthetic.

 

1. Amnesia: The Dark Descent (2010)

Windows, Mac OS, Playstation 4, Xbox One

Amnesia: The Dark Descent more or less started the horror renaissance we’re currently celebrating and reaping the products of. Games like Layers of Fear, Outlast, Alien: Isolation and even P.T. owe more than can ever be quantified to the things Amnesia did first or best. The lonely, increasingly dark gothic castle setting, the deemphasized combat, the loose but compelling narrative, and the fascinatingly dreadful creature-stalker design are all honed to an unbelievably acute degree here in a way that elevates the game often beyond feeling like a game and more into feeling like a lived experience, highlighting everything that the horror game can be.