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One Night, Ten Terrifying Titles: A Horror Gaming Marathon

Home alone this October 31st and fancy scaring yourself silly? Pick and mix a few of these games, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

by Ed Smith
Oct 31 2016, 12:31am

Above: 'Dead End Road' screenshot courtesy of DDD Wares

With nothing to hand but a laptop and a few quid, I subjected to myself to a single, all-night session with ten of the scariest games on the internet. Wonderfully lo-fi – by which I mean created by people unconcerned about treating players kindly, guiding them along, or any such proprieties – a lot of these games exist outside the paradigms that define mainstream horror. They're contrary and unpredictable; age ratings and good taste don't apply. 

As the night fell and I perused my laptop's downloads folder, I cursed myself for having this idea in the first place…

Above: the beginning of 'The World the Children Made'

The World the Children Made

This would later turn out to be bad idea, because the later and quieter it got outside, the scarier the games would become. But I decided to ease myself in slowly. The World the Children Made, by James Earl Cox III, is based on Ray Bradbury's short story The Veldt, and it tells of a family in the near future who have just installed in their home a virtual reality game machine called "The Nursery". Cox's descriptions of the inside of the nursery are partly cribbed from the short story, but coupled with his occasional, terrifying sound effects and the cold indifference of your basically animated, unfeeling children, The World the Children Made is psychological horror at its finest. Sparse interaction gracefully implies your powerlessness against the nursery and your robotic, automated house. It was perhaps unwise to begin with a game about how virtual realities can drive you insane. 

Download it here 

Above: 'Power Drill Massacre', teaser trailer

Power Drill Massacre

Power Drill Massacre by Puppet Combo is a free game styled after both PS1 hits like Silent Hill and Parasite Eve, and '80s video nasties. The opening titles are particularly wonderful, grainy block letters, bursting onto the screen to the low key dun-dun-DUN sound of a synthesiser. However, this would be the last time Power Drill Massacre made me smile. Trapped inside an old industrial building, which seemed to shift and reshape on every reattempt, my goal was to escape a screeching, howling maniac wielding the eponymous power drill. Superficially similar to games like Slender or Erie, Power Drill Massacre earns the distinction of being relentlessly, unequivocally terrifying. Where Slender in particular suffers from ambiguity (when caught, the screen simply fades into white noise) Power Drill Massacre – quite literally – goes straight for the jugular. It's jumpy, difficult and bloody.

Download it here  

Above: 'One Late Night', gameplay trailer

One Late Night

Which is why One Late Night, by Black Curtain, was an inauspicious choice for a follow up. Trapped once again, only this time inside an eerily normal looking office building, I was pursued by a howling, black ghost with the horrifying ability to materialise seemingly anywhere. For ten minutes I walked around and nothing happened. Then the ghost jumped me from round a corner. Then I turned to run and it was staring me right in the face. More than Power Drill Massacre, One Late Night uses cheap scares and easy pulls – the fun here is trying to guess when the ghost will re-appear, making it an ideal spectator game. But as I sat, one late night, working in the room that doubled as my office, I noticed myself looking over my shoulders more and more often.

Download it here

Above: 'Covetous' screenshot via Kongregate

Covetous

The last and, until tonight, only time I'd played Covetous was alone, at 3AM, in my university's library. Despite lasting all of five minutes, it had left enough of an impression that six years later I remembered it still. The game begins innocently enough – inside the silhouette of a human body, you move a green dot to collect red dots. The pop-ups between "levels" seem almost benevolent: "I love you, my sweet brother." But as Covetous continues, and your green dot becomes bigger, the red dots more numerous and the messages angrier, it becomes clear something is extremely wrong. By the end, Covetous is assaulting your ears and eyes, flashing, wailing, screaming at you. I won't ruin the conclusion, but for maximum fear, play this one with headphones. 

Play it here  

'000000FF0000' screenshot via Kitty Horrorshow

000000FF0000

The first of two Kitty Horrorshow games I had planned for the night, inasmuch as it made me never want to play it again, 000000FF0000 didn't disappoint. Kitty Horrorshow has a terrific ability to humanise even the most abstract ideas. A nonsensical, frantic, glitching landscape, this game, in someone else's hands, might have felt ethereal and purely visual, but its epigraph – "I don't want to be out here" – and the deliberate plodding of my footsteps as I walked, reminded me I was playing a person. Like The World the Children Made, 000000FF0000 appeals to your pre-existing anxieties. The warping, red, inescapable hellscape may well be the product of a subjective view – be it a childhood home, a crowded town square or the outdoors in their entirety, everybody fears somewhere. Even the most mundane things may become frightening.

Download it here 

Above: 'Sonic Dreams Collection' screencap via YouTube

Sonic Dreams Collection

Thus my next game, Sonic Dreams Collection, by Arcane Kids. Presented as a collection of mini-games, discovered among the code of an old Dreamcast disc, Sonic Dreams Collection takes the innocent, eponymous blue hedgehog, and all his adorable friends, and tortures, stretches, inflates, digests and rebirths them, literally. Ever Googled "Sonic rule 34"? (Definitely don't at work.) Ever visited DeviantArt.com? Then you have a basic understanding of what this game contains. Tickle Sonic's feet to make him love you. Tie him up and feed him until screams that he's "pregnant". Explore his insides, discover a mutated, heavy breathing version of his own head and then be expelled from between the thighs of Rouge the Bat into a gigantic, waiting crib. This game is every diseased Sonic fan art page made interactive. To play it is to look down the barrel of the internet's most excremental sexual fantasies. I was laughing at times, but I could still taste my vomit. 

Download it here

Above: 'Lakeview Cabin IV' trailer

Lakeview Cabin Collection

Riffing on Halloween favourites like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, Lakeview Cabin Collection is a kind of tower defence wherein, as part of a group of archetypal teenagers, you must prepare weapons and traps for the night-time coming of a serial killer. Of all the games on this list, Lakeview Cabin Collection is the one that most demands an audience. Almost everything will kill you; the "Texas Chainsaw" level in particular seems impossible to complete. But you can take respite in some of the game's other shenanigans. With the tap of a button you can strip off your clothes and mount one of your male or female comrades. It is based on slasher movies, after all. 

More information and purchase links here

Above: 'Dead End Road', teaser trailer 

Dead End Road

Marginally more relaxed and with dawn drawing ever closer, I headed into my final three games. 

Ever driven late at night, and been petrified that any minute something strange, awful, nightmarish, might skitter out into the beam of your headlights? Dead End Road plays on that fear. Set on the winding roads of rural Britain, it sees you driving home – after a particularly ominous visit to your grandmother – assuaged by threatening hitchhikers, ghostly voices on your radio and terrifying visions in your rear-view mirror. Being able to control every minute aspect of the car, from the wipers to the interior light, drags you right into the moment. Like Power Drill Massacre, its visuals are heavily inspired by PlayStation 1-era games. That blocky, grainy aesthetic somehow makes monsters all the more disturbing. 

Find the game on Steam here 


Above: 'ANATOMY' screenshot via Kitty Horrorshow

ANATOMY

The second and last of my Kitty Horrorshow games, ANATOMY features some of the best acting and writing I've ever experienced in a video game, let alone an independent, low-budget one. Kitty Horrorshow plays here with form. First, you explore a comparatively normal looking house, listening to tapes that explain how rooms – bedroom, bathroom, living room – are connected to various parts of the human mind. It's chilling stuff, particularly the final tape, which explains the bedroom is where people are most vulnerable; where, as they sleep, they are bound to the darkest reaches of their psychology. If you boot the game up a second time, you will find the house has warped and changed. The tapes are distorted. The furniture has moved. In fact, with each successive unload and load of ANATOMY, the architecture around you becomes more bizarre, until eventually the house is a flickering, jerking, glitching wreck, and all you hear on the tapes are agonised screams. Kitty Horrorshow relates the cohesiveness of the house itself to the order and sanity of the mind. As one collapses into chaos, so must the other.

More information and purchase links here

Above: 'Sad Satan', part one (viewer discretion advised)

Sad Satan

Dawn. If it weren't for Sad Satan, the last game on my list, which had loomed over the entire night like the shadow of Nosferatu, I might have felt at ease.

Discovered on the largely inaccessible "deep web" in 2015, Sad Satan's shady origins contribute greatly to its overall fear factor. Truly, it feels produced by some ranting, raving, insane-genius outsider – as you walk its black and white "corridors", assailed by slowed-down voice clips of Charles Manson, flashing still images of murderers and the ramrod stiff figures of weeping, deformed children, you can't help feeling that, simply by playing Sad Satan, you've activated some kind of curse and now only have seven days to live. A somewhat censored version is now available to download on the normal web. Once you've tired of every other scare games, TV and movies have to offer, Sad Satan is what you will dare one another to play. By 7AM, and the game's insane, terrifying end, I was very glad to see sunlight.

Download the remake here


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