Over the past year, some of the biggest names in horror have made the leap to the Nintendo Switch. The handheld-ish console lends itself surprisingly well to horror, with its excellent visual displays and great sound capabilities. This doesn’t only apply to AAA releases, either – there is no shortage of brilliant titles ramping up the fear factor from independent creators and studios, too. Let’s take a look through a few titles you might’ve missed made by smaller studios, for after you’ve finished that run-through of Resident Evil, Alien: Isolation, or Silent Hill.
Oxenfree is a multiple-choice, narrative-driven game centering on grief, loss, and sacrifice. Created by Night School Studio, the game follows Alex (Erin Yvette) and her classmates on an overnight trip to a remote island. No aspect of the game is a let-down, from the visual experience to the compelling sound design and voice acting, to the brilliantly unpredictable story.
Although there are many high points of Oxenfree, the dialogue-oriented storytelling throughout the game is the main feature of the game that is so completely memorable. The group of teens heads to a deserted island for an overnight party and campout, only to find a lot more than they bargained for. Without giving too much away, the game revolves around unpicking the island’s many spectral mysteries and grim history with innovative scares along the way.
The game is a must-have for any fan of ghost stories or old-school “choose your own adventure” games. Borrowing from devices used in visual novels, the vast majority of the story of the game can only be uncovered based on branching pathways of dialogue between the player and the rag-tag cast of NPCs. The kind of person you choose to be throughout the game is fundamental to what you can learn about the other characters in the game, Oxenfree’s world-building, and the overall ending of the story. If you haven’t played Oxenfree yet, now is the perfect time to do so, as its much-anticipated sequel Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is due out next year.
Detention, made by Red Candle Games, is an innovative supernatural horror game set in 1960s Taiwan, during the White Terror period. The game follows teenager Ray, who is stuck in her school amidst a typhoon, surrounded by “wanglian” creatures referred to as “the lingered”. Combing point-and-click and side-scrolling gameplay elements, this monochromatic title is equally as terrifying as it is beautiful.
Detention is a marvel in storytelling and game design. The storytelling is fresh, both in terms of how it presents the supernatural presences in the school and in its delivery of the social commentary that is core to the game’s themes. Detention never skimps on storytelling to give cheap jump scares. Instead, every part of the narrative adds to the cloying horror of the creepy environment and the recent history that informs the plot.
Made by Playdead, the studio behind LIMBO, INSIDE is a creepy puzzle platformer with heaps of atmosphere. INSIDE combines strategy and adventure to create frightening challenges all throughout a dystopian sci-fi world full of illicit experiments and quasi-zombies.
Although there’s a lot to like about INSIDE, one of the main stand-out features of the game is the brilliant use of sound design and music. As revealed by the game’s composer Martin Stig Andersen in an article for Game Developer, the soundtrack and sound effects for INSIDE were created using some incredibly novel psychoacoustic techniques, including the use of contact microphones and a human skull. This means that the audio all throughout the game really gets inside your head, quite literally. This title is a must-play for sound nerds as much as it is for horror fans in general.
Ministry of Broadcast
Released in 2020, Ministry of Broadcast is a storyline-heavy platformer inspired by George Orwell’s 1984. The game is the first production of the eponymous Ministry of Broadcast Studio; a collaboration between Twin Petes and Fuchs+Dachs. This charming, difficult game gives a heavily used concept – navigating a dystopian society – new life with innovative puzzles and attractive pixel art displays.
Ministry of Broadcast is a particularly pleasurable experience for those who prefer games to be oriented around telling a story, as opposed to focusing predominantly on action or gameplay. Although the story borrows from the works of George Orwell, there is no over-reliance on tropes or clichés throughout the plot. The same goes for the gameplay mechanics and artistic stylings of the game, too. While the visuals and platformer devices are a nice throw-back to titles from the 1980s and ‘90s, it still stays fresh. Nominated for a whole slew of Games Connection Paris awards, this game is a necessity for fans of retro gaming, literature lovers, or anyone looking to add something a little different to their collection.
Among the Sleep
One of the few first-person games to make this list, Among the Sleep, is a terrifying exploration-driven horror game from Krillbite Studio where you play as a toddler attempting to escape a nightmare to safety. This game relies wholly on ambiance and context cues for its excellently creepy storytelling, steering clear of combat without skimping on conflict.
Among the Sleep is an adventurous endeavor in unreality, trauma, and separation anxiety. In addition to playing as an infant throughout the game, many of the frightening monsters and scenarios throughout the game play into childhood fears and nightmares. Tropes from fairy tales and urban legends are scattered throughout the game, from closet monsters to creepy dolls to gingerbread houses. Although these fears don’t tend to follow people into adulthood, Among the Sleep does a fantastic job of repackaging those concerns to an adult audience, making such things feel eerie and unsettling once again.
Darkwood is a gloriously terrifying top-down survival horror game made by Acid Wizard Studio. The title mostly relies on sandbox-style exploration mechanics in a free-to-roam, but horrifying, world. With around 50 hours of gameplay and very little hints, guidance, or support throughout the game, Darkwood is a great game if you’re looking for something to really sink your teeth into.
While this game leaves a lot of choice up to the player in terms of gameplay, with a fully explorable world and day-and-night mechanics, there is also a storyline to unlock as you strive to keep your character alive. The game takes place during an apocalyptic epidemic that the protagonist is striving against in the 1980s Soviet Bloc, beginning in a hut deep in the woods. The narrative of the game is split up into four distinct chapters, the events of which dictated by the choices the player makes throughout the game – including the game’s ultimate ending. Given the huge amount of gameplay required to advance the story, a lot of different plot points can be uncovered along the way.
Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods is a darkly beautiful game about a little black cat, missing people, and a small town full of dark secrets. The game begins when our protagonist, Mae Borowski, drops out of college and moves home to the town of Possum Springs, only to find things to be a little different compared to how they remember it. This game is wildly popular and keeps getting ported to new platforms even though it’s been a number of years since it came out, and it’s easy to see why. Rich with incredible world-building and fully-rounded characters, Night in the Woods is the perfect horror to get lost in.
The main plot of the mystery-horror title revolves around a group of friends from high school reconvening over the disappearance of a mutual friend, Casey Hartley. Along the way, there are hundreds of small threads linking together to make up the core story of Night in the Woods, and it’s up to you to choose which ones to unfurl on each playthrough. Everything about Possum Springs can’t be unlocked in a single play-through, so there’s plenty of replay factor, too.
There are a lot of reasons to love Night in the Woods, but something that sets it apart from other games is the gloriously autumnal world of Possum Springs. The town is almost as much of a character as any of the rest of the main cast of the game. You spend much of the game exploring the town to understand the mysteries that lurk within, and almost everything that you learn about the story and its eccentric stars is from interacting with the environment. The player decides the events of the day by wandering around and exploring buildings in the small town, unlocking new parts of the story. Thanks to its multifaceted storytelling and expansive world, Night in the Woods is a game that never gets old.
‘Silent Hill’ creator Keiichiro Toyama is back again with a new horrifying game.
About The Author