Horrors are some of the most popular genres of fiction in video games, and often quite versatile both in settings and in gameplay. From fantasy to science fiction, and from survival to card game, horror games comes in all shapes and size, especially in the indie sphere, where it’s just the developers’ ideas that dictate the shape of the game.

Below you’ll find 15 horror games either fully indie, or nominally helped along by an external publisher. Either way, you’re in for a spooky ride through creative scares, imaginative solutions, and just plain unsettling weirdness. Gaze upon the nightmares of…

The List of Indie Horror Games You Shouldn’t Play in The Dark
GameReleaseGenreDeveloperSale
Lone Survivor: The Director's Cut 2012-04-23 Adventure Jasper Byrne 47% Read more
Slender: The Arrival 2013-10-28 Adventure Blue Isle Studios Read more
Amnesia: The Dark Descent 2010-09-08 Adventure Frictional Games 83% Read more
The Forest 2018-04-30 Adventure Endnight Games Ltd Read more
Little Nightmares 2017-04-27 Adventure Tarsier Studios 80% Read more
Little Nightmares II 2021-02-11 Puzzle Tarsier Studios 69% Read more
Darkwood 2017-07-17 Adventure Acid Wizard Studio 79% Read more
Outlast 2013-09-04 Adventure Red Barrels 85% Read more
Outlast - Whistleblower 2014-05-06 Adventure Red Barrels 76% Read more
Outlast 2 2017-04-25 Adventure Red Barrels 89% Read more
Detention 2017-01-12 Adventure RedCandleGames 88% Read more
Visage 2018-10-02 Adventure SadSquare Studio 29% Read more
Inside 2016-07-07 Adventure Playdead 74% Read more
Observer 2017-08-15 Adventure Bloober Team SA 94% Read more
Inscryption 2021-10-19 Horror Daniel Mullins Games 33% Read more
Soma 2015-09-21 Adventure Frictional Games 72% Read more
Layers Of Fear 2016-02-15 Adventure Bloober Team SA 87% Read more
Layers of Fear: Inheritance 2016-08-02 Adventure Bloober Team SA Read more
Layers Of Fear 2 2019-05-28 Adventure Bloober Team SA 12% Read more
Bendy and the Ink Machine 2017-04-27 Indie Kindly Beast Read more

        

Lone Survivor

Release:2012-04-23
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Jasper Byrne

Created by one developer, Jasper Byrne, Lone Survivor is a game of post-apocalyptic survival and hallucinatory horror. The game takes place in the aftermath of a plague which turned most of the population into zombies and follows a lone man struggling to keep his sanity and gather supplies necessary for survival. There are even multiple endings based on your in-game choices.

Lone Survivor

The main character’s descent into madness is a leading theme in the game, but there’s also no shortage of monster encounters you’ll need to get through somehow. Despite its age (the Director’s Cut came out in 2012) it remains a very interesting, well-written, tense story about sanity and surviving against all odds.

Key features
  • A pixelated, evocative aesthetic
  • The Director’s Cut adds a lot more content and improved graphics
  • Several endings recontextualizing the story
  • Great original music
        

Slender: The Arrival

Release:2013-10-28
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Blue Isle Studios

Inspired by the famous, creepy creation of the SomethingAwful forums, Slender: The Arrival pits you, helpless mortal, against a tall, slim, shady figure with no face. You are trying to figure out what happened at the house of your childhood friend, but on your path to knowledge stand supernatural phenomena, most of them quite eager to stop you dead in your tracks.

You can’t even count on a weapon to save you, the only defenses you have are a flashlight and certain monsters’ distaste for light. There are several large locations, usually expecting the play to complete an environmental puzzle or discover a clue, while chased and pestered by a monstrous presence. Slender: The Arrival uses the famous cryptid to a great effect.

Key features
  • Based on Slender: The Eight Pages
  • Several spacious locations
  • Flashlight is your only defense
  • The tall gentleman in a suit isn’t the only monster creeping up on you
        

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Release:2010-09-08
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Frictional Games

Amnesia: The Dark Descent, despite it being over a decade old, it remains one of the best first-person perspective horrors. The game takes place in the 19th century and follows an amnesiac young man inexplicably finding himself in the shadowy halls of a Prussian castle. Unfortunately, there’s no sightseeing involved, since the castle is haunted by a shadowy, sanity-threatening presence.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

Sanity is a crucial element of the game, and it decreased if you spend too much time in darkness. The story itself involves archaeology, weird magic, and other dimensions, mixing a measure of science fiction with Gothic horror in interesting proportions. Amnesia grew beyond The Dark Descent with conceptual successors, such as Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and Amnesia: Rebirth.

Key features
  • You are helpless against a monster stalking the hall of an old castle
  • Several successors
  • Dark, oppressive atmosphere
  • Robust sanity system
        

The Forest

Release:2018-04-30
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Endnight Games Ltd

Taking a detour from Gothic castles and remnants of society, The Forest is a horror story set in a jungle. As Eric Leblanc, a survivor of a plane crash, you’ll have to not only survive in a hostile environment, but also defend against mutated cultists, and find your kidnapped son. There’s a lot on Eric’s plate and the game does a great job creating an oppressive atmosphere.

The Forest

The Forest also puts a new spin on the „survival” part of survival horror genre, featuring a robust crafting system, as well as features such as hunger and thirst you need to manage in addition to trying to follow the storyline. There are also two different endings, decided by a choice made late in the story, defining the kind of person you want Eric to be.

Key features
  • Competent survival game on top of a satisfying horror story
  • Discover the secret behind weird mutations roaming the jungle
  • You can build a base to stay safer
  • Branching story
        

Little Nightmares

Release:2017-04-27
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Tarsier Studios

Little Nightmares is a game a giant ship controlled by grotesque adults who are like giants compared to Six, the game’s protagonist. The 9-year-old girl has to not only escape from the weird ship catering to cannibalistic taste of its guests, but also use the environment to hide from the hungry, violent grownups. But there’s more to be worried about than just the adults, Six has some problem of her own…

Little Nightmares

Little Nightmare is a 2.5D puzzle-platform game focused mostly on stealth and using the environment to hide from and, occasionally, to actively defend against the adults. Little Nightmares looks gorgeous, with excellent location and character design, presenting a caricatural, exaggerated world, and a horror presented from a child’s perspective is interesting and properly spooky.

Key features
  • Great art style
  • Solid 2,5D puzzle-platform gameplay
  • Excellent setting: the Maw, a ship full of giant, grotesque adults
  • There’s also a second instalment and supplemental media
        

Darkwood

Release:2017-07-17
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Acid Wizard Studio

Darkwood is a top-down horror game with lo-fi graphics, following mostly a man who seeks a way out of a mysterious forest which appeared somewhere in the Soviet Bloc in the 1980s. Thanks to clever use of lines of sight, darkness, and sound design Darkwood manages to create an incredible atmosphere and an immersive semi-open world filled with intriguing NPCs and mortifying monsters.

Darkwood

Darkwood uses a day/night cycle to a great effect, forcing the player to keep going and prepare for the night, when monsters tend to come out in greater, and hungrier, numbers. The good side is that surviving has more benefits than just your continuing existence, the bad side is that there are monsters coming for you, and you might not be ready to deal with them.

Key features
  • A top-down perspective
  • Set in the Soviet Bloc
  • Several endings
  • Weird NPCs and bizarre monsters
        

Outlast

Release:2013-09-04
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Red Barrels

Mike Upshur, a journalist, receives an anonymous tip about weird things taking place in a local private psychiatric hospital and goes to investigate. It doesn’t take long before he becomes aware of a horrific invisible presence stalking the place, as well as very visible, and very violent people affected by the mysterious creature and whatever experiments were done on them.

Outlast

Outlast’s most distinguishing feature is the use of a camcorder as a vital element of gameplay. Especially the night vision is going to come in handy, as long as you have the batteries to spare. Unfortunately, you’re a journalist not a fighter, so your only defense is to run or hide, because you can do nothing when a violent cannibal or an invisible force finds you.

Key features
        

Detention

Release:2017-01-12
Genre:Adventure
Developer:RedCandleGames

If you’re keener on Asian horror traditions, you might want to give Detention a look. Set in the 1960s’ Taiwan, the game’s story takes place in a high school stalked by dangerous supernatural creatures. It won’t take long before you start uncovering the dark secrets of the school, assuming you live long enough.

Detention

Detention is a 2D point and click side-scrolling game benefitting from a great art style truly selling the grim, horrific reality of the haunted school. Set in a troubled period of Taiwan’s history and in a school which had its own share of interpersonal issues, Detention is an excellent ghost story and a great horror-adventure game.

Key features
  • You have to figure out the secrets of a haunted school
  • A mix of a survival horror and a point and click adventure game
  • Great 2D aesthetic
  • Uses various East Asian, especially Taiwanese, tropes and motifs to great effect
        

Visage

Release:2018-10-02
Genre:Adventure
Developer:SadSquare Studio

The motif of investigating a strange, gloomy house in the middle of nowhere will never stop producing immersive, engaging horror stories. Visage fully embraces the idea, and, taking it’s inspirations from the famous demo of P.T. puts you in a spatially confusing house plagued by supernatural phenomena.

Visage

In Visage we’re playing as a man called Dwayne Anderson, who’s locked in his house and has to investigate the tragedies which happened there in the past, including his own. Murders, betrayals, and addiction riddle the house’s story, and you need to get to the bottom of this, despite the nightmares still haunting the place, eager to prevent you from finding the clues.

Key features
  • Immersive, semi-open environment of a large house
  • There are no weapons to save you from the ghost of the house
  • Dark, bloody backstory you uncover bit by bit
  • You have to maintain your sanity, or it’s game over
        

Inside

Release:2016-07-07
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Playdead

Featuring a child protagonist, a monochromatic aesthetic, and based on puzzles and platforming, Inside might strike you as cute. But it’s not cute. It’s a dark, violent game and you’ll the child you’re controlling die more times than you’d be willing to admit, and things get worse for the kid the further you get in. However,’ it’s also a very good, engaging, tense experience worth giving a shot.

Inside

The game relies a lot on environmental puzzles, often with the backdrop of a weird, dystopian world. Mind-controlled masses, scientists doing bizarre experiments, and armed soldiers are common sights. There are also weird creatures which defy classification but would very much like to eat you. Inside relies a lot on minimalist storytelling, based mostly on evocative scenes and locations.

Key features
  • Brutal puzzle-platformer
  • Dark, unsettling world
  • Weird ending, and an even weirder hidden ending
  • Evocative scenarios
        

Observer

Release:2017-08-15
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Bloober Team SA

Observer is set in a grim future of 2084 after the world was ravaged by a nanotechnological plague. The game takes place in Kraków of 2084, after a deadly nanoplague and a war ravaged the world a d Chiron corporation took over Polish government. You play as Daniel Lazarski, an investigator able to plug into people brains to solve crimes and maintain control of the populace.

Observer

The story kicks off when Daniel gets a tin from a family member, pointing him towards a headless corpse in a tenement building. What follows is a first-person cyberpunk murder mystery revolving around conversations, searching for clues, and using Daniel’s augmented vision to see beyond what’s immediately visible. There are no active threats, but the atmosphere is enough to make you afraid.

Key features
  • Fantastic cyberpunk horror
  • Rutger Hauer cast in the leading role
  • The plot leans heavily on transhumanist themes
  • Investigate a gruesome murder using cybernetic vision implants
        

Inscryption

Release:2021-10-19
Genre:Horror
Developer:Daniel Mullins Games

A surprise spooky hit of 2021, Inscription mixes a card game with a rogue-like and an escape room. It’s quite a mix, but it works exceptionally well, and the story told is good enough and surprising enough not to be spoiled here. There is a reason Inscryption was widely hailed as one of the best games of the year.

Inscryption

The genre-bending, 4th wall-breaking nature of Inscryption shouldn’t be surprising, given the fact that it was made by the creator of Pony Island, a game where nothing is what it seems. The nature of Inscryption’s gameplay changes from act to act as you get deeper into the story, so even discussing that is a spoiler. Just know that someone is always watching, baiting you with hope.

Key features
  • One of the best horror games of 2021
  • Made by the creator of Pony Island
  • A mix of genres
  • Surprising and 4th wall-bending
        

Soma

Release:2015-09-21
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Frictional Games

A different science fiction horror, this time taking place deep beneath the ocean in a research facility. As Simon Janett, a man who had his mind scanned in 2015 you’ll have to figure out what you’re doing in year 2104 and what happened in the weirdly deserted underwater complex. The themes of isolation and being a fish-out-of-water build a lot of Soma’s claustrophobic atmosphere.

Soma

Soma also touches on transhumanism, not only through the player character’s mind transference, but also certain elements of the story you’ll be better off discovering yourself. Soma is dark, tense, and the mystery of what happened to the staff of this place is as fascinating as it is unsettling, contributing greatly to the game’s psychological horror nature.

Key features
  • A science fiction psychological horror
  • A claustrophobic setting of an underwater research complex
  • Several hard choices you’ll have to make over the course of the story
  • From the studio which made Amnesia
        

Layers of Fear

Release:2016-02-15
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Bloober Team SA

Layers of Fear is an exploration of a Victorian mansion, viewed through the eyes of a mentally unwell artist. It’s never clear whether the warping environment is real, or just a reflection of the painter’s mental state affected by his own traumas and the dark history he shares with the mansion. Over time you’ll begin to piece together the true story and make choices which affect the artist ultimate fate.

The painter’s story from the base game is further expanded by the Inheritance DLC, which follows his daughter. She comes back to the mansion after many years to face her family’s past. The complete story of the family is dark, unsettling, and tragic. Layers of Fear masterfully creates a disturbing atmosphere where you can never 100% trust your senses.

Key features
  • An excellent psychological horror
  • Received a conceptual sequel, Layers of Fear 2
  • The Inheritance DLC further explores the family’s history
  • Inspired by P.T.
        

Bendy and the Ink Machine

Release:2017-04-27
Genre:Indie
Developer:Kindly Beast

Bendy and the Ink Machine takes place in the 1960s and puts you in the shoes of an ex-animator Henry Stein who returns to his old workplace, summoned by a mysterious letter. Once there, he finds that things have gone very wrong, and old-timey cartoon creatures not only gained 3D bodies, but also malevolent sentience thanks to the titular Ink Machine.

Bendy and the Ink Machine

The game has an episodic nature, with five parts of the story exploring what occult machinations happened at Henry’s old workplace. Unlike many other games on this list, in Bendy and the Ink Machine you have some means of defending yourself, but much of the game is based on solving puzzles. The game has a very distinctive aesthetic, inspired by old cartoons, which creates a unique atmosphere.

Key features
  • A survival horror about 1930s cartoons brought to life
  • Episodic nature
  • Great storyline
  • Many environmental puzzles

Stay out of the dark

This concludes our list of indie horror games you should absolutely put on your radar if you’ve already beaten all big horrors like Resident Evil and seek something else. From forest to cyberpunk cities, horrors and nightmares lurk in every shadow.

Hopefully you’ve found something that sparked your interest and you’re ready to get scared.