H.P. Lovecraft’s take on the horror genre was something unique for its time, and the only reason it isn’t anymore is because his works have inspired a genre of their own, present across all media. The mind-shattering creatures which care little for human undersnding of the universe, bizarre cults to primordial false gods, bizarre hybrids, and unknowable horrors are now common, and we have Lovecraft’s works to thank for that.

Game, of course, aren’t immune to the draw of the maddening unknowable, and as a result we’ve got plenty of games which either straight-up adapt HPL’s stories, or take clear inspiration from the ideas within. On this list we’re taking a look at ten of them, but it barely scratches the surface. The surface, beneath which the cosmic horror that cannot die weaves the song of madness in humanity’s dreams. Without delaying the horrific inevitable, let’s jump headlong into the list of…

The Best Lovecraftian games
Game Release Genre Developer Sale
Darkest Dungeon 2016-01-19 Indie Red Hook Studios 80% Read more
The Sinking City 2019-06-27 Adventure Frogwares Read more
Bloodborne Game Of The Year Edition 2015-03-24 Action RPG FromSoftware Inc. Read more
Call Of Cthulhu Dark Corners Of The Earth 2006-04-26 Adventure Headfirst Productions 52% Read more
Call Of Cthulhu 2018-10-30 Survival horror Cyanide Read more
Sherlock Holmes The Awakened Remastered 2008-09-23 Adventure Frogwares Read more
Carrion 2020-07-23 Horror Phobia Game Studio 41% Read more
Sunless Sea 2015-02-06 Adventure Failbetter Games 92% Read more
Darkwood 2017-07-17 Adventure Acid Wizard Studio 68% Read more
Darkest Dungeon 2 2021-10-26 Red Hook Studios Roguelike, RPG Read more
Song of Horror Complete Edition 2019-10-31 Horror Protocol Games 77% Read more
Amnesia: Rebirth 2020-10-20 Horror Frictional Games 93% Read more
Moons of Madness 2019-10-22 Adventure Rock Pocket, Dreamloop Games 66% Read more
The Land of Pain 2017-09-13 Horror & Adventure Alessandro Guzzo Read more
QUAKE 2020-08-19 Action & Shooter id Software 22% Read more
Conarium 2017-06-06 Adventure Zoetrope Interactive 90% Read more
DUSK 2018-01-10 Indie David Szymanski 37% Read more
Cthulhu Saves the World 2011-07-13 Indie Zeboyd Games 70% Read more
The Last Door - Collector's Edition 2014-05-20 Adventure The Game Kitchen 79% Read more
Lovecraft's Untold Stories 2018-06-23 Adventure Blini Games 96% Read more
Call of the Sea 2020-12-08 Puzzle & Adventure Out of the Blue Games S.L. 52% Read more
Remnant: From the Ashes 2019-08-20 Adventure Gunfire Games 66% Read more
Lobotomy Corporation 2016-12-16 Indie Project Moon 62% Read more
We Need to Go Deeper 2017-02-08 Indie Deli Interactive LLC 65% Read more

Darkest Dungeon

Release: 2016-01-19
Genre: Indie
Developer: Red Hook Studios

You inherited a mansion from your Ancestor, a vast mansion. It should a cause for celebration, but unfortunately, your ancestor has delved to deep and unleashed great evil upon the region.

Now you have to hire a band of people brave, or mad, enough to brave the monster- and cultist-infested estate, through real-time dungeon crawling and tense, engaging turn-based battles.

Courtesy Red Hook Studios

The Lovecraftiness of the game is clear from the moment your team steps into a dungeon. Your brave champions face cursed mutations, the darkness itself has a detrimental effect on their sanity, and there are more vile cultists than you could shake a broken sword at. And that’s before you even encounter nightmares caused by a madness-inducing gift from the vast cosmos beyond.

Key features
  • Classes are often references to historical and legendary figures
  • Your crew’s sanity is a crucial element of the game’s mechanics
  • Procedural dungeons, both literal and figurative
  • You can improve a hamlet which serves as your HQ
  • [productLink,10000219127001]Darkest Dungeon 2[/productLink] is coming

The Sinking City

Release: 2019-06-27
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Frogwares

Unlike Darkest Dungeon, which took themes and ideas from Lovecraftian horror, The Sinking City is rather explicitly based on the foundations laid by Lovecraft.

So much so that it openly references Innsmouth and the story does involve The Great Old Ones. The gameplay also uses the very Lovecraftian theme of an investigator losing the sanity because of the dark secrets he uncovers.

Courtesy PlayStation Europe

The Sinking City takes place in the 1920s in Massachusetts, and follows Charles Winfield Reed, an ex-military turned private eye. You’ll visit all districts in the town of Oakmont, trying to solve the mystery of a weird Flood troubling the town. It’s more of a detective game than an action game, as you collect and interpret clues, often at the cost of main character’s sanity, which can have fatal consequences.

Key features
  • Investigate the weird flood and your own dark visions
  • Directly inspired by the Lovecraftian horror
  • Three endings
  • Your ability to find clues is more important than your skill with a gun

Bloodborne

Release: 2015-03-24
Genre: Action RPG
Developer: FromSoftware Inc.

One of the most-beloved games by FromSoftware, Bloodborne couldn’t be more Lovecraftian is it tried.

It even has a detrimental Insight stat which makes you perceive things beyond human understanding, such as the singing of lanterns, of monsters hiding in plain (in)sight. As you try to escape the Nightmare, itself a powerful theme, you’ll also fight many literal Great (Old) Ones.

Courtesy Playstation

Bloodborne it’s all nightmares and horror, however. It could stand on its own through its extremely polished, demanding, and exciting combat system, promoting aggressive playstyles over being methodical and cautious. Since you can recover some of the health you lost to an unholy monstrosity, going on the offensive is encouraged. Just don’t go charging in blindly.

Key features
  • Arguably the best game developed by FromSoftware
  • Dark, mysterious story powered by truly Lovecraftian primordial monstrosities
  • Fantastic, challenging combat system
  • Fascinating setting: a Gothic city called Yharnam

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Release: 2006-04-26
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Headfirst Productions

2005’s Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth was critically quite well-received at the time, and to this day remains a very competent survival horror game.

It got a lot of mileage out of its sanity system, which influenced the senses of the game’s protagonist and could, eventually, lead to death if left unchecked for too long. It’s going to be tested because there’s a Cthulhu cult occupying an old manor.

Courtesy UltimeciaFFB

The game also featured complex health tracking, dealing more with injuries than abstract skill points. Better yet, with no HUD you had to pay attention to things like a limp indicating a leg injury, or wobbly aim caused by a broken arm. As for the story, it was inspired by The Shadow over Innsmouth, and has links to The Shadow out of Time, both being essential elements of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Key features
  • Based on two Lovecraft stories
  • Complex sanity system
  • Immersive health tracking
  • Engaging storyline

Call of Cthulhu

Release: 2018-10-30
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Cyanide

Unlike Dark Corners of the Earth which was a survival horror, Call of Cthulhu leans strongly towards the role-playing genre as it adapts not only the works of Lovecraft, but also the classic tabletop RPG system by Chaosium.

The game puts you in the shoes of a private investigator called to solve the mysterious fire which killed a family in a small town called Darkwater.

Courtesy Focus Entertainment

Of course, the sanity system comes back, it is a Call of Cthulhu game, after all. As you investigate the gloomy village you encounter cults, face your own visions, and tangle with the imminent return of one who sleeps beneath the tides. Can you solve the mystery AND stay sane? It’s doubtful, but you must try. It is a Lovecraftian game through and through.

Key features
  • Based on a classic tabletop RPG AND Lovecraft’s works
  • Satisfying, branching conversations
  • An investigation which goes to many dark places
  • Several endings

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened (Remastered)

Release: 2008-09-23
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Frogwares

Sherlock Holmes rarely dabbles in supernatural investigations, but when a series of kidnapping strike London, he’s on the case.

Soon the leads take him to an asylum in Switzerland, and even New Orleans, tracking a cult trying to summon Cthulhu. It’s up to you to help Holmes prevent this apocalyptic turn of events and find justice for the kidnapped people.

Courtesy Checkpoint TV

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is an adventure game, letting you move around the semi-open world to gather clues and converse with NPCs in order to figure out the next step in the investigation. That includes not only analysing samples, but also, of course, solving puzzles suchs as combination locks. It’s an interesting take on a Sherlock Holmes story, with a definitive Lovecraftian vibe.

Key features
  • A solid adventure game inspired/based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories
  • Stop a cult to Cthulhu
  • A rather globe-trotting story, sending Sherlock from Switzerland to New Orleans
  • Ambiguous ending

Carrion

Release: 2020-07-23
Genre: Horror
Developer: Phobia Game Studio

Not explicitly, or even directly Lovecraftian, except for the aspect that lets you play an amorphous, ravenous beast not entirely unlike a shoggoth of Lovecraft lore.

Of course, here it isn’t an inscrutable rebellious blob from outer space, it’s a weirdly developed colony of worms, potentially from outer space, but lore differences aside, it is a game about a shoggoth.

Courtesy Gamespot Trailers

As a red blob of worms you have to escape from a research facility, with your creepy powers to help you along. You can use tendrils move around like a blended Spider-Man, divide your mass into smaller pieces to squeeze through vents etc. It’s as much a monster simulator as it is a stealth game, and if you’re into gore and gruesome imagery, you’re going to feel right at home in Carrion.

Key features
  • As close to a shoggoth simulator as we are likely to get
  • Cool and disturbing abilities
  • The pixelated aesthetic doesn’t prevent the game from being gruesome
  • In this game YOU are the monster in the vents

Sunless Sea

Release: 2015-02-06
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Failbetter Games

Sunless Sea is a roguelike about a world where, well, the sun is gone, and your tiny little insignificant steamboat has to navigate and explore by a small light that barely manages to pierce the overwhelming darkness.

It wouldn’t be bad if there weren’t….things in the water, watching you, waiting for a chance. How long can your crew last before they lose their minds, and your mission fails?

Courtesy Failbetter Games

As the title might suggest, the Sunless Sea is a game dominated by darkness your customisable captain has to navigate for accomplish their equally customisable motivations. Unfortunately, the creatures living in the sea take their toll on the sanity of everyone on your steamboat. Between exploration, combat, and weighty storytelling choices, Sunless Sea is well worth playing.

Key features
  • Excellent, top-down, 2D graphics
  • A nautical roguelike about exploring monster-infested seas
  • Plenty of story-driven vignettes presenting hard choices
  • Set in the universe of Fallen London

Darkwood

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

If after learning about Sunless Sea you’re still uncertain that 2D, top-down horror makes sense, Darkwood should change your mind.

Vaguely set somewhere in the Soviet bloc, Darkwood is a survival horror making you try to survive in a village plagued by deranged people, mutated monsters, and weird characters holding on to reality by a thread. You’re barely safe during the day, and nights are worse.

Acid Wizard Studio

For a 2D top-down game, Darkwood manages to create an incredibly tense, oppressive atmosphere. The lighting system and the merciless lines of sight reveal just enough to unnerve you, and when you CAN see a lot, you quickly start wishing you didn’t. Darkwood is a phenomenal horror game, and the mix of ghostly apparitions, the unknowable hiding in the dark, and the disturbing and monstrous thing in plain sight make the game memorable and scary as hell.

Key features
  • Fantastic top-down horror game set somewhere in the Soviet bloc
  • Excellent lighting and line of sight systems
  • Tense, oppressive atmosphere
  • A day/night cycle which forces you to prepare for the monsters trying to get you

The Secret World

Release: 2012-07-03
Genre: Survival horror, MMO RPG
Developer: Funcom

Secret World, an MMORPG with strong supernatural inclinations takes inspirations from many sources.

The story involves secret societies and their plans towards various supernatural incursions taking place all over the world. Ghosts, demons, and, indeed, Lovecraftian horrors defying understanding. Thankfully, your characters are trained to deal with these nightmares.

Courtesy IGN

Secret World is a MMORPG promising and delivering many hours of story-driven experience powered by very customizable (from appearance to gear and abilities) characters.

If, for a change, you’d like to have good chance to punching Cthulhu in the face, Secret World Legends is a great place to do it. Better yet: the base game is Free to Play, but you can buy bundles giving you more oomph.

Key features
  • An MMORPG about supernatural societies and shadow wars
  • Flexible progression
  • Three major factions the players can join
  • You can play the game solo, if you’re in for just the story

Visions of inaccessible reality

This concludes our risky investigation into the games heavily relying on Lovecraftian horror and, possibly, based on Lovecraft’s own writings. The list isn’t exhaustive, but it covers a range of genres and themes to make it easy for you to find something that suits your preferences.