We all love a good survival horror game now and then. With the popularity of the Steam platform, indie developers have a chance to outshine other major game developers and publishers with their niche, entertaining and sometimes quirky games. And we’ve seen indie developers come out with great games year after year and with improved overall quality. This means you can find their games just as highly rated and loved as some of the game from bigger developers.
Indie developers, especially those in the survival horror genre, have consistently created games that players love due to the originality of the game story and the unique game mechanics. And being an indie developer, this allows them to create unique gaming experiences that delve into a particular niche without being bound by traditional corporate restrictions. Take a look at some of the most popular indie survival horror games and why the reviews on Steam are raving about them.
So we’re cheating a little bit here. If you like sci-fi, dystopian games with a touch of horror, this is the game for you. Though not a full-fledged survival horror game, Inside is a challenging 2D, side-scrolling puzzle-platformer game, from the same developers who brought to you Limbo, that managed to imbue a much creepier and darker atmosphere into this game.
The game starts off with a boy sliding off from a short rocky slope. No fancy intros, no dialogue. It just starts. Aside from suffering a bout of amnesia, there are menacing scientists and ghoulish like people who are suffering from some sort of mind control everywhere you look which immediately gives out the vibe that something is really wrong. Being that your character is the only child in this environment without sane adults around increases the heaviness of the game atmosphere. You need to survive by sneaking around the area to get to the bottom of whatever sinister project is going on.
Inside explores the terrifying nature of mind control, as well as setting the tone of a lonely and terrifying journey, and throughout the different eerie settings and places in the game, you use different parts of the environment to solve the puzzle and move ahead. The game also represents a much deeper symbolism which has been interpreted by numerous theorists on Reddit ( SPOILERS), which makes a good read as well! This is definitely a game to check out if you want to play something that has puzzles and sci-fi horror all mashed up into one terrifying game.
What would a list of horror survival games be without a good old zombie game? Sure, the zombie trope has been overused previously, but the angle of this game delves into a totally different experience. Developed by The Indie Stone, Project Zomboid is one of the most realistic post-apocalyptic survival games out there. This RPG, single-player game that comes with multiplayer options tests just how well you can survive in a world of zombies and nature. The game lets you customize your character’s aesthetics and lets you choose from a list of job classes which gives you different perks that could help in your quest to survive.
As you play the game you will realize that there is no hope for outside help, and you have to learn to loot houses, find food and build your defensive shelters to stay alive in the changing environment. With each successful haul, you have to think long term. Grow food, upgrade your skills and craft more supplies. Enter each doorway with the risk of getting swarmed by a zombie horde. Baseball bat in your hands at all times is highly recommended.
The game is super realistic because instead of starting off with a bunch of guns and weapons, your character is an average joe where you have to live through the natural changes in everyday life, such as the day turning to night, the change in the seasons and weather, and the overgrowth of nature. You also tackle human needs and problems like dealing with depression, boredom, hunger, and illness. Think This War of Mine, but with zombies. The game also offers various game modes with different scenarios and difficulties to choose from. Whether you work as a team in multiplayer mode or you decide to take on the big world and hordes of zombies alone, Project Zomboid is an open-world style survival game will definitely put you at the edge of your seat.
Five Nights at Freddy’s
Five Nights at Freddy’s is one of those horror games that quickly became popular seemingly overnight. This point-and-click first-person game developed by Scott Cawthon is about surviving the night at your summer job as security guard. You work at an entertainment joint, unfortunately, to find that the supposedly fun and quirky looking animatronics that work fine entertaining children during the day have somehow achieved some form of consciousness with homicidal tendencies at night.
The game starts off with a voice message left by the last guy which slowly gets creepier as it sounds very nonchalant about having “misbehaving” animatronics. You must protect yourself from becoming their victim by conserving your electricity and keeping an eye on their movements throughout the night. With its simple design and creepy characters, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a game that you won’t forget, even if you wanted to. Sweet dreams…
Don’t Starve is one of the most popular games on this list and is developed by Klei Entertainment. In this top-down, 2D game, you play as Wilson, a scientist who’s been transported by a demon to an unknown and dangerous wilderness. You have to use your previous skills as a scientist which gives certain perks, as well as build some new skills by living (and dying repeatedly) in the wilderness to survive and make it back home.
This game is definitely something on the challenging side, as you get no instructions or tips from the game on how to create clothing, shelter, food, or really anything else. Let’s just say the first few rounds you play will end horribly. The more you play it, the more you’ll understand what resources that you\’ll need to prioritize and how to tackle each situation. There are other playable characters with different perks which requires a different approach when playing the game.
The animations are spooky, the game art has a Burtonesque and Lovecraftian feel to it, and you come into contact with many mysterious beasts and monsters on your journey to survival. Don’t Starve is a great survival game that’s sure to keep you busy for hours on end…if you can stay alive for that long. You can also play with other players in the multiplayer version, Don’t Starve Together.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is of those games that get everyone talking. Designed by Frictional Games, this first-person survival horror game is about the horrifying adventure of Daniel and how he wakes up in an unknown castle with, you guessed it, amnesia. You play as Daniel and move through the castle to escape…something. You can’t remember why you’re running or what’s chasing you. Your memory is beyond wrecked and only playing the game and moving forward is useful in helping you reclaim your memories. You find pieces of mementos scattered around the game to help you understand what is your true objective.
Unlike other survival horror games which gives you a small chance to defend yourself, you don’t get any weapons or any form of protection in Amnesia. No early game crowbars or knife to fend yourself from the shuffling horror that is hunting you down. You’ll find yourself running around with only a light lamp, figuring out the layout the castle, as well interacting with items to help you in your quest for survival. All you can do to save yourself is run and hide, and sometimes even that is not enough. With a rich story that keeps the gameplay interesting and a fully-immersive environment with atmospheric music to keep you on edge, Amnesia is a game that builds up and keeps the suspense going without any letdown.
Last, but certainly not least, on this list is a game developed by Automaton called Deceit. Deceit is a multiplayer, first-person shooter game in which you and a group of five must escape the asylum you’re in. While the premise seems pretty straightforward, it’s not as easy to complete the game, as a third of your team isn\’t who (what) they said they are and you have to figure out who’s actually on your side, a few of the group members gets infected and moves to transform into a monster during the periods of darkness in the asylum, attacking the other group members. You decide whether you want to work with the group or alone as you make decisions to attack the suspect monster and complete the objectives of the game. The closer you get to the exit, the closer you are to facing possible death. Another twist in this game is that you get to play as the said monster, and hunt down the rest of your unsuspecting party while maintaining a human facade when the lights come on.
Deceit is a survival horror game that has psychologically challenging elements in a fast-paced and terrifying environment. Bringing in the element of trust in this game makes it much more interesting as players make fragile alliances with each other throughout the game. As you play through the map and engage in gut-wrenching, gore-filled events, there are certain light-hearted and quirky events to lighten up the mood. Or perhaps it’s a trick to put down your defenses. This game is one that puts your skills on trust and deception front and center and truly tests your ability to survive.