Without a doubt, there are many great horror games out there, old and new. We have Silent Hill, Alone in the Dark, Amnesia, Outlast, and so many more. In most cases, we horror fans, starving vermin we are, gobble all of them up gleefully, praising their successes and forgiving their shortcomings. However, despite our ravenous hunger, despite our seeking gazes, games keep falling through the cracks. Great games wither and rot, sinking into the abyss of time.
Today, we shall dig up the graves of some of these games and grant them the undeath they deserve, so without further ado, here’s 10 great unknown games:
Now, Rule of Rose isn’t exactly unknown, nor is it really all that great (technically). However, many people haven’t heard of it, if only because it was banned in Europe due to the game’s sexual undertones involving children. Ignoring that aspect, Rule of Rose’s story is great. The player’s struggle to rise in the ranks of the girls’ Aristocrat Club is a grueling experience, culminating in a completely baffling (in a good way) final encounter. Throw in an absolutely stunning strings soundtrack, and you have a game that’s definitely worth looking into despite the terribly clumsy combat. For those who are looking for a copy, you can usually find the Japanese version for cheaper, and even that version is fully voiced in English (menus are in Japanese).
When you think quality horror games, the Wii is likely one of the last consoles you consider. This is one of a few reasons The Cursed Mountain was largely ignored, despite receiving generally positive reviews. In a nutshell, this game places you as mountain climber Eric Simmons, who must fight off hordes of ghosts in order to save his climbing partner, who accidentally unsealed the Bardo (the world between that of the living and that of the dead). Overall, The Cursed Mountain is pretty fun. The graphics are lacking, and you probably won’t be struggling all too much throughout the game; however, the atmosphere is thick and ripe. If you want to give it a try, used Wii copies can be found for around $20 on Amazon, and the PC version can be purchased for $5 from GamersGate.
The Void is somewhat of an enigma. In essence, it is a brutal resource management game in which you must use Colour to keep yourself and the Void alive. Be careful, however, as wasting Colour causes twisted predators to appear and angers the horrific and intimidating Brothers. Honestly, I wouldn’t call this game fun so much as I would physically draining, but I always recommend people try it at least once. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a game with an atmosphere so thick and strange. You can find The Void on GOG for $10.
Known as Dark Messiah in Japan, Hellnight is a gruelingly difficult first-person monster maze game in which you must escape a mutating monster chasing you through the sewers of futuristic Tokyo. What makes this game so interesting to hardcore fans is what makes it a nightmare for more casual players: You die in one hit, and a Game Over sends you back to the very start of the game. As impossible as it may sound, Hellnight is relatively fair. The tunnels have branching paths to lose the monster in, and you can find companions who will help you with their unique abilities and even take a hit for you. Unfortunately, Hellnight never received a North American release, and copies are hard to find elsewhere.
Silence of the Sleep is an independent sidescrolling horror adventure in the vain of The Cat Lady. However, whereas TCL focused on a strong emotional narrative, SotS focuses more on scaring the crap out of you. Gameplay is mostly puzzle-based, but many of these puzzles must be done while avoiding various grotesque monsters. The art style is beautifully stylized, and the sound design is chilling, but the story--though written well enough--is standard horror fare at this point. That said, Silence of the Sleep is truly scary, and if you enjoy it as much as I do, developer Jesse Makkonen is also responsible for Distraint and the upcoming The Human Gallery. Silence of the Sleep is $17 on Steam.
Serena was a wonderful surprise for me. Senscape, led by Agustín Cordes of Scratches fame, held a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 for their new project, Asylum. While Asylum is still in development three years later, Senscape released Serena as a sort of engine tech demo in 2014. The result is a rather short point-&-click adventure (It takes place entirely in a one-room cabin!) that nevertheless is a remarkable work of atmosphere and storytelling. I won’t tell you any story details, but I urge everyone to give Serena a try, especially if you enjoyed Scratches. It’s free on Steam!
Downfall is a dark, disturbing entry in the horror point-&-click library. Filled with plenty of maggots, gore, and psychological trauma, it is not a game for the faint of heart, but it’s perfect for those yearning for impactful horror. If you take a step into Downfall’s Quiet Haven Hotel, you will quickly find yourself questioning your sanity, yet you will be unable to stop yourself from continuing just to see how far the rabbit hole goes. Downfall was an incredible debut for R. Michalski and served as a perfect precursor to The Cat Lady. For those interested in seeing the game for yourself, Screen 7 has made the game free on their website. However, those who find Downfall too aged for their tastes might be interested to know that it is being remade in The Cat Lady’s engine. The Downfall Remake releases this Valentine's Day on Steam, GOG, and Humble.
The Echo Night games were always ahead of their time. Rather than following the footsteps of other Playstation survival horror titles, they took the genre into hand and molded it into something new. The result was a game that doesn’t allow you to fight back. In Beyond, you must run from and avoid the ghosts that haunt the halls of a space base, else your heart rate rises until you have a heart attack. The only way to get rid of the ghosts is to purify their souls by finding and offering them their personal item. While the premise of putting souls to rest on a space base sounds campy, Echo Night: Beyond is anything but. Instead, this is a prime example of survival horror, and the pinnacle of the Echo Night franchise.
Uramikko is a multi-part (part 4 releases mid-February) J-Horror corridor crawler in which you must try to escape from a haunted school while being pursued by various onryō (vengeful spirits). This is a brilliant RPG Maker game that doesn’t rely much on jump scares. Instead, it’s filled with a pervasive dread as you stand at the door of each classroom, knowing that you will be hunted the instant you step into the hallway. This is horror done right, as the mechanics and the chilling music work to augment the tension you already feel as opposed to trying to create it from scratch. Unfortunately, Uramikko is currently only in Japanese, so you won’t understand anything that’s going on unless you or somebody you know can read the language. If you want to try it out, you can download it from its Nicovideo page. Just keep in mind your system needs to be in Japanese locale in order to extract it and to play it.
I have fallen in love with Hungry Ghosts. I first discovered it not long ago, and while I don’t know Japanese, I managed to learn how to play and beat the game within a week. The closest comparison I have for this game is King’s Field, the games which eventually led From Software to develop Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. However, I find Hungry Ghosts to feel much more horrific and mysterious. Basically, you are a Spanish soldier going through purgatory, encountering the spiteful souls of those you killed as you try to reach the Gates of Judgment. Once there, you receive Final Judgment and receive one of several endings depending on how you played the game. It’s a shame this game never made it out of Japan, and if you can get your hands on it, I urge you to play it. Honestly, you can figure out how to play rather easily, and while you won’t understand your dialogue choices, you can always understand reactions and reload if you feel you made the wrong choice. In addition, I feel that not understanding Japanese adds to the game’s mystery.
These are only a few of many great horror games out there that are shrouded in obscurity. If you try and enjoy any of the games on this list, I encourage you to check out Amber’s “Hidden Gems of Horror Games” article (There’s no crossover between our lists) or even try searching for yourself. After all, you never know what you’ll find.