'Tis the season for scares. Many people take this time of the year to play horror games. Makes sense. Whether your fix is the new Amnesia, Outlast, Metro: Last Light, or that Slenderman game, there's a decent selection of games to sate one's appetite for horror. Not that anyone is restricted to just those games released in 2013, either. There's a sea of horror games out there.
But let's not forget the free games out there. There are a variety of horror games available that are short and sweet, only a few hours long apiece, that are free to download. There are some truly fantastic ones out there, too. I don't know how much any of you are into that sort of thing, but hey, I like great, free games.
Needless to say, these are all PC titles. They are all made in RPG Maker, which might be a turn-off for some people, but I implore you to hold final judgement until seeing/playing the games yourself.
So, without further ado, let's get started. I'm going to try to keep these short, because I have a tendency to talk too much.
GAME #4: AO ONI
Four middle school students enter a bland-looking mansion. They've heard the rumors that a monster is in the mansion, but screw those rumors, stupidity overrules everything! It turns out that the monster exists. It's big, it's purple, it has an face that looks eerily like a human's face that's been warped in Photoshop, and it doesn't care much for stupid kids. And it turns out you're playing as the stupidest one of all, the one who didn't believe in the monster's existence, at first. Welcome to Ao Oni.
Ao Oni doesn't have much in the way of characters or story, and as you can tell from the fan art and the screen shot above, the mansion the game takes place in is no royal palace, but it makes up for all of that through the monster the game is named for (the Oni), alone.
There are scripted encounters throughout the game, but there are also totally random encounters decided by a random number generator, which can totally catch the player off-guard, forcing them to jump straight from a puzzle-jumping mindset into a "oh hell, this thing is going to kill me, I'd better run" mindset. Running is easier said than done, though, as the Oni is nearly as fast as the player, making evading it difficult, and it's easy for the player to back their self into a corner.
All in all, it makes for a memorable experience, ripe with plenty of shocking moments and surprise encounters with the Oni.
GAME #3: THE WITCH'S HOUSE
You are Viola, a young girl visiting your friend Ellen, who apparently lives in some haunted woods. Oh, and there's a witch living in the woods. OH, and it just so happens that you have no choice but to enter the witch's house. Well, that's one way to start a day off on the wrong foot. The witch booby-trapped her house for you. You can thank her later. And there's also a black cat following you around, saving your game and kind of being a douche bag. You've set foot in the Witch's House.
The Witch's House is very tricksy, as Gollum would say. I challenge you to play the game and not die 5 minutes in. This witch doesn't fool around. Her traps are unexpected and deadly. They require some thinking to work around. There are ghosts in the kitchen, there's a giant teddy bear out for blood, and there's a garden of flowers that won't seem to stop talking about mutilating each other. This isn't grandma's house.
On top of that, once you get towards the end of the game, you'll find an interesting story with a few unexpected twists, and some points that require thought long after the credits have stopped rolling, depending on which ending you get. And there's always the black cat. The cat is the most interesting character in the game. He's a douche, but an douche you love to hate. And he allows you to save your game, so what's not to love about that in a game where death is potentially around every corner?
The Witch's House is a game worth playing simply to see what trap is in store for you next. Can you make it through the traps, save the world, and become headmaster of Hogwarts? Probably not. But that first part seems doable. Do that.
GAME #2: MAD FATHER
You are Aya, daughter of a mad doctor. You know that your father has been conducting apeshit insane experiments in the basement of your house, but your dad's the bomb, so screw his test subjects. One night, you hear your father scream. It's normal to hear other people screaming from your basement in pain and desperation, but when it's your father, YOU MUST DO SOMETHING. Oh, and there are living corpses from your fathers and experiments and stuff all over the house. Now, who let those guys out of the basement?
Mad Father reminds me of the Witch's House in that it's wonderfully made. This one has a bit more of an interesting story to it, helped by periodic flashbacks that give Aya and her family a decent bit of back story and personality. The story itself can leave the player with some room for thought, as there are multiple ways that the endings can be interpreted. On that note, there are 21 gems that can be collected throughout the game by completing tasks and fully exploring Aya's home, which are actually quite fun to collect and are necessary for the game's true ending.
The home itself is pretty fun to explore. You begin the game in the home proper before descending into the depths of the basement, and each room has its own little unique touches. You'll find your fathers experiments roaming the house, and while most want to kill you, some are friendly enough, and lead to some strangely heartwarming scenes. One nice thing is that while you have a health bar, if you exit a room, your health instantaneously is filled up, again, so there's no need for green herbs. There is a bit of backtracking in the game, but there are well-placed shortcuts throughout the house that make the backtracking quick and painless.
Mad Father is not to be missed, as it proves to be a worthwhile horror experience, and the titular character, specifically, makes for an interesting character.
GAME #1: IB
You play as a little girl, Ib, on a trip to the art gallery with your parents. But what's this? Everyone's gone. You must be blind to have not seen them leave. Oh wait, but you can see the paintings and mannequins coming to life. Phew, close call. Wait-what? Some of them are silly, some of them are strange, and some of them are out for blood. There's some other guy there, too, named Garry. And another girl named Mary. Through the power of friendship, anyone can overcome rampant works in an art gallery! Hopefully...
Of any of the games I've listed here, play Ib. Just play it. It's a wonderful experience. Ib doesn't look like much, at face value, but quickly becomes one of the most fantastic horror games available. Each room full of paintings and works of art is unique and filled with life. Some paintings will have you chuckling. Some will have you raising an eyebrow. Some will give you chills. And, of course, each adds its own touch to the gameplay, whether just being something to gawk at in delight, something to run from, or a part of a larger puzzle.
I'm not even going to say any more on it. It's really something that needs to be experienced for yourself. Great characters, great story, great setting. It's the quintessential free horror game. Don't miss it.
HONORABLE MENTION: YUME NIKKI
There is no word more proper to describe this game with than "surreal". You play as a girl. You explore your dreams. Things get very...very...weird, depending on the dream. It's not really a horror game, but at the same time it is. It is a game about nothing, and at the same time, it is a game about everything. Thoughts...emotions...imagination...
Yume Nikki is a game that every person will experience differently. Some will love it, some will hate it. Some think they'll love it and end up hating the exploration aspect of it. I can't really recommend it, because of that, but it's worth mentioning. It's worth a try, I guess.
And there you have it. Free horror games that I would like to recommend to you, the people of Destructoid, as we approach the end of October. Give them a try. It's a day or two's worth of games, here. I've now played them all, and I can say that they have more than earned the respect that they get.