Dark Deception
Image via Glowstick Entertainment

13 best indie horror games

Small horror.
Stay Out of the House grandma getting stabbed
Screenshot by Destructoid
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13. Stay Out of the House

Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Puppet Combo has been at the indie horror game for longer than most, and Stay Out of the House might be the culmination of all their efforts. Being stuck in a building with a slasher killer is well-worn territory, but rarely have the been pulled off with as much depth as Stay Out of the House. Designed as an immersive sim where you’re dropped in with no explanation and left to figure things out to survive, the whole game is just one, big, horrific puzzle.

Grim puppet
Screenshot by Destructoid

12. My Friendly Neighborhood

Platforms: PC

What looks like just another mascot horror game differentiates itself from the flock by having something most of them don’t: heart. My Friendly Neighborhood is a cute, non-violent take on the Resident Evil formula of doors locked with obtuse puzzles. It’s all the depth, but none of the blood!

Happy's Humble Burger Farm
Screenshot by Destructoid

11. Happy’s Humble Burger Farm

Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Another game that, on the surface, looks like mascot horror, Happy’s Humble Burger Farm is more than one thing. It’s a strange and layered game. You find yourself trapped in a strange simulation where you’re the only person left with your faculties. Of course, your main goal is to try and escape, and to do so, you’re going to have to man the griddle at a fast food joint. And yet, it’s still more than fast food-centric horror. It ties into a greater universe developed by Scythe Dev Team, which provides fertile ground for the weird mysteries you unravel.

Dark Deception
Image via Glowstick Entertainment

10. Dark Deception

Platforms: PC

I fondly recall stumbling upon Dark Deception one day in college and, while it essentially amounts to first-person PAC-MAN with a legion of demonic monkeys, it’s a terrifying — but still fun — experience. I revisited the first level in the last few years and despite the fact that I haven’t been able to play past that, I still feel confident in adding Dark Deception to this list. It takes a tried and true formula and twists it with gusto, making you constantly doubt what, if anything, is around the corner. 

SIGNALIS
Image via rose-engine

9. Signalis

Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

So, full disclosure — I have yet to play Signalis. Yet, its existence and impact is not lost on me, so when it was recommended for inclusion in this list by members of the Destructoid staff, I decided to look into it some more. And, I found that its general aesthetic (based on the trailer, anyway) looks very similar to other titles on this list. 

It has an antiquated, almost PS1 visual style to it, which — for some reason I haven’t quite figured out — adds about 20% to its overall horror factor. I am including SIGNALIS on this list for two reasons: one, because it’s a game I am going to make a significant effort to play in the coming weeks, and two, because it looks a lot like some other games on this list, and it makes sense for SIGNALIS to join them.

SIMULACRA
Image via Kaigan Games

8. SIMULACRA

Platforms: PC, Android, iOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch

In SIMULACRA, you play as someone who has found a missing person’s phone, and because you make everyone else’s business your own, it’s up to you to use the contents of her phone to help find her. It’s pretty terrifying at times, but it can also be kinda funny when you consider the campy, B-movie acting. I really had a great time combing through the various pseudo-apps and learning more about the missing characters, as well as how they interacted with friends and strangers alike. 

Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion
Image via Lag Studios

7. Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion

Platforms: PC

Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion arrived at the peak of the Mascot Horror genre, providing players with a chibi-fied ghost girl and one thousand rooms of non-chibi-fied eldritch abominations. It’d seem as if most of the rooms are randomly generated, but that won’t help when you’re being chased incessantly by the various Specimens that make Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion their home. I can recall panickedly rushing through the maze-like levels, trying to escape Gel or Ringu, and never even getting close to the end. 

Orange County
Image via pastasfuture

6. Orange County

Platforms: PC

Imagine if Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was first-person and set in an abandoned town. That’s what you get in Orange County, developed by pastasfuture on itch.io. In this game that can be run within your browser, you can explore the world of Orange County whilst on your skateboard, but as far as you can tell, there’s no one else here. That is, until you inadvertently run into a passing — lone — car. 

It’s a title that’s more mysterious and unnerving than outright terrifying, but it still made a huge impact on me when crafting this list. I can only imagine playing a game like this on a VR headset. 

Apeirophobia
Image via Polaroid Studios, Destructoid

5. Apeirophobia

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series

Apeirophobia is the one and only Roblox experience on this list, but don’t let that fool you! This might be one of the only games on that platform that deserves its own, standalone release. In Apeirophobia, you are one of the unlucky souls who has no-clipped out of reality and landed in level 0 of The Backrooms. As you seek to progress through these otherworldly environs, you’ll face a series of abominations that want nothing more than to see you writhing on the floor, or worse, dead.

I really appreciate the amount of creativity at play here — each floor comes with its own unique rules, mechanics, and enemies that make reaching the next floor both traumatizing and relieving. 

The Salvation Project
Image via Lenat_1, Destructoid

4. The Salvation Project

Platforms: PC

The Salvation Project is a short, but terrifying experience playing off the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. It revolves around a televangelist program called — you guessed it — The Salvation Project, which informs the player character of various items in their home that must be disposed of to ward off the literal Devil. 

But, not everything is as it seems. Plus, the house is silent to an anxiety-inducing degree, making any and all sounds you may hear even more troublesome. The Salvation Project lodged itself into my brain in such a short amount of time through its use of real life events to inform the presented fantasy.

The Building 71 Incident
Image via Scary Cube

3. The Building 71 Incident

Platforms: PC

The Building 71 Incident is set in an abandoned university building in Brazil. It was abandoned after a “gas leak,” but as you’re soon to find out, it wasn’t a gas leak. This is yet another short experience that can be completed in between 20 and 30 minutes, but despite that, it’s still worth the time. Play it with friends at your Halloween party, or play it alone with all the lights turned off!  

Yume Nikki
Image via kikiyama, Destructoid

2. Yume Nikki

Platforms: PC

Yume Nikki earns not only a spot on this list, but a rather high spot on this list for being the launching pad for so many other iconic games, both in the horror genre and not. In the game, players control Madotsuki, a hikikomori who keeps a dream diary. The meat and potatoes of Yume Nikki is exploring the dream world that Madotsuki enters upon sleeping in her bed. And while it’s not explicitly a horror game, there are many aspects of it that can be scary to a wide range of players.

OMORI
Image via OMOCAT, Destructoid

1. OMORI

Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series

It took me approximately 3.5 seconds upon hearing that OMOCAT made a game for me to purchase and play it in its entirety back in 2021. It just so happens that OMORI has managed to lodge itself so deeply into my cerebellum that a little less than three years later, I am still thinking about its ending.

I’d like to avoid spoiling too much for those who haven’t played, but all I will say is: don’t let the graphics mislead you. Though, I have a feeling if you’re still reading this list, that’s not something you ever have to worry about. In OMORI, you play as a character who must explore a pastel-like world with their friends. What’s that? No — you didn’t see anything in your periphery, least of all a floating void with a single eye. I promise. In any case, if you’re a fan of the recent “2D top-down games inspired by EarthBound but are also secretly about depression” sub-genre, then give OMORI a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

Explaining the list

I believe the term “indie games” can be a bit misleading. In fact, it’d seem like a lot of people believe all it takes for a game to be an “indie game” is simply not being produced in any way by a AAA studio. I choose to look at this topic a bit differently.

If the above-mentioned definition were accurate, then we could count beloved titles such as Cult of the Lamb or Baldur’s Gate 3 as indie games, and as phenomenal as those games are, that’d be a mistake. No, when I think of the term “indie games,” I think of games with practically no budget, developed by a small team of 1-5 people.

So, I wanted to list a number of truly great, truly indie horror games that deserve to be seen and admired. In most cases, these games will either be completely free or at least have a demo available, which means you can check them out after reading!


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Author
James Herd
Staff Writer — James has been playing video games for as long as he can remember. He was told once that video games couldn't be a career, so he set out to prove them wrong. And now, he has.
Author
Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.