[Top 15] Best Indie Horror Games of All Time

Jumpscare incoming in 3, 2, 1...

The Top 15 Most Iconic Horror Games of All Time


Indie developers have found success in developing their own games as of recent years, with the horror genre easily being one of the most dominant fields to display a wealth of talent and creativity when it comes to the macabre, creepy, sometimes beautiful and sometimes downright disgusting.

These developers show that even without the resources of triple-A gaming companies, they can still make masterpieces to be remembered and followed years after their releases in some cases in all kinds of unique styles that give their own flairs to the genre as a whole. Below are the 15 games that have unique and unforgettable presentations of horror in all its varied expressions. Even if you can’t be so easily scared (How brave) , it is worth appreciating the intention of horror behind each entry.


1. Five Nights at Freddy's Series (2014-Present)

The scariest part is when Scott destroys the lore even more with every new game. We get it, he always comes back!

Five Nights at Freddy’s is a testament to the industry of indie horror - while experiencing the jumpscares to this day may not be as frightening as they were when we were younger, the dread that encapsulates especially its earlier entries is nothing to be ignored. 

As a security guard on the night shift at a pizzeria, or an older location, or abandoned attraction, or even a kid in a bedroom, you have one goal: survive until 6am against the four classic mascots (Freddy Fasbear, Bonnie the Bunny, Chica the Chicken and Foxy the Pirate fox - and more, in the coming games) and try to keep your sanity - which sounds a lot like regular overnight retail.

Endless praise has given to Scott Cawthon for his ability to create cluttered, tense and sometimes even gross environments, like in FNAF3, (and FNAF1 mostly), where the world just feels off-putting in every way imaginable, full of grunge and the sensation of death coursing through the building - even one’s safe spaces are too open or obstructed to get a sense of calm for more than a second. Earlier games especially offer the player no freedom to walk around, leaving you effectively stranded and completely at the mercy of the animatronics.


2. Little Nightmares (2017-Present)

Live footage of the author trying to sneak into class long after the bell's gone.

The duology of the Little Nightmares series is nothing short of incredible when it comes to its environments, using a macabre and decrepit atmosphere to continuously create horrific imagery that makes it clear to you that escaping is paramount to surviving. 

The Tim Burton-esque imagery does not stop short at the environments however, as grim and raw as they are - the monsters you run from in each section of the game are just as horrific to look at, to the point where you don’t want to take your eyes off them - just to see what they’re going to do next. Notably, the Doctor in Little Nightmares 2 acts like a literal spider, crawling on the ceiling (That’s not even to mention his unsettling patients who utilise the “weeping angels” mechanic!), or the Teacher, whose neck stretches out to find anyone daring to make noise in her classroom.

Overall, Little Nightmares (and Little Nightmares 2) is one of the best horror games that delves into the existential side of horror, and the concept of the grotesque that lets you know that you, as the player, are not welcome in this world of twisted abnormalities that wants you dead. So it should be. 


3. Choo Choo Charles (2022)

Still not as scary as the scheduling of London Tube Strikes. 

This game is truly off the rails when it comes to survival horror - Choo Choo Charles abandons the realism and grit of survival horror and delves into the world of absurdist horror with a literal spider train coming to find you on an island you’ve been marooned on - and you only have a machine gun at your aid. This sounds good, until you realise you are up against a literal maniacal train spider who can break the laws of how trains work. Obviously, death is inevitable.

Over time, however, you learn how to best the creature from NPCs all over the island, making his encounters less and less intimidating overall - but this doesn’t detract from the shock of seeing this maniacal, yet stupidly named thing rampage towards you on the road (Not on the rails, like you might think). The animation, especially, with its crude nature, also adds to the general atmosphere of the game, since it was created by one person - the fact that this is what brought someone’s name into the limelight is certainly the ultimate marketing tactic, and possibly the true horror behind the train with a stupid name. (Had to make sure you were aware that the name was indeed stupid)

Overall, is this terrifying? Is it even good? That’s debatable, but we have to respect the game all the same for its sheer existence, a horror story in its own right. 


4. The Forest (2014)

That plane crash would have been better to die in, let's be honest.

One might consider themselves lucky to be the sole survivor of a plane crash, but if that crash leaves you dazed, confused, and on an island brimming with cannibals, you might prefer death after all. 

The Forest explores the unsettling idea of loneliness after tragedy, and trying to find some semblance of hope despite all the odds through Eric as a protagonist, who wakes up in a beautifully lush landscape with no one around - except a couple cannibals and supposedly a missing son.

You’re left alone when not encountering the cannibals, whose reactions to you are erratic and unpredictable. Some attack, some flee, some give you the reason to sleep with one eye open at your pithy camp, armed with the tools you get to find when you explore the landscape to find ways to escape the island alive and sane.

Overall, unlike Choo Choo Charles, this game really embraces the reality of surviving alone, with only some subtle elements of the absurd when it comes to using cannibals (then again, it may not be too unrealistic..)


5. Omori (2020)

Every depressed teenager's favourite game!

Taking a break from the raw horror of the genre, Omori explores the emotional and psychological horrors of reality - the goofy and cute designs are often lost on viewers on first glance, but rest assured the emotional (and terrifying, sometimes) beats of this game will have even the most hardened players crying.

This game focuses on style and aesthetic and story to convey the horrors that rely beneath the cuter facade - but even with these illusions, it’s hard to ignore the knowledge that these cute images are mere delusions, almost haunting in the way that they act as the most well known aesthetic for the game before the heel-face turn into existential horror, or worse yet, a blank room with nothing.

The stark, polarising worlds of Omori, however, are nothing in comparison to the plot - and unfortunately, are not worth spoiling here in any capacity. Omori is 100% worth your time, just to see the world unfold before your eyes, matched with an amazing story to boot - even if story intensive play isn’t usually your thing. (There are still boss fights in the turn-based combat system with extremely unique mechanics, however, like making sure everyone’s emotions are in tune with one another’s)


6. Phasmophobia (2020)

Statement of Joe Spooky, regarding sinister happenings-

Phasmophobia is a term that refers to the irrational fear of ghosts - which makes the premise of ghost-hunting quite ironic, with an array of tools at your disposal to rid them from society in open ended levels that look well constructed, and full of life and information at your disposal within books that don’t break the immersion of the world.

You have access to UV lights to detect fingerprints, readers that detect activity closeby, etc, all of which can be levelled and ranked up the more missions are completed in the world.

But all of these things pale in comparison to the voice recognition the game offers, meaning you can have some form of communication with the ghost - so if you’ve ever wanted to insult a ghost to its unrealistic face, this is really the game for you. 

However, be warned. Death in this game is perilous, befitting the themes surrounding it. So unless you want to lose half - or worse - all your items every time you die, you might just be content with doing the mission you’re given…


7. Layers of Fear (2016/2019) 

As an artist, I can confirm that this is what happens when you detach from reality for a little too long.

Layers of Fear tends to mess with your head in an incredibly layered and disturbing way, to say the least. The imagery is designed to unnerve and unsettle, yes, using the misshapen form of the human body in derelict and grotesque paintings to play with your mind as you explore, with creepy dolls and fleshy blobs abound, but the worst of it truly comes from the speakers from your very own controller, whispering to you as you play. That’s about as close as I want my controller to be, and the uncomfortable nature of this offers a uniquely horrific experience.

But while you glance down to the startling noise from your controller, you’ll also see things that abuse your peripheral vision, making you swear that you saw something just a second ago before it escapes you. The game gaslights and manipulates you into states of fear, becoming unable to trust your own experiences as you see them, making for an experience that is worth noting even above the story, taking place in an empty house that belongs to you, a once talented artist of the 19th century who befalls the fate of all artists: madness. 
It’s also not often that we see characters like these at the forefront, those who have succumbed to madness and make the horror we experience as players, which makes the story of the protagonist all the more compelling to follow. 


8. Outlast (2013)

I think he's just overreacting, y'know.

One game that shows no fear in exploring the true oppressive and cruel nature of horror is Outlast, and one look at the game as it overpowers you with its grim, bloody environment with its even bloodier monsters makes this all too apparent.

That fear of the unknown that has pervaded literature and games alike for decades and decades comes back in full force in Outlast, providing an experience that makes every single movement worth screaming at in the hopes that it will somehow help your horrific predicament. (Spoiler alert: It will not.)

Outlast is filled with things designed to horrify us without ever getting us to turn our heads away out of morbid curiosity, having creatures with surgical gaping wounds, scars and viscera that cover their whole bodies to survive and escape from first and foremost, let alone defeat. 

These alone make the game a truly horrifying experience to live through, and will leave the real world looking like a dream world in comparison when you put down the game to process what in the hell you just saw last.


9. Fran Bow (2015)

Phil just looks like he's seen some things. Can't blame him.

Fran Bow falls into the horror category in a similar way to Omori, albeit with more disturbing imagery from the outset, and.. A definitely more disturbing plot from the get-go.

Fran Bow opens with a gory murder and a creepy institution for the mentally insane, which is about as fun as it sounds.

The art style has a lurid cross between horror and viscera mixed in with Alice in Wonderland’s sheer absurdism as a way to brave the horrors surrounding the grief in reality, and ways of processing events that are considerably traumatic, especially for children - sometimes, running from the horror isn’t necessary to survive, but rather facing it head on to diminish it can work just as well. (Note to all gamers: This definitely wouldn’t work in Outlast, so take the messages of this game with a grain of salt.)


10. Carrion (2020)

My, my, how the turn tables.

Most horror games have you evading the big bad evil creature (Trademark), or creatures, but this game offers a new perspective, giving you the power to become that which people run away from as you hunt, catch and engulf them.

Carrion is the ultimate reverse horror game, where you play as something only ever known as “The Creature”, as you fight and tear through the facility where you were once contained, devouring scientists in the hopes of finding an exit so it can… Watch the sunset, perhaps? Whatever your goal, you do it with style, grace and viscera in this 2D side scrolling pixel world.

And if that isn’t enough for you, you can also download free Christmas DLC for the game, making this game even more worthy of a download.


11. SCP: Containment Breach (2012)

You know, when writing this, I looked up a picture of SCP-096. I think he's on his way to my location r-

When you boot up SCP: Containment Breach, you’re already screwed, essentially. You play as a D-9341, literal cannon fodder made to keep an eye on a statue called SCP-173 that will move and kill you if you and your other cellmates so much as blink at the same time. If you make it to the end of the month, you’re free to go. 

However, things don’t take long to take a turn for the worse when there is a power outage, and now you’re free to try and escape with all the SCPs running rampant - the lethal and non-lethal ones, mind you.

All the while, SCP-173 from before is following close behind in the most terrifying instance of the weeping angel mechanic ever witnessed. Better not make sure he gets too close when your blink meter runs out again. (Yes, there is a blink meter, made specifically for him.)

Amongst him are other deadly SCPs who were locked up for a reason, such as 096, a white, pallid, slender figure who will run after you and kill you if you so much as glance at him (even in a picture), and 106, who will stop at nothing to take you to a pocket dimension where things are somehow even worse there than in the facility.

Escaping is a nightmare, with every bit of tension building until the moment you see the creatures charge at you, or leer at you and teleport closer with every blink. All of these things scombined makes for a horrific experience to contend with, one worthy of making the list.


12. Sally Face (2016-2019)

Sally looks like he's heard this question one too many times.

Another addition to the cartoon horror genre is Sally Face, and for good reason, with an extremely gritty art style and a plot revolving around the eponymous Sally Face, whose point of view is one through a prosthetic face with no clear point of origin. 

However, there isn’t a lot of time to get acquainted at the beginning to something seemingly unnatural, as his older self is revealed to be recounting his time at Addison Apartments just years before.

The dull and stark colouring of Sally Face is one that adds to the already dismal atmosphere, and that doesn’t even cover the elements of the supernatural encounters, where art from hell has to be closely examined, and Sally Face explores disturbing, richly drawn nightmare worlds, for instance. (The Devil, by the way, will still not be coming back to Heaven even with those skills.) The mix of the surreal and supernatural really plays into the state of Sally Face’s mind and the world as a whole, as one royally screwed up, filled with twists and turns, and at the heart of it, compelling mysteries behind Sally Face’s mask and the murder of the tenant at the very beginning.


13. DEVOUR (2021)

Yeah, we totally meant to invite her.

DEVOUR, like Phasmophobia, is a co-op survival horror game - however, instead of hunting ghosts, you’re working with the occult, trying to stop a possessed cult leader trying to drag you down to where you came from- I mean, Hell.

After a summoning gone awry, it is up to you and your friends (if you have any), members of The Watchers cult, to stop her and prevent the summoning of the Demon Overlord himself, complete with several goat sacrifices by fire and good amounts of blood to boot.

However, stopping the cult leader is no easy feat, as like an annoying roommate at 3am, she is roaming around all over the place to try and prevent the copious amounts of goat sacrifices to stop her. And fighting her head on is no easy feat for weak and puny cult members, so as always, running is the best option unless you want a bloodied and scarred woman charging at you when you’re only trying to sacrifice a goat to stop her. Your only means of defence is a UV torch, and that doesn’t work 100% of the time, so get ready to be caught off-guard. A lot. And be prepared for your teammates to come in and save you. A lot.

But all of this only adds to the experience, which feels absurdist at first, but really comes into its own with the environment and cult-ish themes which are only experienced from the outside in most games - you don’t often play as a cultist, so seeing the inner world of sacrifices and crazed cult leaders and demons is a unique and refreshing experience, to say the least.


14. Soma (2015)

Me when I stop to look at the beautiful surroundings and not notice something behind me-

People with fear surrounding the expanse of the ocean aren’t going to have a fun time with this game, essentially a deadly game of hide and seek in an underwater facility called PATHOS-II, where your discovery means death by twisted and mechanised monsters with honestly breathtaking and intricate designs, the graphics doing nothing short of bringing the game to life.

Despite the fact that you have to survive, the game offers you the opportunity to find out exactly what happened to the employees of the facility who appear absent and therefore unwilling to help. (Most quality customer service you’ll find in the ocean, to be honest) Even your identity is unknown, with the only notable thing about you being that you cannot wield weapons or gadgets to fight the mechanised creatures. Over the course of the game though, you undergo revelations with every breath you’re allowed to spare when you think you’re safe. (Read: When you think you’re safe)

Despite the horrors that have befallen you and PATHOS-II, you can’t help but become mesmerised by the claustrophobic underwater ruins, sci-fi tech being overrun, drenched by the natural environment - and alien goo seeping through the cracks, complete with hazy glows and red lights that have manages to retain function, all while you can catch glimpses of the sea. The experience alone is worth going through for all the risk and horror you face, to be honest.


15. Little Misfortune (2019)

Yeah, I don't think you're getting into... Live Nude Hamsters even if you wanted to, Misfortune.

Yet another game belonging to the genre of cartoon horror, but as always, it doesn’t disappoint, with the cartoon style elevating the lines between reality and the ideal for children within these worlds especially. 

Coming from the same creators as Sally Face, you play as Misfortune Ramirez Hernandez, a little girl trying to brave the realities of a dysfunctional home life and more through the deception of a false reality, created with a pack of glitter to cover the unpleasantries of life within the game. (Temporarily, of course…)

Throughout the game, you listen to a disembodied voice that seems to give you simple tasks, offering the gift of eternal happiness at the end - only to completely flip the script and take you and Misfortune into places no child should ever be in - meth labs, drug dens, rodent nude bars, to name a few examples.

The stark decrepit and horrific nature is only exacerbated when you realise that the start of the game had a cuter, more upbeat energy, displaying just what children may go through in trying to paint their own picture of reality when bad things happen. And this is really without bringing up the underlying mystery involving missing children throughout the game..

As with the other games, the artistic direction in tandem with the story brings this game into the horror genre, knowing that we are seeing the collapse and breakdown of an ideal reality from the view of Misfortune, becoming weird, absurd and twisted representations of the real world. But this experience is worth being on this list, as with every other game, simply because of how unique it is as an indie horror game.

I am not a discriminate gamer. I will play what is put in front of me, but I can't promise I'll be good at them. :)
Gamer Since: 2010
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Cyberpunk 2077
Top 3 Favorite Games:Portal 2, Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc:, Mirrors Edge Catalyst

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