I was out of town this weekend, so I wasn’t able to start this on October 1st as I would’ve liked. So I’ll start this project off with TWO games instead of one!
Anyway, sometimes people will say “horror video games are dead” and I think that’s pretty ignorant. Just like some of the best horror movies ever–It Follows, The Babadook, Get Out–have come out in this decade and tackle spectacularly more abstract and mundane terrors, so too have horror games been given a new lease on life through amazing game publishing sites like itch.io that give more space and visibility to developer’s small and more experimental titles.
I’d like to provide further spotlight to those small horror experiences. Throughout the month of October, I’ll write a small blurb and provide links to horror games I think are interesting and worth the time investment, whether they try new things with the medium and genre, or provide fun and scares with solid conventions. I’ll also throw in a few ‘bigger’ games that I consider part of my personal video game horror canon, that I believe are Must Plays for someone looking to dig into horror games.
Today, I’ll start off with Dead End Road and In The Kingdom.
Dead End Road is a simple tale of hubris. You’ve gone against an old woman’s warning and taken part in an ancient ritual that you must bring to completion. Now…something is chasing you. Drive, drive as fast as you can, obtain the ritual items you need, and return to the old woman and hope for the best.
DER is a driving obstacle course at its core, the majority of the game tasking you with avoiding other cars, trash, weather effects, and disturbing supernatural forces. You have to manage your fuel and pay attention or a fatal accident lies in your future. It’s a short, procedural game; expect to die a couple times. Luckily it doesn’t wear out its welcome. If you’ve ever driven at night down a dark, empty road, the eerie atmosphere will be familiar and more than enough to entertain.
In The Kingdom is more proof of concept than complete game, but it’s still worth the half hour to hour investment. It’s in vein with classic 90s fps games like Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein, although in comparison its shooting is functional at best. What makes ITK interesting is its tonal strengths: its visuals and soundscape provide this violent, eldritch environment that’s beautiful and haunting in its hostility. You are not welcome here, but you must make it through.
In The Kingdom is available on itch.io.
The common link between Dead End Road and In The Kingdom lies in their lo-fi aesthetics. Horror video games are great at hinting at the gruesome and traumatic, at exploiting our paranoia.
Tomorrow I’ll return to a classic horror game, and continue with one game per day. I hope you enjoy these!